PHILADELPHIA - Penn graduate Susan Francia earned a pair of gold medals this past weekend at the World Rowing Championships in Poznan, Poland -- and in the process, she made history.
On Saturday, Francia paired with Erin Cafaro to earn gold in the women's pair, the first time the United States has ever won this race at the Worlds. Francia and Cafaro clocked 7:06.28 to defeat Romania's Camelia Lupascu and Nicoleta Albu by just 0.35 seconds.
Francia and Cafaro won each of their preliminary races leading up to Saturday. In the final, the U.S. duo was in fourth place at the 500-meter mark but moved up into second by the halfway point. The Romanians appeared to still be ahead at the 1,500-meter mark, but the U.S. duo summoned up the energy to edge them in the final 25 strokes or so.
"We knew it was going to be tough," said Francia told row2k. "I glanced out in the sprint and saw we were inching ahead; I just wanted to go."
"That was an awesome race," she told USRowing.org. "We talked about going out there and killing it, but staying cool. We knew it was going to be tight, but that's what makes it exciting."
One day later Francia (and Cafaro) were back in their usual spots in the United States women's eight, and the U.S. earned its fourth consecutive gold medal at the Worlds. The final field was tight early on, but then the USA blew it open with a big move at the 1,000 and held the field off to claim the win in 6:05.34.
After clocking the fastest time of the heats, the U.S. set the pace early in the final. First off the line, the U.S. crossed the halfway mark with a 1.82-second lead over Great Britain and continued to walk away from the field in the third 500 meters. The Lucerne gold-medalist crew from Romania was in fifth place for the first half of the race but moved into second position by the 1,500-meter mark. Romania continued to push in the sprint, but the U.S. held its ground, crossing 1.6 seconds ahead for gold. Romania clocked 6:06.94 for the silver medal, with The Netherlands taking bronze in 6:07.43.
Francia originally found crew at Penn, joining the program as a walk-on. Last summer, of course, she was a gold medalist at the Beijing Olympics in the women's eight.