American Kara Kohler won her single sculls heat Thursday to advance to Saturday's rescheduled quarterfinals at the Tokyo Olympics.
The 2019 world bronze medalist covered the 2000 meters in 7:49.71, beating second-place finisher Tatsiana Klimovich of Belarus by 2.15 seconds.
Kohler, who won bronze in the quad at the 2012 London Games, had a faster first half than a latter, clocking 3:49.08 halfway before splitting 4:00.63 to finish.
"It was just so exciting to be racing – let some of that adrenaline out during the race and get some of the nerves out," she said.
The California native was not selected for Rio and nearly quit the sport before making the switch to the single. She commented on the gap post race.
"It's prepared me even better," she said. "I feel like it means a lot more – those nine years of blood, sweat and tears to go into this. I feel more prepared and just appreciate it more – the experience."
Despite her win, Kohler's time was the slowest among the six women's single sculls heats winners — two-time reigning world champion Sanita Puspure of Ireland won heat two in 7:46.08; reigning European champion Hanna Prakatsen, a Russian rower competing for the Russian Olympic Committee, won heat three in 7:48.74; 2016 Olympic double sculls silver medalist Victoria Thornley of Great Britain won heat four in 7:44.30; Austrian Magdalena Lobnig won heat five in 7:37.91; and 2019 world runner-up Emma Twigg of New Zealand clocked the quickest overall time, taking heat six in 7:35.22.
The U.S. women's double crew of Kristi Wagner and 2016 Olympic single sculls silver medalist Gevvie Stone also auto-advanced Thursday, placing second to New Zealand in its heat to move on to Saturday's rescheduled A/B semifinals.
"It's always a shock to the body to race [two kilometers] after all the short pieces and taper," Stone said after the race. "I think that we did a decent job of ripping off that band-aide. We advanced directly, which is the first goal, and got that second-place spot, which will be helpful, hopefully, in lanes for the semifinals. There are things we can improve on – always want to go faster."
Wagner and Stone were in last place a quarter of the way through the heat and moved up to fourth midway before closing to take second.
"We're going to try a few different things because it's not good to be down that much," Wagner said. "We want to be in it more, and getting into the further rounds of racing, we're going to need to be in the race a little bit more than we were."
Meanwhile, the U.S. women's quadruple crew finished last in its heat. That team will attempt to make it out of the repechage phase Saturday.
An Olympic record from the 2012 London Games was bested twice in the men's double sculls.
Previous record-holders New Zealand's Nathan Cohen and Joseph Sullivan clocked 6:11.30 in the heats of those Games before ultimately winning gold.
And the same happened Thursday, but twice, during the heats in Tokyo. After France initially took down the mark in the first heat in 6:10.45, the Netherlands' Melvin Twellaar and Stef Broenink broke the record set by New Zealand in heat three with 6:08.38.