It’s all about Tokyo 2020 in semifinals at World Rowing Championships
The 2019 World Rowing Championships featured more Olympic and Paralympic qualifiers with the remained of semifinals being raced. Forty-two boats would qualify and this was on everyone’s mind. Conditions were perfect for rowing with flat water under cloudy skies with a smattering of rain.
Para PR1 Women’s Single Sculls (PR1 W1x) – Semifinals
Paralympic medallist, Moran Samuel of Israel is used to being near the head of the field and she raced out in front in Semifinal One. But France’s Nathalie Benoit was not letting Samuel get away. Going through the middle of the race Benoit had found the lead. Samuel held on for a while and then looked content to sit in second with the United States a distance back in third. France and Israel did not sprint the finish with Hallie Smith of the United States coming through in third. These three countries had secured a spot in the Tokyo 2020 Paralympic Games.
Semifinal Two was dominated by World Champion Birgit Skarstein of Norway. Skarstein owns this boat class at present. She holds the World Best Time and has gone unbeaten all season. Skarstein rowed her own race at the head of the field and created a yawning gap back to Anna Sheremet in second. Germany’s Sylvia Pille-Steppat followed in third. These are the boats that will be on their way to the Paralympic Games in 2020.
Qualifiers: FRA, ISR, USA, NOR, UKR, GER
Birgit Skarstein, NOR
"This has been a goal for so long. I am so excited! It’s so nice, now we start preparation towards the games, but first, Sunday’s final."
Para PR1 Men’s Single Sculls (PR1 M1x) – Semifinals
Semifinal One was like a final with the two best scullers lined up next to each other. Paralympic Champion Roman Polianskyi of Ukraine sat next to five-time World Champion Erik Horrie of Australia. Horrie got away the quickest with the very experienced Alexey Chuvashev of Russia in second. Then Polianskyi got ahead of Chuvashev and tried to close on Horrie. These two boats moved away from the rest of the field with Chuvashev looking like he was settling for third. In the final sprint Polianskyi went to 39 strokes per minute to overtake Horrie and finish first. Ukraine, Australia and Russia had secured Paralympic spots.
Benjamin Pritchard of Great Britain is rapidly becoming the up-and-coming one to watch. Pritchard lined up in Semifinal Two and took the lead at the start. Pritchard’s first international appearance came earlier this year when he took bronze at World Rowing Cup II. Brazil’s Rene Pereira followed in second with Poland’s Jaroslaw Kailing in third. Then Pritchard broke away from the field and rowed his own race at the head of the field. Pereira was under no threat in his second place with Israel’s Shmuel Daniel pushing into third. Kailing was not able to keep up with Daniel and the Israeli looked safe for a qualifying spot. More Paralympic qualifiers were decided with Great Britain, Brazil and Israel getting those spots.
Qualifiers: UKR, AUS, RUS, GBR, BRA, ISR
Benjamin Pritchard - GBR
"Incredible feeling, this is the dream for me. Next year I'll be fighting it out in Tokyo!"
Men’s Pair (M2-) – Semifinals
Semifinal One featured rowing stars the Sinkovic brothers from Croatia. Martin and Valent Sinkovic are the World Champions and also the Olympic Champions but in the double. They led the way right from the word ‘go’ with Italy the closest challenger. Going through the middle of the race Italy and Serbia and Spain were neck and neck and this tussle had them stay in touch with Croatia. The sprint to the line saw Spain’s Jaime Canalejo Pazos and Javier Garcia Ordonez put their foot down and come after the leaders. It was a fight to the line with four boats going for three spots. South Africa’s closing sprint nearly did it for them, but Spain stayed just ahead. Croatia, Italy and an incredibly happy Spain had qualified for the Olympics.
Semifinal Two was really tight at the start with France and Australia getting no more than a bow ball lead. France was at 42 and Australia at 43 as they headed for the first 500m mark. These boats have come through heats and quarterfinals to get to these semifinals with Sam Hardy and Joshua Hicks of Austraia looking to be one of the crews to beat. Hardy and Hicks hit the 500m mark in the lead. But just a second separated the field. Thomas Murray and Michael Brake had now moved into second with France’s Onfroy brothers right with them. Murray and Brake finished fifth at last year’s World Rowing Championships and they were challenging Hardy and Hicks. The field remained tight and it was a wild sprint to a photo finish on the line. New Zealand, Australia and France had qualified for the Olympics. New Zealand moves to the final with the fastest qualifying time and Romania had missed out on the final by just 0.06 of a second.
Qualifiers: CRO ITA, ESP, NZL, AUS, FRA
Valent Sinkovic, CRO
"We sort of expected to qualify, but it’s still a relief. It was a really tough quarterfinal, so the semi is a relief. We’re ready for the final. It would be a dream to win. First the double, and then the pair, that would be a dream."
Men’s Double Sculls (M2x) – Semifinals
China led from start to finish in Semifinal One. But not by much with Switzerland and Poland challenging them. Germany did their best to get into the qualifying mix but they missed out. Liang Zhang and Zhiyu Liu of China had qualified their boat for the Olympics along with Poland and Switzerland.
The best pace was New Zealand at the start of Semifinal Two. Then Ireland did a big push and took over in the lead with Great Britain now going after New Zealand. New Zealand had held 39 for the majority of the race and this helped hold off the British challenge. Ireland’s Philip Doyle and Ronan Byrne continued to lead and they had just a little bit of space to watch Great Britain and New Zealand fight it out with Romania and the Netherlands coming storming through. New Zealand could not hold their punishing early pace with Great Britain getting better and better along with Romania.
Six more countries had qualified for the Tokyo Olympics.
Qualifiers: CHN, POL, SUI, IRL, ROU, GBR
Liang Zhang CHN
"We have put lots of efforts into training over this season and we never doubted that we were capable to qualify for the Tokyo 2020. We are now confident that we could have a good result in the final."
Women’s Double Sculls (W2x) – Semifinals
In Semifinal One it was China that had the early lead and going with them was the Czech Republic and Canada. China’s Shiyu Lu and Yuwei Wang continued to lead but they were being drawn in by the rest of the field. And it was tight. Canada, New Zealand, the Czech Republic and the Netherlands were all within striking distance of China. These boats remained overlapping and it meant China’s lead was getting eaten away. The 2017 World Champions and last year’s silver medallists, New Zealand then showed their experience and pushed into second and away from Canada and the Netherlands.
Timing it to perfection New Zealand went from a length down to a length up. Then Canada and the Netherlands kicked up their power. China had no reply. The Dutch went to 36 with Canada at 38. New Zealand continued to lead. Olivia Loe and Brooke Donoghue of New Zealand had secured an Olympic spot for their country. Canada and the Netherlands will join them crossing the line in a photo finish.
Semifinal Two had all six come out even at the start. Then Australia’s Amanda Bateman and Genevieve Horton began to show. It has been a great season for this duo with World Cup medals won before they came to these World Rowing Championships. Then France pushed out in front. It was all to change again as there was nothing between the leading five crews. The United States crew of Genevra Stone and Cicely Madden now had a small lead. Stone in a Rio medallist from the single and she’s aiming for another Olympics. Just two seconds separated the top five at the half way point. Romania and Belarus swapped places for second coming into the final sprint. Belarus then began to fade as Australia started to come. In the final sprint the field closed up again with Italy now coming through from the very back of the field. Four boats crossed the line oh so close. Romania had won, France was second and USA third. These countries are off to the Olympics.
Qualifiers: NZL, CAN, NED, ROU, FRA, USA
Lisa Scheenaard, NED
"We wanted to make sure we got that (Olympic) slot. So now we’ve guaranteed a Dutch double for next year, that’s really exciting. It was a pretty close race."
Men’s Single Sculls (M1x) – Semifinals
Oliver Zeidler of Germany took the lead at the start of Semifinal One. Sverri Nielsen of Denmark and Dutch sculler Stef Broenink took chase. These were the three scullers that led the way at the half way point. But it was tight with Italy right with them. Broenink then grabbed the lead with Zeidler trying to hold on to second. The sprint to the end was intense with four boats going for three spots. New Zealand was up there but then did not have the extra gear. Zeidler, Nielsen and Broenink had qualified their nations for the Olympic Games.
All three medallists from last year’s World Championships raced each other in Semifinal Two. At the start the World Champion, Kjetil Borch of Norway was the fastest boat. Borch got half a length over Ondrej Synek of the Czech Republic. Synek has Olympic medals and World Champion titles. Greece and Lithuania followed very closely. Synek then did a push and with every stroke made Borch’s lead disappear. Mindaugas Griskonis of Lithuania followed Synek’s example and started to overtake Borch. These three boats had now opened up a lead over the rest of the field. Griskonis now had the lead. Synek came back. It was an easy finish. Synek, Griskonis and Borch had qualified their nations for the Olympic Games.
Qualifiers: GER, DEN, NED, CZE, LTU, NOR
Sverri Nielsen - DEN
"That's a real relief. But I'm really happy and now ready to focus on the final."
Women’s Single Sculls (W1x) – Semifinals
Fie Udby Erichsen of Denmark jumped out quickly in Semifinal One. This has been here style lately and she was in the lead ahead of Kara Kohler of the United States. Going with these two leaders was Victoria Thornley of Great Britain. Thornley had to take time off due to overtraining and she has been building over the season. At the half way point the three at the front were joined by Switzerland’s Jeannine Gmelin. Thornley was at 33 and Gmelin went to 36 but Thornley was holding off the Swiss. Erichsen continued to lead at 35. Kohler then did a push and got ahead of Erichsen. Gmelin and Thornley were battling it out. Thornley then did a push and moved up on Erichsen. This saw four boats going for three spots. Kohler was at 35, Gmelin at 37, Thornley at 38. The United States, Great Britain and Switzerland are off to the Tokyo Olympics.
Semifinal Two saw the World Champion Sanita Puspure of Ireland meet World Cup winner, Emma Twigg of New Zealand for the first time this year. They sat side-by-side. First to show was Magdalena Lobnig of Austria. This was the race that the crowd had been waiting for. All crews were rating in the high 30s with four boats forming a line at the front – Austria, Ireland, New Zealand and Canada. Only China and Ukraine was off the pace. Puspure had a small lead now with Twigg sitting in second. Carling Zeeman of Canada and Lobnig fought it out for third. Puspure then did a kick and got a boat length over Twigg. Ireland and New Zealand had now broken away from the rest of the field.
Puspure then got open water over Twigg with the battle between Lobnig and Zeeman continuing. Zeeman then changed gears and moved clean away from Lobnig and caught up with Twigg. Twigg pushed on. The finishing order was decided. Ireland, New Zealand and Canada had qualified their boats for the Tokyo Olympics.
Qualifiers: USA, GBR, SUI, IRL, NZL, CAN
Kara Kohler, USA
"It feels pretty good. The first job is done, now my goal is to make this boat move as fast as it can."