Athletes feel the heat and speed at the Samsung World Rowing Cup
Racing in the 14 Olympic events at the Samsung World Rowing Cup in Belgrade, Serbia reached the high point with the much anticipated finals on the beautiful Sava Lake.
Rounding out three days of great rowing weather, skies were clear, temperatures were warm to hot and the wind was changeable, going from negligible to tail to cross as the day’s racing progressed.
As local Belgrade sunbathers watched from beaches that stretched along the far side of the regatta course, a large crowd had gathered near the finish line, including a big contingent of flag-waving British, to cheer on their favourites.
Women’s Pair (W2-) – Final
Yesterday, coming through the semifinals, the top boats were USA2 (Caroline Lind and Taylor Ritzel) and Great Britain (Helen Glover and Heather Stanning). Today the top seeded crew, Glover and Stanning led at the start with Lind and Ritzel following in second. Would this be the order in about seven minutes time? Already by the 800m mark the order had changed with a very slow starting USA1 of Erin Cafaro and Eleanor Logan moving from the back of the field and into second.
Glover and Stanning knew that the Americans were fast and they kept their stroke rate high to hold off Cafaro and Logan. Cafaro and Logan both won gold at the 2008 Olympic Games as part of their nation’s eight and despite more than 10cm difference in height, they know how to move the boat – fast.
In the final metres of the race Great Britain maintained the edge at a 37 stroke rate pace with Cafaro and Logan hitting 41. The order remained the same with Glover and Stanning making a positive start to their 2012 season.
Results: GBR1, USA1, USA2, NED1, GER, ROU2
Helen Glover (GBR1) – Gold
“I enjoyed it. It was my first race in the season.”
Eleanor Logan (USA1) – Silver
“The race was pretty fast and it was hard under the weather conditions. It was good to test our speed and pretty much exciting. I enjoyed it. It is not determined whether we are going to row in the eight in the Olympics.”
Taylor Ritzel (USA2) – Bronze
“I thought it was a great race for the USA. It was a great first race of the season. Our last race was at the World Championships last year. I am proud of my team. We’ve still got a lot of selection to sort out. I think the pair is such a challenge but the eight is so much fun. Really, I will be excited to represent the USA (at the Olympics).”
When you line up against some of the most medalled rowers in the world, and it’s the B-Final, you know that the race is going to be tough. This was the case today as multiple Olympic Champions and World Best Time holders, Georgeta Andrunache and Viorica Susanu were sitting in lane four. But it was the Netherlands and France that had the edge at the start. Carline Bouw and Annemiek de Haan are also racing in the women’s eight for the Netherlands and it looked like they may want to save themselves for the eight later today as Andrunache and Susanu moved into the lead. The Romanians then used long, smooth strokes to leave the rest of the field behind. They crossed the line at a relaxed-looking 34 stroke rate.
Results: ROU, CHN1, NED2, ARG, AZE, FRA
Men’s Pair (M2-) – Final
Coming into this race the only truly known factor was Nikolaos and Apostolos Gkountoulas of Greece. They finished fourth at last year’s World Rowing Championships. Meanwhile Germany, Great Britain and the Netherlands had changed their line-ups opening this race up to some unknown factors.
Aiming to stake their dominance from the start were the Gkountoulas twins with a very quick start and a big push through the middle of the race. But their lead was slight, with George Nash and William Satch of Great Britain sticking to the Greeks like glue.
In the final sprint Anton Braun and Felix Drahotta of Germany let loose. Bow man, Anton Braun, 22, has raced only once before as a senior international, having come through from success at Under-23 level. Drahotta, 23, is also a young gun, but he is already an Olympian from racing the pair to a sixth place finish. Rating 38 Drahotta and Braun made up a huge amount of ground and with about 15 strokes to go the Germans got their nose ahead of both Greece and Great Britain. Is there a new powerhouse for 2012 in the men’s pair?
Results: GER1, GBR1, GRE, NED2, CZE2, SRB1
Anton Braun (GER) – Gold
“I think this is pretty good start for the beginning (of the season).”
William Satch (GBR) – Silver
“I’m pretty pleased. It was a big fight with the Germans. We exceeded our own and everyone’s expectations. We’re a fresh pair and I’m pretty excited. It’s making us more mentally tough at every race.”
Nikolaos Gkountoulas (GRE) – Bronze
“It was fantastic. I’m satisfied with our racing. We’re quite tired at this period (of training) and this is good for our preparation. We tried to be focused on speeding up.”
Romania’s Ionel Strungaru and Ciprian Duduta led the way from start to finish. They come together this season after Duduta, 21, rowed at the Under-23 World Championships in 2011 while Strungaru competed in the men’s four. Romania is yet to qualify for the Olympic Games in this event and this may be the duo that will aim to do it later this month. But it was about winning the B-Final today with the Czech Republic keeping the Romanian’s honest by pushing them for the full 2000m. In the final sprint the Czechs sat on a 42 stroke rate with Romania on 40. Argentina came through into third and will now go to the Final Olympic Qualification Regatta later this month.
Results: ROU, CZE1, ARG, HUN, NED1, CRO2
Women’s Double Sculls (W2x) – Final
There is a huge amount of pressure on the British crew of Anna Watkins and Katherine Grainger in this Olympic year. Not only are they the flagship women’s crew for their nation, but they are also hoping to be the first ever Olympic gold medal in rowing for women. So far they have gone unbeaten since joining up in 2010. Today that perfect run nearly ended. Germany has put their best two women scullers into the double and they’re good, very good. Annekatrin Thiele nearly got gold in this event at the 2008 Olympics while Britta Oppelt is a two-time Olympic medallist.
It was Watkins and Grainger who had the lead at the start with Thiele and Oppelt holding on tightly. By the half-way point there was hardly anything between them with Great Britain keeping their nose just in front. This two-way battle moved the British and the Germans completely away from the rest of the field.
In the final sprint neither crew was willing to relent. Great Britain had to get their stroke rate to 36 with Germany hitting 37. The British won albeit only just over Germany. The Antosova sisters of the Czech Republic came through in third.
Results: GBR, GER, CZE, CHN1, CHN2, NED
Katherine Grainger (GBR) – Gold
“It was enjoyable, great. It’s been a long time since we last raced.”
Annekatrin Thiele (GER) – Silver
“We’ve been racing together for only three weeks. It was our fourth race in this combination. It was a great race for us. We tried to keep technically together. Our coach said to us to work together for 2000m. Our wish is to be together for London in the double, but it’s not clear. We’ll see next week when the coach makes a decision.”
Jitka Antosova (CZE) – Bronze
“It was a hard race because the other competitors.”
Ukraine has been playing around with their quad and double line-up over the last couple of seasons. They have qualified both boats after finishing fourth in the double and sixth in the quad at last year’s World Rowing Championships and they must still be looking at the ideal line-ups. Today Nataliya Dovgodko and Anna Kravchenko of Ukraine led from start to finish in the B-Final to get the seventh overall position at this World Rowing Cup. China put in a push at the end but Ukraine had a comfortable buffer to stay in the lead.
Results: UKR, CHN3, HUN, FIN, AUT
Men’s Double Sculls (M2x) – Final
Italy’s new line-up of Alessio Sartori and Romano Battisti got off to a flying start and had the lead at the 200m mark. But in this very close event the Italian edge did not last, with both France and Slovenia pushing past. Slovenia’s Iztok Cop and Luka Spik won this event at the 2000 Olympic Games and are definite favourites here as Cop’s rowing career started off as an athlete competing for Yugoslavia. Cop won a silver medal for Yugoslavia in 1991 before becoming Slovenian.
Through the middle of the race Spik and Cop remained in the lead with Germany’s Eric Knittel and Stephan Krueger now right on top of them in second. The entire field remained tightly packed with the sprint going to have to be the decider.
Taking their stroke rate to 39, Knittel and Krueger attacked. The second German crew of Hans Gruhne and Mathias Rocher followed suit. France, Slovenia and Great Britain were all moving. Knittel and Krueger got there first. Great Britain, Slovenia, France and Germany Two crossed in a photo finish, less than a second separating all of them.
Great Britain’s new line-up for 2012 of Bill Lucas and Sam Townsend took silver and, much to the crowd’s delight, Cop and Spik earned bronze. For the very medalled Cop, this is the first time on the medals podium since 2009.
Results: GER1, GBR, SLO, FRA, GER2, ITA1
Stephan Krueger (GER) – Gold
“I expected the race to be as it was. It was tough and quite close, especially with the second German boat. I expected them to be more in front, but fortunately they weren’t. This has confirmed our position in the German team for London. I’ve never been to Serbia before. Belgrade is a really nice city. Everything is going up here.”
Bill Lucas (GBR) – Silver
“It was very tough race. It was hard to catch the Germans. The hardest point in the race was when there were only 600m to go. We had to accelerate. It’s lovely in Belgrade.”
Luka Spik (SLO) – Bronze
“The race was ok. Last year we joined together (in the double) again. The main goal now is the Olympics. I like it here in Belgrade.”
Norway’s Nils Jakob Hoff and Kjetil Borch were not happy yesterday when they missed out on making the A-Final. Today, however, they made the best of the B-Final by taking off at a cracking pace and having the ideal position of being about to watch the rest of the field throughout the 2000m race. Hoff featured recently in World Rowing’s e-Magazine when he talked about how his musical talents help with the rhythm when he rows.Behind Norway, Argentina’s Ariel Suarez and Cristian Rosso pushed their way through to second with a very solid second half of the race.
Results: NOR, ARG, ITA2, UKR1, CZE2
Men’s Four (M4-) – Final
Belarus is having quite a regatta. Lialin, Mihal, Shcharbachenia and Kazubouski came into this final with the second fastest qualifying time after finishing ninth in 2011. Today they took off in the lead, giving the favoured British quite a surprise.
By the half-way point, however, Great Britain (Gregory, Reed, James and Triggs Hodge) had the lead with Belarus and the Czech Republic holding on tight. Through the third 500m the British were still under attack from Belarus. A big sprint was on the cards. In stroke for Great Britain, Triggs Hodge took their crew to 41 with Greece now charging through at 41 and Belarus on 40. Great Britain had done it, while Greece got their nose ahead of Belarus just in time to claim silver. Belarus took bronze by a whisker over the Czech Republic who stopped rowing just before the line.
Results: GBR, GRE, BLR, CZE, NED, FRA
Andrew Triggs Hodge (GBR) – Gold
“This was another step forward from semi-finals. We’re a young team and still learning. The most difficult thing was establishing a good race position.”
Ioannis Tsilis (GRE) – Silver
“It was very hard but this regatta isn’t our main goal this year. We did our best and we are happy with the results.”
Aliksandr Kazubouski (BLR) – Bronze
“We have qualified for the Olympic Games, but Czech (Republic) hasn’t. It was a very hard race. All the teams were close. I don’t remember anything from the last 100m-- there was no sound or seeing anything. This was a good final. All the seats in this boat will be the same for Lucerne, Munich and London. I hope we will medal.”
What a close finish! Just over three seconds separated the top five boats at the end of the Sava Lake 2000m rowing course after a massive sprint finish. The race shaped up with Romania taking the lead and looking settled as they moved away to a full boat length lead going through the third 500m mark. Russia followed in second, but only just. Then four crews conducted a massive sprint to the finish which pushed them all up with Romania. The Romanians held off the pack and get the honour of finishing seventh overall at this regatta.
Results: ROU, RUS, GER, ITA1, NZL, SRB
Lightweight Women’s Double Sculls (LW2x) – Final
After being beaten in the heats by China, World Champions Greece must have gone back to the drawing board to work out their new strategy. Whatever it was, it worked. Christina Giazitzidou and Alexandra Tsiavou of Greece took the lead at the start and never let it go.
Behind Greece, China’s Dongxiang Xu and Wenyi Huang held on tightly successfully pushing the pace with Great Britain and Denmark very much in the picture. The pack remained tight as these crews, who average in weight of 59kg, moved into the close of the race.
From their leading position Giazitzidou and Tsiavou did just enough to stay in front while Great Britain’s Sophie Hosking and Katherine Copeland went for broke. Xu and Huang followed suit. The top three boats crossed the line with only a second separating them, Greece in the lead, Great Britain in second and China being pushed back into third.
There was no denying the big grins on the faces of Giazitzidou and Tsiavou as they received their gold medals.
Results: GRE, GBR1, CHN1, DEN, NED, USA
Christina Giazitzidou (GRE) – Gold
“It was really hard. We had problems with the boat and weight, but in the end everything was great. I’ve been on the national team since 2004.”
Katherine Copeland (GBR) – Silver
“We’ve been rowing together since March. But we make a good combination. We had a good start and, we kept quite solid. It’s rainy at home and brought our swimsuits. We’re planning on sun bathing here.”
After an initial lead by Austria, including former Swedish rower Sara Karlsson, China’s Jing Liu and Feihong Pan took over in the lead. Liu was in the quad in 2011 while Pan raced in the double. This new combination could well be the boat that will race at the London Olympics and it looks like their form is improving. China remained in the lead with Great Britain2 working their way through from the back of the field and into second.
Results: CHN2, GBR2, SWE, AUT, RUS, HUN
Lightweight Men’s Double Sculls (LM2x) – Final
Taking this event by storm was last year’s eighth placed crew, Panagiotis Magdanis and Eleftherios Konsolas of Greece. Magdanis and Konsolas have been together since 2010 and as a young crew they look to be making huge strides this season.
Magdanis and Konsolas got out in front at the start holding off the World and Olympic Champions from Great Britain, Zac Purchase and Mark Hunter. Purchase and Hunter fought back to get their nose in front through the middle of the race, but the Greeks fought back with Denmark’s Mads Rasmussen and Rasmus Quist also pushing into the picture.
As the final 500m came into view Magdanis and Konsolas were holding on to Purchase and Hunter with Italy’s Lorenzo Bertini and Elia Luini of Italy now charging. With 300m left to row Italy, Great Britain and Denmark all held a 40 stroke rate. There was still no clear winner.
At the line the British had got there, just over Greece with Italy earning third. The strain of the race was obvious for Hunter who had to be helped out of his boat and looked rather worse for wear during the medals ceremony. There’s no doubt, racing here is hard.
Results: GBR, GRE, ITA, DEN, HUN1, NOR
Zac Purchase (GBR) – Gold
“We’ve got a lot more speed to come. We’ve done our fitness work and still have to do our speed work. It’s going to be really exciting for the Olympics. This race, on the water has been great. It’s such a nice course and a lovely place to be. It’s a nice change from the rain at home. This is our first race of the year, and it’s always a shock (to the system), but it’s great to race against the best guys in the world.”
Panagiotis Magdanis (GRE) – Silver
“We’re very satisfied. We thought we’d get fifth or sixth place, but we had good start and when there was 500m left, we accelerated and gave our best. The temperature was good and the wind helped us to go faster.”
Elia Luini (ITA) – Bronze
“It was a good race. However, not so good at the beginning, but the finish was much better. The Greek team was better. I’ve been in the national team for 3 years. I like it here in Belgrade. It’s different. The wind was the only issue.”
Chongkui Wu and Fangbing Zhang of China know that they have already qualified this boat for the London Olympic Games and they used this B-Final to hone their racing skills. Wu and Zhang overtook initial leaders, France, to get in front and remain there. But the Chinese did not have it easy. The Vetesnik brothers of the Czech Republic pushed hard through the middle of the race and nearly overtook the Chinese. But Wu and Zhang held them off to finish first and seventh overall at this regatta.
Results: CHN, CZE1, CUB, AUT4, FRA, POR
Lightweight Men’s Four (LM4-) – Final
Two days ago, Olympic Champions Denmark sent out a clear message during the heats to all other crews – we’re back and we’re ready. Kasper Winther, Morten Joergenson, Jacob Barsoe and Eskild Ebbesen of Denmark had a mixed 2011 season finishing in fifth place. But today it looked like the winning Danes were back.
At the start China had the lead with Great Britain and Denmark on top of each other and fighting it out for second. Going through the half-way point China, Great Britain and Denmark were still in a tight battle which had caused them to break away from the rest of the field.
Then Denmark did a big push in the third 500 which gave them the lead. In the final sprint, despite these three crews all rating high, only Denmark had enough energy remaining to hold it through to the finish. Denmark took first, Great Britain held on to second and China slipped back to third.
As a rather fresh looking Danish crew stepped out of their boat to receive medals, three of Great Britain’s crew looked pale and struggled, while China held their own. The season is now well and truly under way.
Results: DEN, GBR, CHN, NED, FRA, GER
Kasper Winther (DEN) – Gold
“It was pretty hard. There were small waves. We didn’t have such good rhythm. I hope we can do it much better. We do lot of races at home, but it’s always challenging to compete with other countries. This area is perfect. The weather is excellent. I’m really sorry I haven’t been sightseeing. I’ve been in a national team since 2006. ”
Richard Chambers (GBR) – Silver
“We wanted to win. Everyone trains hard; we train hard. It comes down to delivery on the day. It was good until about 250m to go.”
Guolin Zhang (CHN) – Bronze
“It was good. The wind was ok. The weather was a little hotter. I’m satisfied with the results.”
Italy didn’t race due to illness leaving a five boat field. Of these five just Poland had already qualified for the London Olympics. It is likely the remaining four, Argentina, Chile, Russia and New Zealand will be aiming to qualify later this month at the Final Olympic Qualification Regatta in Lucerne, Switzerland. If this is the case one of the two available spots is likely to go to New Zealand. The Kiwis have not been seen in this event for a while but have put together this boat with London in mind. They led from start to finish with a 40 stroke rate finishing off their piece. Russia finished back in second.
Results: NZL, RUS, CHI, ARG, POL
Women’s Quadruple Sculls (W4x) – Final
Coming through from the heats it looked like Ukraine was the crew to beat with Great Britain ready to put up a mighty challenge. What panned out over the 2000m rowing race was a dominating picture from Anastasiia Kozhenkova, Yana Dementieva, Olena Buryak and Kateryna Tarasenko of Ukraine. Ukraine finished sixth last year but with an entirely different crew. Kozhenkova and Dementieva were in their country’s 2011 double and Buryak was in the eight. Tarasenko is the only remainder from the 2011 quad.
The new line-up for Ukraine looks to be the right decision as the crew moved ahead of last year’s winners, Germany who were firmly in second. Meanwhile the United States and Great Britain battled it out for the bronze medal spot. In the final sprint a crab by Kara Kohler of the United States in the last 50m decided their fate. Great Britain earn bronze.
Results: UKR, GER, GBR, USA, POL, CHN
Tina Manker (GER) – Silver
“It was exciting. We’re a new crew and didn’t know what to expect. It was tough, but we gave our best and we’ll see what we can do in the next race. The landscape was exciting and support from the crowd was great.”
Beth Rodford (GBR) – Bronze
“This is the first time this crew has raced together. It’s great to be in an Olympic year and we’ve brought a strong team with us here and we’re taking home lot of medals. Our crew hasn’t been together that long. I saw it (the Americans catching a crab) out of the corner of my eye, but you can only focus on what happens in your own boat. At that point we’re moving to the finish. It’s once in a lifetime opportunity to have an Olympic Games in your home country and we’re all looking forward to it.”
Two boats, Russia and Romania, battled it out in head-to-head style racing and remained overlapping right through to the final sprint. Around the 1500m mark bow for Romania, Nicoleta Albu called for a push and without changing their stroke rate they moved away from Russia. The Russians had no reply.
Results: ROU, RUS
Men’s Quadruple Sculls (M4x) – Final
The first semifinal yesterday was so aggressive that winner, Croatia got within half a second of the World Best Time. What would 2010 World Champions, Croatia do today? At the start Olympic Champions from 2004, Russia had the lead. But the Russians couldn’t maintain their initial pace and last year’s silver medallists, Germany took the lead with Croatia’s Sain, Martin and the Sinkovic brothers closely following in second.
Croatia and Germany then conducted a head-to-head battle in the third 500 which was won by Croatia who was able to go into the final sprint with a bit of a lead. Then Croatia, who finished third in 2011, were really able to show their 2012 style and, at a 36 stroke rate, the Croats moved away from Germany. The Germans held on tightly to second with Estonia now pushing through into third.
Estonia is yet to qualify for the London Olympics and their bronze medal place today will give them huge confidence for earning a spot when they race at the Final Olympic Qualification Regatta later this month.
Results: CRO, GER, EST, FRA, ITA, RUS
Valent Sinkovic (CRO) – Gold
“The race was tough, we did great. We had a deal to row with our own rhythm without watching others. Weather conditions were difficult because of the wind that blew from all sides, so we had to adjust. Belgrade and the whole rowing venue are excellent.”
Philipp Wende (GER) – Silver
“For the first race coming second is good. We have a lot of work in front of us, but our trials were just three weeks ago, so we’ve had only two weeks to train in the quad. We trained this winter in singles, so there’s more room to do better in the quad. This will be the first Olympics for all of us.”
Kapar Taimsoo (EST) – Bronze
“It was harder than I expected. We weren’t so fast. But the Croatians did very well. This is our first race this season. We’ve had only two races so far. This regatta is really important for us, because we haven’t qualified for the Olympics yet and we’re glad to be here. It’s quite hot weather and I like it. I hope to see Belgrade tonight.”
A very tight finish mirrored quad racing yesterday with five boats crossing the line less than three seconds apart. It started out with the Czechs earning a small lead before Great Britain’s new line-up, which includes their 2011 double of Matthew Wells and Marcus Bateman, took to the front. No one, however, was letting the Brits get away and coming into the final sprint only Slovenia had fallen back. Surprisingly, Olympic Champions Poland were racing in this B-Final behind Great Britain, but in the pack. At the line the high rating Swiss crew had pushed into second with Great Britain holding on to first.
Results: GBR, SUI, POL, UKR, CZE, SLO