Beautiful Bled opens the 2015 season
The stunning regatta venue of Lake Bled, Slovenia opened the 2015 season with the one-day Bled International Regatta. A precursor to World Rowing Cup I which begins tomorrow, the Bled International gave coaches a chance to test their athletes in a racing environment and test out different boat combinations.
In near perfect conditions of sun, a slight bumpiness on the regatta course, and supportive Slovenian crowds the racing began with heats as athletes aimed to qualify for the afternoon's finals. No second chance repechages meant that the heats had an extra level of importance for rowers to race well. Towards the end of the morning's racing conditions turned to a slight tail wind.
Women's Pair (W2-) - Heats
The Bled International regatta opened with Olivia van Rooijen and Elisabeth Hogerwerf of the Netherlands breaking the water first in Heat One. China3 chased hard, mainly to try and keep ahead of China1 in one lane over. With van Rooijen and Hogerwerf remaining just ahead, China1 of Min Zhang and Tian Miao overtook their fellow Chinese team to come in at second. China3 qualified for the afternoon's final from third. The Dutch, who come out of their country's 2014 women's quadruple sculls, recorded the fastest qualifying time of the two heats.
China2 of Wenjing Cheng and Dameng Yin set the pace in Heat Two with China4 hot on their heels. China4 then took the upper hand as these two crews remained neck and neck at the head of the field. Cheng and Yin fought back to cross the line a second ahead of their fellow teammates. Both crews will go to the final along with Croatia, open water back, in third.
Qualifiers: NED, CHN1, CHN3, CHN2, CHN4, CRO
Lightweight Men's Single Sculls (LM1x) - Heats
After a flying start by Serbia in Heat One (the first of three heats), China's Guiying Zhu found first place and once there moved clean away from the rest of the field. This is Zhu's first international race, he will turn 21 later this year. Zhu continued to widen the gap to cross the line first with Serbia taking the second qualifying spot.
Heat Two saw an in-form Ailson Silva of Brazil grab the lead and hold onto it over Ales Jalen of Slovenia. Silva is becoming quite the seasoned rower. He first raced internationally at the under-23s in 2008 and in 2012 aimed to qualify for the Olympic Games. It is very likely he now has his sights set on Rio. Silva finished first in a time slightly slower than Zhu's.
In Heat Three Switzerland's Silvan Zehnder was fastest off the line with Slovakia's Lukas Babac keeping Zehnder honest. The more experienced Babac then did a piece going through the third 500 and it was good enough to earn him the lead. Zehnder had no answer and Babac crossed the line easily in first and with the fastest qualifying time.
Qualifiers: CHN, SRB, BRA, SLO, SVK, SUI
Lightweight Women's Single Sculls (LW1x) - Heats
The first of two heats saw China1 of Shuai Guo get out to a very impressive starting lead. By the middle of the race Guo had increased this lead. Guo finished sixth at the World Rowing Championships last year and is a name to watch out for. Meanwhile Amina Rouba of Algeria was having a great race in second, staying ahead of Olga Svirska of Latvia. At the line Guo remained in first.
There is no doubt that Fabiana Beltrame of Brazil likes Bled. This is where she made history in 2011 by becoming the first World Champion for her country. Today Beltrame raced in Heat Two and led from start to finish by claiming open water very early on. At the line Beltrame had recorded a very promising 7:57 to claim the fastest qualifying time for this afternoon's final.
Qualifiers: CHN1, ALG, LAT, BRA, CHN2, POL
Lightweight Men's Double Sculls (LM2x) - Heats
It was brothers Jan and Ondrej Vetesnik of the Czech Republic in the lead from the beginning to the end in Heat One. But they were challenged hard by China's Bin Tian and Yanjun Li in the outside lane. Tian and Li pushed hard in the final sprint, but the Czech brothers held them off.
Heat Two turned on some fast racing with Portugal's Olympian Pedro Fraga and new partner, Nuno Goncalves Coelh, getting ahead of Brazil and driving hard to the line. Fraga and Goncalves recorded a time of 6:33. Switzerland overtook the fast starting Brazilians to qualify for the final from second.
Twin brothers, Tycho and Vincent Muda, however, set the standard in Heat Three. The very popular Muda brothers from the Netherlands were put under pressure by Poland for the entire 2000m, but held it together to remain in front and record the fastest qualifying time.
Qualifiers: CZE, CHN, POR, SUI, NED, POL
Men's Four (M4-) - Heats
Heat One turned into a German battle with Germany2 and Germany3 racing each other. In the second half of the race, however, Germany2 had gained an edge and with that they never looked back. The new 2015 line up of Maximilian Planner, Felix Wimberger, Maximilian Munski and Hannes Ocik of Germany crossed the line in first.
The German seat racing continued in Heat Two with Germany4 taking on Germany1. The Germany1 line up consisted of names made famous by their success as part of the German men's eight (Richard Schmidt, Felix Drahotta, Anton Braun and Eric Johannesen) remained in the lead for the entire race. Germany4 challenged hard but maybe were concentrating too hard on their fellow countrymen as in the final sprint France managed to get ahead, albeit only just, to take second. All three boats will meet again in this afternoon's final with Germany1 claiming the fastest qualifying time.
Qualifiers: GER2, GER3, CHN1, GER1, FRA, GER4
Men's Double Sculls (M2x) - Heats
What a tight start in Heat One! Five boats jumped out together to cross the first 500m mark with less than a second separating the field. The Netherlands had an incredibly slight lead and held it through the first half of the race. But then Andrei Jamsa and Kaur Kuslap of Estonia did a big piece at the half way point and accelerated into the lead. Once there the Estonian's did not give it up leaving the Netherlands in a battle with Hungary. All three of these boats qualified for the afternoon's finals.
The second Heat was much more spread out as France1 of Hugo Boucheron and Matthieu Androdias taking the lead and then making it comfortable. Poland and France2 battled it out for second. At the line Boucheron and Androdias were comfortably in first with Poland holding on to take second over France2.
Qualifiers: EST, NED, HUN, FRA1, POL, FRA2
Lightweight Men's Four (LM4-) - Heats
The first of two heats had China1 just centimetres ahead of China2. Then China1 found their pace and the crew of Li, Fan, Kong and Wang began to get away from their teammates. China2, however, was not giving up and the two crews came into the final sprint neck and neck. Meanwhile, Switzerland, who had reformed their 2012 Olympic finalist crew were doing their best to stay up with the Chinese. A huge closing sprint by China2 enabled them to get their nose ahead of China1 to qualify for the final from first. China1 had to settle for second with Switzerland matching the Chinese pace in third. China2 had qualified with the fastest time.
Chile had the lead at the start of Heat Two, but this was soon gobbled up by the new Germany lightweight line up of Jonathan Koch, Lars Wichert, Alexander Diedrich and Lucas Schaefer. The Netherlands then began to chase hard and overtook the Chileans to catch up with Germany. The Germans saw the Dutch coming and held them off to the line.
Qualifiers: CHN2, CHN1, SUI, GER, NED, CHI
Men's Single Sculls (M1x) - Heats
The 13 entries in the men's single saw them divided into three heats with the top two in each heat getting to advance to the final. For all other crews there would be no more racing at the Bled International Regatta. In Heat One 2014 bronze medallist, Angel Fournier Rodriguez had an easy lead right from the start. This was no surprise as Fournier is the highest ranked single sculler at this regatta. By the end of the race Fournier was the comfortable winner with Jan Spik of Slovenia2 pleasing the crowds by coming through in second. Spik is the younger brother of Olympic Champion Luka Spik.
Steve Hiestand of Brazil led the way in Heat Two and had an easy time of it with the race turning into a procession by the half way point. China1 of Jian Ma came through in second but was a long way behind Hiestand. This is 30-year-old Hiestand's second international season of rowing and, if this result is anything to go by, it looks like 2015 will be a promising season.
Heat Three opened with Markus Kessler of Switzerland in the lead with Slovenia1 chasing hard. Then Egypt's Nour El Din Hassanein managed to inch ahead of Slovenia and move on Kessler. Kessler raced at last year's under-23 championships but has also already raced at the senior level. At the line Kessler had recorded the fastest qualifying time of the three heats. He will meet Fournier in the final. El Din Hassanein qualified for the final from second.
Qualifiers: CUB, SLO, BRA, CHN, SUI, EGY