Belgrade World Rowing Cup heats signal start of 2017 season
The 2017 international has begun in Belgrade, Serbia with World Rowing Cup I taking to the waters of Sava Lake. In calm conditions under mainly sunny skies, rowers from 26 nations came out to show themselves, many for the first time since the Rio Olympic Games.
Lightweight Women’s Single Sculls (LW1x) – Heats
Two heats lined up with the goal of being in a top two position for a direct path to the finals on Sunday. Switzerland’s Patricia Merz let the way settling into a solid 35 to hold her lead at the start of Heat One. Russia’s Anastasia Lebedeva chased hard and these two broke away from the field. Merz remained in the lead until the finish and crossed the line just a smidgen under 8 minutes. In Heat Two Poland’s Joanna Dorociak got away just ahead of Switzerland’s Pauline Delacroix. These are some new names for racing at the elite level and we could well be looking at big names of the future. Dorociak and Delacroix held a battle at the head of the field. Then Ireland’s Denise Walsh took her rating to 42 at the end and rowed through both leaders. Switzerland had missed out on qualifying.
Qualifiers: SUI1, RUS2, IRL, POL1
Lightweight Men’s Single Sculls (LM1x) – Heats
The three heats lining up required a top three finish for advancement to the semifinals. In Heat One Hungary’s Peter Galambos showed his experience to get away first. Galambos is the silver medallist in this boat class from 2016. But he was challenged hard through the middle of the race by Michael Schmid of Switzerland and Niels van Zandweghe of Belgium. Galambos kept the pressure on and crossed first in a quick 7:15 – the fastest qualifying time.
Perhaps the most accomplished in this field is Lukas Babac of Slovakia. The top Slovakian rower was the first away in Heat Two, but he was pressed hard by the rest of the field. Babac is the reigning European Champion in this boat class and by the middle of the race Babac remained in the lead with Artur Mikolajczewski of Poland the closest challenger. Mohamed Taieb of Tunisia was doing a fine job in third. Holding 30 stroke per minute Babac remained in the lead and looked comfortable as he crossed the line ahead of Poland.
Rajko Hrvat is currently Slovenia’s biggest medal chance and he did his best to get the season under way in Heat Three. Hrvat was the fastest away with Serbia’s Milos Stanojevic coming through in second. Despite Hrvat’s lead the Slovenian still sprinted the finish, going into a 37 stroke rate sprint at the end. This gave him a finishing time of 7:24.
Qualifiers: HUN, BEL, SUI, SVK, POL, TUN, SLO, SRB, CZE
Men’s Pair (M2-) – Heats
The goal here was to be in a top three position in these three heats to make it directly to the semifinals. In Heat One it was Belarus Three that led the way from the start. But not without strong challenges from Belarus Two, Belarus One and the Czech Republic. This looked to be seat racing for a Belarus men’s eight. In the final sprint the Czech’s, Helesic and Podrazil, came through in first.
Heat Two saw the Spanish in the lead. This duo have been together for six years and last year they raced together at the Rio Olympics. Great Britain and the Netherlands followed closely with the British boat of Dawson and Rossiter then getting out in front using a high rating strategy. It took them clear away from the field with the Dutch and Spanish also qualifying. The British had recorded the fastest qualifying time of 6:42.
The third and final heat had the local favourites, Nenad Bedik and Milos Vasic of Serbia in the lead. Bedik and Vasic have had good success especially at the European Championships and they are Serbia’s medal hope at this regatta. Bedik and Vasic moved clean away from the rest of the field crossing the finish line with a clear water lead.
Qualifiers: CZE, BLR3, BLR2, GBR1, NED, ESP, SRB, HUN, SUI
Men’s Double Sculls (M2x) – Heats
Only the first crew would get to go directly to the final in these two heats. This pushed the pace in Heat One with Poland leading the way over the Rio Olympic silver medallists, Lithuania who sat in second. Then the rain began to fall, but it didn’t stop the speed of this race with Griskonis and Ritter of Lithuania then pushing into the lead and dominating the final 500m of the race.
The duo of Vasilev and Bozhilov of Bulgaria had their work cut out for them in Heat Two with four boats crossing the first 500m mark practically together. Then Bulgaria managed to get their nose in front with Russia the closest challengers. Vasilev and Bozhilov then really found their rhythm and rating 37 strokes per minute they pushed away from the field. As the rain continued Russia looked to have no reply.
Qualifiers: LTU1, BUL
Men’s Four (M4-) – Heats
Two heats lined up with the goal to finish first for a direct path to the finals on Sunday. Heat One had three Russian boats with Russia Two in the lead. Slogging it out in these rainy conditions, the Netherlands was the closest challenger to the leading Russian crew. Then at 42 strokes per minute, Great Britain came charging through at the end. The British are the Olympic Champions in this boat class and they have retained Mohamed Sbihi in the boat. Great Britain got to the finish line first, sneaking ahead of Russia Two. The British crossed the line in the fastest qualifying time.
Despite all of the crews in the men’s pair, Belarus still had enough top sweep rowers to put together a four and they were leading in Heat Two – only just. But there was nothing in it with only two seconds separating the entire field. The rain had now stopped and the clouds began to break as the Netherlands Two got into the lead. Belarus must have gone too hard too soon and they dropped back along with Serbia who was paddling home. The Dutch crossed the line in first ahead of a strong finish by Spain.
Qualifiers: GBR, NED
Women’s Single Sculls (W1x) – Heats
Only the winner of these two heats would get to go directly to the final and Switzerland grabbed the bull by the horns in Heat One. Rating 35, Olympic finalist Jeannine Gmelin took the lead. Olympic medallist from the women’s double, Victoria Thornley of Great Britain was in second. The rained had completely stopped and Gmelin continued to enjoy this race moving to a huge clear water lead. Milda Valciukaite of Lithuania also medalled at the Olympics in the women’s double and she was back in fourth. Gmelin crossed the line in 7:41 to take a spot in Sunday’s final and the fastest qualifying time.
The reigning European Champion, Magdalena Lobnig of Austria was in the lead at the start of Heat Two. Through the middle of the race Ekaterina Karsten of Belarus challenged Lobnig for the lead. But Lobnig, at a 32 stroke rate, looked composed and remained in the lead. Karsten, at a lower and powerful stroke rate, did not catch the Austrian.
Qualifiers: SUI, AUT
Men’s Single Sculls (M1x) – Heats
The biggest field of this regatta, the men’s single sculls had three heats with the top two boats in each heat getting to go directly to tomorrow’s semifinals. At the start of Heat One the sole entry from the United States, John Graves was in the lead. Then Russia’s Vladislav Ryabcev, stroking 36, took the lead and tried to hold off the strong finish being posed by Belarus’s Stanislau Shcaarbachenis. But Ryabcev held him off. These two boats go through to the repechage. Serbia looked great in Heat Two. Marko Marjanovic raced last year at the Olympics in the men’s double. Marjanovic then found himself being challenged by Aleksandar Aleksandrov of Azerbaijan who also raced in the double at the Olympics. Then Broenink of the Netherlands got into second, but Marjanovic now had a handy lead. No one could catch Marjanovic.
Heat Three featured silver medallist from the Rio Olympics, Damir Martin of Croatia. Martin had a great start, but he was being given no leeway by Switzerland’s Nico Stahlberg. Stahlberg was at the Olympics racing in the men’s quadruple sculls and he was holding his own against Martin. These two move clean away from the rest of the field. Then Stahlberg took the lead and there was no big sprint to the finish with Martin dropping his stroke rate to 26.
Qualifiers: RUS1, BLR, SRB, NED1, SUI, CRO1
Lightweight Men’s Double Sculls (LM2x) – Heats
The three heats had rowers race to be in a top two position for a direct path to Saturday’s semifinals. At the start of Heat One it was the Netherlands out in front. But in a tight race, Poland’s Kowalski and Jankowski then found the lead with Great Britain and Spain right with them. In the final sprint Spain took their stroke rate above 40 and put pressure on the British. Poland got to the line first with Rojas and Gonzalez of Spain qualifying from second.
Heat Two had Great Britain One in the lead. The new combination of Peter Chambers and Will Fletcher of Great Britain was looking good. Both are experienced rowers, but this is their first season competing together. Solidly in second was Portugal’s Fraga and Mendes. This duo has been together for many years including racing in the 2012 Olympic final. The order remained the same to the line.
All eyes were on Ireland’s Olympic medal crew, O’Donovan brothers in lane two of Heat Three. But is was the Dutch and the Czechs who were out in front. By the middle of the race, Simanek and Vrastil of the Czech Republic had the lead. The O’Donovan’s sat at the back of the field, but they were starting to move through the field. Coming into the finish the Irish, now in second, came up to challenge the Czechs. At 40 strokes per minute, Paul and Gary O’Donovan overtook Simanek and Vrastil just before the line. The margin was just 0.06 of a second. The time of 6:29 was the fastest qualifying time.
Qualifiers: POL, ESP. GBR1, POR1, IRL, CZE
Men’s Quadruple Sculls (M4x) – Heats
There were two heats in this boat class with the goal of finishing first to get a direct path to the final. It was Lithuania that had the lead with Great Britain chasing hard in Heat One. Lithuania had perhaps the more experienced crew and they were doing their best to hold off the British. Lithuania then, rating 36, moved away from Great Britain and they secured a position in the final with one of the quickest times of the day in comparison to the World Best Time – 5:47.
Poland was fourth at last year’s Olympics and they led the way in Heat Two. They looked very much in sync as they moved away from the field. But they were up against Rio bronze medallists, Estonia. Estonia, however, had not retained their Olympic line up. Coming into the 1500m mark Poland looked comfortably in the lead and they went on to earn a spot in the final in a time of 5:48. This is looking to be one hot final.
Qualifiers: LTU, POL