Brushing off winter training and strutting their stuff at World Rowing Cup I
Rowers came out of off-season training and hit the racing season with this day of heats at World Rowing Cup I in Plovdiv, Bulgaria.
Beautiful sunshine and around 20 degrees Celsius met these athletes. On the water it was near perfect conditions with just a very slight breeze. Later in the day the rain fell and a small tail wind made for faster times. Today saw the return to the women’s single sculls of both Ekaterina Karsten of Belarus and Mirka Knapkova of the Czech Republic. Read on to see how they did.
Women’s Pair (W2-) – Heats
The first boat in each of these heats would go directly to the final and in Heat One, NED1 took the lead at the start. CHN2 took chase and they kept a much higher stroke rate through the race. They were fifth at the World Rowing Championships last year and they challenged the Dutch throughout the race. This challenge was enough to give CHN2 the win to go directly to the final with a time of 7:07.79.
Alina Ligia Pop and Iuliana Buhus of ROU3 went off very hard in Heat Two. But the United States, who had two crews in this race, were not going to let the Romanians dominate. By the middle of the race Erin Reelick and Madeleine Wanamaker of USA1 had moved into the lead. The US team has had a bit of a reshuffle of crews as their top two sweep rowers are out for medical reasons. USA3 challenged Reelick and Wanamaker, but the leading crew could not be caught.
Qualifiers: CHN2, USA1
Men’s Pair (M2-) – Heats
The goal here was to be in a top two spot for a direct path to the final on Sunday. Lining up in Heat One was the 2018 World Champion boat of Martin and Valent Sinkovic of Croatia. Could anyone beat this incredible crew? The Sinkovics took gold at the Rio Olympics in the men’s double sculls and they also have medals from the quadruple sculls. Martin and Valent led from start to finish with BLR slotting into second. BLR (Dzmitry Furman and Siarhei Valadzko) did a good effort but remained in second.
In the second heat, SRB3 had a very fast start with SRB1 of Martin Mackovic and Milos Vasic moving with them. These two crews must know each other well and they went neck and neck together through the second 500. Then SRB3 appeared to run out of steam and Mackovic and Vasic got into the lead. ESP then took chase and overtook SRB3, but they could not catch Mackovic and Vasic who moved further and further away from the field. Spain’s Jamie Canalejo Pazos and Javier Garcia Ordonez remained in second and qualify for the final.
Qualifiers: CRO, BLR, SRB1, ESP
Lightweight Men’s Single Sculls (LM1x) – Heats
Two heats lined up with the goal to be in a top two position to go directly to the finals. In Heat One, Spain’s Patricio Rojas Aznar jumping off the start using a 50-stroke speed. BUL’s Lazar Penev took up chase much to the locals delight. Rojas remained out in front with the very experienced Luka Radonic of Croatia moving up. These two boats were neck-and-neck through the 1000m mark as Penev began to drop back. Radonic started racing internationally as a junior in 2010 and since then he has picked up many World Cup medals. The Croatian then took the lead with the young Penev sprinting for his life. In the final strokes Penev got in front to win the race.
Peter Galambos of HUN1 was the fastest off the start in Heat Two. Galambos finished sixth in this race at last year’s World Rowing Championships and in 2016 he took silver. Slovenia’s Rajko Hrvat slotted into second. Then Milosz Jankowski of POL2 attacked and overtook Hrvat. Meanwhile Galambos was pumping away at the head of the field and he’d built up a rather handy lead. But anything can happen in second half and Jankowski continued to move. Jankowski shook off Hrvat and it looked like the top two positions had been decided. At the line Galambos had won and moves to the final.
Qualifiers: BUL, CRO, HUN1, POL2
Women’s Double Sculls (W2x) – Heats
It was all about finishing first in these two heats as that would earn a direct path to the final on Sunday. In Heat One, JPN had very fast start but they were soon overtaken by the more experienced Polish double of Krystyna Lemanczyk-Dobrzelak and Martyna Radosz. POL really established themselves through the middle of the race as boats settled into 36 then 35 going into the second 500m. JPN tried to contest POL, but they looked relaxed and powerful in their lead. POL was not holding back and they moved out to an open water lead. This race now turned into a procession. POL goes to the final.
A very experienced Chinese boat lined up in Heat Two. The crew of Hairong Zhang and Qinyue Hou got a handy lead at the start and never looked back. People's Republic of China has hired the great Sir Steve Redgrave of Great Britain to work on Chinese high performance and they also now have Paul Thompson working with their crews. Thompson has taken many British crews to Olympic medals. Zhang and Hou now broke away from the field with BLR more than a boat length back in second. It would take a miracle for CHN to lose the lead. Belarus did not challenge and China goes directly to the final.
Qualifiers: POL, CHN
Men’s Double Sculls (M2x) – Heats
This boat class had three heats and the aim was to be in a top three position for a direct path to Saturday’s semi-finals. POL2 of Maciej Zawojski and Szymon Posnik were the first to show and they led a virtual line that formed behind them. Forty strokes per minute seemed to be the pace that rowers had chosen. But then going through the 2nd 500 the boat began to spread out. As Zawojski and Posnik moved into a bit of a lead, CHN2 of Xudi Yi and Ha Zang moved into second with CHN3 and BUL1 in hot pursuit. CHN2 and CHN3 held their own battle out the side of the course with CHN3 moving into second they were now closer to the Poles. At 36 strokes per minute, POL maintained the lead. They had taken bronze at last year’s European Championships and they had won the race.
At the start of Heat Two, BLR had the best pace. This crew of Stanislau Shcharbachenia and Dzianis Mihal have good experience as rowers, but not together. It would be interesting to see how they work together as both of them are more used to being single scullers. BLR led the way through the first half of the race with JPN sitting in second. BLR now moved out to a clear water lead with HUN1 moving up to challenge JPN. In the final sprint HUN had overtaken JPN but could not get close to BLR who were way out in front. Watch out for Shcharbachenia and Mihal in the final!
POL1 took off at 53 strokes per minute in Heat Three, but it didn’t give them much of a lead and at the first 500m mark there was only one second separating all four boats. Poland’s Dominik Czaja and Adam Wicenciak had a very, very small lead. Czaja finished sixth in the men’s quadruple sculls at last year’s World Rowing Championships while Wicenciak raced at the World Cup last year in the single. Then China’s Zhiyu Liu and Liang Zhang got their boat out in front. Zhang had a huge rowing pedigree that goes back 12 years of international racing and two Olympic Games. Liu and Zhang still had to keep and eye on POL who remained strong and on the pace. CHN held first and will go to the final with POL1 and HUN2.
Qualifiers: POL2, CHN3, CHN2, BLR, HUN1, JPN, CHN1, POL1, HUN2
Women’s Single Sculls (W1x) – Heats
This boat class had two heats and the aim was to be in a top two position for a direct path to the final on Sunday. Heat One saw an incredible line-up, which included 39-year-old Mirka Knapkova of the Czech Republic who is the 2012 Olympic Champion. A couple of lanes over was Ekaterina Karsten of Belarus. Karsten is the 1996 and 2000 Olympic Champion in the single and she is working towards her seventh Olympic Games. Knapkova got an early lead with Serbia’s jovana Arsic slotting into second. Going through the middle of the race Knapkova and Arsic remained the leading two crews. Knapkova took 2017 off to have a baby and then raced in the women’s quad in 2018. She looked very powerful in her leading position. Arsic held on to second but could not catch Knapkova.
An injury in the Dutch women’s quad has put Lisa Scheenard into the single and she raced in Heat Two. Scheenard is no slouch in the single and is currently the Dutch Champion. Scheenard was out in front at the start and remained there through the middle of the race. China’s Jiang Yan followed in second. Yan took gold back in 2016 in the women’s quad when she raced in the Olympic Qualification Regatta. At the finish line, Scheenard had a comfortable lead over Yan, with no one threatening these leaders.
Qualifiers: CZE, SRB, NED1, CHN
Men’s Single Sculls (M1x) – Heats
Three heats made up this boat class and the first three across the line would go directly to the semi-finals tomorrow. All other boats would have to race this afternoon in the repechages. It was a blistering start in Heat One, with local rower Kristian Vasilev of Bulgaria giving it his all. But it was Pilip Pavukou of Belarus who got to the first 500m mark in the lead. Pavoukou started racing internationally in 2012 and has spent the last few seasons in the double. Vasilev held on to second with FIN3 chasing hard in third. Vasilev then got an overlap with Pavukou. Meanwhile FIN3 and SRB were neck-and-neck and fighting for the third qualifying spot. Joel Naukkarinen of Finland was successful.
Damir Martin of Croatia rocketed out in Heat Two. Martin took silver at the Rio Olympics and then had an average 2018 season due to injury. He’s back and looking good! FIN1 of Robert Ven tried his best to keep up with Martin, but Martin looked like he was dusting off cobwebs and giving his body a big stretch out. At a 30 stroke rate, Martin stretched his lead over Ven, who was at 33 strokes per minute. Martin and Ven had now both broken clean away from the rest of the field with FIN2 of Olli-Pekka Karppinen in third. No pressure on Karppinen, who is the son of the many-times Olympic single sculling champion, Pertti Karppinen. Martin finished with a solid 6:49.25.
Pierre de Loof of Belgium led the way in Heat Three. De Loof finished 14th at last year’s World Rowing Championships. He may be stepping up this year. The very experienced Aleksandar Aleksandrov of Azerbaijan followed in second. At the back of the field of this four-boat race, MEX and JPN were having a heated battle for third. This brought them up to Aleksandrov who may have been caught off guard. With de Loof in front, the three remaining boats charged for the line in an almost line. JPN had missed out.
Qualifiers: BLR, BUL, FIN3, CRO, FIN1, FIN2, BEL, AZE, MEX
Lightweight Women’s Double Sculls (LW2x) – Heats
Two heats lined up and only the top boat from each race would go through to the final on a direct path. In Heat One, Poland’s Joanna Dorociak and Katarzyna Welna were the fastest off the line. Dorociak took silver at last year’s European Championships and this was definitely the crew to watch. ESP took off at a very fast 44-45 strokes per minute, but it didn’t seem to help. JPN was looking very good. The crew of Chiaki Tomita and Ayami Oishi from Japan sat in second and not far off POL. Then Dorociak and Welna decided to show their dominance and they broke completely away from the rest of the field. No one would catch them. JPN3 then moved up on JPN1 with the teenage crew of ROU2 chasing. POL’s time: 7:02.4.
In Heat Two, three Chinese boats lined up with CHN1 of Qiang Wu and Dandan Pan taking the lead. In second was the Dutch crew of Ilse Paulis and Martine Veldhuis. Paulis took bronze at last year’s World Championships, but her 2018 partner is injured, so she is rowing here with new partner Veldhuis. The Dutch remained just behind Wu and Pan with CHN2 now trying to move up. Wu and Pan managed to stay ahead of the Dutch and grab the qualifying spot.
Qualifiers: POL, CHN
Lightweight Men’s Double Sculls (LM2x) – Heats
The top boat in each of these heats would get to go to the final directly and in Heat One, Belgium’s Tim Brys and Niels van Zandweghe led the way. CHN1 of Man Sun and Junjie Fan followed very closely. Going through the middle of the race, BEL retained a very small margin over Sun and Fan with Austria in hot pursuit. It was very tight between the crews. Then Brys and van Zandweghe pushed away. CHN1 and AUT remained neck and neck. But it was a moot point, as only Brys and van Zandweghe would qualify.
Poland’s Artur Mikolajczewski and Jerzy Kowalski led the way in Heat Two. But margins were tight and only two seconds separated the entire field at the first 500m mark. Then POL managed to get a bit of an edge with CHN3 of Fanpu Lyu and Zhiyuan Zhang taking over the second place. A big piece by POR propelled them into second. The Portuguese crew included Olympian Pedro Fraga who has been racing internationally since 2002. Despite the big push by POR, POL remained in the lead and qualify directly for the final with a time of 6:15.48.
Qualifiers: BEL, POL
Men’s Four (M4-) – Heats
Two heats lined up for this boat class and the goal was to finish first so that the crew could go to the final directly and skip a repecharge. In Heat One, CHN was in the lead at the start. But the field was oh so tight, and only a second separated all boats. This did not change, and at the half way point there was barely a second and a half covering the full field. What a race. CHN remained just in front but then ROU3 did a huge push and got their bow ahead of CHN. AUT then attacked as CHN looked to be running out of gas. AUT had won in a time of 5:54.91. There will be a field of tired rowers sitting at this finish line.
Heat Two was a three boat race with POL1 taking an early lead. And what a lead it was. With just 500m raced POL1 already had an open water lead. This left ESP and ROU2 to battle it out for second. And that’s exactly what they did. Brzezinski, Wilangowski, Burda and Szpakowski completely left the rest of the field behind and despite their lead they still sprinted the finish. POL1’s time: 5:50.92
Qualifiers: AUT, POL1
Women’s Four (W4-) – Heats
Finishing off today’s heats was the women’s four. With only two heats, the goal was to finish first for a direct path to the final on Sunday. This is the new Olympic boat class for 2020 and the standard just keeps going up. In Heat One, two US crews lined up. Both boats were full of athletes who had raced earlier in the day in the women’s pair. Making an early lead was USA2, just a smidgen ahead of CHN3. It was CHN3 that got to the first 500m mark in the lead with USA2 in second. The USA2 crew includes Emily Regan who is the top women rower for 2018 with a slew of gold medals, including an Olympic one from 2016.
CHN3 remained in front through the middle of the race, but USA2 was not far back. A third 500m push gave the Americans the lead. Regan, along with Felice Mueller, Kristine O’Brien and Gia Doonan kept their stroke rate at 35 and they remained out in front to the finish. Their time was 6:30.91.
NED1 leapt out in Heat Two and took the lead. CHN1 was in second and these two crews started to move away from the rest of the field. It was up to CHN1 to overtake the Dutch if they wanted to qualify directly for the finals. The Dutch crew of Meester, Clevering, Florijn and Hogerwerf remained in the lead going through the middle of the race. CHN1 did not seem able to close the gap. But the Dutch and Chinese were still able to stay ahead of the rest of the field and it looked like this might be where the real race was going to go on.
With 500m to go, the Dutch had managed to pull away from CHN1 and they secured the qualifying spot.
Qualifiers: USA2, NED1