Shock results in European Rowing Championships heats
The 2015 European Rowing Championships have begun in Poznan, Poland. Lake Malta was abuzz with crews from 36 European nations as rowers took to the water for the heats.
There were shock results as World Champion men's eight, Great Britain saw themselves pushed into the repechage. Men's quadruple sculls World Champions, Ukraine were also beaten to the line and will have to race in the repechage. This was just a piece of the excitement in this first day of racing.
A very small cross/tail wind greeted the rowers with the wind rising half way through racing and then all but disappearing.
Lightweight Men's Single Sculls (LM1x) - Heats
Leading the way in the first of three heats was Pierre Houin of France. The goal here was to be in a top two position for advancement to the semifinals and winner of the World Rowing Cup in Bled, Lukas Babac of Slovakia had slotted into that second position. Houin comes to senior racing from last year's French under-23 team. Houin medalled in the lightweight men's double sculls at the 2014 World Rowing Under 23 Championships.
Heat Two had Slovenia's Rajko Hrvat get off to a very quick start. Hrvat was second at the World Rowing Cup in Bled and in his outside lane he was building up a solid leading margin as the race continued. A strong second half piece brought Poland's Jerzy Kowalski into second and thus into a qualifying spot. Meanwhile Olympic Champion from the lightweight double, Mads Rasmussen had taken the pressure right off and sat at the back of the field. Hrvat and Kowalski move onto the semifinal. Hrvat had recorded the fastest qualifying time.
The third heat turned out to be the fastest with the long strokes of Zak Lee-Green (Great Britain) bursting out at the start and keeping the pressure on as Bulgaria's Nedelcho Vasilev started chasing. These two scullers went neck and neck through the third 500. This tussle gave them such a lead that they both were able to take the pressure off in the final sprint.
Qualifiers: FRA, SVK, SLO, POL, GBR, BUL
Lightweight Women's Single Sculls (LW1x) - Heats
This boat class had three heats lining up with the top three in each heat qualifying directly to tomorrow's semifinals. Out in front in Heat One was Anna Ioannou of Cyprus with Great Britain's Imogen Walsh chasing hard. Coming into the second half of the race Ioannou began to pay heavily for her fast start and both Walsh and Emma Fredh of Sweden rowed past her. But Ioannou was still in a qualifying spot and will go to the semifinals along with Walsh and Fredh.
The Dutch sculler, Mirte Kraaijkamp, led the way at the start of Heat Two. Kraaijkamp was part of the World Champion lightweight quadruple sculls last year and now in the single she was making the best of this heat. The second half of the race, however, saw Kraaijkamp overtaken by Anastasiia Ianina of Russia. The race then turned into a procession as the field became very spread out with Ianina remaining in front followed by the Netherlands and Austria.
Heat Three opened with Denmark's Runge Holmegaard getting out just in front of the fleet. By the middle of the race, however, Holmegaard had been overtaken by Judith Anlauf of Germany and Sinead Jennings of Ireland. Jennings is making a comeback after last racing internationally in 2008. These three scullers kept the heat on right to the line and will move to the semifinals.
Qualifiers: GBR, SWE, CYP, RUS, NED, AUT, GER, IRL, DEN
Women's Pair (W2-) - Heats
The three heats in this boat class required these crews to finish in a top three position for a direct path to the semifinals. France led for the first half of the race before Romania took over in the lead. But the lead was to change again as Hedvig Rasmussen and Anne Andersen of Denmark put in a very solid sprint to finish first.
In a class of their own Heather Stanning and Helen Glover of Great Britain had already pulled away from the field within the first ten strokes. And with that the World, Olympic and European Champions, Great Britain completely left the rest of the field behind. By the second half of the race, Stanning and Glover had taken the pressure off. They had already proved their dominance.
Olivia van Rooijen and Elisabeth Hogerwerf of the Netherlands won at the World Rowing Cup earlier this month in Bled. This is their first season together as a pair and they continued to show the value of their combination as they led Heat Three. The Dutch remained in the lead as Spain slotted into second with the race for third turning into an incredibly tight tussle between Ireland and Poland. Ireland got to the line first and Poland will now have to race in the repechage this afternoon.
Qualifiers: DEN, ROU, FRA, GBR, CZE, CRO, NED, ESP, IRL
Lightweight Men's Double Sculls (LM2x) - Heats
This boat class had attracted three heats with the top two boats in each heat getting to go to the semifinals. Leading the way in Heat One were the 2013 World Champions and 2014 European bronze medallists, Kristoffer Brun and Are Strandli of Norway. They remained in the lead as Portugal's Nuno Goncalves and Pedro Fraga qualified from second. Goncalves and Fraga were second at World Rowing Cup I earlier this month and they move on to the semifinals.
The new British combination of Richard Chambers and William Fletcher led the way in confident style in Heat Two. This left winners of World Rowing Cup I, the Dutch Muda brothers to try and fight off Turkey to get the second qualifying spot. The Muda's were successful but they now know the power of the Brits.
Coming out for their first international race of 2015 was the European Champion crew of Stany Delayre and Jeremie Azou of France. By the middle of the race Delayre and Azou had a comfortable lead and continued to make it bigger through to the line. The Czech Republic slipped into second but had to keep an eye on the battle between Greece and Ireland that was putting the heat on them. The Czech's remained in second with France recording the fastest overall qualifying time in first. Their time: 6:20:55.
Qualifiers: NOR, POR, GBR, NED, FRA, CZE
Lightweight Women's Double Sculls (LW2x) - Heats
The deal here was to be in a top three position to go directly to tomorrow's semifinals and in the first of three heats, Great Britain led the way. The British crew of Katherine Copeland and Charlotte Taylor took a small lead over Russia at the start and then slowly pulled away from not only Russia, but the rest of the field. As the weather turned into a rather stiff tail breeze for these scullers, Copeland and Taylor continued to push away. This combination is new for 2015 as Taylor managed to show through trials that she deserved to be in this boat over teammate Imogen Walsh. Behind them a huge tussle was going on between Russia, the Czech Republic and Romania. At the line the Czechs had missed out and will have to race in the repechage. Meanwhile Great Britain had finished just three seconds outside of the European Best Time and the fastest qualifying time.
Germany's Fini Sturm and Marie-Louise Draeger completely dominated Heat Two. The new German duo of youth and experience led from start to finish with Denmark, Greece and Switzerland battling it out for the remaining two spots. Greece missed out, but only just.
Heat Three opened with Joanna Dorociak and Weronika Deresz of Poland in the lead. They brought the home crowd to their feet as they held off the Netherlands to remain in the lead. The race then saw no challenges going on and the order stayed the same to the line with Ireland securing the third and final qualifying spot.
Qualifiers: GBR, RUS, ROU, GER, DEN, SUI, POL, NED, IRL
Men's Four (M4-) -Heats
With a revised two heats in the men's four (after Malta withdrew for medical reasons) a first place was needed for a direct path to the final. In Heat One, Romania had a very fast start but by the middle of the race both Greece and France were practically on top of them. Last year Greece was the European silver medallists and by the third 500 the Greeks had the lead. They held it to the end and will now get a day's rest before Sunday's final. All other crews will get another shot at the final through this afternoon's repechage.
Heat Two had the crew from the Netherlands in the lead at the start. But by the middle of the race Great Britain had taken over in the lead. The British are the reigning European and World Champions in this boat class, but the top sweep rowers are now in their country's eight and all eyes were out to see how this crew of Durant, Ransley, Sinclair and Reilly O'Donnell could do. Although not quite as smooth as last year's four, the British still remained in front and at the line and had the fastest qualifying time. This just goes to demonstrate the depth of talent in the British squad. This crew could well be on their way to defend the 2014 European title.
Qualifiers: GRE, GBR
Men's Double Sculls (M2x) - Heats
The men's double sculls had attracted the biggest field and they were divided into four heats with the top two crews from each heat getting to go directly to the semifinals. The field, however, was down one boat. World Champions, Croatia pulled out a couple of days ago due to a rib injury.
In Heat One the British crew of John Collins and Jonathan Walton held the lead. But there was very little in it as with 500m rowed there was only one and a half seconds separating the entire field. Then Great Britain and Spain managed to get a very, very slight margin with Ukraine very much on the pace. In the final sprint, Spain was showing the strain and Ukraine was able to pull ahead. Spain will have to return for a repechage.
Kristian Vasilev and Georgi Bozhilov of Bulgaria had the fastest start and looked to be following the strategy of keeping their boat just in front. By the middle of the race Vasilev and Bozhilov still had the lead, but only just over the Czech Republic crew of David Jirka and Michal Plocek. These two boats then went neck-and-neck through the 1500m mark and into the final sprint. Then practically out of nowhere, Estonia joined in. At the line the Czechs had finished first and Bulgaria had held off Estonia by a mere 0.07 of a second.
It was clear that Norway's Nils Jakob Hoff and Kjetil Borch had a point to prove. The duo leapt out to a fast start in Heat Three. But then a piece by Serbia saw Norway nearly slip into second. Hoff and Borch pushed back and moved out to a good lead. It really showed their power despite the Norwegians going a little bit crooked down their lane. The field was now quite spread out and Norway and Serbia were the easy qualifiers.
Winners of the World Rowing Cup in Bled earlier this month was Marcel Hacker and Stephan Krueger of Germany. This new combination has now had more time in the double together and they led Heat Four. Through the middle of the race France tried to stick with the German pace, but Hacker and Krueger had more to give. At the line the Germans were in the top spot with France qualifying for the semifinal from second.
Qualifiers: GBR, UKR, CZE, BUL, NOR, SRB, GER, FRA
Women's Double Sculls (W2x) - Heats
This boat class had three heats and the top three boats in each heat would get to go directly to the semifinals tomorrow. In Heat One, Germany's Julia Lier and Mareike Adams were the fastest out at the start. Lier and Adams are in their second regatta together after finishing in the silver medal spot at World Rowing Cup I earlier this month in Bled. As the race progressed Germany was under pressure from Greece and Belarus. This tightness remained into the final sprint with Denmark joining in to challenge for a qualifying spot. The Danes, however, had left it just a bit too late. Germany, Greece and Belarus are in the semifinals.
The 2013 World Champions, Lithuania - Donata Vistartaite and Milda Valciukaite - were second at the European Championships last year and they open their 2015 season here in Poznan. In Heat One, Vistartaite and Valciukaite stayed ahead from start to finish and crossed the line a distance ahead of Ukraine in second. The Czech Republic qualified from third.
All eyes were on Heat Three as the Olympic Champion from Great Britain, Katherine Grainger was racing in her first international race since the London Olympics. Grainger has been teamed up with Great Britain's 2014 single sculler, Victoria Thornley. The British due got out well but found themselves under threat from current European Champions, Magdalena Fularczyk and Natalia Madaj of Poland. Fularczyk and Madaj finished their 2014 season off with a World Championship silver medal and they are racing on their home course being Poznan locals. The second half of the race went the way of the Poles as they pushed ahead of Great Britain and finished in a very quick time of 6:49.73. This was the fastest qualifying time.
Qualifiers: GER, GRE, BLR, LTU, UKR, CZE, POL, GBR, SRB
Lightweight Men's Four (LM4-) - Heat
With three heats in this boat class, the job for these crews was to be in a top three position in their respective heat if they wanted to go directly to the semifinals tomorrow. In Heat One it was Great Britain that had the lead at the start. The British finished second at last year's European Championships and they have a new line up for 2015. Behind Great Britain, the Germans and Russians went neck-and-neck and even managed to get closer as the finishing line came into view. At the line only 0.16 of a second separated Russia and Germany. Both crews will go to the semifinals.
The World and European Champions, Denmark came out in Heat Two at the back of the field. But the back of the field was still only a second off the leader in this very tight opening to the race. By the half way point Spain had earned a slight lead with the Netherlands, Denmark and the Czech Republic all level. Spain, who finished sixth at the World Rowing Cup in Bled, finished first in a fast time of 6:04.97. Denmark qualified from second with the Netherlands right behind them in third.
Heat Three had France and Switzerland getting away the fastest. These two boats remained locked together through the middle of the race and together they moved away from the rest of the field. France finished third at last year's European Championships while Switzerland got off to a good start in 2015 by winning at the World Rowing Cup earlier this month in Bled. Despite both boats being in qualifying spots, France and Switzerland raced it to the line. Switzerland finished 0.16 of a second ahead of France and at 6:02.15, recorded the fastest qualifying time.
Qualifiers: GBR, GER, RUS, ESP, DEN, NED, SUI, FRA, TUR
Men's Single Sculls (M1x) - Heats
Four heats lined up in the men's single sculls with the goal of being in a top two spot for a direct path to the semifinals tomorrow. Heat One featuring Olympian Azerbaijan's top rower, Aleksandar Aleksandrov. Aleksandrov is just 25 years old but has already been racing for ten years and he led the way for the first half of the race. Then Hannes Obreno of Belgium took over in the lead and never looked back. Romania's Ioan Prundeanu followed Obreno and these two scullers became the qualifying boats.
Heat Two had a big surprise when Norway's Olaf Tufte led over World and European Champion, Ondrej Synek of the Czech Republic. Tufte was the 2008 Olympic Champion and has been slowly trying to work his way back into the top scullers ever since. Synek then overtook Tufte and these two scullers left the rest of the field behind. The race was all but over with Synek and Tufte showing their experience and power through to the line. Both were able to take the pressure off in the final sprint.
Mindaugas Griskonis of Lithuania was third at last year's European Championships and he got out the fastest in Heat Three. By the middle of the race Griskonis had more than a boat length lead with Great Britain's Angus Groom following in second. Groom comes from under-23 racing in 2014 where he was a bronze medallist in the men's double sculls. At the line Griskonis remained in the lead with the higher rating Groom under no threat from qualifying in his second place spot.
Heat Four opened with Damir Martin of Croatia in the lead. Martin is best known for his success in the Croatian men's quad and now in the single he finished second at the World Rowing Cup in Bled at the start of May. By the middle of the race Martin had a good boat length lead over Stanislau Shcharbachenia of Belarus. Coming into the final sprint, Shcharbachenia closed on Martin. Martin, however, had this race in his hands and did just enough to stay ahead of the Belarusian. At the line Martin's time of 6:58 was the fastest qualifying time.
Qualifiers: BEL, ROU, CZE, NOR, LTU, GBR, CRO, BLR
Lightweight Men's Pair (LM2-) - Heats
The two heats in this boat class meant that whoever came first would get to go directly to Sunday's final and thus get a day off racing. In Heat One Great Britain's Joel Cassells and Peter Chambers grabbed the lead. This is a new British duo and together they were dominating this race looking smooth and clean through the water. No other boat was able to challenge the leaders and they will all have to race in a repechage tomorrow.
Heat Two was much tighter with the five crews going through the first 500m mark spaced over just three seconds. Greece had a slight lead. This lead was lost, however, going through the middle of the race as Russia pushed into the lead with France chasing hard. Augustin Mouterde and Theophile Onfroy of France then got their nose in front and once in front they really found their form. France's time at the line of 6:43 was the fastest time overall by seven seconds. France will now meet Great Britain in the final on Sunday.
Qualifiers: GBR, FRA
Men's Pair (M2-) - Heats
The men's pair had two heats lining up and the top boat in each heat would go directly to the final on Sunday. Back in the pair after time in the men's eight, France's Olympic silver medallists, Dorian Mortelette and Germain Chardin led Heat One. At the half way point Mortelette and Chardin did another push and tried to break free of Spain in second. France was first at the World Rowing Cup earlier this month while Spain finished fifth. Mortelette and Chardin then broke free of Spain and crossed the line with an easy lead. Spain will now race in the repechage.
Last year at the European Championships in Belgrade, Serbia won. Now with a new crew for 2015 (Milos Vasic and Nenad Bedik), Serbia had the lead in Heat Two. Great Britain's James Foad and Matt Langridge followed in second. Foad and Langridge were the World silver medallists last year and they were now giving the Serbian's a race to the line. Coming into the final sprint Great Britain overtook Serbia. The Serbians responded by taking their stroke rate right down. Foad and Langridge had qualified for the final and done it in the fastest qualifying time - a time of 6:29.91 - eight seconds faster than the French in heat one.
Qualifiers: FRA, GER
Women's Quadruple Sculls (W4x) - Heats
The two heats in the women's quadruple sculls required scullers to finish first if they wanted a direct path to Sunday's final. World Champions and winners of the World Rowing Cup in Bled, Germany featured in Heat One. At the start, though, it was the Olympic Champions, Ukraine in the lead. Ukraine has been reshuffling members of the quad following the London Olympics and today they revealed their latest line up. By the middle of the race, Germany had taken over in the lead with the British now moving on Ukraine. At the line Germany were the qualifiers with Great Britain looking to be a strong challenger from their second place finish.
Poland got out the quickest in Heat Two and by the middle of the race they had a bit of a lead. Poland finished second to Germany at the World Rowing Cup in Bled and looked to be the crew to beat in this heat. The Dutch crew was doing their best to overtake Poland and coming into the final sprint only a second separated these two crews. At the line the Netherlands had overtaken Poland to get the qualifying spot. The Netherlands had also recorded the fastest qualifying time. Poland will have to prove themselves now through the repechage.
Qualifiers: GER, NED
Men's Quadruple Sculls (M4x) - Heats
It was all about finishing first in these two heats as that would be the way to go directly to the final on Sunday. In Heat One Russia got out to a fast start ahead of the World and European Champions, Ukraine. Russia is known for being fast at the start and then not always having enough to hold off crews at the finish. Today, however, Russia proved the critics wrong and led for the entire race to cross the line first. There was no hiding the delight of Russia's crew at the finish line. They will go straight to the final. Ukraine, in second, will have to race in tomorrow's repechage.
Winners of the World Rowing Cup in Bled, Germany was at the front of the field in Heat Two. But they only had a slight margin with four crews going through the first 500 separated by just half a second. By the middle of the race Poland had pushed just ahead of Germany. The home crowd sat up and took notice. This was not what they were expecting. Coming into the final sprint Poland still had the lead with Germany now being challenged by Great Britain. The British then unleashed a devastating sprint and not only overtook Germany, but they also closed on Poland. Poland was able to hold off the British and the Poles get to go directly to the final.
Qualifiers: RUS, POL
Women's Eight (W8+) - Heats
In Heat One of two heats, the Russians were the fastest at the start, staying ahead of last year's European silver medallists, Great Britain. The British, however, were not giving up and through the middle of the race Great Britain began to catch up on Russia. These two crews then moved way ahead of the rest of the field as both crews went for the one qualifying spot. Russia proved to be the faster crew and they will go directly to the final with the fastest qualifying time.
There was nothing in it at the start of Heat Two. All three competing crews when through the first 500m mark in a line. Then last year's European silver medallists, Germany began to break away. This pushed the European Champions, Romania into second. Then the Romanians did a big push, spurred on by coxswain Daniela Druncea. The Romanians were now in the lead with Germany trying to come back. Romania continued to sprint and Germany could not catch them. Romania qualified for the final with Germany finishing behind the Dutch in third.
Qualifiers: RUS, ROU
Women's Single Sculls (W1x) - Heats
It was all about finishing first in the two heats of the women's single sculls. In Heat One, Germany's Julia Richter was in the lead. Richter raced to silver in the quad at the London Olympics and last year she was part of her country's double sculls. She last raced in the single in 2008. Richter led through the middle of the race before Jeannine Gmelin of Switzerland slipped unnoticed into the lead. Richter looked like she had run out of steam. Gmelin remained in front with Lithuania pulling through into second.
Heat Two opened with Denmark and the Czech Republic in the lead. By the middle of the race, European Champion, Mirka Knapkova of the Czech Republic had gained the lead. Knapkova is the reigning Olympic Champion and continued to push towards another successful Olympic Games. Once in the lead Knapkova pushed away from the field with Tatsiana Kukhta of Belarus now moving into second. Knapkova remained in first to the line and crossed with the fastest qualifying time.
Qualifiers: SUI, CZE
Men's Eight (M8+) - Heats
In the first of two heats, European Champions, Germany got out into the lead and never looked back. By the middle of the race Germany had worked their way to a huge margin leaving last year's World Championship medallists, Poland way back in second. Germany continued to race their own race at the front of the field. Poland managed to close the leading margin by a tiny bit, but this race was all about Germany and they go directly to the final on Sunday.
Following in the pattern of the fine race by their women's eight, Russia took the lead in Heat Two. Russia finished second to Germany at last year's European Championships and, like the Germans in heat one, Russia moved away to a dominating position. This left the Netherlands way back in second. But the big surprise was seeing Great Britain at the back of the field. The British World Champions must have wondered what was going on. In the final sprint Russia kept accelerating and they crossed the line in the fastest qualifying time, turning out a time four seconds faster than the Germans. All other crews will go to tomorrow's repechage.
Qualifiers: GER, RUS