Fast, furious and very new; Commonwealth Beach Sprints
Eight nations competed at the first-ever Commonwealth Beach Sprints held from 18-19 August in Sandbanks Beach, Poole, United Kingdom. This was a first for rowing in the Commonwealth Games and it was the first Commonwealth gold medal for Vanuatu in any sport.
Vanuatu’s victory came in the men’s solo when Riilio ‘Rio’ Rii dove across the line ahead of England’s Gian-Luc Angiolini and Scotland’s Gregor Maxwell. The event provided great entertainment for spectators with its beach-sprint format. Athletes departed from the beach, running several metres before jumping into their boats. Once in the water, they raced around a 250m course with three buoyed turns before returning to shore where they again jumped out of the boat, ran up the beach and dove across the finish line.
In the women’s solo, Scotland’s Robyn Hart-Winks dominated the field. Hart-Winks got off to a good beach sprint start, wound her way around the buoys and was too quick for Canada’s Meghann Jackson in the final sprint. Jackson claimed silver and England’s Gillian Mara took bronze.
The women’s double was a close race between England and Scotland. Scotland had a slightly better landing and was able to dive across the line ahead of England. Canada beat Wales to finish with the bronze medal.
The men’s double saw an intense race for the line. Scotland and Canada both landed at the same time and it came down to the beach sprint to determine the winner. Scotland’s Gregor Maxwell just got across the line first, beating Canada by a fraction of a second. Canada had their revenge, however, taking gold in the mixed quadruple sculls ahead of Scotland and Wales.
Beach Sprints is a relatively new format in rowing. It was first tested at the Asian Games and was a success for the athletes and the spectators.
Coastal rowing is great for nations without access to flat water. The technical skills required in the navigation around the buoys add a different component that doesn’t necessarily favour bigger competitors.
“Beach sprints is a fast and furious - and very new - format for rowing. It’s a team and individual event, including mixed gender crews.” says Annamarie Phelps, member of the European Rowing Board and FISA Commonwealth Liaison.
“It’s been a huge success with new and experienced athletes as well as spectators saying they love the fun but highly competitive spirit. I hope we’ll see the Commonwealth rowing community really take up this opportunity to compete on equal terms in a low-cost exciting discipline and re-establish rowing as a core Commonwealth Games sport. Many smaller island nations can have a real advantage with their beautiful natural venues and for their talented athletes.
“I’m thrilled the Commonwealth Games Federation have supported this inaugural event and I hope we see many more nations taking up beach sprints as a result,”
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