First day heats continue at 2011 World Champs
Heats racing continued in the afternoon at the 2011 World Rowing Championships in Bled, Slovenia and finishing times closed in on the World Best Times as tail wind conditions added to boat speeds. Most impressive was the men’s four where times were less than eight seconds outside of the World Best Times as crews fought it out to finish first.
Men’s Single Sculls (M1x) – Heats
The biggest event of these World Champs, the men’s single attracted 36 countries. Divided into six heats, the goal was to finish in a top three position for a direct path to the quarterfinals on Wendesday. Those that missed out would get a second chance in tomorrow’s repechage. Heat one featured reigning World Champion, Ondrej Synek of the Czech Republic, rowing with number one on his bow. Synek has remained unbeaten since 2010 and he is now the target, the one to beat.
Today Synek sat behind Nick Hudson of Australia at the start but seamlessly pushed ahead to take the lead. Hudson held on tight with Synek doing just enough to hold on to the lead. Coming into the finish Synek, stroking 28, still remained ahead of Hudson who, at 38 could not catch Synek. Meanwhile Bulgaria’s Georgi Bozhilov came through with a flying finish that saw him overtake Hudson and catch up on Synek. It earned Bozhilov a second place position. Synek, Bozhilov and Hudson earn quarterfinal spots.
Lithuania’s Mindaugas Griskonis continued to show his worth and in heat two today he managed to out rowing Olympic Champion, Olaf Tufte of Norway. Griskonis, at 6’ 1” is one of the shorter rowers in this category and he comes to Bled hoping to improve on his eight place finish at last year’s World Champs. Griskonis stayed ahead of Tufte in second, despite under-rating the big Norwegian. At the finish Griskonis and Tufte qualified from first and second respectively while Chile’s Oscar Vasquez Ochoa came through in third to also qualify.
Heat three was all about Alan Campbell of Great Britain. Known for his fast starts, Campbell took the lead at the start ahead of Ken Jurkowski of the United States. Both of these athletes competed at the 2008 Olympic Games in the single and they are back again with the aim of fronting up again in London next year. By the half-way point, Campbell had earned more than a boat length lead over Jurkowski and he continued to move away. The order remained the same to the line with Campbell (rating 26) and Jurkowski (rating 31) qualifying from first and second respectively while Moustafa Fathy of Egypt came through to qualify from third.
Angel Fournier Rodriguez of Cuba led the way in heat four. The two metre tall Cuban last raced at the World Champs in 2009 where he finished tenth and, now 23 years old, he’s back to aim for London Olympic Qualification. Behind Fournier, China’s Liang Zhang and Lassi Karonen of Sweden held the pace. Zhang raced in the final at last year’s World Rowing Championships while Karonen has medalled at every World Rowing Cup this season. Despite this talent, Fournier remained in the lead rating a comfortable 30 into the finish. Fournier, Karonen and Zhang qualify for the quarterfinal from first, second and third respectively.
Moving on to heat five, the New Zealand supporters club sitting in the grandstand at the finish line got to enjoy seeing local hero, Mahe Drysdale row through to first place. At the start Croatia’s Mario Vekic had a small lead over Israel and New Zealand. Then going into the second half of the race Drysdale eased himself into first and moved away from Vekic. Coming into the line Drysdale remained in the lead and on a 30 stroke rate, whilst Vekic was at 33, came through in second. Former junior World Champion, Aleksandar Aleksandrov of Azerbaijan followed in third. These three scullers move directly to the quarterfinals.
The sixth and final heat featured Germany’s top sculler, Marcel Hacker. Hacker has been Germany’s top sculler for over a decade and, now 34 years old, he doesn’t appear to be slowing down. Today Hacker held the lead from start to finish over Belgium’s best sculler Tim Maeyens. Maeyens stuck with Hacker for the majority of the race with neither sculler feeling any need to sprint the finish. Hacker dropped his stroke rate to 24 coming to the line while Maeyens sat on an easy 28. Both of them will go directly to the quarterfinals along with India’s Sawarn Singh who finished in third.
Men’s Four (M4-) – Heats
The top crew only from each of the four heats would make it directly to the semifinals and this called for some very aggressive racing, especially in heat two. But first, here’s how heat one panned out. Leading at the start was Canada’s new line up of Jacob, Kowalyk, Dean and O’Farrell, but their margin over Germany was miniscule. Germany has spent the season chopping and changing athletes as they work on finding the best crew. The final line up is Kaufer, Adamski, Seifert and Schmidt. Coming into the second half of the race the Germans showed their superior stamina and pushed in front of Canada. The Canadians appeared to have no comeback. Germany was the sole qualifier for the semifinals.
Last year’s silver medallists, Greece took over in the lead of heat two and, despite repeated attacks by Australia, Greece held them off. Australia includes three-time Olympic Champion, Drew Ginn in two seat, back to aim for another Olympic Games. Coming into the line Greece rated 39 and stayed in front. Australia, on 38, will have to return to race in the repechages.
Heat three turned out to be the closest of the four heats with New Zealand, the United States and Belarus racing each other as though it was a final. New Zealand, minus Carl Meyer, got out the fastest with the United States following in second and Belarus right on the pace in third. The margin between these three crews remained less than two seconds throughout the race and coming into the final sprint the ratings rose to a frantic level. New Zealand was at 44 and both the United States and Belarus hit 46. At the line Belarus had done it. Just. Belarus had earned a spot in the semifinals.
This has not been a great season for reigning World Champions France who featured in heat four. They were up against World Rowing Cup winners, Great Britain. But France gave it their best shot and grabbed the lead at the start. Great Britain followed in hot pursuit and by the half-way point the British had pushed into the lead. With that, Great Britain left the French in their wake and by the finish line they had an open water lead and the fastest qualifying time. Great Britain advance to the semfinals with the fastest qualifying time (albeit only just) of a speedy 5:49.20.
Lightweight Men’s Double Sculls (LM2x) – Heats
There were six heats in this very well patronised event. This meant that the top three crews would get to advance directly to the quarterfinals. In heat one Italy’s Lorenzo Bertini and Elia Luini led the way. Last year Bertini and Luini finished second and they continue on their quest to be the top boat. The United States crew of Winter and De Regt followed in second with Sweden’s Russberg and Bernhardsson sitting in third. This order did not change and with Bertini and Luini feeling no need to sprint. Italy, the United States and Sweden move on to the quarterfinals.
The second heat was quite a different story. At the start New Zealand’s Storm Uru and Peter Taylor took the lead with Greece’s Konsolas and Magdanis and Spain following very closely. Spain then found the pace too hot and slipped back opening up the opportunity to Nuno Mendes and Pedro Fraga of Portugal to push through. Coming into the line New Zealand, Greece and Portugal all charged. New Zealand remained in front to qualify for the quarterfinal with Greece and Portugal also earning spots. New Zealand also earned the fastest qualifying time of a very quick 6:16.26.
The Canadian’s ruled in heat three. Douglas Vandor and Cameron Sylvester of Canada took the lead at the start and proceeded to move away to an open water lead through the middle of the race. Switzerland’s Michael Schmid and Raphael Jeannert held on to second while the Netherlands pushed through to third. Canada, Switzerland and the Netherlands qualify for the quarterfinals.
Heat four opened with Tamas Varga and Peter Galambos of Hungary in the lead. They were followed closely by Norway’s Svein Urban Ringstad and Are Strandli, Poland and Denmark. The margins remained narrow and the pressure remained on these crews as only three boats would qualify for the quarterfinals. As the close of the race came into view Denmark’s Mads Rasmussen and Rasmus Quist charged at a 37 stroke rate pace. It was good enough to get them into the lead. Norway and Hungary followed in second and third respectively. These are the qualifying boats.
The reigning World Champions, Great Britain, Zac Purchase and Mark Hunter, lined up in heat five. Despite being World Champions, France showed them no mercy. Jeremie Azou and Frederic Dufour of France got into the lead and did their best to hold off the Brits. Purchase and Hunter, however, held on and coming into the second half of the race the British duo had found a narrow lead. The French held on but could not win back the lead. At the line Great Britain, France and Cuba had qualified for the quarterfinals.
Germany’s Lars Hartig and Linus Lichtschlag jumped out into the lead in heat six ahead of Fangbing Zhang and Tiexin Wang of China. Zhang and Wang were fifth last year at the World Rowing Championships and Germany must have known that they needed to be wary of the duo. This rang true as Zhang and Wang pushed into the lead going into the second half of the race. The Germans tried to hold on but finally seemed to be content to remain in second. Meanwhile, Belgium’s Thijs and Hannes Obreno pushed into third over Mexico to earn a qualifying spot. China, Germany and Belgium earn quarterfinal spots.
Women’s Single Sculls (W1x) – Heats
This event had three heats with the top two boats in each heat qualifying directly for the semifinals on Friday. In heat one Germany’s Annekatrin Thiele jumped out to an early lead followed closely by Xiuyun Zhang of China. It was clear early on that Zhang and Thiele were in a class above the rest of the field. After Zhang overtook Thiele these two athletes looked content to row their boats home at a low stroke rate. China and Germany qualify for the semifinals.
Heat two saw New Zealand’s Emma Twigg leading from start to finish over reigning World Champion, Frida Svensson of Sweden. Twigg has come to Bled following a win at the final World Rowing Cup of the season in July. This must have given her a huge confidence boost and the initiative to go after her first senior World Champion title. Twigg and Svensson remained close together through the entire race, with Twigg doing just enough to hold off Svensson. These are the two crews that advance to the semifinals.
Former World and Olympic Champion, Ekaterina Karsten of Belarus has faltered ever since she was beaten at last year’s World Rowing Championships. Today she looked to be her usual winning self as she led heat three from start to finish. Behind Karsten, Mirka Knapkova of the Czech Republic followed in second looking unwilling or unable to challenge for the top spot. Karsten and Knapkova earn spots in the semifinals on Friday.
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