Getting used to the heat for the heats at under-23 rowing championships
The best under-23 rowers in the world have landed in Sarasota-Bradenton, Florida, USA. Racing has begun for the 2019 World Rowing Under 23 Championships.
The Nathan Benderson Park regatta venue, with its signature palm trees and a beach for spectators to watch the rowing was certainly tropical. The day was humid with a 34 degrees Celsius feel and a small tail wind.
Women’s Pair (BW2-) – Heats
This boat class attracted 14 nations and they were divided into three heats. The goal was to be in a top three position for a direct path to Friday’s semifinals.
The first heat saw the Youth Olympic Champions and last year’s World Rowing Junior Champions, Christina Bourmpou and Maria Kyridou from Greece, line up against South Africa, Netherlands, Italy. Off the start, Netherlands squeezed ahead of South Africa. Italy trailed ¾ of a length back. Coming into the 500m, Greece manages to pull up and went bowball for bowball with South Africa. Coming up to the 1000m, Greece got a gain on South Africa with Netherlands sitting in the third qualification position. Holding off a move from South Africa, the Greeks took it up a notch to widen the gap from the rest of the field. Entering the last 350m, Greece and South Africa had clear water on the rest of the field. South Africa bumped up their rate for a final sprint, but Greece managed to hold them off.
In Heat Two the United States of Sarah Johanek and Hadley Irwin took the lead from the start. They must have been the favouites in this heat with both having medalled (but in different boat classes) at last year’s World Rowing Under 23 Championships. Germany was just on their tail along with Russia. Then Russia managed to nudge their way up on Germany with Japan following suit.
The places were now pretty much established and the order did not change for the rest of the race. Johanek and Irwin did manage to widen their gap over the rest of the field to take the win in this heat with a rather handy open water margin.
This was a four-boat race for Heat Three with New Zealand, France, Denmark and Great Britain all getting off the start together. Cews remained close all the way to the 1000m mark with only Denmark beginning to slip back. Great Britain’s Emily Lindberg and Esme Booth then got into the lead at the 1000. But then New Zealand made their signature push in the third 500. Great Britain was at a 36, the highest rate on the water, trying to expand their gap on New Zealand and reacting to their push. Denmark was now off the back of the pack. Despite the top three crews being comfortably in qualifying positions, France did a push on New Zealand. The Kiwis reacted and stayed ahead of the French.
Qualifiers: GRE, RSA, NED, USA, RUS, JPN, GBR, NZL, FRA
Men’s Pair (BM2-) – Heats
A first place finish was needed for a direct path to Saturday’s final in these two heats and in Heat One it was all about Romania. The Romanian crew of Florin-Sorin Lehaci and Dumitru-Alexandru Ciobica are the same crew from last year’s under 23 championships where they took silver. They grabbed the lead off the start and already had open water on the other crews soon after the 500m mark. Great Britain moved into second and led Greece by a fraction. Just past the halfway, Greece made a push and switch spots with the British, leading on them by a small margin. Romania meanwhile was pushing further away from the field to be the easy qualifiers. Their finishing time of 6:30 was just ten seconds outside of the under-23 Best Time.
South Africa took the early lead off the start in Heat Two and lead until 1000m. The South Africans are the reigning under-23 World Champions with Charles Brittain still in the boat but with new partner luc Daffarin. But South Africa was then overtaken by Lithuania. The Lithuanian crew of Povilas Stankunas and Mantas Juskevicius did a big push in the third 500 and managed to push past the Daffarin and Brittain. South Africa reacted back and rating stroke for stroke, they headed into the last 500m together. Then France went wild and in their sprint they manage to have overlap with South Africa. Lithuania pushes ahead in the last hundred metres to an open water win with South Africa and France giving up the chase.
Qualifiers: ROU, LTU
Men’s Coxed Four (BM4+) – Heats
Two heats started in this boat class and rowers had the goal of being first to achieve a spot directly in Saturday’s final. In Heat One all four boats were in a line off the start. Not one boat was leading by more than half a seat for the first half of the race. At the half way point only a second separated the entire field. This was one close race! Then Italy must have said ‘enough’ and they managed to push ahead by a quarter of a length. The other crews did not give up. South Africa tried to push back up on Italy with the USA going with them. The Italians were ready and picked up their rating to keep their lead. The Italian stroke seat of Matteo Sandrelli started winding it up, to charge for the line. They widened their gap on South Africa and got to the line first in a time of 6:09 – just six seconds outside of the under-23 World Best Time.
Straight off the start in Heat Two, Australia took the lead and them moved into a stroke rate of 39. The Australians maintain this going into the halfway. Great Britain, Germany and Ireland followed all tightly packed together. Then Ireland made a move going through the 1000m. They grabbed two seats on Germany. Great Britain went with them and were now even with Ireland. Australia were still the fastest moving boat on the water, with the highest rate – 38. Then Germany must have wanted back in and made a move. They got their bow past Ireland and Great Britain and tried to close the gap that Australia had. But Australia was ready and held them off hold, crossing the line first.
Qualifiers: ITA, AUS
Lightweight Men’s Pair (BLM2-) - Heats
The goal for these crews was to finish in a top two position for a direct path to the finals. In Heat One Brazil had a strong start taking the lead in front of the other crews leading up to the 500m mark. They maintained the leading edge through the middle of the race as Mexico, Greece and Australia went neck-and-neck for the second-placed spot.
Getting into the middle stages of the race, Brazil had over a boat length lead over the following pack. With Australia rating out at 39 strokes per minute, the crew of Patrick Boere and Rohan James started to make a move on Brazil in the third 500 meters. Just past the 1500m marker Brazil have an issue which forced them to a stop. This allowed all crews to push out in front of them. Australia was now sitting in front. Mexico stepped it up to 42 strokes per minute to try catch up with the Australian crew. But then Mexico let Australia go, saving themselves in the final sprint.
With a very strong start the Italian pair pull ahead of all the other crews in the beginning of Heat Two. But then just before the 500 metre mark the German crew start increasing their stroke rate to try and catch up with the Italian crew. At the 1000m mark the Hungarian crew of Bence Szabo and Kalman Furko started to pick up their pace to push through the Germans and reduce the gap on the Italians. In the final 100 meters the Hungarian crew stepped up their stroke rate to 44 strokes per minute to push in front of the Italians who try to defend their position. But they didn’t manage and Hungary took the win. The Portuguese pair who won silver at the 2019 World Rowing Cup III didn’t manage to find their rhythm in today’s race and finished 5th behind USA.
Qualifiers: AUS; MEX, HUN, ITA
Women’s Quadruple Sculls (BW4x) – Heats
The aim of these two heats was to finish first as this would mean going directly to the final on Saturday. No stranger to pedigree in the Women’s Quadruple Sculls, the German Women’s Quad took the lead with open water off the start in Heat One. Germany finished fourth last year and must be wanting to medal this year. New Zealand went with the Germans, with the rest of the pack behind. Switzerland then did a push and came up on the two leaders. In kiwi style, New Zealand made a move in the third 500, closing some of the lead that Germany had. Coming into the finish, Germany managed to hold off New Zealand and take the one qualifying spot.
In Heat Two Great Britain and the Netherlands went bowball for bowball for the lead off the start. This meant they started to widen their lead on other crews and turn this into a two-boat race. Coming into the 1500, Great Britain had a small lead. The Dutch go up to 37, trying to step back on the British lead. They put their foot on the gas and squeezed it out to the finish. Netherlands took the qualifying spot and also finished just three seconds outside of the under-23 World Best Time with a time of 6:22.
Qualifiers: GER, NED
Men’s Quadruple Sculls (BM4x) – Heats
The top three boats in each of these three heats would move on to the semifinals on Friday. All other boats would need to go through a repechage to advance. Coming up to the 1000m mark in Heat One, the top three boats were separated by not even a half boat length. The British are the current under-23 World Champions, with ¾ of last year’s crew remaining, they must have been the favourites going into this race. Bourne, Haywood, Armstrong and Meijer of Great Britain then grabbed the lead over Italy with Germany still in contention in third. Coming into the last 500, Great Britain was rating at 37 and the fastest moving boat. They cross the line first and recorded the fastest qualifying time.
For Heat Two the tail wind had increased on the Nathan Benderson Park regatta course. Switzerland were quick off the start and grabbed the early lead along with the fast-starting Polish crew. Romania was half a length back, with CZE behind them. Switzerland and Poland went neck-and-neck through the middle of the race with the Swiss rating 36. Then Poland seemed to run out of steam and both Romania and the Czech Republic were able to overtake them. The Czechs were now motoring and closing on Switzerland. The Swiss saw the charge by the Czechs and managed to hold onto the lead and cross the line first.
In Heat Three Austria had a very fast start, with a 41 stroke rate. But it was France that had the lead with 500m rowed. Moldovia was not far behind. The Moldavian crew of Masnic, Corsunov, Bulat and Visotchi-Sestacov then got the edge and never looked back. Meanwhile the United States were back in fourth, with Austria in third. These positions were held going into the 1500. Moldovia continued to be pressed by France and brought the stroke rate up. They were stroke for stroke the last 350. Moldovia held onto it and crossed the line a bowball ahead of France.
Qualifiers: GBR, ITA, GER, SUI, CZE, ROU, MDA, FRA, AUT
Women’s Four (BW4-) – Heats
The goal was to finish first for a direct path to the finals. Two heats lined up and in Heat One the lead changed hands in the first few hundred meters between Great Britain and Canada. Settling into it, Great Britain took the lead. The United States then made a move, pushing to the head of the field in the third 500. The British now had to settle for second and keep an eye out for the huge fight going on between Canada and Ireland. This made the British sprint as Ireland kept on coming. The Americans were only just able to hold off Great Britain and take the one qualifying spot in a time just six seconds outside of the under-23 World Best Time.
In Heat Two Spain was in the lead through to the 1000. But the lead was tiny with New Zealand remaining by their side. New Zealand has two returning under-23 athletes in the boat and they wanted to make a point. Spain was ready for any attack and they took the stroke rate up to a 37, with NZL at a 35. This opened up the distance between their two boats. ESP keep their lead, and cross the line in first.
Qualifiers: USA, ESP
Men’s Four (BM4-) – Heats
This boat class had attracted 12 nations and they were divided into two heats. The boat that came first in each heat would go directly to the final on Sunday. Through the opening sequence of Heat One the Kiwis and the Danes had the advantage, going neck and neck. Then New Zealand took the lead, ahead of Switzerland and Australia. The relatively inexperienced Australian crew move ahead into second behind New Zealand. New Zealand was ready for any challenges and they widened their leading gap to an open water lead. A mental game played out there for the rest of the crews who battled each other, but none of them had the speed to catch the Kiwis.
The gold and silver medallists from 2018 – Romania and Great Britain – lined up in Heat Two. At the start Great Britain and Germany were out in front going bowball for bowball. They were going 37 and 38 strokes per minutes and widening it up on the rest of the field. By the middle of the race they were having a race of their own at the head of the field with last year’s under-23 World Champions, Romania back in third. Then Italy did a push and got ahead of Romania. But the gap to the leading duo was too wide. The Germans looked like they didn’t have a sprint in them. Great Britain did and they won with the fastest qualifying time of the two heats.
Qualifiers: NZL, GBR
Lightweight Women’s Single Sculls (BLW1x) – Heats
A full field of 15 countries divided into three heats lined up with the aim of finishing in a top three position to get to go directly to the semifinals. In Heat One Susannah Duncan of Great Britain took the lead at the start. Duncan raced in the lightweight double last year and won bronze. She must have been one of the favourites in this boat class. Philippines was in second, in her international debut, and looked like a strong contender. Duncan then made a break and had open water on the rest of the field. Brems of Denmark made a move, slipping past the Philippines. A strong tailwind had picked up in the last 1000m, making the end of this race a different one entirely. Duncan finished with a yawning gap back to Hong Kong who took second.
Heat Two had Germany’s Johanna Reichardt in the lead at the start with the USA on her tail. Reichardt raced last year in the under-23 lightweight quad and finished fourth. Going into the middle of the race Reichardt pushed to an open water lead with Brigid Kennedy of the United States in second and being challenged by the Czech Republic. Germany remained out in front and rating high, crossing the line in first by a huge margin and recorded the fastest qualifying time. She was followed by USA, who maintained her lead over CZE.
At the start of Heat Three it was Austria’s Lara Tiefenthaler in the lead. She was followed by Switzerland and Romania. Moldovia and Portugal had slipped right off the pace with the three leading crews duking it out. Romania’s Elena-Iuliana Mihai then took the stroke rate up to 32 and got ahead of Tiefenthaler. Mihai crossed the line in first, but not without a fight with Tiefenthaler.
Qualifiers: GBR, HKG, DEN, GER, USA, CZE, ROU, AUT, SUI
Lightweight Men’s Single Sculls (BLM1x) – Heats
One of the biggest boat classes at this regatta, the lightweight men’s single had attracted 21 countries. They were divided into four heats and the winner of each heat would go to Saturday’s semifinals. It was no surprise to see Rainer Kepplinger, AUT, out in front of the opening heat. Kepplinger finished fourth last year and will be wanting something more this year. The United States and Denmark followed behind Kepplinger. Both Melvin from the US and Lund from Denmark race in the lightweight quad last year. Kepplinger remained in charge and was moving the fastest on the water. Melvin went to 37 in the final sprint, but Kepplinger remained in front and the American drops down to a 28, conserving his energy for the repechage. Kepplinger had recorded the fastest qualifying time.
Heat Two featured nations that aren’t always seen at World Rowing events. At the halfway mark, it was Cyprus leading the mark. Alexandros Zisimidis of Cyprus was followed by Japan and Tunisia. Then Zisimidis then made a huge push and opened up several lengths of open water on his competitors. He has more than 8 seconds on the rest of the field at the 1500 and was rating at a 32.
Germany’s Malte Koch was is out in front at the start of Heat Three. He was dominating this field after only 500m. This is Koch’s first time on the German national team and the first time racing internationally. This is a little unusual as often the under-23 rowers have raced at the junior level. Koch continued to remain in control with the only real race going on between China and Norway. But that was academic as Koch was clearly in the sole qualifying spot.
In Heat Four the Netherlands – Obbe Durk Tibben – was out in front and leads the race, but only by a margin. Canada’s Spencer Kielar was keeping Tibben honest and pushing the Dutch sculler. Then Tibben, who was fifth last year in this boat class and also raced to seventh at World Rowing Cup II this year, pushed clean away from the rest of the field. He did not need to sprint the finish.
Qualifiers: AUT, CYP, GER, NED
Men’s Single Sculls (BM1x) – Heats
This boat class had 25 countries entered – the biggest of this regatta – and they were divided into five heats. The top four boats in each heat would move on to Friday’s quarterfinals. In Heat One Russia was first off the start, ahead of Greece. Then Stefanos Ntouskos of Greece got the better of Russia. Ntouskos has an international career that goes back to 2014 and includes racing at the Rio 2016 Olympic Games in the lightweight four. He also has two under-23 medals. The first four go through, so it was a race to not be last. The order did not change through to the line.
Australia took the lead from the start of Heat Two but was then overtaken by Mmbudzeni Masutha of South Africa. Australia’s Cormac Kennedy-Leverett then pushed back into the lead. Kennedy-Leverett has a medal from last years junior championships in the single. But Masutha pushed back and South Africa and Australia went bowball to bowball through the middle of the race. Masutha then got back out in front. They were followed by Janis Timbors from Latvia.
In Heat Three France took an early lead but proved to not have the stamina to maintain it. This saw first Bulgaria and then Austria move out in front. Austria’s Lukas Reim finished ninth in this boat class at last year’s under-23 championships and he warmed up for these championships by racing at World Rowing Cup II in Poznan. Bulgaria and Austria tussled for the lead through to the finish, both putting on a good sprint.
In the fourth heat Algeria’s Oussama Habiche was out in front and leading the way ahead of Morton Schubert of Switzerland. Egypt was also doing very well, just behind Schubert. Switzerland picked it up, and going into the 1500m and made his way past Habiche. Then in the final sprint Egypt came up to challenge Algeria. Habiche held him off and remained in second.
It took until Heat Five for the fastest time to be recorded and it was done by Marc Weber of Germany. Weber took the lead at the start and never looked back. Weber was second in this boat class last year and has been racing internationally since 2015 as a junior. Behind Weber a strong battle went on between Denmark and Lithuania for the crucial fourth qualifying spot. Denmark got the better of the battle with Lithuania taking the pressure right off to save himself for the repechage. At the head of the field Weber had recorded a time of 6:53 – just seven seconds outside of the under-23 World Best Time.
Qualifiers: GRE, RUS, USA, JPN, RSA, AUS, LAT, UGA, AUT, BUL, BRA, PAR, SUI, ALG, EGY, ESA, GER, ROU, NOR, DEN
Women’s Single Sculls (BW1x) – Heats
This boat class had two heats with 12 nations entered. The winner of each heat would get a few days off as they would go directly to Sunday’s final. All other boats would have to try for the final through the repechage. Heat One had Australia’s Ria Thompson in the lead at the start. Thompson comes through to this event having raced to fifth at last year’s under-23 championships. Behind Thompson was Alicia Bohn of Germany. Bohn has a junior silver medal from this boat class and last year raced to fourth in the quad at the under-23 championships. But Thompson was out-rowing Bohn and crossed the line in the one qualifying spot and with the fastest overall qualifying time of 7:36 – a time just nine seconds outside of the under-23 World Best Time.
In Heat Two, local favourite Emily Kallfelz of the United States led at the start. Kallfelz already has a bronze and silver in this boat class and must be the overall favourite to win. But behind Kallfelz was Italy’s Clara Guerra who as moved from lightweight to heavy this year and has medals in lightweight racing. Guerra came back from a very slow start to work her way into second. Meanwhile, however, Kallfelz was creating a bigger and bigger lead over the rest of the field. Kallfelz crossed in first with open water back to Guerra.
Qualifiers: AUS, USA