Gold finally for Zhang at Samsung World Rowing Cup
The Samsung World Rowing Cup in Belgrade, Serbia wrapped up with racing in the blue riband events of the men’s and women’s single and the men’s and women’s eight.
World Champion single sculler Mirka Knapkova of the Czech Republic found herself in silver medal position after Xiuyun Zhang of China dominated their race. The unbeaten German men’s eight nearly ended up in silver when Great Britain set up a strong first half challenge.
Eight (W8+) - Final
When the Dutch win gold usually there’s a lot bunch of supporters that swim out to meet them. Perhaps their supporters got caught off guard today as the Netherlands showed winning style on the waters of Sava Lake. Coxed by Anne Schellekens, the Dutch crew has just two different athletes from the crew that finished fifth at last year’s World Rowing Championships.
Through the first half of the race the Netherlands managed to edge away from Great Britain who sat in second with Romania following in third. Then Romania did a big push to get into second with Great Britain desperately trying to fight back. But the British, despite their high stroke rate, had run out of push. The Netherlands and now Romania moved away from the field.
All credit to the Dutch who had four of their crew racing for the second time today. Bouw, de Haan, Belderbos and Achterberg were in the women’s pair.
Results: NED, ROU, GBR, UKR
Roline Repelaer van Driel (NED) – Gold
“It was quite good start. The rhythm was really good and constant. It was a big sprint. This is good preparation for the Olympics. The more we train the better we become. This place is really open and the atmosphere is nice. I’ve been on national team since 2007, but after the Olympics in Beijing in 2008 I took off a break for a year and I came back in 2010.”
Teodora Gidoiu (ROU) – Silver
“The weather, the competition itself as well as Belgrade are ok. This is the first year we’re rowing together, but we get along very well.”
Caroline O’Connor (GBR) – Bronze
“We’ve never raced this combination before. We had a better race today than yesterday. We need to be rowing technically better and with more cohesion with the group. We’ll go home for two weeks before Lucerne. After the World Cup season, we’ll be on camps. One of the exciting things about the eight is that it’s a real project to get nine people together. We’ll be working closely with our coaches Nick Strange and Paul Thompson to make our boats speed a lot better.”
Men’s Single Sculls (M1x) – Final
Two of last year’s medallists – Ondrej Synek (CZE) and Alan Campbell (GBR1) – lined up in this final as the potential favourites. And just to show their talent Campbell and Synek took off in lead with Campbell showing off his impressive sprint speed. Hanging onto these two impressive leaders was Cuba’s Angel Fournier Rodriguez. Rodriguez, 24, stands at 198cm tall and is 100kg and has been rowing at the international since 2007 and last year he qualified for his second Olympic Games by finishing eighth in the single.
Coming through the middle of the race, Rodriguez had pushed into the lead, but only just over Campbell and Synek. Campbell pushed back going into the final sprint with a slight edge. Synek then pushed the stroke rate and got into the lead. By the last 100m the pressure had come off as the leading three scullers looked content to maintain the status quo – Synek in first, Campbell in second and Rodriguez taking third.
The medal for Rodriguez is his first at international level and the crowd noted his achievement with the biggest cheer of the day. Synek and Campbell also acknowledged Rodriguez’s success by hoisting the Cuban onto their shoulders during the medals ceremony.
Results: CZE, GBR, CUB, CHN, AZE, LTU
Ondrej Synek (CZE) – Gold
“The race was good, first race after more than a half year. It was harder than I expected, but I’m very happy. It was very worm and I had some breathing problems because my throat was dry. Belgrade is magnificent. This beautiful lake looks like sea.”
Alan Cambell (GBR) – Silver
“There are lot of great competitors here in the single. The top six men have been consistent in single. No one predicted the Cuban and the Lithuania to win the two semifinals. That’s what makes it a great event. It’s not a boring event to watch. It makes it much better racing.”
Angel Fournier Rodriguez (CUB) – Bronze
“It was good. I’m quite content. The sun was shining brightly which was the main problem.”
When you have A-Final regulars in the B-Final you know that racing has been tough. Or is Olympic Champion, Olaf Tufte of Norway just biding his time until the London Olympic race? Either way all six scullers raced hard for the full 2000m. The first to show was Sweden’s best, Lassi Karonen with the United States also having a good start. Then, with Karonen still in the lead, lightweight champion, Henrik Stephansen of Denmark pushed into second.
Stephansen is hoping to qualify for the Olympics later this month in this open boat class and he looked to be footing it with the big boys today as he held on to second through the body of the race.
Meanwhile Karonen moved clear away from the rest of the field and in the final 500m it looked as if no-one would catch the Swede. Instead it was a fierce battle between Germany, Denmark and Norway. Stephansen, rating 38 since the 1500m mark held on but the taller Karsten Brodowski of Germany was able to push past into second. Tufte had to settle for fourth.
Results: SWE, GER, DEN, NOR, RUS, USA
Women’s Single Sculls (W1x) – Final
Some would call it an upset, some would call it inevitable. In today’s women’s single the World Champion, Mirka Knapkova of the Czech Republic was beaten to the finish line by Xiuyun Zhang of China. Zhang is perhaps China’s most accomplished woman sculler. She has been racing internationally for nearly two decades with a silver medal from the 1996 Olympic Games.
Today Zhang led from start to finish with Knapkova spending most of the race in second. Many of the athletes racing here treat this World Cup as part of their training with their real sights set on this summer’s Olympics Games. This is the case with Knapkova who looked like she had done very little 2000m preparation as she raced down the Sava Lake regatta course. Despite this Knapkova was classy enough to hold on to second with Zhang earning the gold medal.
World Champion from 2010, Frida Svensson of Sweden sat in third for the majority of the race before being overtaken by the low rating, long stroked, excellent catches of Batakiya Mustafayeva of Azerbaijan. Unfortunately for the Serbian home crowd, their top female sculler, Iva Obradovic was unable to race due to a muscle strain.
Results: CHN, CZE, AZE, SWE, IRL2
Mirka Knapkova (CZE) – Silver
“My first race in the season wasn’t easy at all, but I’m happy. I was here in 2009 for the Universiade (University Championships). It’s a very nice place. I’ve been on the national team since 2001.”
Natalya Mustafayeva (AZE) – Bronze
“I’m satisfied with the results. We’ve been preparing for this and I’m very glad with what we achieved. However, the main issue was the wind. I’ve been on the national team for two years. Before that I was on the Ukrainian team.”
At the head of the field Lithuania’s Donata Vistariate and Tale Gjoertz of Norway held a two way battle with the lead changing several times. Vistariate is part of a small, but ever-improving Lithuanian team and last year she qualified for London by finishing ninth. Gjoertz is yet to qualify. A better closing sprint by Vistartaite gave her the edge and the seventh place overall.
Results: LTU, NOR, EST, GBR1, SRB2, UKR
Men’s Eight (M8+) – Final
Racing at a speed of more than 20km per hour, the men’s eight came thundering down the course at a fast pace due to an incredibly tight battle going on between Great Britain and Germany. Germany is unbeaten in the last three years and having the British being ahead of them at the start was a new deal for the Germans. How would they react?
Going through the halfway point Great Britain, coxed by Phelan Hill, still had the edge with both boats challenging each other at a 40 stroke rate. Then Poland did a big push and got their boat overlapping with the leaders. Great Britain and Germany pushed on.
Coming into the final sprint the Germans began to move and slowly inched away from the British. Great Britain had nothing left and were unable to react so that by the finish line the Germans had earned a handy three second lead. Instead the British found themselves under threat from a full-on sprint by the Dutch.
The Dutch men must have been inspired by their women’s eight and were giving it their all. At the line less than half a second separated Great Britain and the Netherlands. The Dutch had run out of water.
Results: GER, GBR, NED, POL, UKR, FRA
Andreas Kuffner (GER) – Gold
“It was really hard. GB were very fast as usual, and in the first 100m you didn’t know who was in first. After that we raced at great speed even though it was very hot. The wind wasn’t the problem. The seascape was marvellous and the crowd was supportive.”
Richard Egington (GBR) – Silver
“We did a really good job.”
Mitchel Steenman (NED) – Bronze
“I had a back injury last year, so I was in the single. I was happy to be back in the boat for my first race in two years. I’m pretty happy with today. It’s a good start to the season. This is the boat for London. The eight is the priority boat. We’re looking for the biggest chances for gold. Germany and Great Britain will be competitive. Germany, I think is the main contender for gold are the Brits as they are on home waters so they might do something spectacular.”