Knapkova holds her own at European Championships
As the blue riband events of the 2011 European Rowing Championships thundered down the course in Plovdiv, Bulgaria, Mirka Knapkova of the Czech Republic was really the one to watch. Fresh from her win at the 2011 World Rowing Championships, she looked no less than supreme.
Excited crowds also witnessed a dominant display in women's eights racing from Romania, whilst Poland romped home to victory in the men's eight and up and coming Mindaugus Griskonis of Lithuania won gold in the men's single.
Women’s Eight (W8+) – A-final
Ever since the European Championships were reinstated in 2007, Romania has won the women’s eight. Would they make it five in a row today? Under the guidance of coxswain Teodora Gidoiu, the Romanians took off in the lead and never looked back. Romania had a four-second lead over Belarus in second by the middle of the race and the Romanians seemed to revel in first, improving as the race went on.
Belarus, with a crew that included Yuliya Bichyk and Natallia Helakh who took silver earlier today in the women’s pair, looked relatively comfortable in second, despite Russia trying their best to close the gap. Then Ukraine tried to close the gap and in the process managed to overtake Russia.
In a beautiful display of eights rowing, Romania, who finished fourth earlier this month at the World Rowing Championships, crossed the line comfortably in first with Belarus holding on to second and a very happy Ukraine taking third.
Results: ROU, BLR, UKR, GBR, RUS, POL
Teodora Gidoiu (ROU) – Gold
“We have been expecting the gold medal since 2007 and now we are very proud and happy. Next on my list is my wedding in this coming week.”
Marharyta Krechka (BLR) - Silver
“We did not qualify for the Olympics and so we’re going to take a rest now. We’re travelling to Switzerland and we won’t have time to rest here.”
Svitlana Novichenko (UKR) – Bronze
“I have been to Bulgaria before and I like it. The facilities for rowing are very good. Unfortunately, I can’t take a look around because I have to leave today.”
Women’s Single Sculls (W1x) – A-final
After becoming the World Champion earlier this month, this race had Mirka Knapkova of the Czech Republic written all over it. Knapkova has been in the single for her entire rowing career and right from the beginning she became the Czech Republic’s best woman in the single, but it took her until this year to earn that important World Championship title.
Today Knapkova rowed a beautiful race from the front and was virtually untouchable to the rest of the field. Through the body of the race Knapkova was at a comfortable 29 stroke rate pace and her lead meant that she did not have to sprint the finish.
Behind Knapkova, Russia’s Julia Levina slotted into second with Lithuania’s under-23 world champion, Donata Vistartaite in third. This order remained until the line with Knapkova going one better than her 2010 European Championship silver medal and Levina going three better than her 2010 fifth place finish.
Results: CZE, RUS, LTU, GRE, UKR, POL
Mirka Knapkova (CZE) – Gold
“Being a champion is a lot of celebration. Also, it means I have trained a lot and training is difficult. I hoped to win after winning the World Championships."
Julia Levina (RUS) - Silver
“I’m pleased that the end of the season has finally come. The better part is that I’m completing it with a medal. I’m very tired, but happy.”
Donata Vistartaite (LTU) – Bronze
“This was, of course, a difficult race, but there are no easy races. Now it’s time to rest and to have some holiday.”
Former Under-23 Champion, Juliane Domscheit of Germany was the first out of the blocks but her lead did not last long as lightweight sculler Erika Bello of Italy did a big push around about the 750m mark and got herself into the lead. Kaisa Pajusalu of Estonia was right with Bello and pressing hard. Pajusalu was twelfth at the World Rowing Championships earlier this month, just missing out on 2012 Olympic qualification. Pajusalu then moved away from the field and held on to the lead until the end.
Results: EST, ITA, GER, FRA, ROU, BUL
Men’s Single Sculls (M1x) – A-final
Coming into this race Mindaugas Griskonis of Lithuania had the best chances of winning. Griskonis finished seventh at the 2011 World Rowing Championships, making him the highest ranked athlete in this event. After a fast start by Falko Nolte of Germany, Griskonis pushed past Nolte with relative ease and never looked back. Nolte tried to hold the pace of Griskonis but had no answer to the speed of the Lithuanian.
The 25-year-old Griskonis could now keep an eye on Nolte who was doing his best to make sure Croatia’s Mario Vekic did not take the silver medal spot. Nolte sometimes races as Germany’s second single and earlier this season he finished fourth at the Samsung World Rowing Cup in Hamburg. Vekic was sixteenth at the World Rowing Championships and has been in the single since 2009. At the line Griskonis, Nolte and Vekic were the medallists.
Results: LTU, GER, CRO, POL, RUS, NED
Mindaugas Griskonis (LTU) – Gold
“I’ve been rowing for 11 years now. I was very exhausted after the World Championship and I was wondering for some time whether I should come to Bulgaria, or not. I didn’t train very hard but it was a strong race.”
Falko Nolte (GER) - Silver
“I am very pleased with the medal but I don’t have time for a holiday. You have a beautiful country, the people are friendly and the organisation was great.”
Mario Vekic (CRO) –Bronze
“I’m satisfied with my time. Nevertheless, I did better yesterday in the semi-finals. I couldn’t do my best because I lost a hundred metres and catching up requires a lot of energy. In addition, the competition was tough. The good thing is that the lake was perfect.”
The crowd loved this one. Georgi Bozhilov of Bulgaria was not the fastest starter but by the half way mark he had moved into the lead. Plovdiv is a regular training venue for Bulgarian rowers and Bozhilov was making the most of his ‘home court’ advantage. With the crowd behind him Bozhilov drove his boat home, looking good as he crossed the line in first.
Results: BUL, GRE, ITA, HUN, SVK, BEL
Men’s Eight (M8+) – A-final
They rated a speedy 40 stroke rate pace through the majority of the race. They came into this race as the highest ranked (fifth place at the 2011 World Rowing Championships) and they did themselves proud on the waters of Plovdiv’s regatta course. The Polish men’s eight took the lead at the start and held it comfortably through the body of the race. Behind Poland, Ukraine and the Czech Republic matched each other with Ukraine having a slight advantage.
Coming into the final sprint Poland pushed their stroke rate up to 43 as the Czech Republic, at 41, came through hard. The Czech’s push got them ahead of Ukraine right on the line and from bronze medal spot into silver. Poland, in first improved on their 2010 European Championship silver medallist. On the winners dais all three crews looked very happy with their results as they wrapped up the 2011 European Rowing Championships in Plovdiv, Bulgaria.
Results: POL, CZE, UKR, RUS, ROU, GER
Piotr Juszczak (POL) – Gold
“Our result has brought us a lot of pleasure. It’s very exciting. The water is very nice, although it is quite hot to train here. In Poland it is cooler.”
David Szabo (CZE) - Silver
“I’m very excited about the medal we have just won and now I’m enjoying the holidays. I enjoyed my stay in Bulgaria.”
Anton Kholyaznikov (UKR) – Bronze
“We are pleased we took part in the competition and won a medal. It was great that the weather was sunny and there was neither rain, nor wind.”