London Olympians return for European Rowing Championships
14/09/2012 - 10:23:00
The 2012 European Rowing Championships in Varese, Italy, saw a big assembly of London Olympians racing, sometimes in different boats and different line ups than the ones they were in at the Games.
In cool, but sunny temperatures, the first day of racing at the European Rowing Championships provided rowers with some bumpy water and tail wind conditions. As the morning of heats progressed the wind dropped and the water became flatter.
Women’s Pair (W2-) – Heats
The first boat only from each of the two heats in the women’s pair would qualify directly for Sunday’s final and Romania lead at the start in Heat One. Camelia Lupascu and Nicoleta Albu of Romania are the reigning European Champions from 2011 and 2010 in this event and they come to Varese from racing in the women’s eight at the London Olympic Games. By the first 500m mark, Lupascu and Albu already had a full boat length’s lead. This triggered a very tight battle between Great Britain and Ukraine. But it was semantics as, barring disaster, Romania, rating a steady 33, had such a big lead that the qualifying spot looked completely taken. At the line Lupascu and Albu crossed with a huge 10 second lead to go directly to the final.
In Heat Two Croatia’s Sonja Keserac and Maja Anic got away to a fast start. Keserac and Anic tried to qualify for the London Olympics earlier this year but missed out. This would be their chance to finish the 2012 season on a better note. Going through the middle of the race Keserac and Anic remained in first position with Turkey and Italy well within striking distance.
Coming through the third 500m Turkey remained close to the Croatians who were working hard to stay in the lead. It had turned into a sprint to the line with 2012 Olympians, Claudia Wurzel and Sara Bertolasi of Italy putting on a huge sprint. The crowd at the Varese course had something to cheer for as the Italians pushed Turkey and Croatia to the line. But Croatia managed to hold them off and earned the sole qualifying spot.
Men’s Pair (M2-) – Heats
The first boat only in each of the two heats in the men’s pair would get to go directly to Sunday’s final. The crews must have been on the edge in Heat One. A false start by the Netherlands (Rogier Blink and Mitchel Steenman) meant boats had to go back and start again. Second time lucky, Blink and Steenman had a flying start that gave them about half a boat length over Serbia’s Nenad Bedik and Nikola Stojic.
A big piece by Stojic and Bednik at a 39 stroke rate going through the half-way mark enabled the Serbians to close on Blink and Steenman. Stojic and Bednik raced to 12th in the pair at the London Olympics while Blink and Steenman raced in London in the men’s eight. Rating lower than the Serbians, the Netherlands remained just in front but neither crew was giving up. In the final sprint Blink and Steenman had managed to wear their competition down and crossed the line easily in front to qualify for the final. Serbia took their pace down choosing to save energy for tomorrow’s repechage.
Alexander Sigurbjonsson Benet and Pau Vela Maggi of Spain led the way in Heat Two. This duo tried to qualify for the London Olympics earlier this season but missed out and they have come to Varese ready to do well. The Spanish duo continued to lead through the middle of the race followed closely by Great Britain. This battle at the head of the field continued to the line and to a photo finish. Spain managed to just hold off Great Britain and Sigurbjonsson Benet and Vela Maggi are the crew that get to go directly to the final.
Women’s Double Sculls (W2x) – Heats
This women’s double sculls featured two heats with the first two boats in each heat qualifying directly for Sunday’s final. In Heat One a false start by Greece brought the boats back in for a second go. Denmark shot out quickly on the second try, but their early speed may have been a bit too much for them as Spain’s Nuria Dominguez Asensio and Anna Yuchenko then began to close on the Danes. But this was all to change through the middle of the race as Giulia Pollini and Erika Bello of Italy took over in the lead with Spain slotting into second. Pollini and Bello are both lightweight rowers and recently won bronze in the lightweight women’s quadruple sculls at the 2012 World Rowing Senior & Junior Championships. Pollini and Bello continued to lead through to the finish to earn a spot in the final while Spain qualified from second.
Heat Two opened with Ukraine’s Olena Buryak and Anna Kravchenko taking ownership of the lead. Buryak and Kravchenko raced at the London Olympics where they finished tenth. Ukraine continued to lead through the middle of the race but their lead was small and Belarus’s Tatsiana Kukhta and Katsiaryna Shliupskaya then charged through to take the lead. A huge piece done by Romania’s Maria Diana Bursuc and Adelina Cojocariu brought them into second ahead of Ukraine.
Belarus held their pace to the line to cross with the fastest qualifying time for Sunday’s final. Romania held on to second to be the other qualifying boat while Ukraine will have to return for tomorrow’s repechage.
Men’s Double Sculls (M2x) – Heats
This event had three heats with the first two boats in each heat getting to go directly to the semifinals on Saturday. All other crews would have to race in a repechage later today.
In Heat One Lithuania’s Olympic crew of Saulius Ritter and Rolandas Mascinskas had the best start with Norway’s Olympic double, Nils Jakob Hoff and Kjetil Borch chasing hard. In London Lithuania finished sixth and Norway was seventh, so it was not surprising to see them tussling at the head of the field.
These two crews continued to hold on to the top two spots coming into the final sprint. Poland then did a huge piece to try and get into a qualifying spot. Lithuania and Norway kept the pressure on racing right to the line. Poland couldn’t keep up. Ritter and Mascinskas and Hoff and Borch are the two qualifying boats.
The second heat featured London Olympic silver medallists Alessio Sartori and Romano Battisti of Italy and the expectations were that this crew would make easy work of their heat. Sartori and Battisti did as expected and had the lead at the start but Ukraine’s Artem Morozov and Dmytro Mikhay were right with them. Through the middle of the race Sartori and Battisti had managed to get a small edge on Morozov and Mikhay who also raced at the London Olympics where they finished eleventh.
The crowd had grown to see their local Olympic medalling double. Sartori and Battisti were not disappointing as they continued to lead. But Morozov and Mikhay made the Italians work to the line keeping their boat overlapping. Italy and Ukraine had earned the two semifinal spots. Italy had scored the fastest qualifying time of all of the heats.
The early leaders in Heat Three were the Sinkovic brothers, Martin and Valent, from Croatia. Martin and Valent are part of their nation’s very successful men’s quad that won silver at the London Olympic Games. Often the quad trains in doubles and singles so Martin and Valent are no stranger to this boat class. France’s Jean-Baptiste Macquet and Dorian Mortelette followed in second.
Going through the middle of the race the Sinkovic brothers had managed to pull away from France and gain a comfortable lead that continued to grow as the race headed towards the finishing 2000m mark. Looking smooth and relaxed the Sinkovics were able to take the pressure off near the finish line as they qualified from first. France had an incredibly tight battle with Russia coming into the line and managed to hold on to second by just 4/100th of a second. Croatia and France are on their way to the semifinals.
Men’s Four (M4-) – Heats
The two heats in this event required a first-place finish to enable the crew to qualify directly for the final. In Heat One Romania had the lead at the start with Greece following in second. Romania finished 12th at the London Olympic Games and the crew remains intact for these European Rowing Championships. The Greeks are the reigning European Champions in this event and they held on tightly to Romania’s lead through the middle of the race. Coming into the final sprint Greece continued to move and with just 250m left to race, Greece took the lead to progress directly to the final on Sunday with a time of 5:57.17.
The Italians had the fastest start in Heat Two of the men’s four but this didn’t last long as Serbia’s Olympic crew took over in the lead. The Serbians continued to keep the pressure on and this allowed them to move to a clear-water lead through the second half of the race. There was nothing Italy could do with Belarus overtaking them. Belarus was seventh at the London Olympic Games and arguably were the best crew in this heat. But Belarus had a lot of ground to make up if they wanted to get ahead of the Serbians.
At the line Serbia had held on to first and earned the one and only spot in the final. Their time of 6:02.00 was just over three seconds slower than Greece in heat one. Belarus will have to race in tomorrow’s repechage.
Lightweight Women’s Double Sculls (LW2x) – Heats
This event had two heats and the top two crews in each heat would get to go directly to Sunday’s final.s lightweight rowers, missing the repechage tomorrow would be considered a big bonus as it would mean one less weigh-in.
In Heat One, Great Britain’s Ruth Walczak and Imogen Walsh had the fastest start with Italy and Russia moving with them. Walczak last raced on the British national team two years ago while Walsh was in the mix for selection for the Olympic lightweight double but missed out.
Through the middle of the race Russia closed on Great Britain, but a huge piece by Elisabetta Sancassani and Laura Milani of Italy in the third 500m propelled the locals into the lead. Milani finished third in this event at last year’s European Rowing Championships and together with former heavyweight rower Sancassani they moved clear away from their competition coming into the final sprint. The British had no answer. At the line Italy and Great Britain had earned the two qualifying spots in the final.
Poland’s Agnieszka Renc and Weronika Deresz had the lead at the start of Heat Two. But with the 2012 Olympic bronze medallists Greece in the race, how long would this lead last? By the middle of the race Christina Giazitzidou and Alexandra Tsiavou had pushed into the lead by rating a notch above the Poles. Once in the lead Tsiavou and Giazitzidou moved away from the rest of the field. Tsiavou raced three weeks ago at the 2012 World Rowing Senior & Junior Championships where she won yet another World Championship title in the lightweight women’s single sculls. Poland seemed content to stay in second and the order of the top two crews remained the same to the line. Greece and Poland had qualified for Sunday’s final.
Lightweight Men’s Double Sculls (LM2x) – Heats
This event had a large field divided into three heats with the top two boats in each heat going directly to tomorrow’s semifinals. All other boats would have to return to race in repechages later today.
In Heat One, Olympic fifth-place finishers, Pedro Fraga and Nuno Mendes of Portugal led the way. Following incredibly closely to the Portuguese were Italy and Slovakia and these three countries moved away from the rest of the field through the middle of the race.
As the race came into the final sprint, Portugal, Italy and Slovakia continued to be the leading boats. Italy’s Leone Barbaro and Matteo Mulas won gold in the under-23 lightweight men’s quadruple sculls and the crowd was loving the closeness of this race. A huge sprint to the line saw Fraga and Mendes finish first with Italy and Slovakia crossing in a photo finish. Barbaro and Mulas had finished second by just 4/100th of a second. Portugal and Italy had qualified for the semifinals.
Heat Two opened with France’s Fabrice Moreau and Thomas Baroukh taking the fastest start and earning a slight lead over Paul and Bernhard Sieber of Austria. But margins across the entire field were incredibly close with all six boats going through the 1000m mark separated by just over three seconds. France, rating 36, still had the lead with Austria just ahead of Germany. Through the third 500, Austria and Germany battled it out with France still just in the lead. These three crews thus moved away from the rest of the field.
With Austria and Germany fighting so hard, France had to keep the speed on to avoid being overtaken by two crews. Moreau and Baroukh managed to do it and were just ahead at the finish. Austria crossed in second. France and Austria were the two qualifying boats.
In Heat Three Chris Boddy and Michael Mottram of Great Britain had the fastest start with Greece’s Panagiotis Magdanis and Spyridon Giannaros following closely in second. By the half-way point Magdanis and Giannaros had managed to get their nose ahead of the British. Magdanis raced to eighth in this event at the London Olympics and he has paired up here in Varese with the under-23 lightweight singles champion, Giannaros. Full credit to Great Britain, Boddy and Mottram continued to hold on to the Greeks coming through the second half of the race with Poland chasing hard. In the final sprint Poland really moved and managed to overtake Great Britain in the close of the race. At the line Greece and Poland had become the two crews that had qualified for tomorrow’s semifinals. Greece had scored the fastest qualifying time and Poland had scored the second fastest. Great Britain had missed out by just 31/100th of a second.
Lightweight Men’s Four (LM4-) – Heats
Two heats in the lightweight men’s four required a first place finish in each heat to earn a spot in Sunday’s final. In Heat One Italy took off very quickly rating 46 strokes per minute at the 100m mark and the Italians got to reach the first 500m marker first. The Italian boat included the reigning World Champions from the lightweight men’s pair, Armando Dell’Aquila and Luca De Maria.
Going through the middle of the race Italy had earned themselves a handy lead and it looked as though the British, in second, would not be able to catch the Italians. Rating 38 coming into the final sprint, Italy remained in first but with Great Britain keeping the pressure on. But Italy had enough left for the line and they continued to lead right through to the finish. The Italians had qualified directly for Sunday’s final.
The three crews in Heat Two were all aiming to be first and Serbia gave it their best at the start of the race. Serbia tried to qualify for the London Olympic Games earlier this season but missed out and they come to the European Championships to finish their season off on a good note.
At the half-way point margins remained close with only two seconds separating the field as Serbia held on to a slight lead. Then Serbia showed their superiority and broke away from Germany and Russia. With 500m left to row it looked as if Serbia had the race outcome decided. And they did. Serbia crossed the line in first and thus got to go directly to Sunday’s final.
Women’s Quadruple Sculls (W4x) – Heats
The first two boats in each of the two women’s quad heats would get to go directly to the final. In Heat One, Poland’s Olympic crew led the way. The Poles were eighth in London and they have stayed together to race again this season. Russia, with a crew full of under-23 talent, followed in second.
Rating 35 strokes per minute Poland remained in the lead through the middle of the race with Russia chasing hard. These two leaders had moved completely away from the rest of the field. At the line Poland’s Madaj, Lewandowska, Leszczynska and Socko had qualified for the final along with Russia in second.
The second heat saw London Olympic Champions Ukraine in the middle lane. Ukraine had come to Varese with just one change from the crew that won in London. But it was Romania that came out the fastest at the start. In the Romanian boat were Camelia Lupascu and Nicoleta Albu who had already raced (and won) their heat earlier today in the women’s pair. It didn’t seem to have done the Romanian crew any harm as they continued to lead through the half-way point.
Ukraine held on to Romania who remained just in the lead as these two crews charged through to the finish line. Coming into the last 200m Ukraine managed to finally get into the lead to cross the line in first. Romania, in second, will get to go directly to the final with Ukraine.
Men’s Quadruple Sculls (M4x) – Heats
The men’s quadruple sculls had attracted entries from 13 countries and they were divided into three heats with the top three boats in each heat getting to go directly to tomorrow’s semifinals.
In Heat One the high-rating Slovenians had the lead. By the half-way point Slovenia still had the lead with the rest of the field tightly packed together, separated by just two seconds.
Slovenia was holding nicely onto the lead and expanding it as they came into the final sprint with Ukraine giving it their all to break away from the following bunch. At the line Slovenia was first, Ukraine was second and Great Britain pulled through to third. These are the three countries that had earned spots in the semifinals.
The Russians are known to be fast starters and that’s exactly what they did in Heat Two. The question was: could they hold it to the end? Austria and France, meanwhile, went stroke for stroke as they fought it out to gain second. France then pulled out a huge piece and not only moved away from Austria but overtook the leading Russians. The French crew is made up of their Olympic double of Julien Bahain and Cederic Berrest plus two members of their Olympic quad, Pierre-Jean Peltier and Matthieu Androdias.
The race was not over and in the final sprint Russia pushed back to overtake France, regain first place and cross the line in the lead. Russia, France and Austria all earn spots in tomorrow’s semifinals.
Heat Three saw Olympic fourth-place finishers, Estonia in the lead. Estonia qualified for London at the Final Olympic Qualification Regatta and showed throughout this season that they had a fast crew. Estonia would like to finish this season off with a medal and they looked solid as they raced through the body of the race at a 35 stroke rate pace. The Czech Republic followed in second.
Coming into the final sprint Estonia (Taimsoo, Endrekson, Raja and Jamsa) had built up a comfortable lead with the Czech Republic still in second and Italy following in third. Nothing changed in the order at the line and Estonia, the Czech Republic and Italy become the three qualifying boats for tomorrow’s semifinals.
Men’s Single Sculls (M1x) – Heats
With 16 nations entered this boat class had been divided into three heats. This meant the first two boats would get to go directly to the semifinals on Saturday.
Heat One began with a false start caused by Mindaugas Griskonis of Lithuania. On the second go Michal Plocek of the Czech Republic got out of the start the quickest. Plocek is the current world junior champion in the single and this is his first time racing at the senior level.
Plocek was still in the lead at the half-way point with Griskonis following very closely. Griskonis then did a big push and took over in the lead with Great Britain’s Graeme Thomas moving ahead of Plocek and into second as Plocek slipped back. But then coming into the final sprint Plocek staged a huge comeback. Taking his rating up Plocek challenged Thomas. But Thomas was ready and tried to hold on. With Griskonis crossing the line in first Plocek and Thomas finished in a photo finish. Thomas had done it by just 20/100th of a second. Griskonis and Thomas had earned spots in the semifinals.
Heat Two saw three-time Olympian Tim Maeyens of Belgium in the lead by the half-way point. Maeyens had to overtake the fast-starting lightweight Peter Galambos of Hungary and also Domenico Montrone of Italy to get out in front. But once in front Maeyens moved away from is competition. As Italy slipped back Switzerland’s Dimitri Weitnauer moved into third. At the finish line Maeyens and Galambos had become the two qualifiers for the semifinals.
The third heat opened with Andraz Krek of Slovenia in the lead and Damir Martin of Slovenia chasing hard. Martin is part of Croatia’s very successful men’s quad and going through the middle of the race Martin had got his nose ahead of Krek. Krek pushed back and these two boats held a furious battle for the next 500m. In the final sprint Martin got the better of Krek with Georgi Bozhilov of Bulgaria also getting ahead of Krek. Martin and Bozhilov both earn spots in tomorrow’s semifinals while Krek will have to race again later today in the repechage to try and get into the semifinals.
Women’s Single Sculls (W1x) – Heats
This event had three heats with the top three boats in each heat getting to go directly to tomorrow’s semifinals. In Heat One Luiza-Mariya Rusinova of Bulgaria had a very fast start but she was soon overtaken by Laura Schiavone of Italy who took over in the lead.
Rusinova pushed back and got her nose in front of Schiavone, albeit only just, with Serbia’s Iva Obradovic very much on the pace of the leaders. Obradovic then did a big piece and not only took the lead but started to move away from the field. Obradovic has been racing the single since 2004. She tried to qualify for the London Olympics earlier this year but missed out so chose to finish her 2012 season off at the European Championships.
Coming into the finish line Rusinova did a huge sprint to get into the lead with Obradovic taking second. Schiavone crossed in third. These are the three scullers that get to go directly to the semifinals.
Julia Lier of Germany is the reigning under-23 champion in the single and she comes to Varese as somewhat of a favourite. Lier raced in Heat Two by taking the lead at the start. But it did not take long for Olympian Donata Vistartaite of Lithuania to push in front with Tale Gjoertz of Norway also getting ahead of Lier. Lier seemed content to be in third and the order did not change through the second half of the race. Vistartaite, Gjoertz and Lier become the three boats that will get to go directly to the semifinals on Saturday.
Heat Three opened with Kaisa Pajusalu of Estonia in the lead. Pajusalu tried to qualify for the London Olympics earlier this season but missed out and she comes to Varese to finish off her 2012 season. Pajusalu was still in the lead at the half-way point with Russia’s Julia Levina, who finished in ninth place at the London Olympics, in second and Latvia’s Elza Gulbe in third.
In the second half of the race Ukraine’s Diana Dymchenko managed to get ahead of Gulbe and the final placings meant that Pajusalu, Levina and Dymchenko had become the three boats that would qualify directly for the semifinals.
Men’s Eight (M8+) – Heats
Seven countries had entered this event and divided into two heats meant that the first place only in each heat would get to go directly to the final on Sunday. In Heat One Olympic seventh-place finishers, Poland led the way. Poland is racing here with only one change from their Olympic boats and have become the favourites to succeed. Poland is also the reigning European Champion.
Meanwhile, Great Britain and Italy held a huge battle through the majority of the race for the second spot. Italy got the better of the battle but it was pure form as only the top crew would get to go directly to the final and this honour went to Poland with the fastest qualifying time.
Heat Two saw Ukraine having the best start. They finished eighth at the London Olympics and they have held onto the majority of that crew for the European Rowing Championships. Ukraine still had the lead at the half-way point with Romania and Russia battling it out with each other a bit back from Ukraine. Rating 38 strokes per minute into the finish Ukraine remained in the lead. They get to go directly to Sunday’s final.
Women's Eight (W8+) - Race for lanes
The final race of day one at the 2012 European Rowing Championships lined up under hot, late afternoon sunshine. This was the race for lanes of the women’s eight, the result of which would decide lane order for Sunday’s final. 48 rowers, under the direction of six coxswains, powered down out of the start, all chasing the preferred centre lanes which could be secured by finishing in first or second place today.
Romania were out to prove a point today. They finished outside the medals at the London Olympics and come to this event to show the speed that their experience brings. Today they lead from the first stroke. The eight, that contains the multi-Olympic medal winning Viorica Susanu in the two seat, was almost faultless as it came down the course. For the other crews it was truly a tight race for second place with the boat order changing throughout.
Coming past the spectator grandstands, Romania were powering ahead and crossed the finish line in a very fast time of 5:59.83. Over twelve seconds later Ukraine reached the line, followed by Belarus, Italy, Great Britain and Russia.