Overcast skies, speedy heats at under-23 champs
The World Rowing Under 23 Championships for 2014 continued on Lake Varese for day two of heats. Overcast skies, cooler temperatures in the high teens (Celsius) and flat water offered ideal racing conditions in Varese, Italy.
Last night a thunder storm came through Varese dampening the regatta course and adding a freshness to the air. Fresh and ready to race today were many of the best under-23 rowers in the world. Some of these athletes have come through the junior ranks while others are debuting internationally. This added to the excitement, enthusiasm and unexpectedness that makes up under-23 rowing.
Lightweight Women's Single Sculls (BLW1x) – Heats
A large field of 20 nations took to the water for this boat class. They were divided into four heats with the top two boats in each heat earning a direct path to Saturday's semifinals. Heat one opened with New Zealand's Jackie Kiddle out in front. Kiddle held off the competition until the second half of the race when Ilse Paulis of the Netherlands snuck through into the lead. Paulis held it to the end, qualifying along with Sonata Petrikaite of Lithuania who managed to push Kiddle out of qualifying and into the repechage.
Eveline Peleman of Belgium stamped her authority on Heat Two early in the piece. Peleman finished fourth in this event last year and her experience was showing through. By the second half of the race Peleman had an open water lead. Austria's Anna Berger followed in second with neither of these two boats under any threat from the rest of the field. Peleman's time of 8:02 was the fastest qualifying time.
In Heat Three a fast start by Russia did not hold long with Anna Ioannou of Cyprus pushing into the lead. Her shorter but powerful strokes were serving Ioannou well as she held the lead into the final sprint. Julie Marechal of France came through to push Ioannou hard, but the more aggressive strokes of Ioannou enabled her to hold the lead.
The very medalled under-23 World Champion and European Champion, Aikaterini Nikolaidou of Greece, lined up in Heat Four. But it was not Nikolaidou that was in the lead. Instead Maki Noda of Japan was out in front. Nikolaidou, however, was not going to let Noda have that lead and she put in 10 strong strokes and taking the lead into the second half of the race. Nikolaidou then pulled away. Full credit to Noda who is debuting internationally, she held on to qualify from second.
Qualifiers: NED, LTU, BEL, AUT, CYP, FRA, GRE, JPN
Men’s Pair (BM2-) – Heats
The men's pair attracted three heats of rowers with the aim for these sweep rowers to be in a top two position to give them direct qualification for the semifinals.
Heat One opened with Finland in the lead and closed with an open water lead by Turkey. By the middle of the race, Finland had been overtaken by Onat Kazakli and Besim Sahinoglu of Turkey. Kazakli raced in the four at last year's under-23 championships while Sahinoglu is in his first international season. The Turkish duo then moved clean away from the rest of the field with a big sprint finish by Leo Victor Davis and Jonathan Smith of South Africa giving them the second qualifying position. South Africa is the defending under-23 champions, but the Davis-Smith line up is new in 2014.
The Italians made the most of Heat Two by leading from start to finish with a high rating, powerful style. Matteo Lodo and Giuseppe Vicino of Italy took ownership of their race leaving the rest of the field to play catch up. Serbia's Viktor Pivac and Martin Mackovic tried their best, but they did not have the same speed as the Italians who scored the fastest qualifying time.
The third heat opened with Germany in the lead. But it was not long before Australia took over in the lead. Australia's Jack Hargreaves and Nicholas Wheatley then took a comfortable edge. Both Hargreaves and Wheatley raced in their country's men's eight at last year's under-23 championships. In the final sprint Hargreaves and Wheatley had enough of a margin to keep an eye on the rest of the field and hold off a late charge by Greece.
Qualifiers: TUR, RSA, ITA, SRB, AUS, GRE
Women’s Double Sculls (BW2x) – Heats
This boat class featured two heats and the aim here was to be in a top two positions for a direct path to Sunday's final. Heat One started with a burst from the United States. This burst was soon eaten up by Marie Jacquet and Daphne Socha of France. Once in the lead Jacquet and Socha must have felt good and they took their double to the line in the leading position. Meanwhile, Sweden got the better of the United States to take the second qualifying spot.
Romania is the reigning under-23 World Champion and they raced in Heat Two with a new duo of Viviana-Iuliana Bejinariu and Ioana Vrinceanu. Going into the second half of the race Romania had opened up a handy lead using the signature Romanian style of a focused, head-down look. Italy chased hard, but a late move by Germany forced Italy into the repechage and gave the Germans the final qualifying spot. Romania had qualified with the fastest time by an impressive six seconds.
Qualifiers: FRA, SWE, ROU, GER
Men’s Double Sculls (BM2x) – Heats
Four heats meant that the top two qualified directtly to the semifinals on Saturday and in Heat One, Spain had the leading position. Spain were bronze medallists in 2013, but they have a new crew this year of Joaquin Montero Gomez and Aleix Marti Roura. By the middle of the race Spain had an open water lead with Russia comfortably in the second qualifying spot. This order did not change to the line and both Spain and Russia looked completely in control as they crossed Lake Varese's finish line.
Aurimas Adomavicius of Lithuania is the reigning under-23 World Champion in this event and this year he is teamed up with Rolandas Mascinskas. The Lithuanians had the lead at the start before France's Mickael Marteau and Alberic Cormerais took over. Lithuania tried to hold on, but instead had to contend with a fired up Hungary. France crossed the line first with Lithuania, rating 38, just getting the better of Hungary to qualify. France's time of 6:19 was by far the fastest qualifying time.
Germany's Timo Piontek and Florian Eidam were in a class of their own for the first half of the race in Heat Three. By the middle of the race, Piontek and Eidam were able to drop their stroke rate down to 32 in the second half of the race as they continued to dominate. Estonia tried hard to catch the Germans and in the process moved away from the Czech's in third. Estonia's Joosep Laos and Geir Suusild closed the gap but remained in second.
Leading from start to finish was Great Britain's Angus Groom and Jack Beaumont in Heat Four. Groom and Beaumont finished fourth in the quad at last year's under-23 champs and they have made a smooth transition into the double. Australia chased hard but the British had enough to keep ahead of the Australians. At the finish Australia held off Ukraine to keep the second qualifying position with Great Britain, rating 36, qualified from first.
Qualifiers: ESP, RUS, FRA, LTU, GER, EST, GBR, AUS
Lightweight Women’s Double Sculls (BLW2x) – Heats
This boat class had attracted 18 nations and they were divided into three heats with the top two boats in each heat getting to go directly to the semifinals on Saturday. Heat One was all about Amalia Tsiavou and Maria Pergouli of Greece. The Greeks had a lead over Hungary going through the middle of the race and kept on pulling away from the field. This is the first ever international race for Pergouli and Tsiavou has only raced once earlier this season. In the final sprint, Greece remained in the lead with Hungary earning a qualifying spot from second.
Heat Two was absolutely dominated by Sophie MacKenzie and Zoe McBride of New Zealand. By the middle of the race the duo had an open water lead over Switzerland in second. Last year McBride race at the junior level in the quad while MacKenzie was third at the under-23 champs in the lightweight double. Together they were able to take the rating down to an easy 27 in the close of the race. Switzerland qualified from second.
Heat Three opened with Germany in the lead and closed with Romania's Andreea Asoltanei and Ionela-Livia Lehaci taking over. By the middle of the race the Romanians had the lead and they continued to open the gap with Germany having no reply. Lehici and Asoltanei were fourth in this boat class last year and they are looking to step up for 2014. In the final sprint Romania took the boat across the line in the fastest qualifying time with the United States getting the better of Germany to take the second qualifying place.
Qualifiers: GRE, HUN, NZL, SUI, ROU, USA
Lightweight Men’s Double Sculls (BLM2x) – Heats
This big field had 19 countries lining up. They were divided into four heats with the top two boats going through directly to the semifinals on Saturday. All other boats have to race a repechage. Heat One was an exciting race with Norway and the Czech Republic taking off together. Martin Slavik and Jiri Simanek of the Czech Republic then took a small lead, but Norway fought back, holding the pace. Meanwhile, New Zealand's Toby Cunliffe-Steel and Matthew Dunham joined the leading battle and these three boats charged to the finish line together. A very solid 36 stroke rate sprint kept Slavik and Simanek in the lead while the New Zealanders, enjoying huge crowd support, sprinted home at a 42 stroke rate ahead of Norway who looked like they had run out of steam.
Moritz Moos and Jason Osborne of Germany are the reigning under-23 World Champions and they showed their style in Heat Two. Moos and Osborne completely dominated the start and with just 500m rowed, they had an open water lead. Coming through the second half of the race as Greece pulled into second. But the German lead kept on increasing and their finish time was a very good 6:27. Greece did not have enough of a sprint to hold on to second, instead it was a huge fight between Hungary and Ukraine. Both stroking 41, Hungary just pipped Ukraine to qualify by 0.03 of a second.
In Heat Three France's Pierre Houin and Eloi Debourdeau moved slowly and steadily away from the rest of the field. Italy followed in second with Ireland very much on the pace. France was still in the lead, Italy and Ireland were having a huge battle to the line. Both boats rated 41 as they charged for the line. France crossed the line at an easy 31 stroke rate in first with Italy just edging out Ireland.
Coming out at the start of Heat Four, the Netherlands were moving at the fastest rate. By the middle of the race, Conno Kuyt and Bart Lukkes of the Netherlands had what looked like an insurmountable lead. The United States overtook Spain to take second, but there was little doubt that the Dutch had this race completely wrapped up.
Qualifiers: CZE, NZL, GER, HUN, FRA, ITA, NED, USA
Lightweight Men’s Four (BLM4-) – Heats
There were two heats in this boat class with the top boat only with a direct path to Sunday's final. In Heat One, reigning under-23 World Champions got out the quickest. Three members of the Italian boat from 2013 remain and they were looking to be a tough boat to beat. By the middle of the race, the Italians were still being chased hard by Great Britain, who were the silver medallists in 2013, holding the pace. Italy then did a push and got a small lead. Could Great Britain sprint back in the final 500m? Italy responded to the British sprint by rating 40 and remained in front to go through directly to the final.
Heat Two was significantly more even across the field and at the half way point three boats - Spain, the United States and Turkey - were tightly packed in the leading spots. Spain, using short, snappy strokes had a slight lead. This style kept Spain in front and, despite a very good finish by Germany, Spain was the qualifying crew.
Qualifiers: ITA, ESP
Men’s Quadruple Sculls (BM4x) – Heats
This boat class had three heats and the goal was to be in a top three spot for a direct path to the semifinals on Saturday. In Heat One, Poland got out to a quick start, but by the middle of the race Canada had overtaken. Poland finished seventh overall in 2013, while Canada did not race.
Through the middle stretch of heat one Poland and Canada remained closely together, but then in the final sprint, Canada's very solid finish, with a 36 stroke rate, gave them the win. Poland held on to second with the Czech Republic back, but still qualifying for the semifinal from third.
The reigning under-23 World Champions, Switzerland featured in Heat Two and they aimed to prove their position by getting out quickly at the start. By the middle of the race the Swiss still had the lead as New Zealand, Ukraine and Romania were all on top of each other chasing hard. Then the Swiss must have decided that enough was enough and took a length out of the rest of the field. In the final sprint the real drama was between New Zealand, Ukraine and Romania. It was impossible to tell. The final time gave it to last year's silver medallists, New Zealand,with Ukraine the third qualifier. At the front, Switzerland had recorded the fastest qualifying time.
Heat three opened with a new crew from the Netherlands in the lead. Germany then took over. The Germans were the 2013 bronze medallists and once in the lead they started to move away from the rest of the field. Italy then challenged the Dutch for second as the spectators sat up to take notice. But the Italians wanted more. Looking smooth and together and rating 34, Italy overtook Germany to finish first. Germany qualified from second and the Dutch, who stopped before the finish line, still qualified from third.
Qualifiers: CAN, POL, CZE, SUI, NZL, UKR, ITA, GER, NED
Women’s Eight (BW8+) – Heats
The women's eight was divided into two heats with only the top boat from each heat getting to go directly to Sunday's final. Last year's under-23 World Champions, the United States, took the lead at the start and by the middle of the race they had broken away from the field. The US eight has members that are also racing in the pair and four and thus for a number of the crew, it was their second race of the regatta. Great Britain, who were silver medallists in 2013, were in second but did not look like they could catch the Americans. Rating 34, the United States crossed the line in first.
Heat Two had Germany leading, followed very closely by Belarus. The Germans finished third in 2013 and going through the middle of the race, Germany had earned a slight lead over Belarus. The race then remained in the same order through to the finish.
Qualifiers: USA, GER
Women’s Single Sculls (BW1x) – Heats
The women's single had attracted 21 nations and they were divided into four heats with just the top boat getting to go directly to the final. In Heat One the 2013 junior World Champion, Jessica Leyden of Great Britain was the fastest out at the start. Had Leyden gone out too fast against her more senior competitors? Through the middle of the race Leyden had earned an open water lead and it meant that in the second half of the race Leyden was able to back off the pace. Coming into the final sprint Leyden had a huge seven second advantage. But then Elza Gulbe of Latvia came storming down the outside. Rating 33 Gulbe nearly caught Leyden, but Leyden had enough of a margin to hold first.
Last year Kristztina Gyimes of Hungary finished seventh in this event. This year she led Heat Two with a solid margin. Gyimes rows at an American university so being in the sculling boat must be a change for her from United States collegiate rowing which is dominated by eights. Coming into the final sprint Gyimes still had the lead but Samantha Casto of the United States had closed the gap. It was too late, Gyimes held off Casto to qualify for the semifinals.
Milda Valciukaite of Lithuania currently is the senior World Champion in the women's double. This young dynamite led Heat Three ahead of Anne Beenken of Germany. Beenken was the 2102 junior World Champion in the single and this year she has been racing at the senior level in the single. But in the third 500, Beenken clipped a buoy and lost her oar. She made an incredible recovery and worked her way back into third and challenged for second. Valciukaite, however, had an awesome lead and took the qualifying spot.
The Fourth and final heat had Italy's Sara Magnaghi in the lead. Magnaghi raced to fourth in the women's quad at last year's under-23 champs, and this year she has been racing the senior events. By the middle of the race Magnaghi had an enormous lead over Croatia in second and it would take a disaster for Magnaghi not to win. There was no disaster. Magnaghi's huge lead was insurmountable.
Qualifiers: GBR, HUN, LTU, ITA
Men’s Eight (BM8+) – Heats
Two heats were to be contested with the top two boats in each heat getting to go directly to Sunday's final. This blue riband boat class always receives a lot of interest and there is great pride attached to those that race in the boats. In Heat One, Australia flew out of the blocks. But then the competition started to reel the Australians back in and by the middle of the race the United States was less than a second down. The United States finished with silver last year while Australia was tenth overall. The fight between these two boats continued to the line with Australia successfully holding off the Americans and scoring the fastest qualifying time. Both boats will go directly to the final.
Heat Two opened with the reigning under-23 World Champions, New Zealand in the lead. New Zealand has kept the full crew from 2013 together and there is every expectation that they would retain this title. But the New Zealanders were given a warning for arriving at the start late showing that their speed may not be in starting. By the half way point New Zealand had a solid three second lead over Germany in second. New Zealand raced a couple of weeks ago at the World Rowing Cup in Lucerne and they finished a credible fifth.
Rating 37 over Germany's 41, the New Zealanders crossed the line to qualify directly for the final along with Germany.
Qualifiers: AUS, USA, NZL, GER