PRESS RELEASE: Fast and fun racing at the 2012 ZURICH City Sprints
29/09/2012 - 19:05:00
Overcast skies and rainy weather did not prevent the spectators from gathering in the hundreds along the banks of the Limmat River in the city centre of Zurich, Switzerland, to cheer the crews at the 2012 ZURICH City Sprints regatta. Fast and unpredictable racing added to the excitement of the event.
Top international crews from the Czech Republic, Germany, the Netherlands and Switzerland took part in this year's regatta in the four boat classes on the international programme: the men's single sculls (M1x), the women's single sculls (W1x), the lightweight men's four (LM4-) and the men's quadruple sculls (M4x).
Switzerland's Olympic lightweight men's four of Mario Gyr, Simon Niepmann, Valentin Gmelin and Simon Schürch were the strongest crew in the Round Robins, winning three of the three races that they competed in. In the A-final, however, the Czech crew of Miroslav Vrasti, Martin Slavik, Ondrej and Jan Vetesnik took the upper hand and, in the tightest race of the day, finished one hundredth of a second ahead of Switzerland in gold, to the great disappointment of the local crowd. "It was fun," said Jan Vetesnik of the Czech Republic. "We enjoyed racing, and the city is beautiful. The racing was not about style or technique but big muscles and power so it worked for us and we did it - we won! We haven't trained as a four since the Olympics - this was fun, and we hope to race again next year."
Germany and the Czech Republic qualified for the A-final in the men's quadruple sculls. The German crew, including World Champions Eric Knittel and Stefan Krueger raced to the line, claiming gold less than one second ahead of the Czechs. German athlete Mathias Rocher said: "It was very nice and it was a great experience for us. The sprint format is great - it's free for the audience, everyone can watch and I think it will do good things for rowing."
In the men's single sculls, Switzerland's David Aregger and Germany's Marcel Hacker finished with an equal score in the Round Robins - two points each. Aregger, aged 22, has been competing internationally at the junior and under-23 levels since 2008, while Hacker is a four-time Olympian and Olympic bronze medallist. The two athletes went head to head, finishing just a bit more than one second apart in the A-final, with Hacker claiming the gold medal. "It's a nice format," said Hacker. "It's very short, close finishes and interesting racing. I like Zurich as a venue - it is so close to the city and even though it's raining, there are so many people. I like it. The race was very short, so I had to concentrate for the final. I had the luck to win."
Mirka Knapkova is the 2012 Olympic Champion in the women's single sculls. Here in Zurich she competed against experienced scullers Chantal Achterberg from the Netherlands (2012 Olympic bronze medallist in the women's eight), Julia Lier from Germany (three-time under-23 World Champion and two-time junior World Champion) as well as Switzerland's Jeannine Gmelin. Knapkova, Achterberg and Lier won two points each in the Round Robins, with the fastest times going to Knapkova and Achterberg. In the A-final, Knapkova finished a full two seconds ahead of Achterberg in first. Winner Knapkova said: "It was fun. It's so different from normal racing so I really enjoyed it. I'd like to race again next year. This is my second sprint regatta. It's short and rowing in the city can maybe be more objective for the public."
The universities of St. Petersburg and Zurich as well as the Swiss Federal Institutes of Zurich and Lausanne lined up to race each other for the Thomas Keller invitational university men's eight challenge. St. Petersburg University won each of the three Round Robins it competed in, with the University of Zurich winning two. In the A-final, St. Petersburg just managed to cross the line in first, less than one second ahead of Zurich.
The University of Zurich and the Federal Institute of Technology of Zurich (ETHZ) went back to the start line one hour later to compete yet again in the "Uni / Poly Rudermatch" men's eight challenge. In the 61st traditional university race that these two establishments have staged annually since 1945, the University of Zurich beat the Federal Institute of Technology to the line, bringing the historical ranking to 24 wins total for the university and 35 for ETHZ.
In the 11th running Uni/Poly women's eight today, the Federal Institute of Technology of Zurich beat the University of Zurich, taking the score up to 10 wins for ETHZ and keeping it at one win for the university. The Uni/Poly professors' men's eights race saw the University of Zurich taking the advantage over ETHZ, setting the updated ranking at four wins to three.
The 2012 Zurich City Sprints is part of a concept of city sprint regattas intended to develop into a sprint series sanctioned by FISA over the coming years. "Our aim is to bring the sport of rowing to the centre of cities, to the public," explains FISA Executive Director Matt Smith. "By organising the 2012 ZURICH City Sprints, we hope to establish a new, first-class international sports event in Switzerland."
In Switzerland, a one-hour highlights programme of the finals will be broadcast nationwide on Star TV on Sunday 30 September from 16-17hrs CST; Switzerland's national sports channel - Schweizer Sport Fernsehen (SSF) - will show the programme on Monday 1 October (19-20hrs CST), Tuesday 2 October (20-21hrs CST) and Wednesday 3 October (17-18hrs CST).