Quest begins for European Championship titles
The 2017 European Rowing Championships got going in Racice, the Czech Republic. The 34 nations taking part began the quest towards European Championship titles by racing in today’s round of heats.
With over 500 athletes competing, the Racice regatta course made good use of warm, sunny conditions with almost flat water facing the rowers.
Men’s Double Sculls (M2x) - Heats
Three heats lined up with the aim to be in a top three position to get to go directly to the semifinals. Leading the way in Heat One was the Belarus duo of Dzianis Mihal and Pilip Pavukou. By the middle of the race they had a handy three seconds over the more experienced Georgi Bozhilov and Kristian Vasilev of Bulgaria. In command, Olympian Mihal and partner Pavukou crossed the line first despite a late sprint by Bulgaria.
It was a new line up for Lithuania that opened the racing in Heat Two. Olympic silver medallist, Saulius Ritter has been joined by Martynas Dziaugys who raced in the quad at the Rio Olympics. Poland followed Lithuania closely and managed to close the gap coming into the final 500m Poland’s Miroslaw Zietarski and Mateusz Biskup then moved into the lead and remained there until the line. Estonia’s Raja and Endrekson came through to qualify from third.
It was Italy that had the fastest start in Heat Three with Germany and France battling it out for second. This race saw a whole new bunch of line ups with Italy boating Filippo Mondelli and Luca Rambaldi. Surprisingly Switzerland, who finished second at World Rowing Cup I earlier this month, was at the back of the field. In the final sprint France was giving it their all and closed on the two leading crews. Italy managed to squeak through in first, holding off the challenges with the high rating Swiss squeezing through into third behind Germany. Mondelli and Rambaldi’s time of 6:15 was the fastest qualifying time.
Qualifiers: BLR, BUL, ROU, POL, LTU, EST, ITA, GER, FRA
Men's Four (M4-) – Heats
The aim here was to be in a top three position for a direct path to tomorrow’s semifinals. With three heats, Heat One began with an incredibly fast start by Germany. But the Dutch crew was holding onto the German pace. Once into the second half the Dutch showed their pedigree by starting to move away from the field. The Dutch finished fifth at the Rio Olympics and they made the finish line buzzer go first. A fast closing sprint by Spain earned them second with Germany holding on to third. The Netherlands recorded the fastest qualifying time of all three heats.
Heat Two opened with Italy in the lead. The Italians took the lead at the start. It included Castaldo and Montrone who raced to bronze at the Rio Olympics. Russia and the Czech Republic were behind them going neck-and-neck for second place. Then the Czech’s began to slip giving Russia the second place. Italy continued to lead with more than a boat length margin that stretched as they headed for the line. Russia crossed in second with the Czech’s able to ease off the pressure in third.
In the third and final heat, all crews got away together with Lithuania just a smidgen down. Great Britain then started to pull away. The British are the Olympic Champions and European Champions and they have retained Mohamed Sbihi from the Olympic boat in this boat. France gave it a good effort to hold on to Great Britain and coming into the final sprint they were able to remain within a length of the British. Great Britain, however, looked comfortable and did not sprint the finish.
Qualifiers: NED, ESP, GER, ITA, RUS, CZE, GBR, FRA, ROU
Men’s Single Sculls (M1x) – Heats
The biggest field at this regatta lined up for the men’s single. With four heats the aim was to finish first for a direct path to the semifinals. In Heat One Serbia’s Marko Marjanovic was the fastest away with the Netherland’s sculler of Stefan Broenink having a very bad start. But it was not all over for Broenink. He managed to move into third by the half way point and was closing on Marjanovic. Marjanovic finished third earlier this month at World Rowing Cup I and he was keeping an eye on Broenink. In the final sprint Broenink had moved into second. Did he have enough to get Marjanovic? A skilled Marjanovic timed his push completely and finished first. Broenink took the pressure off. At the line Marjanovic crossed the line leading the field.
Nico Stahlberg of Switzerland won at World Rowing Cup I earlier this month and he took control of Heat Two with France’s Hugo Boucheron the closest challenger. Stahlberg was able to keep an eye on Boucheron through the race who coming into the final sprint took his stroke rate above Stahlberg’s and started to close. Continuing to push the stroke rate Boucheron crossed the finish line at 39 strokes per minute and in first.
The very medalled Ondrej Synek of the Czech Republic featured in Heat Three. Synek looked strong and together as he led the way over under-23 champion, Tim Ole Naske of Germany. Synek, who finished third at the Rio Olympics, has had back problems in the past, but today he looked like his off season training had served him well. Naske did a big closing sprint, but Synek remained in control.
The Olympic silver medallist and reigning European Champion, Damir Martin of Croatia featured in Heat Four. Martin finished second at World Rowing Cup I earlier this month and he must have been pleased to have one regatta under his belt already this season. Martin was not challenged throughout this race and heat four was little more than a procession to the line.
Qualifiers: SRB, FRA, CZE, CRO
Lightweight Women's Single Sculls (LW1x) - Heats
This boat class had attracted three heats of scullers with the top three boats in each heat earning a spot in the semifinals. Denise Walsh of Ireland was the leading boat in Heat One by the time she got to the middle of the race. Walsh finished second earlier this month at World Rowing Cup I and she got into the lead by rating 33 down the Racice course. At the finish Walsh had an open water lead with Denmark and Poland also qualifying.
Heat Two saw Switzerland’s Patricia Merz moving into the lead and once there she managed to move away from the field. This left Austria’s Anja Manoutschehri to try and chase for second with Germany’s Leonie Pieper also very much within attacking position.
Russia got away very quickly in Heat Three before Emma Fredh of Sweden got into the lead. But the margins were incredibly tight and there was barely a boat length between the field as they headed into the second half of the race. Fredh continued to look smooth and she upped her rating coming into the final sprint. Fredh crossed the line first with a huge tussle going on for the remaining two spots. The reigning junior champion, Clara Guerra of Italy came through in second and Russia was third. Fredh finished in a time of 7:39, earning the fastest qualifying time overall.
Qualifiers: IRL, DEN, POL, SUI, GER, AUT, SWE, ITA, RUS
Lightweight Men's Single Sculls (LM1x) - Heats
The aim here was to finish in a top two position for a direct path to the semifinals. In the first of three heats was Hungary’s Peter Galambos in the lead. Galambos is the world silver medallist in this boat class. Italy’s Andrea Micheletti followed in second with Bulgaria’s Nedelcho Vasilev right on his tail. Galambos remained in first despite a strong finish by Micheletti.
Heat Two had Rio bronze medallist from the lightweight double, Kristoffer Brun of Norway out in front. Coming through to the final sprint there was very little between the three leading boats – Brun had the lead and Michael Schmid of Switzerland and Slovakia’s Lukas Babac were neck-and-neck. Babac then took the pressure off giving Brun and Schmid the two qualifying spots. Brun’s time of 6:58 gave him the fastest qualifying time.
France’s Stany Delayre got a very good start in Heat Three. The former World Champion in the lightweight double, Delayre is now making his way in the single this season. By the middle of the race Poland’s Artur Mikolajczewski had found the lead. Belgium was not challenging Delayre and the leading three boats were so close that they would all have to sprint to the line. Niels van Zandweghe of Belgium crossed the line first. Delayre got the second and final qualifying spot.
Qualifiers: HUN, ITA, NOR, SUI, BEL, FRA
Lightweight Men’s Double Sculls (LM2x) – Heats
This big field had four heats with the goal of these boats to finish first if they wanted a direct path to the semifinals on Saturday. Heat One featured Olympic Champions Jeremie Azou and Pierre Houin of France and by the middle of the race they had a clear water lead over the rest of the field. Over the winter Azou had won the national team races by recording a time that was faster than the open-weight single scullers. By the line France was a clear winner with nearly 11 seconds over Spain in second.
The Netherlands boat of Jort van Gennep and Bart Lukkes was in the lead of Heat Two. But Germany was then able to get the lead with Great Britain now moving into second. The British duo of Peter Chambers and Will Fletcher were first at World Rowing Cup I earlier this month and they held on to Germany. The German crew of Lucas Schaefer and Jason Osborne then pushed away and won easily.
Heat Three opened with Russia taking a flying start. But by the middle of the race it was Switzerland in the lead. Poland’s Jerzy Kowalski and Milosz Jankowski were now moving and they found the lead with Olympic silver medallists, Ireland taking chase in the second half of the race. It was too little too late for Paul and Gary O’Donovan of Ireland. Poland crossed the line in first and in a time of 6:25 which gave them the fastest qualifying time overall.
The Italians dominated Heat Four and by the middle of the race they were able to watch the battle going on behind them. Stefano Oppo and Pietro Ruta of Italy remained in control but still kept a wary eye on the rest of the field. Coming into the final sprint Oppo and Ruta retained more than a boat length over the rest of the field and they crossed the line easily in first.
Qualifiers: FRA, GER, POL, ITA
Women's Pair (W2-) - Heats
The two heats that lined up had the goal of finishing first as this would give them a direct path to Sunday’s final. In Heat One Great Britain absolutely dominated. Great Britain’s new duo of Karen Bennett and Holly Norton won earlier this month at World Rowing Cup I and showed that they could fill the big shoes of their country’s Olympic and European Champions – Heather Stanning and Helen Glover. Romania was a long way back in second. Bennett and Norton move on to the final.
The Danes looked in control in Heat Two. This boat included Olympic bronze medallist, Hedvig Rasmussen with her new partner Christina Johansen. By the middle of the race Rasmussen and Johansen had open water over the rest of the field. Denmark finished in a time of 7:21 – recording the fastest qualifying time overall.
Qualifiers: GBR, DEN
Men’s Pair (M2-) - Heats
The men’s pair lined up with two heats with these athletes aiming to be a top two position for a direct path to the final. In Heat One Spain got away the quickest and led through the first half of the race. Then Serbia’s Milos Vasic and Nenad Bedik took up the stroke rate and did a piece through the third 500 which propelled them into the lead. Vasic and Bedik finished second at World Rowing Cup I earlier this month. Then in the final closing strokes of the race France’s Valentin and Theophile Onfroy came through to take first. Serbia looked content to qualify from second.
The Italians had a very fast first half in Heat Two. Italy’s Matteo Lodo and Giuseppe Vicino come out of the Olympic bronze medal men’s four and they look to be good partners in the pair. In the last sprint Italy still led with the Dutch and British crews giving it their all to get the second qualifying spot. Great Britain finished first at World Rowing Cup I, but today showed the competition had improved. Lex van den Herik and Bo Wullings of the Netherlands earned the second and final qualifying spot. In first Lodo and Vicino had recorded the fastest qualifying time.
Qualifiers: FRA, SRB, ITA, NED
Women's Double Sculls (W2x) – Heats
The aim here was to be first as only the winner of these two heats would get to go directly to the final. In Heat One it was Germany’s new line up of Georgia Francis and Emily Carmichael that had the lead. Italy followed closely in second who then did a big piece going through the third 500 and Italy was now in the lead. Stefania Gobbi and Kiri Tontodonati of Italy were looking classy as they got into the lead and started to push away from Germany. Italy has come to Racice with a strong team and they must be playing off each other’s results today. Italy maintained a 35 stroke rate pace keeping the pressure on right to the line and qualified with the fastest overall time.
Poland and the Netherlands got away the quickest in Heat Two and by the middle of the race Poland’s Olga Michalkiewicz and Marta Wieliczko had a small race. Then Lisa Scheenaard and Marloes Oldenburg of the Netherlands did a push that saw them grab the lead and start to move away from Poland to a full length lead. But Michalkiewicz and Wieliczko pushed back. Poland are the reigning Olympic Champions in the double, with Michalkiewicz and Wieliczko being an new crew for 2017. Poland went to a 37 stroke rate but they could not catch the Dutch.
Qualifiers: ITA, NED
Women’s Single Sculls (W1x) – Heats
There were two heats racing in this boat class and their goal was to finish first if they wanted to go directly to the final. In Heat One Germany’s Olympic Champion from the quad, Annekatrin Thiele had the lead, but she was soon reined in by Olympic medallist from the double, Victoria Thornley of Great Britain. Thornley finished second earlier this month at the World Rowing Cup I and she was looking in fine form today. Thornley moved cleanly away from Thiele. Thornley now had a clear water lead. Thornley won the British trials in the single while Thiele was second in the German trials. Thornley crossed the line easily in first.
Denmark’s 2012 Olympic silver medallist, Fie Udby Erichsen was the quickest away in Heat Two. Erichsen did not do so well in Rio, but today she was looking back in complete form. Ekaterina Karsten of Belarus, in her third decade of international rowing, followed in second. The field then turned into a procession with Erichsen leading the way home to get a spot in the final and in the fastest qualifying time.
Qualifiers: GBR, DEN
Lightweight Women’s Double Sculls (LW2x) – Heats
This boat class had two heats and the goal here was to be first. Heat One saw France have a fast start before Great Britain took the lead. The British crew included Katherine Copeland who is the 2012 Olympic Champion and she was racing with substitute rower Emily Craig who had to fill in for an injured Charlotte Booth. Then France pushed back and in the third 500 they got the lead. France’s Laura Tarantola and Claire Bove then began to inch away. Rating 33 strokes per minute France tried to hold off a 37 stroke rate British crew. At the line the French had done it by just half a second.
Italy continued to demonstrate a solid day of rowing as they led Heat Two ahead of the Netherlands. The Italians have brought a lot of new combinations to Racice and in this boat was Valentina Rodini and Federica Cesarini. The Netherlands’ Ilse Paulis is the Olympic Champion of the lightweight double and she has a new partner this year in the form of under-23 World Champion in the single, Marieke Keijser. Italy and the Netherlands took their stroke rates into the high 30s with Italy getting to 42 strokes per minute to win the race.
Qualifiers: FRA, ITA
Women's Quadruple Sculls (W4x) - Heats
The top two boats would go to the final on Sunday and in Heat One it was the Netherlands, Ukraine and Great Britain battling it out at the head of the field through the middle of the race. The Dutch medalled in this boat class in Rio and they have retained some of the same crew and Ukraine was fourth at the Olympics. Then Great Britain pulled on a big sprint in the third 500 which got them into second behind the Dutch. At the finish line the Netherlands proved to be the faster crew and they also recorded the fastest qualifying time overall.
The field of four boats moved away together in Heat Two with Romania have a very slight lead. Then Olympic medallists, Poland edged into the lead over Romania through the middle of the race. Poland remained in the lead before France took on the Romanians and pushed into second. At the line Poland and France had qualified.
Qualifiers: NED, GBR, POL, FRA
Men's Quadruple Sculls (M4x) - Heats
This boat class had two heats and the aim was to finish first for a direct path to Sunday’s final. In Heat One Lithuania was showing the best form. Lithuania finished in the B-final at the Rio Olympics and they must have been doing some solid work over the winter as they looked dominating in this heat. The Netherlands were in second, but they did not look like they could catch Lithuania’s Adomavicius, Mascinskas, Griskonis and Nemeravicius. At the line Lithuania had a four second lead over the Dutch in second and they also had the fastest qualifying time overall.
The Olympic Champions in the quad are Germany and they raced in Heat Two, albeit a new line up. Germany led from the start with Norway, featuring Olaf Tufte and Filippi Spirit Award winner, Nils Jakob Hoff, in second. Then in the third 500 Norway pushed ahead of the German crew. Once in the lead Norway pushed clean away from the rest of the field to an open water lead. The European Champions, Estonia meanwhile sat at the back of the field.
Qualifiers: LTU, NOR
Qualifiers: LTU, NOR
Men's Eight (M8+) - Heats
The aim here was to finish first or second for a direct path to the final on Sunday and in Heat One Romania treated it like an Olympic final by taking off in the high 40s and keeping their stroke rate high as they continued to rate over 40 through the body of the race. Poland was the closest challenger to Romania with Olympic medallists, the Netherlands in third. Coming to the line Poland was making gains. But despite giving it their all Poland ran out of water crossing the line half a second down. What a race. Romania had not dropped below 40 strokes per minute for the entire race and finished in a time of 5:42. Olympic Champions, Great Britain in fourth would have to contest the repechage.
The European Champions and Olympic sliver medallists, Germany lined up in Heat Two. The Germans showed their class by getting away quickly at the start. Belarus turned out to be the closest challengers through the first half of the race before Germany managed to move into a solid lead. At the finish Germany was first with Russia, who took European silver last year, were in the second and final qualifying spot.
Qualifiers: ROU, POL, GER, RUS