Ready. Go! The 2018 World Rowing Championships is underway
Plovdiv, Bulgaria is known for fast rowing times and with tail wind conditions on this first day of racing at the 2018 World Rowing Championships, we were expecting to see some World Best Times being challenged.
Lightweight Men’s Single Sculls (LM1x) – Heats
This boat class had four heats with the top two boats getting to go on to the semifinals. The racing opened with Heat One seeing Peter Galambos of Hungary leading the way. Galambos is very experienced but it looked like he went out too hard with European Champion, Michael Schmid of Switzerland taking over in the lead. Schmid is definitely the favourite to win this boat class after a stellar 2018 season so far. Olympian from the lightweight double, Andrew Campbell came into second. Campbell hasn’t been seen since the Rio Olympics but it doesn’t look he’s lost any speed. Schmid kept his stroke rate high at 39 with Campbell at a lower stroke rate and challenging.
Canada’s Aaron Lattimer held the leading edge in Heat Two with Italy’s Martino Goretti in hot pursuit. This looks to be a big step up for Lattimer who was 14th at last year’s World Rowing Championships. The more experienced Goretti kept the heat on Lattimer. Goretti took silver at the European Championships. Goretti and Lattimer had a good lead over the rest of the field but still sprinted the finish with Lattimer at 39 and Goretti a fraction back at 38.
In Heat Three China’s Man Sun was the first to show with Austria’s Rainer Kepplinger in hot pursuit. Kepplinger finished fourth at this year’s World Rowing Under 23 Championships and he was trying to overtake Sun. But Sun held him off and Kepplinger ran out of steam. This saw Hamish Parry of Australia move up to challenger Sun. Sun took third in the double at last year’s World Championships. France’s Hugo Beurey was now flying through at 40 strokes per minute. At the line he had snatched the second qualifying spot.
Heat Four had Jason Osborne of Germany leading the way. Osborne has two gold medals from the two World Rowing Cups that he entered this season, beating Schmid both times. Osborne still had the lead through the middle of the race with Solvenia’s Rajko Hrvat back a distance in second. This race was now a procession with Osborne keeping to pressure on. It paid off. Osborne recorded a new World Best Time of 6:41.03. More than two seconds faster than the time set in 2014 by Marcello Miani.
Qualifiers: SUI, USA, CAN, ITA, CHN, FRA, GER, SLO
Lightweight Women’s Single Sculls (LW1x) – Heats
The goal here was to be in a top two position of the four heats that lined up. In Heat One is was Australia’s Alice Arch that was showing the way. Hungary’s Dorottya Bene followed in second. By the middle of the race Arch had built up a handy lead. In the second half of the race Canada’s Jull Moffatt started to close and overtook Arch in the close of the race.
Heat Two had Imogen Grant of Great Britain in the lead with Russia and Belarus both very much on the pace. Grant is the World Champion at the under-23 level and she continued to lead through the middle of the race. But Alena Furman of Belarus was able to hold the pace and these two battled it out. In the process they moved clean away from the rest of the field. Grant, despite being easily in a qualifying spot, kept the pressure on and held off Furman to win the race. Grant finished just one second outside of the World Best Time.
Katarzyna Welna of Poland had the lead in Heat Three with Italy’s Clara Guerra hot on her heels. Welna finished third at the Lucerne World Rowing Cup in July, while Guerra is a former junior champion and also a bronze medallist from this year’s European Championships. These two boats went neck-and-neck through the middle of the race. With 500m left to row, Welna and Guerra were absolutely equal. Guerra then went to 36 and overtook Welna. It looked like Welna had taken off the pressure giving Guerra an easy win.
In Heat Four Marie-Louise Draeger of Germany got away quick. But it was Martine Veldhuis of the Netherlands who got to the first 500m mark in the lead. It was very tightly packed and just one and a half seconds separated the top four boats. France’s Laura Tarantola then took over in the lead. Tarantola is a sculler to watch. She finished second at the European Championships and looks to be on the way up. The very experienced Draeger was now in second. Margins had closed and Michelle Sechser of the United States was coming through from the back of the field into second. Both Tarantola and Sechser rated 32 in the final sprint to take the top two spots.
Qualifiers: CAN, AUS, GBR, BLR, ITA, POL, FRA, USA
Women’s Pair (W2-) – Heats
A top three position was needed to make it directly to the semifinals in these three heats and it opened with the World Champions, New Zealand in the lead of Heat One. Grace Prendergast and Kerri Gowler come to Plovdiv following an unbeaten season and they also hold the World Best Time in this boat class. The rest of the field formed a practical line behind Prendergast and Gowler. The New Zealanders then pulled clean away from the rest of the field. Looking like Murray and Bond, Prendergast and Gowler had a huge lead at the finish. Aiifric Keogh and Emily Hegarty of Ireland took second and Victoria Opitz and Gia Doonan of the US crossed in third.
The best start went to Great Britain in Heat Two with China’s Xinyu Lin and Rui Ju then taking over in the lead. Rowan McKellar and Harriet Taylor of Great Britain fought back and took over out in front. The British duo finished fifth at the European Championships while Lin and Ju were fifth at the final World Rowing Cup in July. Italy was now in the mix with Alessandra Patelli and Sara Bertolasi overtaking China. China fought back with three boats going for it at the end. China got back into second as the British crossed the line in first.
Canada’s Caileigh Filmer and Hillary Janssens were the first to show in Heat Three. They are the crew that may be the ones that can challenge the New Zealand World Champions and it was not surprising to see them in the lead. Hungary’s Dora Polivka and Eszter Kremer followed in second with Spain’s Anna Boada Peiro and Aina Cid very close in third. Canada then broke clean away from the field as Hungary saw themselves being overtaken by Spain with this race turning into a procession. No one needed to sprint in the final 500m.
Qualifiers: NZL, IRL, USA, GBR, CHN, ITA, CAN, ESP, HUN
Men’s Pair (M2-) – Heats
This was a very well attended boat class with five heats lined up. The goal here was to be in a top four position to go directly to the quarterfinals. This boat class has really grown ever since Murray and Bond of New Zealand retired after the Rio Olympics. Now it has opened up with no boat absolutely dominating. In Heat One Romania’s Marius-Vasile Cozmiuc and Ciprian Tudosa had the lead. This is their first year in the pair together and they finished third at the European Championships. Spain followed in second with Poland and Hungary in the remaining two qualifying spots. This order did not change through to the end with Romania using the race to move further and further away from the rest of the field.
Olympic Champions from the men’s double, Martin and Valent Sinkovic of Croatia led the way in Heat Two. The Sinkovic’s won the European Championships last month and although they haven’t dominated this season, they look to be ever-improving. Great Britain’s Oliver Cook and Matthew Rossiter followed in second. But this race was all about the Sinkovics as the brothers moved further away from the rest of the field. Great Britain moved along comfortably in second and this race turned into a procession. Rating 34, Croatia crossed the line in the lead and with the overall fastest qualifying time.
Italy’s Cesare Gabbia and Vincenzo Abbagnale had the fastest start in Heat Three. This is a new combination for these World Champs with Gabbia coming out of the men’s eight. Italy is the World Champions in this boat class with Lodo and Vicino winning in 2017. Then Serbia picked up the pace and moved into the lead with the Czechs now challenging Italy. Milos Vasic and Nenad Bedik of Serbia finished fourth at the European Championships. They had now left the rest of the field behind with a close battle going on between the rest of the field. Both Ukraine and Brazil went to 42 in an attempt to qualify. Ukraine did it.
Coming together for the first time at these World Championships, Canada’s Mackenzie Copp and Taylor Perry led the way in Heat Four. South Africa followed in second with France, Belarus and Ireland very close to each other. Canada then moved away to a very handy lead. But a late spurt from South Africa pushed Canada at the end. The remaining two qualifying spots were very close with Ireland missing out – only just. They will have to go through the repechage.
There was a blistering start for New Zealand in Heat Five with Germany then picking up the pace. But it was Australia’s Jack O’Brien and Andrew Judge that got to the first 500m mark in first. Judge and O’Brien finished seventh at the under-23 championships and this was a great effort against these crews. Germany’s Schroeter and Follert then closed on Australia with New Zealand moving with them. Germany got to the line in first.
Qualifiers: ROU, ESP, POL, HUN, CRO, GBR, SUI, DEN, SRB, CZE, ITA, UKR, CAN, RSA, FRA, BLR, GER, AUS, NZL, USA
Men’s Double Sculls (M2x) – Heats
This boat class had four heats with the goal here being a first place finish for a direct path to the semifinals. The World Champions, John Storey and Christopher Harris let the way in Heat One. Storey and Harris have not had a good season so far and are yet to make it to the medals podium with two fourth place finishes this season. They made the best of this race leading over Italy. As the race moving on Storey and Harris managed to increase their lead with Greece now moving up into third. Then Ireland did a big piece and got ahead of Italy. But they had a long way to go to catch Storey and Harris. At 39 the Kiwis kept the pace on despite their lead. They finished less than three seconds outside of the World Best Time and had recorded the fastest overall qualifying time.
The Netherlands led the way in Heat Two in the very early stages of the race. The crew of Amos Keijser and Nicolas van Sprang got to the first 500m marker in the lead with France in hot pursuit. The Dutch finished eighth at the European Championships while the French won it. Keijser and van Sprang kept in the lead and still had it with 250m left to row. France’s Hugo Boucheron and Matthieu Androdias then picked up the pace and closed on the Dutch. Keijser and van Sprang got to the line just 0.25 of a second ahead of France.
Heat Three saw Bulgaria’s Boris Yotov and Kristian Vasilev shoot off the line at 46 strokes per minute. But it was Great Britain’s Angus Groom and Jack Beaumont that got out in front very soon. With that Groom and Beaumont moved away from the field leaving Norway to take up chase. Beaumont finished third at the European Championships in the absence of Groom who was not well. Coming into the close of the race the sprint was on with Groom and Beaumont easily holding off the challenges.
Timo Piontek and Lars Hartig of Germany shot out quickly in Heat Four. They already had an open water lead with just 500m rowed. The duo raced at all three World Cups this season picking up two silvers and a bronze. Through the middle of the race Piontek and Hartig still had the lead as Switzerland’s Barnabe Delarze and Roman Roeoesli showed their second half speed and closed on the Germans. Piontek and Hartig held them off – just.
Qualifiers: NZL, NED, GBR, GER
Men’s Single Sculls (M1x) – Heats
The best represented boat class of this regatta, the men’s single sculls had six heats with the goal being to finish in a top three position for a direct path to the quarterfinals. Heat One featured winner of World Rowing Cup III, Robert Manson of New Zealand. Manson holds the World Best Time in this race and he had the lead right from the start. Holding a 40 stroke rate, Manson moved away from Robert Ven in second. Was Manson going after a World Best Time? Manson then went for an open water lead as Ven and Quentin Antognelli of Monaco made up the remaining qualifying spots. In the final sprint Manson took his stroke rate down, doing just enough to stay ahead of Antognelli and Ven.
It was a very fast start by Abdel Khalek Elbana of Egypt in Heat Two, but not enough to stay ahead of the World Champion and Olympic medallist, Ondrej Synek of the Czech Republic. Synek moved through the middle of the race in the lead and crossing at a same time as Manson in the previous heat. Aleksandar Aleksandrov of Azerbaijan now moved into second with Hungary right on his tail. These three crews moved away from the rest of the field and there was no sprint in the last 500m with Bendequz Petervari-Molnar of Hungary crossing the line in second.
The name Dzianis Mihal was the first to be heard in Heat Three as the Belarusian went off with a stroke rate in the 50s. This gave Mihal the lead at the first 500m mark, but only just over Oliver Zeidler of Germany. Zeidler is in his first year of international competition and his second year of rowing and he medalled at all three World Rowing Cups this season. Israel followed in third. Mihal finished tenth at the European Championships and this was a great effort for Mihal rating 33 over Zeidler’s 35. Mihal remained ahead of the German by doing just enough to hold off Zeidler.
It was a very fast start by Serbia’s Marko Marjanovic in Heat Four. Marjanovic finished fifth at the European Championship and he got to the first 500m mark in the lead. Following very closely was Anders Backeus of Sweden and Belgium’s Pierre de Loof in third. De Loof then put the pressure on and got ahead of Backeus. But it was incredibly tight for second, third and fourth and with just three qualifiers, the pressure was on. Sverri Neilsen of Denmark was part of this bunch and he did a big push in the third 500 to move into second. Backeus looked to be in fourth and would really have to sprint to qualify. The Swede did not have quite enough juice. Backeus will return for the repechage while a great sprint by Nielsen got him into first.
The most decorated in Heat Five was Kjetil Borch of Norway. The Olympic medallist and World Champion from the double moved to the single this season and became the European Champion last month. Borch took off in the lead with Switzerland’s Nico Stahlberg the closest challenger. These two boats stayed in the front running spots with Australia and Great Britain in hot pursuit. In the final sprint it was all about the third qualifying spot with Luke Letcher of Australia and Harry Leask of Great Britain giving it their all. As Borch crossed the line in first, Leask came flying. He nearly caught Stahlberg and had done enough to qualify. Letcher will return for the repechage. Borch had recorded the fastest qualifying time overall with a time of 6:41.
The fastest start came from Mindaugas Griskonis of Lithuania in Heat Six. Griskonis has had an up-and-down season but redeemed himself with a silver medal from the European Championships. Poland, Italy and Argentina formed a virtual line behind Griskonis. The fight for second remained through the third 500 and meant that these three countries moved up on Griskonis who was forced to keep working hard. Poland’s Natan Wegrzycki-Szymczyk has a very small margin over Simone Martini of Italy with Brian Rosso of Argentina right there. Griskonis then managed to completely break away from the fight going on behind him. Rosso couldn’t hold the pace and the race did not need a sprint in the final 200m.
Qualifiers: NZL, MON, FIN, CZE, HUN, AZE, BLR, GER, ISR, DEN, SRB, BEL, NOR, SUI, GBR, LTU, POL, ITA
Lightweight Women’s Double Sculls (LW2x) - Heats
This boat class had four heats with the top two boats from each heat getting to go directly to the semifinals. Heat One was a very accomplished field and this could well be a tight race to qualify. Leading the way at the start was Kirsten McCann and Nicole van Wyk of South Africa with Valentina Rodini and Federica Cesarini of Italy chasing hard. By the middle of the race the Italians had pulled into the lea, but only by a tiny fraction. This close battle was joined by Switzerland with Great Britain and Japan battling it out at the back of the field. Mind you, the back of the field was still on the pace. There was very little in it in the final sprint and as the commentator at the course announced, it was nip-and-tuck stuff as the boats charged for the line. South Africa got there first, just half a second ahead of Italy.
Heat Two opened with a fast start by the United States crew of Emily Schmieg and Mary Jones. Poland followed closely. But then Schmieg and Jones really pulled away. Schmieg medalled in the lightweight double in 2017 with Jones medalling in the lightweight single. They have spent this season together and finished seventh at World Rowing Cup III in July. Austria then went up to challenge Poland and try and grab the second qualifying spot. Poland looked rather comfortable in holding them off.
Out in front in Heat Three was Australia’s Amy James and Sarah Pound. James and Pound remained out in front going through the middle of the race with New Zealand and Canada in hot pursuit. James and Pound raced in the lightweight quad at World Rowing Cup III and finished fifth, so they are a rather unknown quantity. Then in the third 500 Zoe McBride and Jackie Kiddle of New Zealand charged. By the final sprint they were in the lead with Canada now burning along and challenging Australia. Canada went to 42, Australia to 40. New Zealand, at 35, held them off. Australia finished just a fraction ahead of Canada. New Zealand’s time of 6:50 was less than three seconds outside of a World Best Time and was the fastest overall qualifying time.
In Heat Four the Netherlands crew of Marieke Keijser and Ilse Paulis had a good start. This duo came together this season with Paulis returning after taking gold at the Rio Olympics. They have done well this season and are the reigning European Champions. The World Champions from Romania Ionela-Livia Cozmiuc and Gianina-Elena Beleaga followed in second. The order remained the same going through the middle of the race with margins between the crews remaining pretty consistent. There was no need to sprint and the Dutch rated 32 over the finish line.
Qualifiers: RSA, ITA, USA, POL, NZL, AUS, NED, ROU
Lightweight Men’s Double Sculls (LM2x) – Heats
Five heats lined up with the goal of being in a top four position for a direct path to the quarterfinals. Taking off with a flying start in Heat One was Stefano Oppo and Pietro Ruta of Italy. The closest challenger was the Czech Republic. Then it started to change through the middle of the race with France moving up on the Czech Republic. Oppo and Ruta, meanwhile, were extending their lead at the head of the field. The final sprint came into view and Italy still had the lead with the Czech Republic now being challenged by China. Zhiyuan Zhang and Sensen Chen of China were flying. At the line Italy had won with China pipping the Czechs by 0.25 of a second.
Heat Two opened with a very fast Canada crew of Patrick Keane and Maxwell Lattimer. Japan followed closely at the start before they were overtaken by Denmark going into the middle of the race. Keane and Lattimer were still out in front. This duo are in their first season together and they finished in fourth at World Rowing Cup III. Then Great Britain began to move and they overtook Japan and moved up on Denmark. With Canada just in front Great Britain and Denmark charged for the line. The British got there just a fraction ahead.
The European Champions, Kristoffer Brun and Are Strandli of Norway had the lead at the start of Heat Three. The closest challenge came from South Africa’s new combination of Nicholas Oberholzer and Vaughn Botes. Then Slovakia did a big push and moved ahead of South Africa. Meanwhile Brun and Strandli remained out in front. This duo became World Champion in 2013 and then went on to medal at the Rio Olympics. The took 2017 off from competing in the double and are back and looking to be at full strength. In second Slovakia was under threat from South Africa who refused to give up. It was a sprint to the line with Norway looking comfortable crossing the line in first. Slovakia held off South Africa to take second.
Heat Four had Poland’s Jerzy Kowalski and Milosz Jankowski leading at the start. But it was incredibly tight with just 0.21 of a second separating the entire field. This was going to be a full-on race. It was still so, so tight at the centre point with Poland earning just a small lead over Switzerland’s Julian Mueller and Andri Struzina. Belgium now began to move as the final 500m came into view. The sprint was on. Poland went to 37, then 40 with Belgium closing on Poland at 37 with Switzerland finishing third.
It was Germany that flew out at the start of Heat Five. Then the O’Donovan brothers from Ireland kicked in. But Germany’s Jonathan Rommelmann and Konstantin Steinhuebel were ready and the Germans still had the lead at the half way point. Portugal sat in third with Greece and Argentina neck-and-neck for fourth. The O’Donovan’s were now level with Germany and they took their stroke rate to 39 to overtake. Once in front the Irish Olympic silver duo did just enough to hold off Germany.
Qualifiers: ITA, CHN, CZE, NZL, CAN, GBR, DEN, JPN, NOR, SVK, RSA, UKR, POL, BEL, SUI, AUT. IRL, GER, POR, ARG
Men’s Four (M4-) – Heats
This boat class had a very healthy 19 countries entered and they were divided into four heats with the goal being a top two finish for a direct path to the semifinals. Heat One had the Netherlands being the fastest at the start. The Dutch used the World Cup series to pick a top crew and they settled with Schwarz, Tissen, Wieten and van den Ende. South Africa followed in second. These two boats led the way into the middle of the race with South Africa closing on the Dutch lead. This tussle at the head of the field saw them break away from the rest of the field but with the United States still within striking distance of a top two position. Then Denmark really started to move and they overtook the US and closed on South Africa. The South Africans only just held them off. The Dutch had recorded the fastest qualifying time overall.
Italy took silver at last year’s World Championships and although their crew is slightly different this year they led the way in Heat Two. But not after an early lead by Romania who did very well at the European Championships. Romania stuck with Italy through the race before the Italians got away in the final sprint.
The World Champions, Australia has kept the same crew for this year and they had the lead at the start of Heat Three. But Germany was challenging hard and at the first 500m mark there was just 0.17 of a second between these two crews. Australia then began to move away from Germany with these two crews getting a handy lead over the rest of the field. Nothing changed in the second half of the race which was a rather anti-climax in terms of a final sprint.
There was a delay at the start of Heat Four as a new GPS was needed for the Polish boat. It got sorted out quickly and the boats got away less than four minutes late. Poland was the first to show and they got to the first 500m mark in the lead with Great Britain and France neck-and-neck for second. Great Britain are the Olympic Champions in this boat class, but they look to be rebuilding this boat and have changed the line up several times this season. Poland still had the lead coming into the final sprint as Great Britain really picked up the pace and managed to overtake the Poles. Poland tried to hold on but the British were too strong.
Qualifiers: NED, RSA, ITA, ROU, AUS, GER, GBR, POL
Women’s Quadruple Sculls (W4x) – Heats
Three heats lined up with the goal of being in a top three position for a direct path to the semifinals. In Heat One Germany held the lead at the start. The Germans are Olympic Champions and have been very, very successful in this boat class over the years. But this season hasn’t been great for them and they have only now settled on the boat combination. Great Britain sat in second with the United States in third. Germany then managed to pull away from the field and get nearly a boat length over the British. Coming into the final sprint Germany remained in the lead. Rating 34 Germany held off the British.
Heat Two started with Poland in the lead followed by China. Then the Chinese took silver at the second World Rowing Cup and fourth at the other two World Cups while Poland are the European Champions and also have two silver medals from the World Rowing Cup series. China then started to pull away from Poland and this race turned into a procession with Poland taking second and Belarus, featuring 46-year-old Ekaterina Karsten, in third.
The Netherlands are the reigning World Champions and they raced in Heat Three. The crew of Beukers, Souwer, Florijn and van Rooijen for the Netherlands had the lead at the start with Australia in hot pursuit. Australia medalled at World Rowing Cup II but then slipped to sixth at World Rowing Cup III. Ukraine had now snuck into a comfortable third with France and Romania off the pace. These crews would not need to sprint the finish. But they did. Australia fought off Ukraine who was flying along and challenging for second.
The winning crews of these three heats were separated by just one second in time. This would be a great semifinal.
Qualifiers: GER, GBR, USA, CHN, POL, BLR, NED, AUS, UKR
Men’s Quadruple Sculls (M4x) – Heats
Italy and Great Britain have been the best performers this season which has seen no clear leader forming. They raced in Heat One – the first of two heats – with the goal of finishing first for a direct path to the final. At the start Italy grabbed the lead with Great Britain at the back of the field with New Zealand. Instead it was the Netherlands up near the front and Ukraine in hot pursuit. Then at the half way point the Dutch crew of Wiersma, Metsemakers, Broenink and Uittenbogaard took over in front and started to move away from Italy. Coming into the final 500m of the race Ukraine was really moving as Italy looked like they had run out of steam. Ukraine was in second and closing in on the Netherlands with Australia, New Zealand and Great Britain all within striking distance. This was one incredible sprint to the line. Ukraine had won.
Poland finished third at the European Championships and third at World Rowing Cup III and they lined up in Heat Two. It was Germany that had the fastest start. They picked up two medals from the World Cup series and they have put together a very accomplished crew this season. Poland settled into second behind Germany. Then the Poles did a move through the middle of the race with these two crews now neck-and-neck. The reigning World Champions Lithuania was in third and very much within striking distance of the leaders. Poland now got into the lead. But it was close with three crews going for the one qualifying spot. Then Poland really pulled away and took the win.
Qualifiers: UKR, POL