Rowing through 2019 in the single sculls. The year in review.
Close racing and big names were on display in the women’s and men’s single sculls throughout the 2019 season. If it is any indication of what the rowing world can expect in 2020, these boat classes will certainly be ones to watch closely in the run up to the Tokyo Olympics.
World Rowing continues its series of looking back on the 2019 rowing season with all of its drama and excitement. We also look towards the 2020 Olympic and Paralympic season and make some bold predictions.
Women’s Single Sculls
Best Performance: With a European Rowing Championship gold already early in the season, Ireland’s Sanita Puspure must have had high expectations heading into the World Rowing Championships. Then Puspure raced New Zealand’s Emma Twigg in the final at the World Championships and had to leave everything on the water. Twigg, who had returned to rowing in 2019 after break, led the race until the final stretch. Then Puspure, using a pressure strategy, pulled into first with 1600m rowed and held off Twigg through to the end.
Fastest Time: This was posted in the most important race, the final of the 2019 World Rowing Championships. Puspure raced a time of 7:17.14. The World Best Time dates back to 2002 (Rumyana Neykova) and no one has got close to it’s time of 7:07.71.
Remember that oh-so-close finish: In her first international appearance of the year at World Rowing Cup II, Twigg, the 2014 World Champion in this event, narrowly held on to first place against an almost unstoppable charge from Austria’s Magdalena Lobning and Canada’s Carling Zeeman. The two challengers moved up from the middle of the pack to finish just 0.12 and 0.66 seconds behind Twigg for silver and bronze respectively. Kara Kohler of the United States was than a second out of a podium position.
The winning streak: Although she was forced to settle for silver at the World Championships, Twigg managed to put together the only back-to-back victories of the year with wins at the second and third World Rowing Cup regattas.
Must watch: As with so many of these reviews, the race to watch is definitely the final at the World Rowing Championships. With over two seconds on the field at the half way mark, Twigg looked dominant. Puspure’s charge to overtake and cross the line 2.42 seconds ahead makes this race well worth a second watch here.
Cool Quote: “Today I just tried to do my own rhythm. With 500 meters to go, I just went for it just like in training. Mentally that was the hardest race of the regatta. It’s been a tough year but I’m really pleased.” Sanita Puspure, Ireland, Gold at the 2019 World Rowing Championships
Olympic qualifiers: Nine at the World Rowing Championships (Ireland, New Zealand, United States, Great Britain, Switzerland, Canada, China, Netherlands, Austria); five at the African Olympic Qualification Regatta (Namibia, Morocco, Uganda, Togo, Nigeria). The remaining women’s berths will be decided in the coming months at three additional continental qualifier regattas as well as the Final Olympic Qualification Regatta.
The Olympic prediction: There is no getting around the fact that this will be a tough battle, no matter who leads off the line at Tokyo 2020. Puspure has the momentum of two consecutive World Rowing Championship titles. If she wins in Tokyo it will be her nation’s first ever Olympic gold in rowing. For Twigg, who has twice finished fourth in three previous Games appearances, a strong 2019 season makes her Puspure’s top competition in 2020.
Men’s Single Sculls
Best Performance: The best individual performance of the year was German phenomenon Oliver Zeidler’s narrow 0.03 second win at the World Rowing Championships over Denmark’s Sverri Nielsen and an entire field in the final far too close for comfort.
Fastest Time: The closest finishes often push rowers to their top performance and this year’s final at the World Championships was no exception. Zeidler’s winning time of 6:44.55 was the fastest of the season. As for World Best Time, the time to beat is still 6:30.74 set by New Zealand’s Robbie Manson in 2017.
Remember that oh-so-close finish: The final of the World Championships was the sort of race that makes the sport come alive. Only the slightest of margins separated Zeidler from Nilsen, Kjetil Borch (NOR), Mindaugas Griskonis (LTU), and Stef Boenink (NED).
The winning streak: The only back-to-back wins this year were at World Rowing Cups II and III were Nielsen took gold in each race.
Must watch: The final of the World Rowing Championships. Without question this is the race to watch for its epic bow-to-bow contest with suspense and grit on all sides. Watch here.
Quote of the year: “That was a really tough race but it was cool to be battling every 500 metres. It came down to mental strength and I love that.” Kjetil Borch, Norway, Bronze at the 2019 World Rowing Championships
Olympic qualifiers: Nine at the World Rowing Championships (Germany, Denmark, Norway, Lithuania, Netherlands, Czech Republic, New Zealand, Croatia, Italy); five at the African Olympic Qualification Regatta (Egypt, Zimbabwe, Benin, Ivory Coast, Libya). The remaining berths will be decided in the coming months at three additional continental qualifier regattas as well as the Final Olympic Qualification Regatta.
The Olympic prediction: Unless something happens to shake up the current standings, there really is no telling which way things will go in 2020. On any given day, the final at the 2019 World Rowing Championships could have gone five or even six different ways. Looking at history this is one of the hardest races to predict. But one thing looks likely – Scandinavian countries will feature.