Splendid start to 2018 season in Belgrade for World Rowing Cup I
The 2018 season opened with fast times as rowers enjoyed sunny, 28 degree Celsius conditions, flat water and barely any wind changing to a cross wind as the racing progressed. This was World Rowing Cup I taking place in Belgrade, Serbia. The para preliminary races started the day of racing with Birgit Skarstein of Norway setting a new World Best Time in the para PR1 women’s single sculls.
Women’s Pair (W2-) – Heats
The Olympic boat classes opened with the women’s pair with three heats lining up. The task here was to finish in a top three position for a direct path to the semi-finals. In Heat One it was very tight at the beginning between Great Britain One and Two and Serbia. Then Natasa Zaric and Jovana Arsic of Serbia did a push and got their nose into second. This is Zaric’s first time on the national team while Arsic’s experience goes back nearly ten years. But it was Anastasia Merlott Chitty and Rebecca Girling of Great Britain One who were out in front and crossed the line first with Serbia now under pressure from Ireland. Who would qualify? Ireland had done it.
Canada’s Caileigh Filmer and Hillary Janssens are coached by New Zealander Dave Thompson and they were looking great in Heat Two. By the middle of the race Olympian Filmer and Janssens had open water over the rest of the field with Spain in second and the Netherlands in third. The order did not change as Spain’s Anna Boada Peiro and Aina Cid held a 36 stroke rate to keep their spot. Canada looked smooth and together as they crossed the line with the fastest qualifying time of 7:09.52.
A four-boat line-up in Heat Three saw Denmark’s Hedvig Rasmussen and Christina Johansen take the fastest start. They took bronze in 2017 and they look to be continually improving. China Three followed in second. But the Danish lead then turned into a yawning gap with a small battle going on between China Three and Poland. The order stayed the same through to the line.
Qualifiers: GBR1, GBR2, IRL, CAN, ESP, NED, DEN, CHN3, POL
Men’s Pair (M2-)
It was Romania who led the way in Heat One of four heats. The aim here was to be in the first position for a direct path to the semi-finals. Marius-Vasile Cozmiuc and Ciprian Tudosa of Romania finished fifth in 2017 and they had grabbed the bull by the horns to dominate this race. Cozmiuc and Tudosa used a high stroke rate to stay in front and hold off a bit of a late charge by Great Britain. The Romanian’s had scored the fastest qualifying time.
It was unsurprising to see the Sinkovic brothers out in front of Heat Two. Valent and Martin Sinkovic finished second in 2017 (behind Italy) and the year before that they were first at the Rio Olympics, but in the men’s double. Germany Two was a distance back in second with Netherlands Two moving with the Germans. The Sinkovic’s took three gold medals at their national championships – in the pair, four and eight and they are heroes in their country. The Dutch overtook Germany, but it was semantics as only one crew would make the direct path to the semi-final. Croatia had done it.
Heat Three had Belarus in the lead at the start with the rest of the field forming a practical line across the field. Belarus’s Dzimitry Furman and Siarhei Valdzko then managed to push away from the field with South Africa One just ahead of Germany One. Then Charles Brittain and James Mitchell of South Africa closed on Belarus who were now at a 37 stroke rate. The race was on. Furman and Valdzko raced in the B-final at last year’s World Championships and they were looking hot today. They were able to drop their stroke rate at the finish and cross in first.
Regular national team members, Jakub Podrazil and Lukas Helesic of the Czech Republic were in the front at the start of Heat Four. Podrazil and Helesic were 8th at last year’s World Rowing Championships. But it was tight at the front of the field with Spain following closely. Then Jaime Canalejo and Javier Garcia did a charge rating 39 and they took the lead with 500m left to row. The Czechs fought back. Both were at 43 strokes and were neck-and-neck. The Czechs then went to 46 and the Spaniard’s gave up. Podrazil and Helesic had qualified.
Qualifiers: ROU, CRO, BLR, CZE
Lightweight Women’s Single Sculls (LW1x) – Heats
Germany Two, Fini Sturm was out in front in Heat One. She was up against 2014 World Champion Eveline Peleman of Belgium who was not featuring at this stage. This was the first of three heats with a top two finished needed for a direct path to the semi-finals. Then Germany One, Ladina Meier overtook her German compatriot to take the lead. Sturm fought back and regained the lead. The two German scullers led the race with a high rating over two Chinese scullers who were coming third and fourth. Qiang Wu of China Three then pushed into the lead with Germany’s crews looking like they’d run out of steam. Sturm held on to take the second qualifying spot.
Heat Two was led through the first 1000 by Ellen Gleadow of Canada. Gleadow was in the lightweight double but is racing in the single this time and she held off Belarus’s Alena Furman who was in second. Gleadow had enough speed in the second half of the race to remain in front with enough of a margin over Furman. Gleadow finished first under no pressure when she crossed the line in the fastest qualifying time.
The 19-year-old Thomais Emmanouilidou of Greece had the lead in Heat Three. Emmanouilidou was 11th in 2017 and she was ahead of Emma Fredh of Sweden One who raced in the A-final last year. Then Fredh did a push and in the final sprint Fredh was breathing down Emmanouilidou’s neck. At the line Fredh had the lead.
Qualifiers: CHN3, GER2, CAN, BLR, SWE1, GRE
Lightweight Men’s Single Sculls (LM1x) – Heats
A very well subscribed boat class, the lightweight single had six heats lining up (26 boats). This meant a quarter-final was necessary and the top three or four boats (depending on how many boats in the heat) would get to go to the quarter-final. Germany Two of Jonathan Rommelmann led from start to finish with not a lot of hard racing going on as the deal was not to come last.
It Norway’s Ask Jari Tjoem out in front at the start of Heat Two. But it was incredibly close at the half-way point with only two seconds separating the entire field. Then China’s Junjie Fan took the lead with Norway holding on. Tjoem then went to 40 strokes per minute and got the lead back. But Fan was not giving up and got the lead back at the end. Heat Three was a bit more spread out with Turkey’s Enes Kusku in the lead. Then Michael Schmid of Switzerland Two got into the front position and never looked back. Schmid had the best pedigree of this heat as the reigning European Champion.
Heat Four was Great Britain’s race with Jamie Copus in the lead. Copus raced in the lightweight double last year and this year won the British trials in the single. Austria Two, Matthias Taborsky was in second rating 38 in the hope of getting into the lead. Copus was at 34 and still at the head of the field. He had been at 34 for most of the race. Switzerland One of Matthias Fernandez was now in second and remained there to the end.
It was no surprise to see Slovenia One of Rajko Hrvat in the lead of Heat Five. Hrvat then moved to a commanding lead. Hrvat is regularly seen in the A-finals and he has a long international rowing history that goes right back to 2006. No one could get close to Hrvat as he extended his lead through to the finish of the race.
The sixth and last heat had Germany One, Jason Osborne in the lead. And what a lead it was. Osborne, 24, had made himself untouchable. This left a virtual line between Belgium, Serbia and Hungary. Then Milos Stanojevic of Serbia managed to get into second with a 32 sprint finish. Hungary’s Galambos had missed out.
Qualifiers: GER2, NED1, CRO, KOR, CHN, NOR, GRE1, IRQ, SUI2, TUR, RUS, GBR, SUI1, AUT2, SLO1, GRE2, AUT1, GER1, BEL, SRB
Women’s Double Sculls (W2x) – Heats
Three heats started this race with the top three boats in each heat getting to go directly to the semi-finals. Belarus Two had the lead at the front with Lithuania in second. Milda Valciukaite and Ieva Adomaviciute of Lithuania were fourth last year and in the second half of this Heat One, they took the lead and moved clean away from Belarus Two. Valciukaite took a medal at the Rio Olympics in this boat class and is now racing with new partner Adomaviciute. Belarus Two held on to second with Hungary breaking away from Korea to take third.
It was all about Germany in Heat Two. Franziska Kampmann Carlotta Nwajide of Germany grabbed the lead at the start and never looked back. Pushing into second was the incredible Ekaterina Karsten of Belarus with partner Tatsiana Kukhta. Karsten is in her third decade of international racing and she celebrates her 46th birthday tomorrow. France, who did a 35 stroke rate finish, got the third spot.
Heat Three saw an incredibly close race between Roos De Jong and Lisa Scheenaard of the Netherlands and the Chinese duo of Yang Lyu and Yuwei Wang. China led to the 500m mark and then the Dutch managed to get into the lead with the Dutch then able to break away coming into the last 500m. De Jong and Scheenaard then looked very comfortable and they dropped their stroke rate to 32 as they felt no need to sprint. China One also dropped their stroke rate as they were comfortably in second. The Netherlands had secured the fastest qualifying time of all the heats.
Qualifiers: LTU, BLR2, HUN, GER, BLR1, FRA, NED, CHN1, IRL
Men’s Double Sculls (M2x) – Heats
Four heats lined up and in each heat the goal was to be in the top spot for a direct path to the semi-finals. Heat One was chock full of top boats and it was Germany’s Timo Piontek and Lars Hartig that had the lead. Their coach must have been very happy as they pushed away to a two boat-length lead. Norway’s Kristoffer Brun and Are Strandli followed in second. Brun and Strandli finished third at the Rio Olympics in the lightweight double and they held a margin over Lithuania Two. But only Germany would qualify and they did it with the fastest time of all of the heats.
Heat Two opened with Szymon Posnik and Adam Wicenciak of Poland One in the lead. But the lead was slight with Greeze hot on their heels. Romania’s Ioan Prundeanu and Marian-Florian Enache then did a big push and moved on the Poles. Prundeanu and Enache were 10th last year in this boat class. Then Poland did a push back as Romania and Poland went to the line neck-and-neck. Both boats were at 37 strokes per minute. Romania had done it.
Heat Three saw Netherlands Two in the lead. But they soon lost their lead to a flying Angus Groom and Jack Beaumont of Great Britain. Groom and Beaumont raced as juniors in 2010 and they have a lot of experience behind them. The duo were at 32 strokes per minute and moved to a clear water lead. The British held this position through to the finish and dropped their stroke rate again down to 29 then 26.
In Heat Four Dovydas Nemeravicius and Saulius Ritter of Lithuania One had the best opening speed. The Netherlands, however, was right on their coat tails and these two crews cross the middle of the race together. Then Nemeravicius and Ritter started to push away from the Dutch and showed the much better stamina. The race looked all but done, but still Lithuania went to 35 to complete the race with the second fastest qualifying time overall.
Qualifiers: GER, ROU, GBR, LTU
Men’s Four (M4-) – Heats
These 19 boats were divided into four heats with the first two boats getting to go directly to the semi-finals. In Heat One the Netherlands One (of four Dutch crews) boat had the lead from start to finish. This crew from the Netherlands looked smooth and strong and dominating. Belarus slotted into second and the order did not change.
Germany had the hottest pace in Heat Two. Schmela, Kluge, Merget and Brummel of Germany were ahead of the Netherlands Two in second and had a boat-length lead by the middle of the race. The Dutch did hold on to the pace and then did a big closing push in the last 250m to overtake the Germans. Both boats go to the semi-finals.
It’s not often you see Austria in this boat class. But perhaps with the 2019 World Rowing Championships being hosted but this country, the Austrian’s may be on a rowing resurgence. In Heat Three Austria was in the lead using a 38 stroke rate pace. By the middle of the race Austria (Walk, Kohlmayr, Hohensasser and Querfeld) had a boat length lead over South Africa. The South African boat included John Smith who took gold at the London Olympics in the lightweight four. South Africa was also at 38 strokes per minute and had reduced the Austrian lead to half a boat length. Both boats went to 40 strokes per minute with Austria crossing the line in first.
Heat Four had Romania setting the early pace with Netherlands Three and Great Britain Two in hot pursuit. This very tight racing remained going through the middle of the race with just half a second separating the top three boats. The Dutch then got a very tiny margin. Great Britain went to 38, the Dutch to 39. The British had won. Romania had missed out. Great Britain had recorded the fastest qualifying time overall.
Qualifiers: NED1, BLR, NED2, GER, AUT, RSA, GBR2, NED3
Women’s Single Sculls (W1x) – Heats
Four heats lined up with the first two boats in each heat going through to the semi-finals. In Heat One all eyes were on Carleen Zeeman of Canada. But all eyes were on Olympian Sanita Puspure of Ireland with Ukraine’s Diana Dymchenko in second. Puspure, who finished fourth in 2017, was really pushing it and she kept her stroke rate high and remained in the lead. But Puspure would need to keep an eye on Zeeman who knows how to sprint. Puspure, though, remained out in front. Then Dymchenko went to 37 and closed on Puspure. But it was too late. Ireland had won. Zeeman was third and will go to the repechage.
The very medalled Annekatrin Thiele of Germany One was in the lead at the start of Heat Two. Victoria Thornley of Great Britain followed half a boat back in second. Thornley became the British single sculler last year after medalling in the double at the Rio Olympics and she won the British trials earlier this year to remain in this boat class. Then Thornley got ahead of Thiele with these two boats both rating 30 strokes per minute way out at the head of the field. The rest of the field let them have it.
Magdalena Lobnig of Austria was the leader in Heat Three and by the middle of the race, Lobnig had two lengths of clear water over 2012 Olympic medallist, Fie Udby Erichsen of Denmark. As last year’s bronze medallist, Lobnig was the one to beat going into this heat, but no one could. Erichsen did a finishing sprint to close on Lobnig. It was too late.
Heat Four featured World Champion, Jeannine Gmelin of Switzerland. Gmelin was in the lead at the start and by the middle of the race Gmelin had over a boat-length lead over United States One of Kara Kohler. Gmelin continued to increase her lead and she crossed the finish line with the overall fastest qualifying time by a big five seconds.
Qualifiers: IRL, UKR, GBR, GER1, AUT, DEN, SUI, USA1
Men’s Single Sculls (M1x) – Heats
The boat class began with 34 boats, divided into six heats and the goal here was to be in the top four to get a direct path to the quarterfinals. In Heat One, Russia One of Vladislav Ryabcev had the lead and he held it over Serbia Two of Milos Vasic through the middle of the race. Then Ryabcev managed to shake Vasic a little and cross the line in first ahead of Denmark.
It was not surprising to see Olympic medallist and World Champion, Ondrej Synek of the Czech Republic in the lead of Heat Two. But his lead was not huge and Serbia Three of Aleksandar Filipovic was moving right with him with Great Britain’s Harry Leask right on the pace. The order did not change to the line with Synek doing just enough to stay a fraction ahead of Serbia. In Heat Three it was Dzianis Mihal of Belarus One in the lead with Serbia One (Marko Marjanovic) in second. These two boats moved away at the head of the field together with Matthew Buie of Canada in third and Lithuania’s Griskonis doing just enough to hold on to the fourth qualifying spot. Griskonis then did a push that got him into second behind Mihal.
Heat Four had Kjetil Borch of Norway the fastest boat. Borch took bronze at the Rio Olympics in the double. Now in the single, Borch was ahead of Germany Two of Oliver Zeidler. Zeidler is just a couple of years in rowing having come from a competitive swimming background. Zeidler won the World Games on the indoor rowing machine for open men and everyone knows he’s strong. Borch was at 35 to stay in the lead to the finish and had recorded the fastest qualifying time overall.
Roman Roeoesli of Switzerland Two was in the lead of Heat Five and he was still out in front at the half-way point. But it was fellow countryman, Nico Stahlberg of Switzerland One that was trying to challenge Roeoesli. But Roeoesli held on to first and looked comfortable at 28 strokes per minute as he crossed the line.
Heat Six had Cuba’s best single sculler ever, Angel Fournier Rodriguez in lane two and he had the best pedigree of the five scullers. But it was Robert Ven of Finland One who had the lead with Fournier in second. Then Estonia pushed ahead of Fournier at the half way point. But Fournier pushed back and he had the lead at the 1500m mark.
Qualifiers: RUS1, DEN, SRB2, ESP2, CZE, SRB3, GBR, BUL, BLR1, LTU1, CAN, SRB1, NOR, GER2, USA, GER1, SUI2, SUI1, HUN2, BLR2, CUB, SWE, FIN1, UKR.
Lightweight Women’s Double Sculls (LW2x) – Heats
Three heats lined up in this boat class with the top two boats in each heat getting to go directly to the semi-finals. In Heat One Great Britain One of Eleanor Piggott and Emily Craig had the lead with Great Britain Two and the United States One chasing hard. The US and GBR then moved away and were head-to-head at the front of the field. It was tight at the finish with both boats rating 33. Then Craig went to 35 and the US stayed at 32. The British finished first.
The lead moved around in Heat Two with Germany holding it at the start before Switzerland took over with four boats (South Africa, Poland, Germany and Switzerland) going through the middle of the race together. Then Switzerland and South Africa managed to break away and these two boats went into the last 250m together. Poland was coming back and it was a sprint to the finish. But the Poles had left it too late.
Heat Three opened with China One in the lead. But this was soon lost with Canada and France pushing ahead. Side-by-side Canada and France raced each other. These two boats swapped leads several times. Laura Tarantola and Claire Bove of France got their boat to the finish line first and recorded the fastest qualifying time overall.
Qualifiers: GBR1, USA1, SUI, RSA, FRA, CAN
Lightweight Men’s Double Sculls (LM2x) – Heats
This boat class featured four heats and the aim was to be in a top two position for a direct path to the semi-finals. The Czech crew, who were seventh at last year’s World Rowing Championships, had the fastest start in Heat One. But then Denmark’s new combination took over in the lead with the Czech’s following in second. This order did not change through to the line.
Spain had the fastest start in Heat Two. But then Poland’s Jerzy Kowalski and Milosz Jankowski grabbed the lead with Spain trying to hold on. Kowalski and Jankowski tried their best to shake Spain and coming into the final sprint Poland went to 37 strokes per minute with Spain following suit under the threat of a British challenge. Great Britain was at 39 strokes per minute. They then too the pressure off leaving Poland and Spain to qualify.
All eyes were on the return of the Olympic silver medallists, the O’Donovan brothers. But it was Canada Two of Patrick Keane and Maxwell Lattimer who had the lead. They held it at the half way point with Portugal slotting into second. The Irish were in third and everyone knows that the Irish have a big sprint on them. Ireland went to 37 with Portugal going to 39 then 41 and Canada Two at 37. Keane and Lattimer had won these heats.
Belgium had the edge in Heat Four with Austria following closely. Then Great Britain joined in on the battle. Only two boats would qualify and coming into the final sprint it was very close three ways. Then the British looked like they decided to give it away. Belgium and Austria had qualified.
Qualifiers: DEN, CZE, POL, ESP, CAN2, IRL, BEL, AUT
Women’s Four (W4-) – Heats
This is the new Olympic boat and it has been growing in popularity ever since it was announced that the four would be in the Tokyo Olympic Games. Two heats lined up with the goal being to be in a top two position for a direct path to Sunday’s final. In Heat One, the Netherlands Two had the lead. Russia followed very, very closely with Denmark challenging them. This challenge brought Russia and Denmark very close to the Dutch. Russia went to 38 strokes per minute. The Dutch did not react and Russia finished first.
Heat Two had Great Britain Two leading the way. But it was very tight with barely a couple of bow balls separating the field at the start of the race. Then the British managed to push away a bit with Netherlands One in second and last year’s bronze medallists, Poland in third. Great Britain was at 33 and the Dutch at 36 and they had now dropped the rest of the field.
Qualifiers: RUS, NED2, NED1, GBR2