Strong start to the 2013 European Rowing Champs
Perfect water conditions greeted the 500-plus rowers for day one at the 2013 European Rowing Championships in Seville, Spain.
This must have been a pleasant change for athletes who have spent early season racing in the extended winter weather that has been affecting much of Europe this year. Instead Seville turned on a day of no wind and temperatures that rose into the high 20s degrees Celsius as the day progressed.
Many new combinations fronted up for the first round of racing, the heats. But it was the 2012 German women’s quadruple sculls Olympic line up that set the standard for the day. The crew, who were the London Olympic silver medallists, set one of the two new European Best Times today. Switzerland’s lightweight men’s pair of Simon Niepmann and Lucan Tramer set the other.
Lightweight Men’s Single Sculls (LM1x) – Heats
Racing for the first time as a European Championship event, the lightweight men’s single sculls attracted entries from 14 countries. Today these were divided into three heats with the top three in each heat going directly to tomorrow’s semifinal. This was a bonus as it meant not having to race again this afternoon in a repechage and so athletes in Heat One raced hard.
Michael Schmid of Switzerland got away quickly but was soon overhauled by Rajko Hrvat of Slovenia. Schmid fought back and a solid sprint into the finish line saw him get back into the lead with Greece’s Spyridon Giannaros finishing with a huge push that snuck him into second and just 38/100th of a second down on Schmid. Hrvat was third and thus also earns a spot in the semifinal.
Heat Two saw a very tight race going on between Jonathan Koch of Germany and Pedro Fraga of Portugal. Both of these scullers are very accomplished with Fraga best known for his efforts in the lightweight men’s double sculls. Fraga finished second at last year’s European Championships as well as racing in the Olympic final in London in the double. By the last quarter of the race, Fraga had got his boat into the lead with Koch, who had decided not to sprint the finish, in second. Simone Molteni of Italy came through a distance back in third. These are the three boats that go directly to the semifinal.
The reigning World Champion in the single, Henrik Stephansen of Denmark, featured in Heat Three. But at the start of the race it was France’s Maxime Goisset in the lead. It appeared, however, Goisset had gone out too hard and by the half-way point, Goisset had slipped to the back of the field with Stephansen taking the lead. Stephansen then proceeded to push away from the field using a long, layback style. It was now Enes Kusku of Turkey who looked to be the only challenger for the lead. Kusku, 19, raced as a junior last year in the men’s quadruple sculls and it looks like his move to lightweight is working well.
At the line Stephansen had finished first and recorded the fastest qualifying time of the three heats. Kusku was second and the final qualifying spot went to Nedalcho Vasilev of Bulgaria.
Lightweight Men’s Double Sculls (LM2x) – Heats
One of the best represented boat classes, the lightweight men’s double sculls had attracted 22 nations. These were divided into four heats with the top boat only getting to go directly to tomorrow’s semifinals. All others would have to race this afternoon in the repechage if they wanted a chance to advance to the semifinals.
Perhaps the favourites in this event, the French duo of Stany Delayre and Jeremie Azou led the way. Delayre and Azou were fourth at the London 2012 Olympic Games and they are back this season, ready to work their way towards a Rio 2016 medal. France got off the line first in Heat One and by the half-way point they had a handy two second lead over the field.
Behind France, the Netherlands and Switzerland held a very close battle, but Delayre and Azou were clearly in the lead. The French crossed the line looking smooth and in a quick time of 6:31.66. This time was the fastest qualifying time by a large six second margin.
Kristoffer Brun and Are Strandli of Norway took the lead in Heat Two and once they had it the duo did not look back. As the race progressed Brun and Strandli pushed away to a two length lead and completely in control of the race. This left Slovenia, Hungary and Spain to carry out a very close battle for second. With Norway easily in front Spain, Hungary and Slovenia came into the final sprint neck-and-neck. But it was academic as Norway comfortably took the one qualifying spot. Spain’s Jaime De Haz and Ander Zabala Artetxe were second but will have to race in this afternoon’s repechage.
Heat number Three saw Germany’s new 2013 combination of Lars Hartig and Konstantin Steinhuebel in the lead managing to hold a very small margin over Eleftherios Konsolas and Panagiotis Magdanis of Greece – the 2012 European Champions. Hartig and Steinhuebel kept the work on remaining just in front of the Greeks. Their effort paid off. As the Greeks reduced their stroke rate at the end of the race, Germany were able to comfortably take the one qualifying spot. Konsolas and Magdanis will have to race again this afternoon in the repechage.
The result of Heat Three was then revised due to the German shell being underweight after the race. Greece will now progress to the semifinal and Germany will face this afternoon's repechage.
The fourth and final heat had five crews lining up and it was Italy’s Pedro Ruta and Andrea Micheletti that got out to an early lead. Ruta had success last year in the lightweight single and it looks like his partnership with Micheletti has a lot of potential. Micheletti and Ruta were still out in front going through the middle of the race with under-23 Champions, Paul Sieber and Bernhard Sieber following rather a decent distance back in second.
Ruta and Micheletti continued to increase their lead with this heat becoming more and more spread out. Coming through to the finish rating a comfortable-looking 33 strokes per minute, Italy earned the only direct spot to the semifinals.
Lightweight Women’s Double Sculls (LW2x) – Heats
The first three in each of the three heats would get to go directly to the semifinals on Saturday. In Heat One last year’s European Champions were racing. Laura Milani and Elisabetta Sancassani of Italy did not have the fastest start in this heat, but by the half-way point they had established themselves at the head of the field. Moving the boat in very effective synchronicity, Milani and Sancassani looked confident as they pushed away from Elisabeth Woerner and Joanneke Jansen of the Netherlands and Belarus’ combination of Alena Kryvasheyenka and Irina Liaskova.
Coming into the line Italy sprinted at a comfortable 31 stroke rate pace leaving Belarus and the Netherlands to battle each other to the line. Belarus got there first with the qualifiers being Italy, Belarus and the Netherlands.
Poland’s Weronika Deresz and Katarzyna Welna jumped out into the lead in Heat Two and maintained it through the middle of the race. Deresz finished fourth in this event at last year’s European Championships while Welna, 19, raced in the junior single in 2012. At the finish Poland had showed complete domination leaving Denmark and Spain to finish a good distance back but still in qualifying spots.
The third heat had London Olympic finalists, Lena Mueller and Anja Noske of Germany in the lead. Both Mueller and Noske are experienced rowers and it was no surprise to see them press away from the rest of the field. After overtaking Switzerland, Sweden’s Cecilia Lilja and Emma Fred secured their second place position. Could they catch the Germans? A solid final sprint saw Lilja and Fred rating 34 strokes per minute to Mueller and Noske’s 32 and at the line the Swede’s were just a couple of seconds down on Germany. Germany, though, remained in front. Germany, Sweden and Switzerland have qualified directly for the semifinals.
Men’s Quadruple Sculls (M4x) – Heats
This boat class had three heats with the top three boats getting to advance directly to Saturday’s semifinals. In Heat One it seemed a no-brainer that Olympic silver medallists, Croatia, would be in the lead. That, however, was not the case. Slovenia’s entry, built around the very talented Luka Spik, was in the lead and held that through the middle of the race. Then in the second 1000m Croatia began to show their talent and had nearly got their bow ball ahead of the Slovenian’s with 500m left to row.
In a finishing 37 stroke rate sprint, Croatia took the lead and finished easily in front leaving Slovenia in second with Russia the third-place qualifiers.
Heat Two had the Olympic Champions, Germany sitting in the middle lane. The German crew has just one change from the London Olympic line-up – Paul Heinrich coming into the boat to join Karl Schulze, Lauritz Schoof and Tim Grohmann. Germany had the lead at the start with Ukraine and Switzerland neck-and-neck in second. Germany remained in the lead through the middle of the race while Ukraine and Switzerland, from opposite sides of the course, remaining stroke-for-stroke in almost a straight line.
Ukraine were second at last year’s European Championships and have retained two members of the 2012 crew, while Switzerland has a crew built around two London Olympians. As the race closed Germany remained in the lead with Ukraine just getting ahead of Switzerland to finish second. Germany, Ukraine and Switzerland qualify for the semifinals.
Heat Three saw 2008 Olympic Champions, Poland in the lead. Following the 2004 Olympic Games and through to 2008 the Polish crew dominated this event, but after Beijing their domination began to lessen. This year they have just one member of that fabulous crew left in the boat. Konrad Wasielewski is the sole remainer. Today they took the lead at the start of their race. But the margins were close and by the middle of the race the Netherlands had slipped into the lead. The Dutch remained in front with Poland taking second and Italy qualifying from third. All three top boats in this event finished within a second of each other boding well for a very close final.
Men’s Double Sculls (M2x) – Heats
A solid 15-country field entered in this boat class with the formula being three heats and the top three boats from each heat getting to go directly to the semifinals on Saturday. In Heat One it was not surprising to see the talented London Olympians, Norway’s Nils Jakob Hoff and Kjetil Borch in the lead. But this is a very competitive event and by the half-way point Norway had only a slight edge over German Olympians Eric Knittel and Stephan Krueger.
Norway pushed on and a mighty sprint gave Hoff and Borch an easy first over Germany with Denmark’s Frank Steffensen and Sophus Johannesen earning the final qualifying spot in third.
Heat Two was led from start to finish by Rolandas Mascinskas and Saulius Ritter of Lithuania. Mascinskas and Ritter are both London Olympians and have been showing steady improvements since they teamed up in 2011. Behind the Lithuanians, Serbia took second and Estonia qualified from third.
At the London Olympics Italy finished second and silver medallist, Romano Battisti has remained in the boat being joined by Francesco Fossi for Heat Three. By the middle of the race Battisti and Fossi had a nice lead with Ukraine, Azerbaijan and France neck-and-neck. With only the top three qualifying directly for the final it was going to be a race to the line. As France ran out of steam, Ukraine and Azerbaijan made the most of the situation. Italy, Ukraine and Azerbaijan qualify for the semifinals.
Men’s Single Sculls (M1x) – Heats
Three heats lined up for the men’s single sculls and the aim was to be in a top two spot for these athletes to get a direct path to the semifinals tomorrow. Marcel Hacker of Germany set a cracking pace in Heat One and by the first 500m mark Germany’s top sculler had a huge three second lead. Italy’s Francesco Cardaioli followed in second with Mindaugas Griskonis of Lithuania right there in third. Griskonis is the three-time and reigning European Champion but it looks like he has a much tougher field to face this year.
Hacker continued to lead with Griskonis then pulling ahead of Cardaioli to take second. Cardaioli decided not to fight back and so Hacker and Griskonis became the easy qualifiers.
Racing internationally for the first time this season, London Olympic silver medallist Ondrej Synek of the Czech Republic featured in Heat Two. The statuesque Czech, however, found himself being challenged hard by Roel Braas of the Netherlands. Braas has raced in the past in the single but most recently he was part of his country’s Olympic men’s eight.
Synek remained in front through the middle of the race, albeit only just. Synek is known as a very tactical rower. Was this a ploy? Coming through to the finish of the race Synek and Braas were comfortably in the two leading positions and at the line they were the two to qualify for the semifinals.
Heat Three had Matthieu Androdias of France leading the way at the start. Androdias comes to the single after racing at the London Olympics in the men’s quadruple sculls and he was doing a fine job to lead the way over the very accomplished Tonu Endrekson of Estonia and Olympic finalist in the men’s single, 22 year old Aleksandar Aleksandrov of Azerbaijan.
Coming through to the final sprint Endrekson closed on Androdias but then must have decided to let it go, being content to qualify for the semifinals from second. Androdias was first, Endrekson was second.
Women’s Single Sculls (W1x) – Heats
This boat class had three heats with the top three boats from each heat getting to go directly to the semifinals on Saturday. In Heat One, Nataliya Dovgodko of Ukraine got out into the lead at the start. Dovgodko raced in the single at the European Championships in 2011 but since then she has reached rowing’s pinnacle by becoming an Olympic Champion. Dovgodko did it in the women’s quadruple sculls. Dovgodko remained in the lead through to the finish despite an impressing sprint by Norway’s Tale Gjoertz in the close of the race. Gjoertz nearly got the lead but will have to settle by qualifying for the semifinals from second. Irish Olympian Sanita Puspure took the third and final qualifying spot.
The Dutch looked to have stepped up in single sculling. Roel Braas challenged Ondrej Synek just a few races ago and now Inge Janssen led the way in Heat Two of the women’s single. Janssen had this lead over 2010 World Champion, Frida Svensson of Sweden and Germany’s Julia Lier.
Janssen raced at the London Olympics in the women’s double and this is her first time racing internationally in the single. As the finish line came into view, Janssen remained in the lead with Svensson getting the better of Lier to take second. Lier also qualifies for the semifinal by holding on to third.
Heat Three saw a very gutsy start by Austria’s Magdalena Lobnig of Austria. Lobnig is usually seen racing in the quad or double so the single is a new game for her, but it didn’t stop her taking the lead over the Olympic Champion, Mirka Knapkova of the Czech Republic. Knapkova is racing for the first time internationally this season and she followed Lobnig by sitting comfortably in second.
Coming through the third 500, Knapkova did a push that propelled her into the lead with Lobnig unable to do anything to retain the lead. At the line Knapkova had won with ease, Lobnig took second and Estonia’s Kaisa Pajusalu qualified for the semifinals from third. Knapkova’s qualifying time was streets ahead of any of the other heats. Knapkova opened her 2013 season with style.
Lightweight Men’s Pair (LM2-) – Heats
The lightweight men’s pair had two heats line up with the top two in each heat getting to go directly to Sunday’s final. In Heat One saw two members of the Swiss Olympic lightweight four, Simon Niepmann and Lucas Tramer, racing together. Niepmann and Tramer had the lead at the start over Xavier Vela Maggi and Daniel Sigurjorsson Benet of Spain. This is how the order remained through the body of the race with the Spanish crowd making noise for their boys.
Vela and Sigurjorsson remained in second through to the line to qualify for the final with Niepmann and Tramer qualifying from first.
Heat Two was all about Guido Gravina and Giorgio Tuccinardi of Italy. The duo got out into the lead at the start and never looked back. This is the first season together for this pairing as Gravina was rowing at the under-23 level last year with Tuccinardi last racing internationally in 2011. Germany’s Jan-Philipp Birkner and Christopher Herpel slotted into second but never really put the heat on the leading Italians.
This is also the first season together for the German duo with Birkner last making the German national team in 2011 when he raced at the under-23 level. At the line Italy and Germany had qualified directly for the final with Italy’s time almost identical to Switzerland in heat one.
Finalists: SUI, ESP, ITA, GER
Lightweight Women’s Single Sculls (LW1x) – Heats
Two heats lined up with the top two boats only getting to go directly to Sunday’s final. In Heat One the unstoppable Michaela Taupe-Traer of Austria set off in the lead and proved that there’s no point in stopping. Taupe-Traer started competing internationally in 1991 and has amassed a number of lightweight single medals in that time. Today Taupe-Traer held an easy lead over Ireland’s Claire Lambe.
The race, by the half-way point was almost a procession once Lambe had shaken of the Czech challenger. Taupe-Traer and Lambe finished first and second to become the two crews to go directly to the final.
The second heat opened with Wiebke Hein of Germany in the lead over Aikaterini Nikolaidou of Greece. But the lead was miniscule and by the 1,000m mark Nikolaidou had taken over in the top spot with Hein looking like she didn’t quite have the speed to match the Greek. This is the first year for Nikolaidou racing as a lightweight and she comes to this event having raced in the open women’s double in 2012.
Meanwhile Germany had completely run out of steam with first Marie-Anne Frenken of the Netherlands overtaking her and then Enrica Marasca of Italy. At the line Nikolaidou was easily first with Frenken qualifying just ahead of Italy from second. Nikolaidou’s time of 7:46 gave her the fastest qualifying time.
Finalists: AUT, IRL, GRE, NED
Women’s Pair (W2-) – Final
The women’s pair had two heats and the goal here was to finish first as this was the only position to grant a direct path to the final. Romania has owned this event at the European Championships and usually with Nicoleta Albu in the boat. But Albu was a last-minute change with Andreea Boghian being brought into the boat with Cristina Grigoras, lining up in Heat One. Together the duo did their country proud by leading from start to finish in an absolutely dominating style. It looked as though the rest of the competitors had decided to save themselves for the repechage on Saturday. Boghian and Grigoras were the sole qualifiers.
But Romania will meet Germany in the final. The German crew of Kerstin Hartmann and Marlene Sinnig led the way in Heat Two. This is a very stable German crew having being together since 2009 and they finished Heat Two in a time five seconds faster than the Romanians in heat one. Ukraine challenged Hartmann and Sinnig for the first half of the race but then seemed to button off to save their energy for the repechage. Germany get a day off and will go directly into Sunday’s final as the favourites.
Finalists: ROU, GER
Men’s Pair (M2-) – Heats
This event had attracted 11 countries and they were divided into two heats with the top boat only in each heat earning a direct path to the finals on Sunday. Arguably the favourite here in Seville was the French pair of Germain Chardin and Dorian Mortelette. Chardin and Mortelette were the London Olympic silver medallists and they started off this season at the first Samsung World Rowing Cup in Sydney by taking gold. Today they raced out in front in Heat One.
Poland’s Wojciech Gutorski and Jaroslaw Godek put up a good challenge against Chardin and Mortelette at the start but it was not long before the French duo had pulled away to a two boat length lead over their closest rivals. Gutorski and Godek, however, did not give up and fought back hard to get their boat overlapping again. Chardin and Mortelette took their stroke rate to 36 and, despite the Polish challenge, the French kept their cool. At the line the French had won by just a bit more than a jiffy to get a direct path to Sunday’s final.
Despite the French pedigree it was Heat Two that recorded the fastest qualifying time and it was done by the Serbian Olympic crew of Nenad Bedik and Nikola Stojic. Stojic is Serbia’s stalwart having been racing since Yugoslavian days while Bedik is the up-and-coming rower. Today they didn’t start off at the head of the field but managed to work their way through and into the lead by the middle of the race. This pushed Spain into second and despite their best efforts, especially with the help of the crowd, Spain remained in second and will have to race in the repechage on Saturday.
Finalists: FRA, SRB
Men’s Four (M4-) – Heats
Two heats lined up with the top boat in each heat getting to go directly to Sunday’s final. In Heat One Romania took an early lead. Romania finished second at the European Championships last year and the crew remains the same this year. By the middle of the race Romania had worked their way into a comfortable lead with Germany and Serbia tussling it out for second. The tussle was won by Serbia as Germany appeared to take the pressure down. Romania had led the entire race and gained the one qualifying spot.
With last year’s European Champions, Greece, not racing in this event there was potential for another crew to step up and Heat Two indicated that both Spain and the Netherlands may have what it takes to go after the medals. Spain got into the lead at the start with the Netherlands moving with them. The Dutch crew has three members of their London Olympic boat back in the four this year with the addition of Robert Luecken in stroke. Going through the middle of the race these two crews remained locked together with Spain retaining a slight advantage. Both crews charged for the line. The Netherlands got there first to go directly to the final on Sunday with the fastest qualifying time.
Finalists: ROU, NED
Women’s Quadruple Sculls (W4x) – Heats
Two heats lined up in this boat class with the top two boats in each heat getting to go directly to the final. An intact Olympic silver medal crew set the standard in Heat One by setting a new European Championship Best Time. Germany’s Annekatrin Thiele, Carina Baer, Julia Richter and Britta Opelt got off the line in first and despite being under no pressure from the rest of the field they kept their pace up to cross the line two seconds under the previous Best Time and looking like they could have gone faster.
Behind the Germans, Denmark came through in second, the position that had been comfortably theirs for the entire race. Germany and Denmark thus will make direct tracks to the final.
Heat Two saw Poland in the lead at the start with a crew made up of a mixture of their 2012 Olympic crew plus their 2012 under-23 quad. The field, however, was very tight and coming into the second half of the race Italy had managed to press into the lead with the Netherlands right with them. A late challenge by the Dutch took them into first with Italy holding on to second. The Netherlands and Italy had earned spots in the final.
Finalists: GER, DEN, NED, ITA
Women’s Double Sculls (W2x) – Heats
The women’s double brought 11 countries together to race. They were divided into two heats with the first boat only in each heat getting to go directly to the final. With a number of new combinations including some of the best single scullers in the world, this event was anybody’s guess as to the top crews.
In Heat One Lithuania’s top single sculler Donata Vistartaite had been paired up with talented junior sculler, Milda Valciukaite and together they led the way. This position was quite remarkable as sitting in second place was two-time Olympic Champion from the single, Ekaterina Karsten and Olympic medallist Yuliya Bichyk of Belarus.
The race, however, was all about Lithuania who led from start to finish and saw no real challenge to their position from any other crews. Vistartaite and Valciukaite go to the final with the fastest qualifying time, one that was less than a second off the European Championships Best Time.
Poland performed a similarly dominating race in Heat Two. Magdalena Fularczyk from the Olympic bronze medal crew has teamed up this year with Natalia Madaj and together they look to have very good boat speed. Germany was the closest challenger, but they never managed to get within a boat length of the flying Poles. Poland will race again in Sunday’s final.
Finalists: LTU, POL
Lightweight Men’s Four (LM4-) – Heats
Two heats raced in the lightweight men’s four with the aim of the crews to finish first if they wanted a direct path to the final. Having a direct path is always a big bonus for lightweight rowers as each time they race they must weigh in at their correct weight which is an added stress to racing. Making sure they didn’t have to race in the repechage was Denmark in Heat One.
The Danes finished third at the London Olympics and three of their 2012 crew are back in the boat. After an early lead by Italy, Denmark got out in front and by the second half of the race they had completely pulled away from the rest of the field. In stroke Morten Joergensen aptly displayed his credentials to be in the position held last year by Denmark’s best Olympic rower ever, Eskild Ebbesen. At the line Denmark had more than a five second lead over the Czech Republic in second.
But it was Heat Two that really brought the Seville regatta course alive. Two boats were going head-to-head at the front of the field and one of them was the Spanish crew of Sergio Perez Moreno, Jesus Gonzales Al Varez, Patricio Rojas Aznar and Marc Franquet Montfort. The other crew was France which included two members of their 2012 Olympic lightweight four. For most of the race France had the edge over Spain. But an almighty sprint by the Spaniards got them over the line in first. Spain had earned a spot in the final.
Finalists: DEN, ESP
Men’s Eight (M8+) – Heats
A total of ten nations had sent crews to compete in the men’s eight and they were divided into two heats with the top two boats in each heat getting to go directly to the final.
Heat One featured the Olympic Champions, Germany with a crew that contained five members of the 2012 Olympic line up. Germany, led by coxswain Martin Sauer, decided to take no risks and got off the line first with Belarus chasing hard. By the middle of the race the Germans had managed to pull away to a handy lead. But the energy they had expended to get to the 1,000m mark in the lead looked to be taking its toll. Through the second half of the race the Czech Republic and Poland closed the gap on the leaders.
Germany gave it their all to hold on reaching the line still in first but looking a little bit ragged. First place earned the Germans a day off and a direct path to Sunday’s final. Poland also qualified directly for the final by finishing second with their entire 2012 Olympic crew still together.
Heat Two was raced at a slower pace but still nearly as intense with France and the Netherlands going neck-and-neck at the head of the field. Spain put on a very good show to hang with the French and the Dutch, but by the second half of the race the Spanish started to drop back. France, which included their men’s pair of Germain Chardin and Dorian Mortelette who raced earlier today, finished first and the Netherlands were second. These are the two crews that will go directly to the final.
Finalists: GER, POL, FRA, NED