The home crowd had much to celebrate as Portuguese sculler Joana Isabel Bela Branco captured gold in the first event on the final day of racing. Representing the University of Porto, Branco cruised to an easy victory in the lightweight women’s single sculls, while Tosca Kettler from Utrecht University (NED) and Dorina Lilla Kiffer of Corvinus University of Budapest (HUN) rounded out the podium.

Branco later teamed up with fellow Porto student Inês Leite Oliveira for another gold medal performance, this time in the lightweight women’s double sculls on the same day. The duo bested second place Sophia and Julia Wolf from the University of Wurzburg (GER) and bronze medalists Lisanne De Weert and Johanna Boogert representing the University of Twente (NED).

Minutes after Branco’s first gold a crew from Portugal’s other premier rowing university, the University of Coimbra, topped the podium in the lightweight men’s double sculls. Brothers Afonso and Dinis Costa took first ahead of Fatih Unsal and Mert Kaan Kartal from Marmara University (TUR) and Franklin Hamilton and Sean O’Mahony of Reading University (GBR), who earner silver and bronze respectively. A second Coimbra crew finished just shy of the medals, much to the delight of local fans.

Perhaps the most exciting race of the finals came in the women’s eight where less than two seconds separated first through fourth, making for a memorable charge to the line. Two British crews finished ahead, the University of Bristol crossing first in 7:09.75 with the University of London mere centimeters behind at 7:09.95 in the silver position. Croatia’s University of Zagreb crew earned bronze at 7:10.88 with the University of Hamburg (GER) just missing the podium crossing the line in 7:11.60.

The European Universities Games Regatta and the European Universities Rowing Championships held in non-Games years, has become an increasingly important feature in the annual racing calendar for university teams across the continent. The national university championships of each country often serves as a qualifier and there is every indication of the growing stature of university rowing within the overall sport.

“This regatta was important for us,” Afonso Costa said after winning gold with his younger brother Dinis. “It is very important to Portugal. University sport is not a solid thing here, especially university rowing [compared to] Great Britain for example. But with this event people are starting to recognise the importance of sports and [the efforts of] student athletes.”

The Costa brothers now head to the World Rowing Under23 Championships as part of Portugal’s under-23 team. Success at this European Universities Games is just one more stepping stone on what they hope will be a future among the best in the sport. “We both share the dream to race together in the Olympic Games one day,” Costa says.

Find full results from the European Universities Games here.