Success for Obreno over Drysdale at Henley Royal Regatta
In a surprising turn of events at the Henley Royal Regatta in Great Britain, Olympic Champion Mahe Drysdale of New Zealand was knocked off the top of the men's single sculls by Belgium’s Hannes Obreno.
Obreno’s win denied Drysdale of matching Australian Stuart MacKenzie’s record six wins in the Diamond Challenge Sculls, the men's single sculling race, leaving Drysdale's tally at five.
The scullers faced difficult headwind conditions and went stroke-for-stroke for the majority of the two-boat final. Coming into the final sprint, Obreno raised his stroke rate and managed to push out to a full two-length lead over the 37-year-old Drysdale. Obreno qualified his boat for the Rio Olympic Games at the Final Olympic Qualification Regatta in Lucerne just six weeks ago. He will thus compete again against Drysdale in Rio. Drysdale will be looking to defend his Olympic title.
“Obviously I’m a little disappointed how I rowed today," said Drysdale after the race. "I really wanted to win that one, but I’ve learned a few things here this week that I can now take into my preparation for Rio. I’d love to come back to Henley. It is no surprise that the record (by MacKenzie) has stood for so long, it’s immensely competitive every year here.”
The Henley Royal Regatta saw record numbers this year, with 629 crews participating from 27 nations. Racing began on Thursday 30 June with the first round of dual races. Those 629 crews were boiled down to just 40 racing in 20 finals on Sunday 3 July. The finals day saw warm, but windy conditions, presenting an extra challenge for the competitors.
The Netherlands brought the largest contingent of Olympic bound crews, including their men’s pair, men’s four and men’s eight. The men’s eight raced the final against a British development eight. The young British eight put up quite a fight against Olympic favourites, the Netherlands, but ended up losing by ¾ of a length.
Dutch Head Coach Mark Emke said, “It is lovely to come to Henley and be able to race and win prior to Rio. This will be a big mental and morale booster for the crew and myself and we can only hope for the best in Rio."
The Netherlands also took home the trophy in the Princess Royal Challenge Cup (women’s single sculls) when Lisa Scheenaard beat Germany’s Anne Beenken. Scheenaard got off to the better start and led from start to finish. She narrowly missed out on qualifying for the Rio Olympic Games at the Final Olympic Qualification Regatta, but raced to a fourth place finish at the World Rowing Cup in Poznan just a few weeks ago.
“Winning this was actually really high on my bucket list." said Scheenaard. "Three years ago I debuted in the Remenham Cup (women's eight) and lost the final. To finally win is huge for me. It really means something to me to be in a list with people like Knapkova."
In the Remenham Challeng Cup it was a victory for the Princeton Training Centre, USA crew. This was not the United States’ top crew that will race next month at the Olympic Games, but they nonetheless showed their power by beating the British composite crew from Leander Club and Tees Rowing Club by 4 ¾ lengths.
The regatta wrapped up with the prize giving where Sir Steve Redgrave and double Olympic Champion in cycling, Victoria Pendleton presented the trophies.
Redgrave said, “This has been a record breaking Henley Royal Regatta in every sense of the word. We get bigger and bigger and it has been a fantastic event.”
Quotes thanks to Henley Royal Regatta (www.hrr.co.uk)