Setting their sights on a good start to the 2015 international rowing season, athletes from around the world raced in the finals of the Bled International Regatta in Bled, Slovenia.

This one day event had heats in the morning followed by this afternoon's finals and b-finals. The weather remained favourable at Lake Bled with the afternoon presenting slight cross winds.

Women's Pair (W2-) - Final

With four Chinese boats in this race, the line up featured a large amount of yellow and red, all wanting to prove themselves to their national selectors. China1 of Min Zhang and Tian Miao were the fastest at the start. Zhang raced to third at the World Rowing Championships last year in the women's eight, while Miao won a bronze medal in the women's four. The Netherlands of Olivia van Rooijen and Elisabeth Hogerwerf were the main challengers of Zhang and Miao, but coming through the second half of the race the Chinese duo began to move away from the Dutch. Van Rooijen and Hogerwerf fought back and at the line only half a second separated them. Zhang and Miao had won, but only just. China4 came through in third.

Results: CHN1, NED, CHN4, CHN3, CHN2, CRO

B-final

From the heats Poland's Anna and Maria Wierzbowska had the fastest time of these b-finalists.  Together they led this race from start to finish with an easy margin over China5. Anna comes to the Bled International from racing at the under-23 level, while the younger Maria is just out of the junior team.

Results: POL, CHN5, CHI, CHN6

Men's Pair (M2-) - Final

With five boats entered this race was a straight final leaving the competitors guessing as to who would be the fastest. Moving away the quickest at the start was Germany's Kristof Wilke and Toni Seifert. Wilke is an Olympic Champion from the men's eight while Seifert has raced in two Olympic Games in the men's four. Together they stayed in the lead, but not with ease. On the outside of the course Chile challenged the Germans right through to the last stroke. Felipe Leal and Oscar Vasquez of Chile had a great race and must be looking towards a positive season ahead. China finished in third.

Results:  GER, CHI1, CHN, CZE, CHN2

Lightweight Men's Pair (LM2-) - Final

The five entries in this race meant a straight final and the first race of the day for all of these boats. The start was relatively tight with Spain's Ander Zabala and Imanol Garmendia taking a bit of a lead over Jonas Kilthau and Sven Kessler of Germany. Zabala and Garmendia became under-23 World Champions last year when they raced in the lightweight men's four and today they were showing that winning form by staying at the front of the field.

In the second half of the race with Spain remaining in front, China successfully challenged Germany to move into second. This left Germany to do what they could to stay in front of the Czech Republic and thus ensure a medal. Kilthau and Kessler successfully did just that.

Results: ESP, CHN, GER, CZE, AUT

Lightweight Men's Single Sculls (LM1x) - Final

In this morning's heats Slovakia's Lukas Babac recorded the fastest time. He was thus given lane four with China on one side and Brazil on the other. The very experienced Babac is in his second decade of international racing after starting out as a junior representative in 2003. At the start it was Silvan Zehnder of Switzerland who had the early lead with Babac in third. By the middle of the race 30-year-old Babac had moved into second and began to put the heat on Zehnder. Zehnder, like Babac, has had a lengthy rowing career but he did not race in 2014.

A push by Babac coming through the 1200m mark earned the Slovak the lead with Zehnder apparently having no response to this push. At the line Babac was first with Guiying Zhu managing to overhaul Zehnder to earn the silver medal. The Swiss had to be satisfied with bronze.

Results: SVK, CHN, SUI, SRB, SLO, BRA

B-final

A quick start by Slovenia2 did not pay off as Marko Bolha faded with Olympian Nuno Mendes of Portugal taking over in the lead. Mendes, who raced at the London Olympics in the lightweight men's double sculls to a fifth-place finish, led for the rest of the race with Petr Cabla of the Czech Republic coming through in second.

Results: POR, CZE, CHI, BRA, SLO, EGY

Lightweight Women's Single Sculls (LW1x) - Final

The 2011 lightweight women's single World Champion Fabiana Beltrame of Brazil was all class as she took off in the lead. With just 30 strokes rowed, Beltrame had already broken free of the remaining five boats and, taking no prisoners, the Brazilian continued to move away from the field. The 33-year-old has been to three Olympic Games racing in the openweight single and it is likely that she is targeting the same event in her home-country Olympics next year.

Following Beltrame down the course was Shuai Guo of China1 who tried to close the gap but was not able to match the power of Beltrame. Guo remained in second with Beltrame crossing the line in a very respectable time of 7:49. Guo took silver and China2 of Jing Liu earned the bronze medal.

Results: BRA, CHN1, CHN2, POL, LAT, ALG

B-final

Results from this morning's heats indicated that it would be hard to beat Anna Zabova of the Czech Republic. The 18-year-old who raced at the Youth Olympic Games last year finished in front in a time of 8 minutes flat.

Results: CZE, CHI, TUN, LAT

Lightweight Men's Double Sculls (LM2x) - Final

The heats this morning indicated that Tycho and Vincent Muda of the Netherlands would be the quickest in the final. At the start it was Ondrej and Jan Vetesnik of the Czech Republic that got away the quickest. But there was barely anything in it with both the Muda's and China within half a second of the Vetesnik's. By the middle of the race the Muda brothers had earned a very small lead over the Vetesnik brothers as China began to drop back.

The battle of the brother thus took over. On paper the Vetesnik's had more experience but at last year's World Rowing Championships the Muda brothers, with a sixth place finish in the lightweight double, had a better result. Coming through the second half of the race the Muda's managed to pull away to a nice lead leaving Jan and Ondrej Vetesnik to contend with an ever gaining Pedro Fraga and  Nuno Goncalves Coelh of Portugal. The Czech's tried to hold off Portugal and these two boats gave it their all right to the line. In a photo finish, Fraga and Goncalves had won silver by just 0.01 of a second. The Netherlands took the gold.

Results: NED, POR, CZE, POL, SUI, CHN

B-final

With 14 entries in this event, some of the boats missed out on making the A and B-final. The six that lined up in this race made the best of it with Brazil leaping out to an early lead. But Martin Slavik and Jiri Somanek of the Czech Republic soon got their nose in front. Brazil valiantly hung on to the Czechs, who in turn did just enough to stay in front. 

Results: CZE, BRA, SUI, UZB1, EGY, UZB2

Men's Four (M4-) - Final

A race of four German boats meant the lake must have been lined with the red, black and yellow colours of the German team as they watched to see which combination would prevail in today's final. Coming through the heats, Germany1 had proved to be the fastest and this afternoon the same crew took a very small lead at the start over Germany2 and Germany3. Although they may have been ranked as Germany1, Richard Schmidt, Felix Drahotta, Anton Braun and Eric Johannesen were being challenged with every stroke by and unrelenting Germany3 of Johannes Weissenfeld, Malte Jakschik, Maximilian Reinelt and Maximilian Korge. Coming into the line the three top German boats were all within a whisker of each other. Germany1 managed to just hold on to finish first with Germany3 crossing a fraction ahead of Germany2. The German selectors will definitely be studying the numbers following this result.

Results: GER1, GER3, GER2, FRA, GER4, CHN

B-final

A two boat race saw Poland, who recorded a slower time in the heats, stay ahead of China2 for the majority of the 2000m regatta course. The race, however, was incredibly tight with only a second separating the two boats for the entire race. In the sprint to the line China2 proved to have the better finish and crossed the line a fraction ahead of Poland.

Results: CHN2, POL

Women's Quadruple Sculls (W4x) - Final

In this straight final there was no looking past the World Champion crew from Germany sitting in lane five. With one change from their World Champion boat, this would be a hard boat to beat. The crew of Annekatrin Thiele, Carina Baer, Lisa Schmidla and new crew member, Marie-Catherine Arnold got out to an early lead with Poland and the Netherlands left to fight it out for second.

As Germany remained comfortably in front, the Dutch crew (Nicole Beukers, Chantal Achterberg, Inge Janssen, Carline Bouw) managed to squeeze away from Poland.  Then in the second half of the race, China found its rhythm to close in on Poland and press them to the line. At the line Germany stayed in front of the Netherlands, with China outracing Poland to take bronze. 

Results: GER, NED, CHN, POL, CZE

Men's Quadruple Sculls (M4x) - Final

Four boats lined up in this straight final with all eyes on the return of 2012 Olympic fourth place finishers, Estonia. With the return to international rowing of Tonu Endrekson, there was just one name different from the 2012 crew. Allar Raja, Kaspar Taimsoo and Endrekson had been joined by Sten-Erik Anderson. But it was China who leapt out to the lead at the start with Estonia at the back of the field.

Then, Poland really found their pace coming into the second half of the race and they moved into the lead as China and Switzerland chased hard. There was very little between all four crews in the final dash to the line and they crossed with just a two second spread. China (Liang Zhang, Zhiyu Liu, Dang Liu and Quan Zhand) had won the race. Watch out for this crew as we move through the 2015 pre-Olympic year.

Results: CHN, POL, SUI, EST

Men's Double Sculls (M2x) - Final

France1 of Hugo Boucheron and Matthieu Androdias had the best time coming through from this morning's heats. Boucheron comes to the double from last year's men's quadruple sculls that finished ninth at the World Rowing Championships, while Androdias was in the men's eight that finished fifth. Boucheron and Androdias had a good start and by the middle of the race they had more than a boat length's lead over France2.

The French may have found their new winning doubles combination to emulate their 2004 Olympic success as Boucheron and Androdias continued to open up a bigger lead over the field. At the line France1 had earned an impressive gold medal with a win by a huge six second margin. France2 of Julien Montet and Mickael Marteau were the silver medallists with Poland in third.

Results: FRA1, FRA2, POL, HUN, NED, EST

B-final

The crew from China (Ganggang Li and Laifu Li) had the fastest time from the heats when they missed out on making the A-final by less than a second. Li and Li made the best of the B-final by getting out quickly at the start and holding the lead through the middle of the race. Then Israel (Dani Fridman and Oleg Gonorovski got their nose ahead. Li and Li fought back to cross the line ahead in the last few strokes.

Results: CHN, ISR, SLO1, SUI, EST, SLO2

Women's Double Sculls (W2x) - Final

This boat class had six entries making it a straight final and a mystery to the crews sitting in the starting blocks. Poland's Magdalena Fularczyk and Natalia Madaj were the first to show. On paper this was the crew to beat as they come to Bled as World silver medallists in this event. By the 1000m mark Fularczyk and Madaj had a huge lead over the Czech Republic's Kristyna Fleissnerova and Lenka Antosova in second. China1 then stepped up the pace and managed to get their nose in front of the Czechs as the race for the lesser medals began to truly heat up.

At the line Poland had proved that they had lost no pace over the winter training months with China1's Jie Wang and Yuwei Wang grabbing the silver, leaving the Czechs with bronze.

Results:  POL, CHN1, CZE, CHN2, CRO, MDA

Lightweight Men's Four (LM4-) - Final

China2 had the quickest time coming into this final, but they did not start, making it a race between five crews. Going through the 1000m mark there was nothing between these five boats. Switzerland made their big push in the third 500 metres to take the lead. The return of their 2012 Olympic crew of Simon Schuerch, Mario Gyr, Lucas Tramer and Simon Niepmann looked on fine form in this afternoon race.

Going into the last 500m, they could not be caught. The Netherlands made their best run for it, but to no avail, they had to settle for silver. The battle for bronze was fierce between China and Chile, but in the end it was the Chileans with the sprint to the finish line to take the bronze medal.

Results: SUI, NED, CHI, CHN1, GER

B-final

This turned into a two-boat race after Uzbekistan dropped off the pace early in proceedings. The Czech Republic gained the lead and managed to slow squeeze away from Poland as they raced down Lake Bled. By the end of the race the Czech's had an open water advantage.

Results: CZE, POL, UZB

Men's Single Sculls (M1x) - Final

Cuba’s Angel Fournier Rodriguez has proved his power at the international level and after taking home the bronze medal at last year’s World Championships, he looks to be on form again this year. Switzerland’s Markus Kessler came into the final with the fastest time, but found himself a boat length behind Rodriguez 1000 metres into the race.

Rodriguez then made easy work of it, keeping his rate to 29 strokes per minute he looked comfortable ahead of the field. Behind him it was a tight battle between Kessler and Hiestand of Brazil, with open water back to the rest of the field. Kessler had the faster sprint to grab the silver medal and Hiestand took the bronze. This is only Hiestand’s second World Rowing event and his first medal. He will surely be hoping to represent his country at the 2016 Rio Olympics.

Results: CUB, SUI, BRA, EGY, CHN, SLO

B-final

Slovenia1 of Janez Zupan only just missed out on making the A-final when he raced in his heat this morning. For this afternoon's race, Zupan made the most of being on home waters and led for the entire race. He was chased hard by Ales Zupan of Slovenia2, but managed to keep his boat in front.

Results: SLO1, SLO2, CHN2, SLO3, UZB, BEN

Women's Single Sculls (W1x) - Final

With a few clouds starting to cover Lake Bled as the afternoon continued, the women’s single got underway. It was Switzerland’s Jeannine Gmelin who got off the line quickest. She managed to hold this lead through the halfway point. The field continued to spread out as they moved into the last 500m.

In second, China’s Weiwei Zhu calmly pushed away from Serbia’s Ljiljana Josic and tried to move back on Gmelin. Gmelin fought back, raising her rate as she began her sprint to the line. As she reached the calmer water in the last 250m Gmelin raised her rate again. She crossed the line ahead of Zhu, with Josic maintaining her third place with a large gap of open water ahead of the last three crews.

Results: SUI, CHN, SRB, SLO, QAT, ISR

Men's Eight (M8+) - Final

For the last race of the Bled International regatta just three boats were at the start line. Poland got off the start first and took quite a lead by the 500m mark. But France was not about the let them settle for that, they came storming back to take the lead at 1000m. They continued to expand their lead, not waiting to see if Poland would respond.

Poland comes out of 2014 with a World Championship bronze medal, but it was the new French crew that powered through the finish line. Poland maintained contact, but did not have enough to move back. They had to settle for silver, with China crossing in the 3rd place.

Results: FRA, POL, CHN