The heat is on at the European Championships
This is the sixth year of the reinstated European Rowing Championships and Plovdiv, Bulgaria is playing host. Today racing got under way on the Plovdiv international course which is best known for hosting the 1999 World Rowing Junior Championships when many junior World Best Times were set – some of them still remain unbeaten to this day. The warm water has been partly attributed to these fast times. Plovdiv, again, turned on hot weather with the rowers in today’s heats enjoying flat calm conditions.
Women’s Pair (W2-) – Heats
The first boat in each of the two heats would take a direct path to the finals and it was not surprising to see the defending European Champions Camelia Lupascu and Nicoleta Albu of Romania in the lead in the first heat. Lupascu and Albu must feel a level of ownership of this race as they also won in 2009.
Albu and Lupascu got away quickly and had a clear water lead by the half way point. The race then turned into a bit of a procession as the rest of the field were resigned to the Romanian’s lead. Albu and Lupascu will race in Sunday’s final.
Heat two saw the re-pairing of Natallia Helakh with Yuliya Bichyk of Belarus. This talented duo took bronze at the 2008 Olympic Games but since then has been rowing in a mixture of boats and at the World Rowing Championships earlier this month, the crew only managed eleventh. Today they were pushed right to the line by Claudia Wurzel and Sara Bertolasi. In the sprint to the line Helakh and Bichyk just squeaked through to be the qualifying boat.
Men’s Pair (M2-) – Heats
This event has attracted 13 European nations and they were divided into three heats meaning that the top three boats in each heat would advance directly to the semifinals on Saturday. Heat one witnessed Cristi-Ilie Pirghie and Alexandru Palamariu of Romania leading the way. Pirghie and Palamariu were the stroke pair of their country’s four at this year’s World Rowing Championships and they also raced at the Under-23 Championships this year, finishing fourth in the pair. Romania crossed the line in first with Hungary and Serbia qualifying from second and third respectively, Serbia buttoning right off in the last 500m.
Coming into this event Italy’s Niccolo Mornati and Lorenzo Carboncini were the favourites. They raced in heat two and by the middle of the race were in a comfortable open water lead position. Behind the Italians Poland and Belarus held a private tussle with Poland’s Maciej Mattik and Zbigniew Schodowski getting the finishing advantage. Italy, Poland and Belarus go through to the semifinals.
The fastest qualifying time came in heat three with Greek identical twins, Nikolaos and Apostolos Gkountoulas holding the edge. The Gkountoulas brothers kept just enough ahead of the Netherlands in second to cross the line in first with the Dutch feeling pressure from Spain. Greece, the Netherlands and Spain advance to the semifinals.
Women’s Double Sculls (W2x) – Heats
The first two boats from these two heats will go directly to the final on Sunday and heat one saw a bit of an upset when regular A-finalists on the international scene, Lenka and Jitka Antosova were raced out of first by the new Serbian line up of Iva Obradovic and Ivana Filipovic. Obradovic is an accomplished single sculler and she teamed up with Filipovic this year to race together at the World Rowing Championships. They finished eleventh thus missing out on Olympic qualification. It is likely that Obradovic and Filipovic will use the European Championships as a springboard towards trying to qualify again in 2012. The Serbians crossed the line ahead of the Czechs with both boats earning spots in the final.
Coming out of the quad and into the double seems to be working well for Anastasiia Kozhenkova and Yana Dementieva of Ukraine. They got the work done in heat two leading over Italy’s Laura Schiavone and Elisabetta Sancassani. Both boats advance to the final on Sunday.
Men’s Double Sculls (M2x) – Heats
It was a race to be first in these two heats as only the top boat got to go directly to the final. Heat one was all about Saulius Ritter and Rolandas Mascinskas of Lithuania. Nineteen year old Mascinskas was the star of 2010 Youth Olympic Games when he won the single. Mascinskas then took bronze this year at the World Rowing Under 23 Championships. Mascinskas has been billed as a rising star in rowing and today, with Ritter the duo remained in the lead to earn the vital qualifying spot.
Heat two recorded almost the same qualifying time when Russia’s Artem Kosov and Dmitry Khmylnin led the way. Kosov and Khmylnin come to Plovdiv after racing two weeks ago in the double at the World Rowing Championships. The duo came together this year and have experience racing in the quadruple sculls – Kosov in the senior quad and Khmylnin as part of the under-23 silver medal quad. They advance directly to the final.
Men’s Four (M4-) – Heats
This event had two heats and the requirement of being in the top two spots for a direct path to the final on Sunday. Heat one had the World silver medallists, Greece putting on a display of effortless-looking style. The Greeks – Papachristos, Tsilis, Tziallas and Christou – held a stroke rate of 35 for much of the race but made it look graceful and easy. Serbia held on to the Greek’s pace to earn the second qualifying spot.
The quicker qualifying time came in the second heat with Belarus really stepping up to the mark. A very tight race between Belarus and Italy through the 2000m course helped push the fast time. These two crews finished ninth and tenth earlier this month at the World Rowing Championships. Belarus has retained the same line up, while Italy has boated three different rowers. Both Belarus and Italy advance to the final.
Lightweight Women’s Double Sculls (LW2x) – Heats
In these two heats, the first two boats in each heat would get to go directly to the final. Heat one saw Russia set a very fast pace, a pace that they were able to hold for the first half of the race. But as the Russian’s started to run out of steam, Poland’s Magdalena Kemnitz and Agnieszka Renc took over in the lead. Kemnitz and Renc were second at last year’s European Championships and they will be looking to medal again this year. Italy put into a burst to challenge Poland, but the Polish held them off to be the sole qualifying crew.
Reigning World and European Champions Greece’s Christina Giazitzidou and Alexandra Tsiavou left the rest of the field to race for second right from the word go in heat two. Looking cool, calm and collected, Giazitzudou and Tsiavou rated a comfortable 32, under no pressure from the rest of the field the Greeks go directly to the final having barely broken a sweat.
Lightweight Men’s Double Sculls (LM2x) – Heats
The 12 countries entered in this event were divided into two heats and the top boat only in each heat will advance directly to the final on Sunday. The Greek double of Eleftherios Konsolas and Panagiotis Magdanis really showed their cards in heat one. The duo finished eighth earlier this month at the World Rowing Championships, a position that qualified their boat for the 2012 Olympic Games, and they seem to be making steady improvements. Konsolas and Magdanis lead the way over last year’s European silver medallists, Pedro Fraga and Nuno Mendes of Portugal. Greece advance directly to the final.
Bronze medallists from the World Championships, Elia Luini and Lorenzo Bertini of Italy may have though they were going to have an easy time of it in heat two, and for the most part they did. But working their way through the field Poland’s Milosz Jankoswki and Mariusz Stanczuk decided to push the Italians in the final sprint. Luini and Bertini saw them coming and did just enough to remain in first and take the qualifying spot.
Lightweight Men’s Four (LM4-) – Heats
The two heats in this event meant that only the first placed boat would get to go directly to the final on Sunday. Everyone in heat one must have known that they were up against the current World silver medallists, Italy. Italy’s Danesin, Caianiello, Miani and Goretti took silver in a very tight final earlier this month and they took the lead today over Spain. The Spanish tried their best to hold on in the first half of the race, but the Italians were too classy for them. Italy advance to the final.
Heat two saw Serbia jump out to a very fast start before being swallowed up by the entire field going through the middle of the race. The Czech Republic then took over in the lead and moved out to a clear water lead over Hungary, now in second as the Serbs dropped off the pace completely. No other crew even attempted to challenge the Czechs and they cruised home to an easy win.
Men’s Quadruple Sculls (M4x) – Heats
This event had two heats with the top boat only in each heat progressing directly to the final on Sunday. Italy set the early pace in heat one, but then it looked like something had gone a bit wrong as they were overtaken by the Czech Republic before the 1000m mark. The Italians then slipped right back and ended up paddling to the finish line.
Meanwhile, the Czech Republic was trucking along at the head of the field quite happily. Poland put up a challenge in the third 500 before giving it away. The Czech Republic crossed the finish line easily in first and earning a spot in the final.
The Russian crew of Morgachev, Svirin, Salov and Fedorovtsev came fifth at the World Rowing Championships in Bled and they raced at the head of the field in heat two. Russia earned the lead right from the start and although Estonia tried to hold on to the pace of the Russians, they could never close the gap. Russia earns a spot in the final.
Women’s Single Sculls (W1x) – Heats
The 13 countries in this event were divided into three heats with the top three boats in each heat moving directly to the semifinals on Saturday. The most experienced sculler in heat one, by a large margin, was Olympic medallist, Julia Levina of Russia. Levina got out quickly at the start and had already built up more than a boat length lead with just 500m rowed. Levina then went on to completely dominate the field with the order of qualifiers decided before the final 500m sprint. Russia, Greece and France advance to the semifinals.
Hot off a World Championship win, Mirka Knapkova of the Czech Republic set the pace and held the control of heat two. Knapkova had no reason to fly towards the finish as Agata Gramatyka of Poland looked content to remain in second. Knapkova, Gramatyka and Italy’s Erika Bello all qualify for the semifinals.
Earlier this month Donata Vistartaite of Lithuania finished ninth at the World Rowing Championships. This ninth position earned her a 2012 Olympic spot. Today she set her 2012 Olympic training in motion by leading from start to finish in heat three. Behind Vistartaite the remaining three boats fought hard for the remaining two qualifying positions. Estonia was the unlucky one. Natailya Dovgodko of Ukraine and Mihaela Petrila of Romania earn spots in the semifinals.
Men’s Single Sculls (M1x) – Heats
The biggest event of this regatta, the men’s single, had entries from 16 European countries. Today they were divided into three heats with the top two boats in each heat earning a spot in the semifinals. Bulgaria’s Georgi Bozhilov got off to a great start in heat one and still had the lead going through the middle of the race. But then Croatia’s Mario Vekic put Bozhilov in his place and earned the lead. In one of the tightest races to the finish, Italy’s Leopoldo Sansone then put the pressure on Bozhilov. Bozhilov had no answer. Vekic and Sansone qualify for the semifinals.
Last year Lithuania’s Mindaugas Griskonis, 25, finished fourth at the European Championships. This year he comes to Plovdiv as the ‘top seed’ having finished seventh at the Bled World Rowing Championships. Today Griskonis raced in heat two at the head of the field. Poland’s Michal Sloma chased hard for the first 1000m before letting Griskonis open up a larger lead. Griskonis and Sloma advance directly to the semifinals.
Heat three featured Germany’s Falko Nolte. Nolte has sat on the edge of the German national team and this year he got to race at two World Rowing Cups, in the absence of their top single sculler, Marcel Hacker. Nolte got off to a very fast start and already had an open water lead with just 500m rowed. Behind him, Dionysios Angelopoulos of Greece and Lukas Babac of Slovakia held a battle for second. Angelopoulos got a slight margin and managed to wear out Babac. Nolte and Angelopoulos earn spots in the semifinals.
Men’s Eight (M8+) – Heats
This event opened with two heats and the progression system meant that the top boat alone from each heat would get to advance directly to the final on Sunday. Heat one saw a ding-dong battle go on between the Czech Republic and Ukraine. Both boats challenged each other stroke-for-stroke through the first half of the race. Earlier this month the two crews had raced against each other in the World Rowing Championships B-final. Ukraine had finished seventh overall and the Czechs had taken ninth place.
The dual continued through the third 500 when Ukraine finally broke the Czech spirit and thus earned a healthy lead. The Czech Republic will return for a Saturday afternoon repechage.
Poland come into this event as the favourites having finished fifth at the World Rowing Championships. Today the Poles raced at the head of the field in heat two. Romania held onto Poland for the first half of the race and then slipped off the pace leaving Poland to finish first and qualify directly for the final.