The rowing conditions were great on the Plovdiv regatta course with barely any wind, almost completely flat water and sunny, mild temperatures. 

Men’s Pair (M2-) – Semifinals

The winners of yesterday’s quarterfinals all finished with very similar times and this boded well for some very tight racing today. In Semifinal One it was Spain and Belarus that had the fastest start with New Zealand then squeezing ahead. The New Zealand crew of Thomas Murray and Michael Brake took gold at July’s World Rowing Cup in Lucerne but they had been beaten by Canada in the quarterfinal here. Coming through the first 500m mark Murray and Brake had the lead with Romania’s Marius-Vasile Cozmiuc and Ciprian Tudosa in second and Lukas Helesic and Jakub Podrazil of the Czech Republic in third. The Czechs have had a very consistent season and have medalled at every World Cup through 2018.

Cozmiuc and Tudosa then pressed into a fraction of a lead over Murray and Brake and these two boats went through the third 500 absolutely level. Romania was at 40 and New Zealand at 39. The the Czechs ran out of steam with Spain charging through and Serbia in hot pursuit. Spain’s Jaime Canalejo Pazos and Javier Carcia Ordonez overtook New Zealand just before the line with Romania grabbing first.

The Sinkovic brothers from Croatia and Onfroy brothers of France had the fastest start in Semifinal Two with the Sinkovics getting to the 500m in first. These two boats matched each other through the next part of the race leaving a tight battle between Canada and Great Britain. The Sinkovics then did a third 500 push and managed to take an edge over the Onfroy’s. Martin and Valent Sinkovic are the reigning European Champions and in their second season in the pair. In the final sprint the Sinkovics continued to lead. The French were at 45 and holding second with Canada able to hold off Great Britain.

Qualifiers: ROU, ESP, NZL, CRO, FRA, CAN

Men’s Double Sculls (M2x) – Semifinals

The New Zealand World Champions had the best time in the heats earlier in the week and they lined up in Semifinal One. John Storey and Christopher Harris of New Zealand have not had a great season missing the medals podium at the World Cups. They came out in fourth at the start with Ireland in the lead. The Irish are known for fast starts and by the middle of the race New Zealand had found the lead with Romania in third. But margins across the field were tight with just two seconds separating the top five boats. New Zealand then got overhauled by a flying Angus Groom and Jack Beaumont of Great Britain. Once in front the British crew kept their stroke rate high and their boat in front.

New Zealand then had to hold off Romania and Poland who came flying through in the final sprint. Rating 42 Great Britain held the lead with New Zealand holding on to second only just at a 39 stroke rate. Romania came through just ahead of Poland.

Germany’s Timo Piontek and Lars Hartig got out very quickly in Semifinal Two. Piontek and Hartig have had a great season so far and they were holding off the Netherlands crew of Amos Keijser and Nicolas van Sprang. Going through the middle of the race Germany and the Dutch were neck-and-neck with France also right on the pace. France’s Hugo Boucheron and Matthieu Androdias are the reigning World Champions and they were having a great third 500. Coming into the final sprint the French had grabbed the lead with Germany and Switzerland able to push away from the Netherlands. In the final sprint France looked great at 36 with Switzerland’s Barnabe Delarze and Roman Roeoesli at 40 and challenging Germany with every stroke. The Germans were just holding on and kept on looking out of their boat. They qualified from third.

Qualifiers: GBR, NZL, ROU, FRA, SUI, GER

Women’s Double Sculls (W2x) – Semifinals

The Czechs and Canada shared the lead in the early stages of the race in Semifinal One. Kristyna Fleissnerova and Lenka Antosova of the Czech Republic had to come to this semi via the repechage and thy were keeping up with heat winners, Canada’s Gabrielle Smith and Andrea Proske. Then the Czechs pushed out to take a very small lead with Great Britain also on the pace. Smith and Proske then did a third 500 piece that got them into the lead. But the lead was tiny and just a second separated the top four boats. It was a full on sprint with now all six boats within a shot. Canada was at 44 and looking good. Great Britain was at 40 and just holding on. Now Lithuania’s Milda Valciukaite and Ieva Adomaviciute was giving it their all. Canada, Lithuania and Great Britain had done it.

Quickest off the line in Semifinal Two was China’s Yunxia Chen and Yan Jiang and then Meghan O’Leary and Ellen Tomek of the United States really started to move. This is the sixth year that O’Leary and Tomek have represented the US together and they took silver at the World Championships last year. The US duo got into the lead ahead of China with the Netherlands in third. At this stage the reigning World Champions, New Zealand were back in fifth. Now Brooke Donoghue and Olivia Loe of New Zealand pushed into third with the United States continuing to lead. The Dutch crew of Roos de Jong and Lisa Scheenaard had pushed into second. Loe and Donoghue then got their nose ahead of the Dutch and they started to creep up on the US.

The final sprint was on with New Zealand a second behind the US and China challenging the Netherlands. O’Leary and Tomek held onto first by just half a second over New Zealand with the Dutch keeping just ahead of China who rated 43 in the final sprint.

Qualifiers: CAN, LTU, GBR, USA NZL, NED

Men’s Single Sculls (M1x) – Semifinals

The young Harry Leask of Great Britain is in his first year in the senior single and he took a very fast start in Semifinal One. But it was European Champion Kjetil Borch of Norway who was first to the 500m mark. Borch is an Olympic medallist in the double and also a World Champion from the double. Switzerland’s Nico Stahlberg followed in second with the World Best Time holder, Robert Manson of New Zealand now picking up the pace and working his way through the field. But Borch was on fire and going into the middle of the race Borch held the lead keeping an eye on Manson in one lane over. Stahlberg, who medalled this season in the double at the World Cup, held on to third.

Manson then wound it up to 39, but Borch was ready and held Manson off. These two boats were holding their own battle now at the head of the field with Leask managing to overhaul Stahlberg. In the final sprint Borch held it all together and held off Manson who rated 42 to Borch’s 39. Leask at 42, was flying and managed to pip Manson on the line to take second.

The World Champion, Ondrej Synek of the Czech Republic had a great start in Semifinal Two. But then Germany and Lithuania picked up the pace and first to the 500 m mark was Oliver Zeidler of Germany. Zeidler is in his first season in the single and comes to rowing from a competitive swimming background. Rowing for just two years, Zeidler comes from a rowing family. Synek and Dzianis Mihal of Belarus moved together in second and third respectively. Zeidler continued to keep the power on and first to the half way point was Zeidler with Mihal falling back as Mindaugas Griskonis of Lithuania picked his way into third. Zeidler pressed on in the lead with Synek doing all he could to get his bow ball ahead. For the first time in the race Synek got ahead at the 250m to go mark. The race was now all but over. Zeidler didn’t press back and Synek took the rate down with Griskonis doing no more from third. Their work had all been done earlier in the race.

Qualifiers: NOR, GBR, NZL, CZE, GER, LTU

Women’s Single Sculls (W1x) – Semifinals

First to show in Semifinal One was Fie Udby Erichsen of Denmark. The Dane medalled at the London Olympics, then took a break from the sport and since coming back has not really been able to challenge for the top places. Was today her day? Ireland’s Sanita Puspure has picked up two silver medals already this season and is looking like this may be her best season ever. Germany’s Olympic Champion from the quad, Annekatrin Thiele was following in third. This is a different tactic for Thiele who often goes out hard at the start and then fades. Puspure then pushed away from Erichsen and not only got out in front but also pushed away from Erichsen. Ireland and Denmark was then able to move away from the rest of the field.

Now Carling Zeeman of Canada did what she often does, give it her all in the last 600m of the race. Zeeman moved from fifth through to fourth and was putting the heat on Thiele. Meanwhile Puspure was pushing clean away from the field. Then disaster for Zeeman. She took a bad stroke, lost her oar and was out of contention at the 250m mark. The pressure came off the race as Ireland, Denmark and Germany had no challengers in the close of the race.

In Semifinal Two Magdalena Lobnig of Austria got away very quickly. She was up against the World Champion, Jeannine Gmelin of Switzerland and knew she would have to do something special to take this race. Then Australia’s Madeleine Edmunds picked up the pace and went through the 500m mark in the lead. Now Gmelin started to inch ahead. Gmelin has had an unbeaten 2018 season so far including a win at the European Championships. Coming into the middle of the race Edmunds managed to hold a slight lead with Gmelin pressing hard. The Swiss then got her nose in front with Kara Kohler of the United States now flying. Kohler had moved into second and was chasing down the new leader Gmelin.

In the close of the race Gmelin was at 37 and holding the lead with Kohler at 39 and Australia and Austria going neck and neck to grab the very final qualifying spot. Lobnig at a 41 stroke rate had done it.

Qualifiers: IRL, DEN, GER, SUI, USA, AUT

Para PR1 Men’s Single Sculls (PR1 M1x) - Semifinals

The Paralympic Champion, Roman Polianskyi of Ukraine took off at the fastest pace in Semifinal One. Blake Haxton of the United States followed in second with Poland’s 54-year-old Jaroslaw Kailing in third. Going through the middle of the race Polianskyi was able to push away from the field as Great Britain’s Ansrew Houghton came through into second. Kailing stuck doggedly to Houghton with Haxton right there.

Coming into the close of the race Polianskyi was very comfortably in the lead and was able to watch a full-on fight for second between Haxton, Houghton and Kailing. Haxton, at a 45 stroke rate, was giving it his all and he was able to get the better of Houghton at 33 with Kailing just missing out despite his big push at the end.

The World Champion, Erik Horrie of Australia had the early lead in Semifinal Two and only Brazil’s Rene Pereira and Russia’s Alexey Chuvashev looked to be challengers. These three boats moved away from the rest of the field with the very experienced Chuvashev managing to get the better of the fast starting Pereira and move in to second. The order did not change through to the line and no finishing sprint was needed.

Qualifiers: UKR, USA, GBR, AUS, RUS, BRA