World Rowing Cup I has begun
Lake Bled, Slovenia was alive with top rowing athletes from 34 nations as the first World Rowing Cup of the 2015 got under way. With sunny skies and just a slight breeze, Bled had turned on great racing conditions for today's heats.
As this regatta is following a two-day format, athletes were racing to go to semifinals or directly to tomorrow's finals as repechages were not taking place. Today, there would be no second chance.
Women's Pair (W2-) - Heats
The first of three heats opened with all five boats packed tightly together. By the middle of the race China3's Linlin Guo and Xiaotong Cui had got their bow ball ahead of Spain in second. Guo and Cui had just slightly better power application than Nuria Dominguez and Anna Boada of Spain and they managed to get a half boat lead. Dominguez has been around rowing since 1991 with her biggest accomplishment being the be the first Spanish woman rower to make the Olympic A-final. Dominguez did this in 2004. Guo and Cui kept the Spanish in check and crossed the line first with the fastest qualifying time.
In Heat Two the Netherlands duo of Olivia van Rooijen and Elisabeth Hogerwerf grabbed an early lead and never gave it up. By the middle of the race van Rooijen and Hogerwerf, who raced in their country's quadruple sculls last year, had built up an open water lead and they continued to increase it through to the line to qualify for the semifinals with the second fastest time.
A fast start by the Czech's in Heat Three turned out to be the wrong strategy as by the middle of the race they had slipped into third with Belarus' Alena Kryvasheyenka and Ina Nikulina moving into the lead. But margins were tight and China1 then took the lead holding it to the end. China1 of Min Zhang and Tian Miao won the Bled International Regatta in this boat class yesterday and must be the crew to watch.
Qualifiers: CHN3, ESP, POL, CHN5, NED, CHN2, CHN4, CHN1, CZE, BLR
Men's Pair (M2-) - Heats
This boat class had two heats with Heat One seeing Spain show that they are a nation that know how to start fast. By the middle of the race Jon Carazo and Ismael Montes of Spain still had the lead, but it was very slight over Chile. Then Felipe Leal and Oscar Vasquez of Chile grabbed first place and held it to the end to qualify for tomorrow's final.
The much anticipated return of London Olympic medallists, Dorian Mortelette and Germain Chardin of France happened in Heat Two. The duo raced in the men's eight last year and back in the pair they were leaving the rest of the field behind. Hungary slotted into second desperately trying to hold off Belarus. At the line Mortelette and Chardin had qualified for the final with the fastest time.
Qualifiers: CHI, ESP, BLR2, FRA, HUN, BLR1
Lightweight Men's Single Sculls (LM1x) - Heats
There was no doubt that Lukas Babac of Slovakia had the speed in Heat One. Babac won the Bled International Regatta yesterday and last year he finished ninth in the world. Following Babac was Bulgaria's Nedelcho Vasilev, but Vasilev did not seem to be in any position to get ahead of the very experienced Babac.
Heat Two of the three heats had China's Giiying Zhu in the lead. Zhu was second yesterday at the Bled International Regatta and today he found his lead challenged with every stroke by Nuno Mendes of Portugal. Mendes comes to the single from racing many years in this nation's lightweight men's double sculls including Olympic appearances. Coming into the final sprint China and Portugal were still very close together. But despite his relatively low rating, Zhu crossed the line in first with Mendes ending up in fourth behind Niels van Zandweghe of Belgium and Petar Jovanovic of Serbia. Mendes must have been content not to sprint.
Switzerland's Silvan Zehnder raced yesterday in the Bled International Regatta and he returned today to lead at the start of Heat Three. But then Slovenia's Rajko Hrvat did a big push to take the lead. Zehnder, who finished third yesterday, then looked like he didn't mind where he would finish and Croatia's Luka Radonic moved into second. Radonic had false started earlier on causing this race to be restarted, but it didn't seem to be affecting his race. At the line Hrvat was first, Radonic second and Zehnder third.
Qualifiers: SVK, BUL. CZE, SLO, CHN, BEL, SRB, POR, SLO, CRO, SUI, ALG
Lightweight Women's Single Sculls (LW1x) - Heats
The two heats in this boat class required crews to finish in a top three place to go to tomorrow's final. In Heat One, yesterday's Bled International winner, Fabiana Beltrame of Brazil took the lead over Tereza Kocianova of the Czech Republic. Beltrame, the 2011 World Champion, then led from start to finish to qualify for the final. China1's Shuai Guo qualified from second and Kocianova took third. Beltrame qualified with the fastest time.
Poland's Joanna Dorociak led Heat Two from start to finish despite China2 (Jing Liu) challenging hard. In the final sprint Dorociak managed to break away from Liu to easily take first.
Qualifiers: BRA, CHN1, CZE, POL, CHN2, AUT
Lightweight Men's Double Sculls (LM2x) - Heats
This boat class had attracted the most number of entries with 20 boats lining up. This meant four heats and the top three from each heat getting to go to this afternoon's semifinals. Paul and Bernhard Sieber of Austria took the lead and had a bit of an edge over Turkey at the half way point. Then Switzerland1 came up to challenge both Turkey and Austria and aim for the lead. A big final sprint gave Michael Schmid and Daniel Wiederkehr of Switzerland first place.
The Czech brothers of Jan and Ondrej Vetesnik got ahead at the start and made the most of being Czech Republic1 crew in Heat Two. The Vetesnik brothers finished third in yesterday's Bled International Regatta race and they looked to have more energy for today. The biggest challenge came from Czech Republic2 of Martin Slavik and Jiri Simanek. At the line Czech2 didn't quite have the sprint with Czech1 finishing first, Poland in second and Czech2 in third. The Vetesnik's had recorded the fastest qualifying time.
Winners of yesterday's Bled International Regatta, Tycho and Vincent Muda of the Netherlands got out quickly in Heat Three. The Muda's still had the lead at the half way point with China's Bin Tian and Yajun Li being the closest challengers. Then the Muda twins must have decided enough is enough and in the third 500 they did a piece that pulled them clean away from the rest of the field. China didn't seem ready to respond and found themselves under threat for their second place by Francisco Ruiz and Barnardo Guerrero of Chile. The Muda's crossed the line first, Chile took second and China had to settle for third.
The Serbian crew of Milos Stanojevic and Marco Josic had the fastest start in Heat Four. But by the middle of the race Hungary's Peter Galambos and Daniel Matyasovszki had the lead . Galambos and Matyasovszki kept the pressure on which earned them a good lead. Yesterday's silver medallists, Portugal then moved into second with Pedro Fraga and Nuno Goncalves unleashing the Portuguese sprint. Galambos and Matyasovszki, however, remained in control and in front.
Qualifiers: SUI, TUR, AUT, CZE1, POL, CZE2, NED, CHI, CHN, HUN, POR, BRA
Lightweight Women's Double Sculls (LW2x) - Heats
This boat class opened with two heats and the aim here was to get a spot in Sunday's final. In Heat One the top three rowers would earn a spot and all four crews showed that they did not want to miss out. They left the starting blocks in a virtual line and at the 1000m mark only just over one second separated all of the crews. China1's Cuiming Chen and Feihong Pan then earned a slight lead. The Chinese duo took silver in yesterday's Bled International Regatta and they are looking to be the new Chinese combination. In the final sprint, Joanna Dorociak and Weronika Deresz of Poland got in front of China and qualified for the final with the fastest time.
Last year Elisabeth Woerner and Maaike Head of the Netherlands won gold at the World Rowing Championships in the lightweight women's quadruple sculls. They are now in the Olympic boat class, the double, and they made easy work of Heat Two. By the middle of the race Head and Woerner had an open water lead with China2 way back in second.
Qualifiers: POL, CHN1, SUI, NED, CHN2
Men's Four (M4-) - Heats
The two heats in this boat class required a top three finish for a spot in Sunday's final and in Heat One the progress of Belarus was looking good. Belarus did not have the fastest start, but by the half way point they had found the lead with Spain dropping to second. Belarus remained powerful and at the line they had a time of 6:03 to qualify for the final with the fastest time.
Heat Two opened with Serbia's Savic, Bogicevic, Stojic and Deric in the lead. Serbia's Nikola Stojic, in three seat, knows Lake Bled well through is long rowing career that saw him post good results especially in the men's pair. His experience helped the crew move away by the middle of the race to a relatively comfortable lead. France slotted into second with too much of a gap to catch Serbia and a big gap ahead of Poland and China who were going neck and neck for third. Poland prevailed and will race in the final with Serbia and France.
Qualifiers: BLR, ESP, GER, SRB, FRA, POL
Men's Quadruple Sculls (M4x) - Heats
The two heats in this boat class had the required formula of a top three place if these rowers wanted to be in Sunday's final. Olympic Champions, Germany were the fastest starters in Heat One and by the middle of the race the familiar names of Schulze, Schoof, Wende (all Olympic Champions) and Gruhne of Germany had a very handy lead. A distance back was Switzerland in second. The order did not change and Germany will move to the final along with Switzerland and the Czech Republic.
Yesterday in the Bled International Regatta, China won. Today they raced in Heat Two at the head of the field. But margins between the four crews were incredibly tight and at the half way point the whole field was separated by less than a second with China now in third. Poland took over in front as the boats all charged into the final sprint. All boats rated around 40 strokes per minute with China's sprint the best. They crossed the line first, Poland in second and France in third. Estonia missed out by just 0.06 of a second.
This will be one close final.
Qualifiers: GER, SUI, CZE, CHN, POL, FRA
Men's Double Sculls (M2x) - Heats
This boat class had three heats all aiming to be in the semifinals and opened with Egypt having a false start in Heat One. Nerves must have been a bit rattled as boats lined up for a second start. The false start didn't seem to rattle Egypt and they took the lead at the start. Then Marcel Hacker and Stephan Krueger of Germany1 got their nose in front and tried to inch away. But Abel Khalek Elbana and Moustafa Fathy of Egypt were not giving up and remained in touch.
Then Germany4 of Patrick Leineweber and Lars Hartig moved into second and moved to challenge the top two single scullers in their nation - Hacker and Krueger. At the line two German crews crossed in the top two positions.
Serbia's Marko Marjanovic and Aleksandar Filipovic had the lead from start to finish in Heat Two with Spain and the Netherlands battling it out for spot two and three. The order remained the same to the line with Estonia2 seemingly unable to challenge for a qualifying spot.
In first place in Heat Three was the Czech Republic's Michal Plocek and David Jirka. Plocek has had most of his rowing success as a single sculler, but he looks to be adapting well to the double. Hungary followed the Czechs very closely. The order did not change and Plocek and Jirka were able to qualify from first along with Hungary, Bulgaria and Estonia.
Noticeable in their absence was the World Champion Croatian double of Valent and Martin Sinkovic. The duo were a late withdrawl due to a rib injury for Valent.
Qualifiers: GER1, GER4, EGY, CHN, SRB, ESP, NED, ISR, CZE, HUN, BUL, EST1
Women's Double Sculls (W2x) - Heats
Two heats lined up with the top three from each race getting to go to Sunday's final. In Heat One World silver medallists and yesterday's Bled International winners, Poland's Magdalena Fularczyk and Natalia Madaj were in the lead. They were being followed very closely by former lightweight Wiebke Hein and her partner Julia Richter of Germany2. Poland then pushed away to win comfortably. Germany2 held second and Czech Republic's Kristyna Fleissnerova and Lenka Antosova qualified for the final from third.
Germany1 of Julia Lier and Mareike Adams led Heat Two from start to finish and despite their lead, Lier and Adams kept the pressure on in the first half of the race. This left Jie Wang and Yuwei Wang of China1 to follow in second. The order did not change to the line which had turned into a procession through the second half of the race. Lier and Adams then dropped their stroke rate to around 25, happy with their lead. Germany1, China1 and China2 were the qualifiers.
Qualifiers: POL, GER, CZE, GER1, CHN1, CHN2
Lightweight Men's Four (LM4-) - Heats
Two heats lined up in this boat class and they aimed for a top three spot for a direct path to Sunday's final. China2 took an early lead in Heat One and never looked back. By the middle of the race China2 (Zhao, Zeng, Yu and Jin) had a handy lead and they continued to maintain it through to the line. Spain sat in second but was then overtaken by Germany. Spain held on and in the final sprint Germany managed to stay just ahead of Spain.
China1 leapt out at the start of Heat Two, but only by a very small margin. This margin was soon reduced to nothing as Switzerland's reunited London Olympic crew moved into the lead. China1 held on and these two boats went side-by-side through the middle of the race. Switzerland then got a slight edge and China1 didn't look to have an answer. Switzerland must have felt good as they not only crossed the line in first, but they had also recorded the fastest qualifying time.
Qualifiers: CHN2, GER, ESP, SUI, CHN1, NED
Men's Single Sculls (M1x) - Heats
With 12 entries, the men's single was divided into two heats. The aim was thus to be in a top three position to earn a spot in the A-final tomorrow. Winner of yesterday's Bled International Regatta, Angel Fournier Rodriguez of Cuba got into the lead in Heat One after a fast opening pace by Uzbekistan. Fournier seemed to be getting faster as he sculled through the Lake Bled waters and with 1500m rowed the Cuban had a huge open water lead. Gasper Fistravec of Slovenia held off China1, but a big final sprint by China1's Jian Ma gave him second place.
Heat Two featured the return to international racing of Damir Martin of Croatia. Martin, from Croatia's medal winning men's quadruple sculls, took 2014 off from international competition due to injury. Back racing today, Martin had a very nice lead by the middle of the race with Nour El Din Hassanein of Egypt in second and Bled International silver medallist, Markus Kessler (SUI) in third. At the line Martin had taken first and also scored the fastest qualifying time. Kessler was in second and Hassanein in third. They will race again in tomorrow's final.
Qualifiers: CUB, CHN1, SLO, CRO, SUI, EGY
Women's Single Sculls (W1x) - Heats
Three heats meant that these scullers were aiming to get to this afternoon's semifinals. Heat One was led by Olympic Champion Mirka Knapkova of the Czech Republic. By the middle of the race Knapkova had an open water lead over Jeannine Gmelin of Switzerland who sat in second. Knapkova continued to race her own race at the head of the field and the order of all five scullers did not change through to the line. Knapkova will go to the final along with Gmelin and Serbia's Iva Obradovic.
Austria1's Magdalena Lobnig had a very nice start in Heat Two, leading over 1996 Olympic Champion, Ekaterina Karsten of Belarus2. Six-time Olympian, Karsten was to race at this regatta in the women's double sculls, but her partner was a late withdrawal due to injury, putting Karsten back into the single. Lobnig and Karsten were under no pressure and took it relatively easy through to the end.
At the start of Heat Three Tatsiana Kukhta of Belarus1 took the lead and held it for the entire race with a handy margin. China2 of Weiwei Zhu, who was second in yesterday's Bled International Regatta and today she followed back in second. Meanwhile Belgium and Austria2 fought it out at the back of the field. At the line Austria2's Lisa Farthofer was ahead of Belgium who will still qualify for the semifinal due to her time.
Qualifiers: CZE, SUI, SRB, AUT1, BLR2, BUL, BLR1, CHN, AUT2, BEL