In hot conditions with barely any wind at the Plovdiv regatta course boats aimed to be in the top three to ensure a spot in the finals. The lightweight men’s quadruples sculls saw the United States miss out on a place by less than 1/100th of a second. Both semifinals of the lightweight men’s pair were similar with a dash to the line by four crews all hoping to be in the top three.

Lightweight Women’s Single Sculls (LW1x) – Semifinals
The depth of talent in this field was formidable. Semifinal One included last year’s World Champion, Fabiana Beltrame of Brazil. It included London bronze medallist from the lightweight women’s double sculls, Alexandra Tsiavou of Greece and it had two athletes, New Zealand and Australia who qualified the lightweight double for the London Olympics at last year’s World Rowing Championships.

All of these athletes came here with the aim of taking the World Championship title. Leaping off the line first was the amazing Tsiavou. By the half-way point she had gained a decent lead with Denmark’s Rikke Quist slotting into second and Beltrame followed in third. Quist is the sister of Rasmus Quist who became an Olympic Champion earlier this month in the lightweight men’s double sculls. Quist had already shown her speed in the heats and she was doing a fine job in second.

Alexandra Tsiavou of Greece competes in the lightweight women’s single sculls semifinal A/B at the 2012 World Rowing Senior Championships in Plovdiv, Bulgaria.

As the line came into view Lucy Strack of New Zealand really opened up the engines and pressed to get past Beltrame. She was successful. At the line Tsiavou, Quist and Strack had qualified for the final.

Semifinal Two saw an incredibly close race. Austria’s Michaela Taupe-Traer led the way. Taupe-Traer has already won two Samsung World Rowing Cup medals this season and she has come to Plovdiv in very good form. Going through the middle of the race the margins were tight between Taupe-Traer, Ursula Grobler of the United State, Alena Kryvasheyenka of Belarus and Miao Wang of China. Kryvasheyenka comes to Plovdiv having won the World Rowing Under 23 Championships last month and Grobler has spent this season aiming to compete, unsuccessfully, in the Olympic lightweight double sculls event.

The sprint to the line saw Taupe-Traer’s small lead get whittled away as Grobler and Kryvasheyenka gave it their all. At the finish Grobler had just pipped Taupe-Traer with Kryvasheyenka coming through in third. These are the three qualifying boats.
Qualifiers: GRE, DEN, NZL, USA, AUT, BLR

Lightweight Men’s Single Sculls (LM1x) – Semifinals
Semifinal One saw an interesting race unfold with Andrew Campbell of the United States overtaking the fast starting Guillaume Raineau of France by the middle of the race. Campbell took it relatively easy through the heats and quarterfinals and may have been, therefore, a bit fresher for today’s semifinal. But the margins were incredibly close with less than three seconds separating the top five crews at the half-way point.

Campbell and the reigning World Champion, Henrik Stephansen of Denmark, then broke away from the field with only Austria’s Florian Berg remaining within striking distance of the leaders. Then Stephansen turned on his final sprint and rating 35 Stephansen overtook Campbell. Campbell looked relatively unconcerned and Denmark crossed the line in first. Campbell held on to second with Berg qualifying from third.

Henrik Stephansen of Denmark competes in the lightweight men’s single sculls semifinal A/B at the 2012 World Rowing Senior Championships in Plovdiv, Bulgaria.

Semifinal Two saw Hungary’s Peter Galambos leap off the line and earn half a boat length lead with just 500m rowed. Switzerland’s Michael Schmid slotted into second and these two boats led the way through the middle of the race. Then Pietro Ruta of Italy picked up the pace overtaking Schmid and going after Galambos.

Ruta raced at the London Olympics in the lightweight men’s double sculls and he is also a very accomplished single sculler. By the 1500m mark Ruta had pushed into the lead with Galambos holding onto the pace. The order did not change with Ruta taking his stroke rate down for the final few strokes, Galambos looking content to be second and Schmid holding on to third. These are the three scullers that had qualified for the final.
Qualifiers: DEN, USA, AUT, ITA, HUN, SUI

Lightweight Men’s Pair (LM2-) – Semifinals
The Netherlands had a flying start in Semifinal One when Arnoud Greidanus and Joris Pijs rated 48 to move their boat into first at the start. Austria followed in second. Coming through from the heats the Netherlands had won their heat while Austria had had to go through the repechage. By the middle of the race the Greidanus and Pijs had earned nearly a three second lead over Alexander Chernikov and Christain Rabel of Austria.

Then Austria really put the pressure on going through the third 500. Obviously racing in the repechage had done them no harm. As Austria closed on the Netherlands a huge battle for third was going on between New Zealand and Serbia. As the Dutch and Austria crossed the line almost together, New Zealand, rating 42, and Serbia, rating 44, took the race to a photo finish. It was impossible to tell the qualifiers.

Yannic Corinth (b) and Lasse Antczak (s) of Germany race in the lightweight men’s pair repechage at the 2012 World Rowing Senior Championships in Plovdiv, Bulgaria.

The announcer revealed the Netherlands had just held off Austria to finish first and Serbia’s Nenad Babovic and Milos Tomic had beaten New Zealand by 4/100th of a second. The Netherlands, Austria and Serbia had made it to the final.

The French are very well known on the lightweight pair circuit and Fabien Tilliet and Jean-Christophe Bette are former World Champions of the pair. Together they got off to a fast start in Semifinal Two with the Czech Republic moving with them. But the margins between the entire field remained close and only three seconds separated all crews going through the third 500.

It was going to be a mad sprint to the finish between five boats with only Mexico off the pace. Who had the best sprint? Who had handled the heat the best? Italy came flying down the outside rating 43. Denmark were also flying at an effective 37 and France were holding on for dear life. At the line just over a second separated the top four boats. Denmark’s Christian Pederson and Jens Vilhelmsen had come through in first. Italy’s Luca De Maria and Armando Dell’Aquila had grabbed second and Bette and Tilliet had held on to third. The Czech Republic had missed out.
Qualifiers: NED, AUT, SRB, DEN, ITA, FRA

Lightweight Men’s Quadruple Sculls (LM4x) – Semifinals
At the end of this race, Semifinal One, it was almost too close to call – almost. This is how it happened. The reigning World Champions, Italy took the lead at the start but there was very little in it with all six crews within striking distance of each other. Then Italy and Greece managed to take a small margin at the head of the field. Both Greece and Italy had members of their boat that had raced at the London Olympic Games and there was little doubt these crews were well trained and ready for a fight.

Coming into the last 500m of the race Italy remained in the lead but the Greeks were not giving them an inch. Rating 36 Greece continued to close on Italy who were rating 40. But behind them a real storm was brewing. The United States, Austria and Denmark were practically equal. There was no picking it as these three crews stormed to the line all after the one remaining qualifying spot. At the line Greece had overtaken Italy to take first and the crowd waited for the announcement of third. Austria and the United States had finished in almost identical times. A decision by the finishing umpires declared Austria in third place. The United States had missed out by a mere fraction of a second. They would now compete in the B-final along with Denmark who had finished in fifth by just 4/100th of a second.


Semifinal Two was just as exciting. China got off to a very fast start, but there was nothing in to going through the first 500m marker with less than two seconds separating the entire six-boat field. Switzerland, who had had to replace one of their athletes for medical reasons, then dropped off the pace with the rest of the field remaining tight.

Poland then managed to get a bit of an edge and it must have really given them confidence. Sobczak, Stanczuk, Mikolajczewski and Jankowski started to inch away. But Germany, who were last year’s silver medallists, were not letting go of the Poles. The crews sprinted to the line with Germany hotly pursuing Poland and China and Japan going neck-and-neck. Poland got there first to claim a spot in the final on Saturday. Germany came in second and China finished a fraction ahead of Japan to claim the final position.
Qualifiers: GRE, ITA, AUT, POL, GER, CHN