2017 World Games indoor rowing, Olena Buryak of Ukraine
2017 World Games indoor rowing, Olena Buryak of Ukraine

Coming into the competition, Buryak knew that she was on pace as last week she broke the 500m record in training. “I was prepared for this and it’s my last year in this category (19-29 year old heavyweight women),” said Buryak. “I wanted a record that no one else could beat.”

Olympian, Buryak set this record while sporting an injury. “I was happy to be part of this, so I didn’t care about my injury.”

Buryak finished ahead of Cecilia Velin of Sweden who clocked 6:38.2 with third place going to Austria’s Magdalena Lobnig who finished in a time of 6:40.8. “I was prepared and I did my best,” said Velin who set a personal best time. “I could do more but not today. I know that Olena is better than me, but I have a good tactic. I hope that I will beat Olena in the 500m tomorrow.”

Buryak took the lead at the start using a 1:36 per 500m pace.  Velin slotted into second with Lobnig in third. These positions did not change throughout the race. Both Buryak and Lobnig are part of their nation’s rowing teams and they will now prepare for the World Rowing Championships, while Velin took up rowing in 2016.

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A newcomer to rowing, Oliver Zeidler of Germany, won the men’s heavyweight race. Zeidler finished in a time of 5:42.0 ahead of favourite, Bartosz Zab Ocki of Poland (5:44.5) with Anton Bondarenko of Ukraine in third (5:46.5). Zeidler took the lead at the start with Zab Ocki chasing in second. Behind the two leaders Pavel Shurmei of Belarus was neck-and-neck with Bendeguz Petervari-Molnar of Hungary and Bondarenko.

Bondarenko then got away into third and closed on second towards the end of the race with a 40 stroke rate pace. Zeidler kept his stroke rate at 35 and remained in front.

Zeidler is new to rowing joining the sport just six months ago. He comes from competitive swimming and used to use the indoor rowing machine as part of his swimming training. “I then took part in the German Indoor Rowing Cup and I won,” said Zeidler.  

Zeidler’s plan was to hold a 1:27 pace, but then he realised he could go faster. “It was a very good race for me and a personal best.” Zeidler was six seconds faster than his former personal best.

At the end of the race the statuesque Bondarenko said; “It was my best time so I’m happy – and I have a medal. I wanted gold but bronze is ok. Two months ago I did a 5:47.”

The lightweight men’s race opened with Jaruwat Saensuk of Thailand in the lead. Saensuk held that lead for the first 400m with Austria’s Florian Berg sitting in second. Poland’s Artur Mikolajczewski then moved into second with Saensuk still on the pace. At the half way point the higher rating Berg was neck-and-neck with Mikolajczewski.

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The Pole then got into the lead and at a 35-37 stroke rate Mikolajczewski held a 1:31 per 500m pace. Coming into the final 500m Berg was just a bit behind Mikolajczewski and rating 41 strokes per minute. Mikolajczewski remained in the lead until the end finishing in a time of 6:08.2. Berg was second with 6:11.5 and Saensuk finished third in 6:14.9.

Berg is part of the Austrian national rowing team and raced earlier this month at World Rowing Cup III. But, Berg said, he did spend more time training on the indoor rowing machine leading up to the World Games. “It’s a bit different for me to train so much on the erg,” said Berg. “It was hard when I could see flat water outside.”

Setting to the right weight for to compete at the World Games may have come at a cost for Berg. “I didn’t expect the last 500 to 600m to be so hard. My qualification time (for the World Games) was two seconds faster.”

The lightweight women’s race was won by Anna Berger of Austria. After an early lead by Christina Gandia of Spain, Berger got into the lead and using a 42 stroke rate, she managed to build a small lead with Korea’s Hyewon Jung in second. Jung then went neck-and-neck with Phuttharaksa Neegree of Thailand and together they closed on Austria as Great Britain’s Justine Reston sat in fourth.

At 1000m Berger had a 4m lead over Neegree with Reston now in third. Berger then went to a 1:48 pace and got a small margin. Coming into the final 500m Neegree was still in second with Reston starting to move. With 200m left to race Reston had pushed into second using a 35 stroke rate. At the finish Berger had won with a time of 7:12.7, Reston was second with 7:15.3 and Neegree was third with a time of 7:19.5.

“My plan was simple, just push,” said Berger who kept a high stroke rate through the race. “I like to rate in the high 30s because it hurts less, because I don’t have to use so much power per stroke.”

“As races go, it was quite good,’ said Reston. “I wasn’t going to come, but I’m glad I did. I don’t always have a strong finish but at 600 to go I thought ‘put it in’ and I found something extra – it wasn’t quite enough for gold but I’m so glad I did it!”

Full results here