April 17, 2016
Despite weather warnings and sporadic drizzle, the weather held out for finals day at World cup I in Varese, Italy on Sunday as many Olympic medal contenders battled it out for early season pecking order.
The A finals opened with the Women’s heavyweight pair. South Africans Kate Christowitz and Lee Ann Persse, who looked the fastest pair throughout the regatta, took gold three seconds ahead of the home team Italians, with a delighted Anna Boada Peiro and Aina Cid I of Spain picking up the Bronze.
Up next in the Men’s pair final, Mathew Tarrant and Nathaniel Reilly O’Donnel – currently the spare British sweep crew while top selected pair Innes and Sinclair are training in Portugal – demonstrated the strength in depth of the British team by defeating last summers fourth placed Dutch pair in today’s final. It bodes well for the British team who will race their full contingent for the first time at next month’s European Championships.
The lightweight men’s double was another very close race, following yesterday’s dead heat in the semi-finals. The 2014 world champions South Africa (fourth in 2015) rowed through the fast starting Belgians and Irish O’Donovan brothers to take the gold in a tight finish while Belgian took bronze three seconds back, narrowly squeezing the Netherlands out of the medals.
China had a strong showing in the Lightweight Women’s double, with two boats in the A final. Coming into the regatta, South African double of McCann and Grobler were the strongest on paper with their World’s Bronze last year, and led for much of the race, but had to settle ultimately for bronze after being rowed through by both China 1 and China 2 who took gold and Silver respectively. China now faces some tough selection decisions when they get home with only 2 lightweight women’s seats available in Rio.
Italy – the reigning world champions in the Men’s four, were looking to avenge their defeat in the heats, where they were pipped to the post on Friday by a US line-up containing 2012 bronze medallist Rummel and Cole. The Americans kept their noses in front for most of the race after overhauling South Africa who lead off the start with what proved to be an unsustainable pace, eventually finishing sixth. With Italy producing the fastest last 500 to pull themselves back into contention, it looked like anyone’s race approaching the line. USA managed to just hold on, taking gold by fractions of a second over Italy with 2013 World Champions Netherlands in third. Less than a second separated the three podium places.
The British women’s quad failed to improve on yesterday’s preliminary race result, finishing fourth today, but were not far off the pace. Poland, fourth in the world last year, took gold in the end ahead of the World’s Bronze medallists from the Netherlands. Three seconds separated the entire field. The British need to find a little more speed if they are to secure a place in Rio.
Russia took gold in the men’s quad with two converted sweep rowers from the eight on board along with 2004 Olympic gold medallist Sergey Fedorovtse. Canada showed good improvement over the regatta to take silver today having had to progress through the rep yesterday. They look to gain Olympic qualification now in Lucerne. Poland took the Bronze, the first World cup medal for this crew in the event.
The lightweight men’s four proved to be a less closely fought contest than we are used to seeing in this event. After 500m all six boats were level pegging, but an effective move from the reigning World Champion Swiss crew at half way shook up the pack and they finished almost three lengths ahead of China in silver medal position, with USA picking up the Bronze.
In the Men’s double scull, the two times world Champions and World best time holding Sinkovic brothers were given a little less breathing room than they are perhaps used to, with Poland showing good pace in the early stages of the race. The brother’s demonstrated their pedigree in the final quarter however, easily moving away from Poland and the Swiss who took Silver and Bronze respectively.
Damir Martin dominated the men’s single, opening out to a several length lead by half way. The gold medal never looked in doubt all the way to the finish line. The real tussle was for the silver, with Angel Fournier Rodriguez of Cuba eventually edging out Hannes Obreno of Belgian who picked up bronze.
The Canadian women’s eight – current world Bronze medallists- looked in better form in their four-boat final final today after a disappointing third place finish, off the pace in yesterday’s preliminary heat. They took the lead at around 800 meters in which they looked like they would maintain. The Dutch women’s eight however, who still need to qualify for Rio, pulled off an impressive final sprint to row through the Canadians on the line. Russia finished third with Germany off the pace in fourth.
The Women’s singles final saw the tenacious newcomer Carling Zeeman of Canada, sixth at last year’s worlds and former U23 medallist, row through Ekaterina Karsten and the rest of the field to take her first gold medal on the senior international circuit in this event. Karsten, who aged 44, is at the opposite end of her career took Silver with Sanita Puspure of Ireland completing the podium in third.
In the final race of the first World Cup, the Men’s eight final, things went to plan for the Dutch favourites, in the German and GB teams notable absence here. The Dutch trailed behind the Polish and Italians at the first quarter marker, but a solid push at halfway gave them a lead that they held onto all the way to the line. Italy, feeding off the home crowd, took silver. Poland took bronze, edging Mike Spracklen’s Russian crew out of the medals on the line.
With the season opener drawing to a close just in time for the heavens to open here in Varese, we look ahead now to the European Championships in Brandenburg, Germany from 5-8th May and then Lucerne from 27th-29th where, with most teams scheduled to appear in full, the competition can only get fiercer.
By Benedict Tufnell.