Day two in Bled at the European Rowing Championships

Bled, Slovenia

3 minute read
Words Tom Ransley
Photography Benedict Tufnell
Published 26.05.23

It was a day of reckoning for the rowers racing on day two of the 2023 European Rowing Championships. Some faced an early exit from the championships, others saw their medal hopes extinguish, and a select few unlocked their peak performance in the ruthless rounds of repechages and semifinals.

Our full coverage of the 2023 European Rowing Championships

Semifinal survival

Ireland’s Olympic, European, and world champion Fintan McCarthy rarely knows anything but first place. But McCarthy and Hugh Moore barely fended off Spain in the lightweight men’s double A|B semifinal, finishing in third place behind Greece and Switzerland. McCarthy had intended to race in the lightweight men’s single scull but was a last-minute replacement for his brother Jacob in the Irish LM2x. Ireland’s hopes to retain the European title are severely dented but intact.

Switzerland’s time of 6:14.15 was four seconds quicker than Czechia who narrowly beat Italy in the second A|B semifinal. Ukraine claimed the last spot into the A-Final.

Oldenburg makes A-Final

Dutch 2022 world silver medallist, Marloes Oldenburg, will contest for a W4- European championship medal less than eight months after breaking her neck in a bike accident. The Dutch led Ireland, and finished second behind Denmark in the women’s four repechage. Spain sprinted themselves into the fourth, the last A-Final qualification position, ahead of Poland and France.

On the men’s side France overhauled the quick-starting Polish crew to win the first repechage of the men’s fours. Poland, in second place, maintained their margin over Germany and Italy. In the second repechage the Dutch men dominated from start to finish. The new-look Swiss four, who won the first world cup in Zagreb, were just over a length behind but safely ahead of Ukraine and Ireland who will race the B-Final.

Tight contests

The lightweight women’s doubles were the first repechages of the first of the day. Italy’s bad luck continues after being relegated to sixth in yesterday’s heat due to an overweight boat. The new duo of Tokyo 2020 Olympic champion, Federica Cesarini, and 2022 LW4x European champion, Silvia Crosio, lost to Greece and Ireland. Greece won, and Ireland raised their rate to 43spm to hold off the Italians by 0.32s.

In the second repechage Denmark, in an outside lane, slipped off the pace as Switzerland, Poland, and Germany contested at the front. The longstanding Swiss combination were overhauled by the Polish in the third 500m. Germany, in third place, threatened the qualification spots before fading in the second thousand. Switzerland and Poland pushed on embroiled in their own private battle. At the finish Poland clocked 7:03.48 to beat Switzerland by a canvas, both qualify for the A-Final.

Not Borch’s Best

Kjetil Borch’s woes continue. Norway’s two-time Olympic medallist found himself in the repechage after yesterday’s heat. Progressing into the A|B semifinal meant a top two performance in the repechage, he finished third. He ended the day squeaking into the C-Final after beating Sweden’s Eskil Borgh by 0.18s in the second C|D semifinal. The Norwegian seems far from his best, and is reportedly struggling with illness. Would a medical withdrawal and recovery be the best course of action?

Bulgaria’s Kristian Vasilev won the third repechage but it was Croatia’s Damir Martin who claimed the quickest time of all four repechages. He has stepped on since the Zagreb world cup, but still needed to dig deep to stay clear of a brutal fight behind him. Hungary’s Bendeguz Petervari-Molnar outsprinted Slovenia’s Filip-Matej Pfeifer to qualify for the A|B semifinal.

In the second repechage Portugal started quickly but slipped back in the middle thousand. Belgium’s former lightweight, Tim Brys, secured the win with Italy in second. Leonard Van Lierop, the Dutch sculler, kept clear of the fight for second place between Spain and Poland, in the first repechage. Three buoy lines before the finish the Polish sculler came to a standstill: exhaustedly accepting defeat.

More bad news for Poland with Marta Wieliczko’s withdrawal for medical reasons from the women’s single and double sculls repechages. With Wieliczko out of the repechage the three remaining women’s single scullers effectively had a spot in the A|B final. So their race was understandably subdued. Latvia was the first to commit to paddling pace while Greece’s Evangelia Fragkou did enough to claim first place ahead Hungary.

Slick quads

Poland dominated the second men’s quads repechage and finished ahead of Ukraine in second place. Their winning time was a second quicker than Romania who won the first repechage ahead of Italy. Norway, Lithuania, Croatia, Germany and Switzerland will contest the B-Final.

The Romanian women’s quad were unable to wrestle back a qualification spot from Italy and Switzerland who exchanged the poll position in the second women’s quads repechage. Switzerland, in an outside lane, finished 0.17s ahead of Italy. Ukraine were the quickest winner of two repechages, two seconds clear of Germany in second place.

Duelling doubles

As they sprinted to the finish line, there was overlap between the top three crews in the first repechage of the women’s doubles. Ireland hung on for the win while the French sprint denied Great Britain a spot into the A-Final. Lithuania looked strong distancing Germany and Italy in the second repechage. At the finish the Germans were delighted to take a narrow second place ahead of the Italians.

The men’s double were less tightly contested. Romania clocked 6:16.34 to be the fastest of the two repechages, and progressed to the A|B semifinal as did Belgium who held off Sweden in third place. Germany and Serbia safely navigated the first repechage comfortably ahead of Poland, Estonia, and Hungary.


Double duties for Great Britain’s Esme Booth and Emily Ford who raced in the women’s eight preliminary race less than an hour and half before the first of the two women’s pairs repechages. A gritty performance from the Croatian Jurkovic sisters saw them safely into the A-Final. Great Britain held their nerve in second place despite a late charge from Ireland. Ireland, France, and Poland will race the B-Final.

Spain, who won the first world cup, were the quickest of the women’s pair repechage winners. Aina Cid and Esther Briz Zamorano were three seconds quicker than the Croatians. Germany claimed the last place into the A-Final after rowing through the Czech combination in the final quarter.

Three through to the A|B seminfinals from each of the two men’s pair repechages. The Dutch slipped out and held tight ’till the finish, they led the Lithuanians and Croatia’s Loncaric twins who finished in second and third place, respectively. Disappointment for local supports as the Slovenian duo finished fourth. They join Greece, Czechia, Germany, Hungary, and Moldova in the C-Final. Italy, Poland, and France claimed the last spots into the A|B semifinal.

Birthday boy

Exuberant cowbell-ringers signalled the fourth fleet of lightweight single scullers. Switzerland’s birthday boy, Andri Struzina, (26 years old, today) led the way. After winning the second LM1x repechage, his supporters welcomed him with a brief rendition of ‘Happy Birthday’. Germany took the last spot into the A-Final.

Rajko Hrvat, who finished fourth at last year’s Europeans, kept his medal hunt alive. A confidence-boosting performance saw the Slovenian win the first LM1x repechage. Denmark claimed second ahead of Poland, Norway, and Portugal.

On the women’s side Czech sculler, Kristyna Neuhortova, sprinted through her opposition in the last 500m to book a place in the A-Final. She was closely followed by Turkey’s Elis Ozbay. Disappointment for Great Britain’s Olivia Bates, she slipped out of qualification position but will be a strong competitor in the B-Final. Ireland and Switzerland had a smoother route to the A-Final in the second repechage, they were clear water ahead of Poland’s Jessika Sobocinska.

Kennedy’s Comeback

In her first race back after undergoing cancer treatment Erin Kennedy called the shots in Great Britain’s PR3 Mix4+. The British defending European champions led from start to finish in the preliminary race. The French delivered a minor coup by by rowing down the Germans in the second half of the race and claiming second place. Italy finished in fourth. All four crews meet again in Sunday’s A-Final.  

Deux premières

The PR3 Mix2x boat class made its first appearance at the European Rowing Championships ahead of its Paralympic debut next year at Paris 2024. French supporters celebrated strong performances in both the mixed doubles events.

France’s Laurent Cadot and Guylaine Marchand marched into the lead of the preliminary race of the PR3 Mix2x, en route to a new world best time of 7:26.25. Israel led the chase before slipping to third as Ukraine hit a strong mid-race rhythm. The new British combination finished in fourth just 0.01 seconds behind Israel, with Italy and Spain, in fifth and sixth places, respectively.

France, who are 2022 world and European medallists, dominated the repechage of the PR2 Mix2x, with Ukraine and Poland finishing a couple of seconds behind them. Ireland overhauled Italy to claim the last spot in Sunday’s A-Final, seven seconds behind the French.

Early exit

Disappointment for the Dutch sculler, Eva Mol, who lost the race not to be last in the PR1 W1x repechage. She makes an early exit from the championships. Leading the way was Israel’s two-time Paralympic medallist, Moran Samuel, who finished ahead of Ukraine’s Ana Sheremet in second. Switzerland Germany will join them in the A-Final.

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