Day two in Szeged at the 2024 European Rowing Championships

Szeged, Hungary

4 minute read
Words Row360
Photography Benedict Tufnell
Published 26.04.24

Day two of the 2024 European Rowing Championships offered 18 last chance races to those without A-Final places and hungry for medals this weekend. It’s repechage day. Despite the breezy conditions, which forced World Rowing’s Fairness Committee to reallocate lanes, the racing was predictably cutthroat.

Photo NOR PR1 W1x
Credit Benedict Tufnell

Romania’s women’s double made amends for Thursday’s misstep, or at least they’re one step closer to doing so after securing a spot in the A-Final. Confidently sculling their own race, Olympic champions Simona Radis and Ancuta Bodnar (ROU) stayed clear of Switzerland and then Ireland, who took turns leading the chase. Ireland came through the second half strongly and the Swiss briefly slipped out of a qualification spot before rallying. It was disappointment for Hungarian and British supporters alike. Great Britain’s Mathilda Hodgkins-Byrne and Rebecca Wilde (GBR) finishing in fifth place two seconds behind the last crew to qualify, the Czechs. Hungary were 15 seconds further back in last place.

The Romanian women’s scullers had a strong day on the water, repechage-winning performances coming from their single and quad, albeit the latter was just 0.29 seconds quicker than France and a handful of seconds slower than Germany and Switzerland in the other repechage. Aurelia-Maxima Janzen (SUI) missed out on making it to the A-Final in the women’s single. Last year’s European silver medal winner came under pressure early in the race, sitting behind Andrada-Maria Morosanu (ROU) and Desislava Angelova (BUL). A second place was required for the final qualification but in the end the Swiss sculler missed it by a length.

Belgium’s Gaston Mercier delivered a well-timed effort in the men’s single, going toe-to-toe with Italy’s Gennaro Di Mauro in the last quarter. Norway’s Martin Helseth finished just outside of the qualifying spots in third place. Five minutes behind them the next wave of scullers raced down the track with Ireland and Bulgaria holding court at the front of the field. Emil Neykov, the son of legendary sculler Rumyana Neykova, took second place behind Ireland’s Paul O’Donovan.

“It was OK,” said O’Donovan. “The good people got through yesterday, so there’s the less good people left. It’s a bit easier to race against them than the people that you don’t beat. It’s good fun, I’ve spent a lot of time looking at the men’s single races in particular, I know a few of the guys from over the years, but never really raced them at regattas, so it’s good to test out the legs against some of them this weekend.”

In the lightweight men’s single Frenchman Baptiste Savaete beat the defending World Champion Andri Struzina (SUI) both through to the A-Final. Of the six Swiss crews safely through today’s repechages, two delivered repechage wins: Switzerland’s men’s four and quad.

Overall Great Britain boosted their medal shots, securing three wins from the four repechages they were in. Proud Welshman Ben Pritchard got the ball rolling with an 11 second victory in the PR1 M1x. John Collins and Seb Devereux (GBR) followed suit with a steady effort in the men’s double, two second quicker than the first M2x repechage winner Greece. The Brits held their nerve as the Belgium scullers blasted out of the blocks. The Croatia’s Loncaric brothers, Patrik and Anton, who spent the winter getting to grips with the double, were unable to get a foothold in the race.

Photo GBR PR3 Mix4+
Credit Benedict Tufnell

“It was good and well executed,” said Collins, a Rio 2016 Olympian and former Leander Club captain. “We had some things we wanted to work on from the heat yesterday and we went and did those. Obviously yesterday didn’t go our way, but looking at the times we knew we were in quite good standing across the field. We wanted to go out and cement that and I think we did that today.”

The hattrick of repechage wins for the British contingent came late in the morning. With an absent Emily Grant, the hastily thrown together combo of Imogen Grant and Olivia Bates went bowball-to-bowball with the Polish lightweight women’s double and Italy’s Silvia Crosio and Tokyo 2020 Olympic champion Valentina Rodini. Switzerland were a couple of seconds off the pace at the halfway mark but comfortably clearly of Hungary. It was a race to not come last but Great Britain took the opportunity to execute a confidence-building win. “That has doubled the number of races we’ve had together and I feel like we had twice the improvements too,” said Grant.

It was a tough day of results for the home side, who are blooding-in new talent at these championships, without the usual travel costs. The regatta ended early for the Hungarian lightweight men’s double, unable to make it out of the repechage. It was Keve Kolos Kertesz’s first international race, and a senior debut for his teammate Ferenc Szigeti, who competed at the World Rowing Under 19 Championships last year.

Photo GBR LW2x
Credit Benedict Tufnell

Preceding the risky repechage action there were three preliminary races, they yielded two wins for Great Britain and two second places for France. The defending Paralympic, World and European champions put 15 seconds on the French PR3 mixed coxed four, who beat Italy and Spain. Ukraine’s came third in the PR3 mixed double ahead of Germany. The Hungarian lightweight men’s pair lifted the locals with their second place finish between Austria and Moldova.

Bring on Saturday’s racing, where the first European medals will be awarded.