Brighter weather welcomed the competitors on day five of the 2022 worlds. The race schedule saw 36 semifinals (SF), of which 17 determined which crews continue their fight for medals. Great Britain marched towards redemption by booking seven more A-Final spots of which five were SF winners (M2-, LW2x, W4-, M4- and W4x). On the flip side it was Italian heartbreak for the current LW2x Olympic champions, Valentina Rodini and Federica Cesarini, who missed out on a place in the A-Final.
The Italian duo dug deep to claw back the Swiss but ultimately finished 0.22 seconds behind Patricia Merz and Frederique Rol who held on to third place. Molly Reckford and Michelle Sechser of the USA secured the top spot ahead of France in second. The other LW2x SF saw the young Greek combination claim the last A-Final spot behind Ireland in second and Great Britain in first. The Brits were the fastest LW2x SF winners (06:58.57).
Preceding the SF races Uzbekistan and Ireland survived the PR2 Mix2x repechage and booked outside lanes for Saturday’s A-Final. The day’s first SF win went to Romania. Current LW1x European Champion Ionela Cozmiuc secured the first of two wins for Romania, the other being in the W2-. “Today was a good race but it was not easy,” says Cozmiuc who acknowledged the high standards at the 2022 worlds. She beat Dutch former European champion Martine Veldhuis who held off South Africa’s 2017 world champion Kirsten McCann. Mexico missed out on A-Final progression. In the second SF Italy’s Stefania Buttignon secured the final LW1x qualifying spot behind Greek European bronze medallist Zoe Fitsiou. New Zealand’s Jackie Kiddle delivered an assured win and an hour and twenty five minutes later she was back at the start line racing with Rachel Kennedy in the LW2x SF. The result of which – sixth place – means she has one shot at the medals.
In the LM1x Bulgaria pushed into an early lead but the chasing pack were stalking close behind. As the race developed Slovenia’s Rajko Hvat overhauled the Bulgarian as did Uruguay’s Bruno Cetraro Berriolo who delivered a mature race to finish just 0.2 seconds ahead of Hvat. Swiss sculler Andri Struzina beat both and took the top spot while racing from lane 6. The second SF saw Greece’s Antonios Papakonstantinou continue his championship winning streak despite a concerted effort by the Italian sculler deep in the third quarter. Gabriel Soares secured second place in a time 0.08 seconds quicker than Struzina’s winning time in the first semifinal. Great Britain finished with a seriously speedy sprint but it was not enough. France took the last spot into the A-Final and denied Australia’s Hamish Harding a shot at the medals.
In the W2- SF the Dutch looked good in pole position while the Romanians tracked behind. As the Irish dropped back, the hometown favourites Radka Novotnikova and Pavlina Flamikova lay in third place but came under increasing pressure from Croatia and Spain. Croatia’s Jurkovic sisters cracked the locals and rowed themselves into the final qualifying spot, while Romania levelled, then passed the Dutch. Spain’s two-time Olympian Aina Cid finished in sixth place. Cid and her partner Maria Fernanda Valencia Nunez switched out of the W4- (raced earlier in the season) but will close out their season from the outside lane in the B-Final. Another master class by New Zealand’s Olympic champions, Grace Prendergast and Kerri Williams (neé Gowler), in the second semifinal. They had a length lead at the first marker and extended it to open water as they approached halfway. Madeleine Wanamaker and Claire Collins of the USA were initially in a tussle with the Brits but rowed themselves into a safe second place, leaving the Brits to see off Italian and Aussie efforts. “There’s a couple of things we can tweak for the final,” says Great Britain’s Emily Ford, “we’ll have a day off, work on those and see what we can do.”
In the M2- Poland’s early efforts weren’t enough to keep them in the contest. Romania’s early lead was (eventually) scrubbed by Great Britain’s Tom George and Ollie Wynne-Griffith. It was bowball to bowball at the halfway mark and a close fight all the way to the finish. Great Britain’s smooth, steady power was enough to take the top spot. New Zealand finished clear water back in third place. South Africa were the unlucky fourth placers. In the second semifinal Serbia rowed down the American and Lithuanian pairs to secure the last qualification spot. Ahead of them Spain’s European bronze medallists smoothly rowed themselves to first place despite the rugged efforts of Australia’s Tokyo 2020 M4- Olympic champion Alex Hill and his bowman Harley Moore.
A mid-morning pick-me-up for the home crowd came by way of Jiri Simanek and Miroslav Vrastil in the Czech LM2x. They were the first to secure a spot in the A-Final, finishing ahead of Italy and France who edged out the Spanish. In SF 2 Switzerland led the first half but succumbed to the relentless effort of Ireland’s world and Olympic champions Finatan McCarthy and Paul O’Donovan who enter the A-Final with the fastest SF time. Ukraine claimed the last spot into the A-Final.
Great Britain continue their rampage through the W4- event, clocking the fastest time of the two semifinals. Ireland drifted in-and-out of contact with the British boat before finishing with a flurry. Probably neither crew have showed their full hand, yet. Whereas China were ecstatic to snag third place ahead of New Zealand. In SF 2 the Dutch dominated from ticker to tape. The Aussies secured second but were almost caught by Romania who had rowed through the Danes to book the last spot in the A-Final.
On the men’s side Ireland will be disappointed to have landed in the B-Final having started well. There was very little between the four lead crews throughout the first half of the first M4- SF 1. In the third quarter the Dutch began to nose their bows ahead of Romania, while Switzerland begin to creep up to the Irish. At the line the Netherlands just beat Romania and the Swiss take third. In the second SF Great Britain rowed through the fast-starting Aussies and extended their lead in the second half while striking a lower stroke rate. No change between these top two crews at the finish and Ukraine claim the final spot into the A-Final ahead of South Africa in fourth place.
In W4x SF 2 Great Britain built a length lead and held it as a vicious fight brewed behind them. Australia fought tooth and nail to the finish line to edge the Dutch into third place and an outside lane for Saturday’s A-Final. All three will meet China, Ukraine and Switzerland, the respective first, second and third place finishers from the first SF; each were less than a second quicker than those of SF 2. The Chinese Tokyo 2020 Olympic champions delivered a strong, unruffled win, while a determined Ukrainian quad rowed through the Swiss.
The Ukrainian men could not repeat such a race in their M4x SF 1. Italy got out to an early lead and for most of the race remained unchallenged. In the final sprint to the line Great Britain pulled closer to the Italians and Estonia edged out Ukraine for third place. The last A|B semifinal was a corker. Poland belted off the blocks and were followed and flanked by the Romanians and Dutch crews either side. Through the middle thousand Poland and Romania pushed ahead of Netherlands who kept ahead of the French in fourth place. By the finish the Polish had held off the repeated attacks from Romania and the Dutch secured the last spot to the A-Final.
Of the C|D SF the most exciting races came in the lightweight events. Algeria kept ahead of a blazing sprint finish from Japan, Canada, and Great Britain in the LW1x C|D SF 1. Arlett finished a couple of second shy of a spot in the C-Final. The following race had Swiss supporters clanging their cowbells as Eline Rol held off the French sculler. C|D SF 2 LM2x saw a fierce finish between Mexico and the USA, while the Polish LW2x got the better of Spain by 0.01 seconds in their SF! China’s Wei Han secured the top spot in his C|D SF while Steve Redgrave watched from the grandstand. The penultimate race of the day – the M1x Final F – was won by Zimbawe and Molesey Boat Club’s Stephen Cox who rowed through Serbia’s Victor Pivac in the third quarter. And the day’s racing finished with a win for Monaco’s Quentin Antognelli in the M1x Final E.