The final day of the 2022 European Rowing Championships delivered an intoxicating mix of pain, pressure, and performance. Great Britain topped the medal table and continued their post-Tokyo redemption. They finished one gold and one minor medal ahead of Romania who ranked second. Greece climbed to fifth; a particularly impressive performance given that they did not feature on the 2021 European Rowing Championship medal table. These championship results will be a bitter pill to swallow for the host nation but their performances in the W1x and PR1 W1x might dull the pain. It is the first time since 2012 that Germany failed to secure a European title.
Greek head coach Giovanni Postiglione watched as Antonios Papakonstantinou claimed Greece’s first medal at this championships. At halfway Papakonstantinou led Italy’s Gabriel Soares. The Italian’s best efforts kept him in touch but was not enough to erode Greece’s one length lead. Papakonstantinou held the lead all the way to the finish. It’s Soares’ second consecutive European Rowing Championships LM1x silver medal. Switzerland claimed bronze. Slovenia’s Rajko Hvat who missed the podium says he struggled with in the headwind. “It was difficult. I lost contact off the start and I tried my best to get back [to the front of the field] but I could not do anymore than this today.”
In the LW1x the 2020 European champion Martine Veldhuis took an early lead but Romania crept back and through the Dutch sculler. Greece’s Zio Fitsiou tracked behind the two scullers in third place. As they approached the final 250 meters a gutsy effort from the Greek saw Fitsiou take silver ahead of Veldhuis who held off Ireland for bronze. After the race Fitsiou warranted attention from the medical staff as she sat recovering with bags of ice. “The start was good,” says the Netherland’s Veldhuis “I tried to keep up with the Romanian girl and she was a bit stronger today and I guess the favourite. Then I tried to keep second place but the Greek girl is a tough one and she beat me in the sprint. Sometimes the sprint is good but today my legs were empty”.
Ukraine claimed their first gold medal at these championships via Iaroslave Koiuda and Svitlana Bohuslavska in the PR2 Mix2x. They beat France and Poland who took the respective silver and bronze medals. The Ukrainian athletes who have been displaced due to the ongoing war – received a long-applause from the crowds, their efforts were well received.
Another silver for France in the PR3 Mix4+ while lengths ahead Great Britain continued their dominance of this boat class. Italy claimed the bronze medal. “It is my first proper major event,” says Great Britain’s three seat Edward Fuller “to come away with the gold medal – it was an incredible experience to be a part of”. The tears flowed after the medal ceremony for cox Erin Kennedy who embraced her loved ones in the crowd. Erin, who was diagnosed with breast cancer a few months ago, will be taking a break from the team as she continues her treatment over the coming months.
High-rating start (50+ strokes a minute) across the board in the LM2x. The Swiss were the early leaders. Ireland’s bow nudged past Italy at the 750 meter marker. The Swiss held the lead at the halfway mark and all three crews ticked over close to 40 strokes a minute. Ireland’s relentless pace saw them take pole position and open clear water on the chasers. Ireland’s Olympic champion won gold. Italy claimed silver half a length in front of Switzerland. Portugal finished strongly but missed the podium positions.
Great Britain edged to the front of the field during the first half of the LW2x. France and Ireland maintained overlap while Italy tracked behind. As the final 500 meters approach Great Britain’s third quarter effort had given them a smidgen of clear water, which they duly extended to a comfortable two and half length win over France. A ferocious battle between Italy and Ireland resulted in a bronze medal for the Italian Olympic champions.
The Sinkovic brothers delivered another gold in the M2x despite Spain’s attempts to unsettle them early in the race. The Croatians finished 2.5 seconds ahead of Spain who beat Lithuania in third place. As yet no one has beaten the Croatians since they returned to the double after their successful Tokyo Olympiad in the pair.
The closing stages of the W1x saw a medal-winning effort from the German fans. Karolien Florijn raced from the front and maintained a safe distance ahead of the fight for the minor medals. Alexandra Foester’s response to the home support in the grandstand was clear to see. On the far side of the lake Katharina Lobnig – riding in the coaches’ peloton – urged on her sister in Lane 2. The Tokyo 2020 bronze medallist clung dearly to third place but in the dying strokes Lobnig had nothing left. An adrenaline filled Foester claimed bronze, behind Greece in silver. “It was not easy with the wind the conditions and it didn’t feel easy to me,” says Dutch gold medallist, Florijn. “I know that Alexandra Foester has a big sprint at the end, so I knew I had to watch her before she goes crazy for the last 500 meters. It wasn’t easy with headwin and others kept pushing me. I’ve very happy with the result.”
A duel for gold in the W8+ saw Romania and Great Britain battle for the gold ahead of the Dutch who claimed the bronze. Italy, Germany and Denmark were further back but raced hard to the line and finished in that order. “I don’t know exactly what happened but it felt very similar to the heat,” says Heidi Long strokewoman of the British eight. “We were a bit slow off the start and then built our rhythm and pace through the middle of the race. We didn’t have enough gears at the end to hold the Romanians off in a brutal headwind. We gave it our best.”
It was a perfectly timed performance from the Dutchman in a highly anticipated M1x finale. Through the early stages Oliver Zeidler and Stefanos Ntouskos went stroke for stroke. The Olympic champion squeezed ahead in the second quarter and crossed the halfway mark three quarters of a length in front of Zeidler. Fever-pitch scenes in the grandstand as Zeidler responded well in the third quarter. He had his bowball in front with 500 meters left to race. It looked like the perfect race by the hometown hero but Melvin Twellaar and Stefanos Ntouskos pushed again – and Zeidler unravelled. “I just couldn’t stand the last 20 strokes, I blew up and there was nothing more possible. I did everything on the course today,” says Zeidler “in the end the others were better.” A bruising encounter for the German, which may take longer to recover mentally than physically, he delivered everything bar the coupe de gras. Bulgaria took bronze ahead of a heartbroken Zeidler. A photofinish determined the Twellaar to have won 0.3 seconds ahead of the Greek Olympic champion. Cue the swimmers.