The 1972 Olympic Regatta Course glistened on day one of the 2022 European Rowing Championships. A persistent headwind made for a challenging first day of racing. It was a jittery start for the hometown here Oliver Zeidler. The defending European champion is coached by his father Heino Zeidler – a former national team rower – and his grandfather, Hans-Johann Färber, won the Munich 1972 Olympics on this course. No pressure then!
Kicking starting the action was another German sculler, Manuela Diening who came second to the Norwegian Paralympic champion Birgit Skarstein in the preliminary race of the PR1 W1x. There were two PR1 M1x heats and the winners earned direct passage to the A-Final; Italy’s Giacomo Perini held Ben Pritchard at bay in Heat 1, and Ukraine’s Paralympic champion, Roman Polianskyi, dominated Heat 2. Ukraine won the preliminary PR2 Mix2x race and beat France by less than a second. Capping off the Para races Great Britain’s PR3 Mix4+ delivered a dominant performance against France, Italy, Germany and Spain. British cox Erin Kennedy who is currently battling breast cancer, tweeted: “When I was diagnosed, I thought ‘If I make it to Euros, that would be unbelievable’. I was determined to live life to the full following my diagnosis but wasn’t sure what might be possible.”
Kennedy’s fellow countrymen Emily Ford and Esme Booth, beat the Dutch W2-; both crews progress directly to the A-Final. Greece’s double U23 world champion Christina Bourmpou finished third and will race the repechage. Bourmpou told Row360, “We are a new crew… We do not need to put too much pressure on ourselves as that will only slow us down. We can improve each race.” Heat 2 winners Romania kept well-clear of the fight for second place between Croatia and Ireland; the Jurkovic sisters finished half a second ahead of Ireland.
Eventually every M2- in Heat 1 secured a place in the A|B semifinals, but it was Romania, Spain and Poland who did it at the first attempt. Moldova won the repechage in the afternoon, and also returning to race were the Hungarian who took it up to 50 strokes a minute to get the job done. In Heat 2 the British pair from Cambridge University Boat Club secured the win ahead of Lithuania and Netherlands. Austria survived the repechage to earn a spot in the A|B semifinal.
Drama in Heat 1 of the W2x as Ukraine momentarily stopped during the third quarter, allowing Lithuania, Italy, and Poland to scull away and into the A|B semifinal. Ireland’s Sanita Puspure and Zoe Hyde overlapped with the winners of World Rowing Cup I and II at the finish but expect the Dutch to step on through the regatta. Romania are the form crew in this event; the Olympic Champions Ancuta Bodnar and Simona Radis set the quickest W2x Heat of 07:26.23. Those unable to qualify first time around returned for repechage in the afternoon. It was a race not to come last, and Hungary lost.
Heat 1 of the M2x saw Lithuania and Greece battle each other to the finish line. The Lithuanians beat the Greeks and both were ahead of Romania in third place. All three booked spots in the A|B semifinals. In the second heat Spain held off Norway and Czech Republic, who in turn forced Hungary into the repechage. The last heat of the M2x was almost a procession. Sweden seemed resigned to their fate early in the race as they trailed in (non-qualifying) last place. At the front the Sinkovic brothers cruised to the finish almost four lengths ahead of Poland who were well clear of Italy in third.
A heart in the mouth moment for Irish supporters as they watched Switzerland take charge of the first heat of the LM2x. The sound of cowbells at the finish grandstand were soon drowned out by cheering Irish fans as the Olympic champions Fintan McCarthy and Paul O’Donovan came a charging through the second half of the race. Italy joined Ireland as the only other LM2x to progress directly to the A-Final, the rest will meet in the repechage on Thursday. Portugal’s strokeman Dinis Duarte Costa will hope not to repeat his mini crab, five strokes before the finish. No doubt his coach, John West will share some wise words during the debrief.
With her left forearm clad in kinesiology tape Federica Cesarini led her bowwoman Valentina Rodini to a ten second victory over the French in the first heat of the LW2x . The Olympic champions were quick to establish their lead and looked sharp despite despite the tricky headwind. In the other heat Great Britain fielded their Olympic combo for the first time since Tokyo 2020. Imogen Grant and Emily Craig clocked 07:42.44, just 0.77 second slower than the Italians.
Great Britain’s W4- were untroubled as they secured the first A-Final qualification spot in the fours just two hours before doubling up in the women’s eight. Romania in second place also gained direct qualification to the A-Final. Come the W8+ race it was Romania that pushed Great Britain into the repechage. In the second heat of the W4- Ireland won from the far side of the course, furthest from the finish tower, while Denmark held off the Dutch to secure the final direct spot into the A-Final. Ireland, Denmark, Netherlands all doubled up in the W8+. It is the first senior Irish W8+ to race on the international circuit. In the last race of the W8+ the Dutch qualified direct for the A-Final, sending Ireland and Denmark into the repechage.
In the M4- Poland produced a quick start but Freddie Davidson’s smooth rhythm allowed Great Britain to take pole position in the second quarter and they held it through to the finish. Switzerland had a pop at Poland but were kept at bay to the tune of half a length. Hometown favourites Germany will need to find more speed if they want to be competitive during the business end of the regatta. In the other heat the Dutch dominated the middle thousand and finished with a length of clear water on Romania. Romania were the quickest non-qualifiers. They have three Tokyo 2020 Olympic silver medallists onboard and will need to hold their nerve in the repechage if they want to compete for a medal at Munich.
After illness and injury dogged her season it was good to see Austria’s Tokyo 2020 Olympic medallist Magdalena Lobnig racing in the W1x single. She produced the quickest time of all three W1x heats; 08:42.83. It was a similar story in the M1x as Greek Olympic champion Stephanos Ntouskos made his international return and produced the quickest time (7:41.36) of the 19 other scullers. In Heat 3 all eyes were on Zeidler so it was unfortunate that he fluffed his first stroke. It cost him more over a length but he kept his cool and rowed through to win. “I’ve done more than a 1000 starts here at the course, and this was definitely one of the worst,” Zeidler said after the race, “But we should concentrate on the result, it was a win and I could save one race tomorrow. Very important in these headwind conditions”.
Ukraine beat the Netherlands by 2 seconds in the first heat of the W4x. The second heat was blown apart by Great Britain after they rowed away from the Swiss in the second half of the race. In the M4x Romania delivered a strong performance in Heat 1 and progressed to the A|B semifinal along with the Czech Republic and Belgium in second and third place, respectively. Poland had Heat 2 wrapped up early, leaving Lithuania and Switzerland to scrap bowball-to-bowball in their wake. By the finish Lithuania drifted across the line in third place having gifted the Swiss second place two buoy-lines prior. It was almost an Italian master class in the last M4x heat. Italy seemed to have established control but their margin on the chasing pack eroded fast in the final quarter. In the race to avoid repechage an improved Great Britain clung to second place behind Italy. Half a length back Netherlands and France fought tooth and nail to the finish. Ultimately, the French nabbed third place and sent the Dutch into repechage.