The first day of the 2023 European Rowing Championships saw 37 heat races, 20 of which were won by British, Dutch or Romanian crews. Seven apiece for Great Britain and the Netherlands, and six for Romania. Perhaps, an early indication as to who will top the medal table.
Flat conditions with an occasional cross tail wind were a welcome alternative to the electrical storms that threaten earlier in the week. In fact, the temperature on Lake Bled reached a toasty 22°C, prompting some athletes to wear ice jackets after racing.
The PR1 W1x athletes were the first to take to Bled’s crystal clear waters. Norway’s Paralympic champion, Birgit Skarstein, continued her winning streak by beating Israel’s Moran’s Samuel by three seconds to secure direct passage to the A-Final. She will be joined by France’s Nathalie Benoit who won the slower of the two heats.
In the PR2 Mix2x Great Britain’s two-time Paralympic champion, Lauren Rowles, made a strong start, alongside her new teammate Gregg Stevenson, who made his European debut. The British duo won their heat ahead of France, Italy, and Germany. The Dutch won the second heat, ahead of Ukraine, and will join the British in the A-Final. Poland edged out Ireland at the finish.
Two preliminary races topped-and-tailed the first block of racing. PR1 M1x Giacomo Perini delighted the very vocal, Italian contingent of the grandstand in the third race of the day. The defending European champion delivered a comprehensive win over the reigning world champion, Ukraine’s Roman Polianskyi. Polianskyi held off Germany, Israel, Great Britain and the Netherlands.
Great Britain made light work of the men’s eight preliminary race. They underrated their opposition and won (seemingly) without the bells and whistles of an all out effort – they still looked relaxed as the charging Dutch crew came within three quarters of a length in the final 500m. Romania held on to third place ahead of Italy in fourth. Germany beat Poland who finished last.
Ireland produced a shock result in the men’s doubles. Philip Doyle and Daire Lynch impressed with their plucky performance in the second heat, getting the better of France’s reigning Olympic and world champions, Hugo Boucheron and Matthieu Androdias. The French were left fighting off a fast-finishing Romanian crew. France held off Romania who will race the repechage as will Poland and Denmark.
In the previous heat Italy held the Sinkovics to half a length in the first half, before the famous Croatian brothers swept into a comfortable clear water lead by the finish. They were both safely ahead of Estonia, Ukraine, and Hungary.
Netherland and Moldova also made it into the A|B semifinals. In the third heat three leading crews built an enormous gap on the rest of the field. At the finish the Dutch led and a canvas separated Moldova and Germany. The Germans, who were fourth at the first 500m, left it too late to gain a qualification spot despite rowing through Belgium.
A sedate affair in the fourth M2x heat saw Spain and Lithuania comfortably secure spots in the A|B semifinal ahead of Sweden and Serbia who will race the repechage.
There were two heats and two A-Final places available for the women’s doubles. The Dutch world silver medallists, Laila Youssifou and Roos De Jong, were as smooth and strong as one expects from an established world class combination. They beat Ireland’s Sanita Puspure and Zoe Hyde by four seconds.
Lithuania tried to rattle the Romanians in the second heat. Romania’s reigning Olympic, world and European champions were not expected to race together in the double at this event. Simona Radis replaces Under 23 champion Andrada Morosanu who moves into the women’s quad. The change did not impede their progress, Romania beat Lithiania who put almost ten seconds into Great Britain.
In the lightweight women’s doubles British world champions, Emily Craig and Imogen Grant, continued their dominance. They secured the only direct A-Final qualification spot in a time of 7:00.17, six seconds ahead of Greece, in the first of two heats.
In the second heat French Olympic silver medallists, Laura Tarantola and Claire Bove, raised their rate to 40spm to secure a two length win ahead of Poland in second. France finished a shade under the seven minute mark.
Romania had a stronghold over the second heat of the women’s pairs. They will join the dominant Dutch combination and world silver medallists, Ymkje Clevering and Veronique Meester, in the A-Final.
Croatia’s Jurkovic sisters led to the first 500m in the first heat but were unable to hold off the Netherlands through the middle, but did enough to stay ahead of Spain. Heat 2 saw Germany, three lengths behind Romania, hold off Great Britain. Italy finished at the back and struggled to get a foothold. They all face a tough round of racing in the repechage.
There were three heats in the men’s pairs, the top two crews in each heat won spots into the A|B semifinal while the rest will race in Friday’s repechages. The first heat saw Serbia and the reigning world champions, Romania, battle at the front of the field. Martin Mackovic and Milos Vasic pushed Marius Cozmiuc and Sergiu Bejan all the way to the finish, but the smoothness of the world beaters kept them a length in front. Both crews safely into the A|B semifinal.
Great Britain led from start to finish in a relatively relaxed second heat. The Brits cruised across the finish line ahead of Spain, safely ahead of Poland, Lithuania, and Greece.
The third heat was more combative. Switzerland’s new combo led from the start and their solid effort through the middle thousand kept Denmark in second place. The top two leaders were forced into a sprint finish, soundtracked by a chorus of Swiss cowbells from the crowd, due to a late surge by the Dutch. It was unfruitful, the Dutch, still third, finished half a length behind the Danish, who had overlap with the Swiss.
It was a quick start by Great Britain in the LW1x. Olivia Bates, who makes her senior international debut at Bled, grabbed an early lead but it was steadily gobbled up by Romania’s reigning world champion who underrated the newcomer. Ionela Cozmiuc crossed the finish line 16 seconds ahead of Bates. A strong debut, Bates will hope to beat the rest of the field again in the repechage.
Greece’s Evangelia Anastasiadou led from start to finish in the second heat, winning in a time of 7:48.56, six seconds slower than Cozmiuc. Ireland’s Siobhan McCrohan, in second place, made a solid return to the international scene, she last raced in 2016.
Italy’s European and world LM4x champion Niels Torre won the first heat of the LM1x. He will be joined by the France’s Hugo Beurey, who denied Switzerland’s World Rowing Cup I silver medallist, Andri Struzina, a direct passage to the A-Final.
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Comeback queen, Helen Glover, found early success with the world-beating British women’s four. Great Britain beat Ireland by two lengths while the high-rating Romanians held off the fast-finishing Danes in the previous heat. The heat winners progress directly to the A-Final the rest race the repechage.
Romania secured the only A-Final spot in the first heat of the men’s fours. Behind them a fantastic battle between Italy and Ireland went the way of the Azzurri. Switzerland finished fourth ahead of Poland and Austria.
The Dutch took an early lead in the second heat but the reigning world champions, Great Britain, stole a commanding lead through the middle and held it to the finish.
In the women’s and men’s quads it was Great Britain and the Netherlands who secured A-Final places. The Dutch eked out a clear water lead through the middle thousand of the second heat of the women’s quads. They held it to the finish despite a ferocious chase by Italy and France.
A strong third 500m from the British men allowed them a narrow lead ahead of Italy, the reigning European champions, who were pushed hard by Romania. Great Britain won by a length ahead of the Romanians who outgunned Italy. Italy faded to fourth behind Ukraine, ahead of Germany and Lithuania.
The Polish and Dutch scullers produced a scorching race in the second heat of the men’s quads. The Dutch won by half a length, four seconds quicker than the first heat.
There is plenty of racing scheduled for the women’s single scullers, and even more for Poland’s Marta Wieliczko who doubles up in the women’s double. The top three from the three W1x heats secured spots into the A|B semifinal.
Switzerland’s Aurelia-Maxima Janzen, 19, controlled the (fairly relaxed) first heat of the women’s single sculls. Her smooth, cyclical strokes contrasted Lithuania’s finish-thumping rhythm. Lithuania took second ahead of Czechia.
Dutch world champion Karolien Florijn took a comfortable win in the second heat ahead of Denmark. A crowd-pleasing third place went to Slovenia’s Nina Kostanjsek.
The third heat saw Croatia’s Jovana Arsic beat Spain’s Virginia Diaz Rivas who held off Bulagria’s Desislava Angelova. So, an extra race for Wieliczko who goes into the repechage.
There were four men’s single sculls heats, the winners of which qualify for the A|B semifinal. Denmark’s Sverri Nielsen progressed untroubled via the first heat, while Ollie Zeidler seemed shaky on the start pontoon but still outgunned Damir Martin in the fourth heat.
Dovydas Nemeravicius won the second heat despite typically featuring in Lithuania’s crew boats. A sparky sprint finish fired-off between Belgium, Spain, and Hungary as they battled for second, third, and fourth. Norway’s Olympic medallist, Kjetil Borch, conserved his energy for the repechage. He returns to international racing after struggling with illness this year.
Greece’s Stefanous Ntouskos won the third heat more comfortably than the two second margin indicates. Bulgaria’s Kristian Vasilev held off Italy’s Davide Plominski to finish in second place.
There were three heats of lightweight men’s doubles, followed two and half hours later by two repechages. Switzerland were unable shake off Ukraine but held their length lead despite the battle between Spain and Ukraine for the final qualification spot. Ukraine beat Spain by barely a canvas.
In the second heat Hugh Moore joined by Fintan McCarthy who replaced his brother Jacob in Ireland’s LM2x. It did not seem to hinder their performance. Ireland and Poland progressed directly to the A|B semifinal despite a valiant charge from the Portuguese, whose efforts fizzled out in the final few meters.
With most of the field content to go via the repechage Greece comfortably cruised to second place behind Italy who were the quickest of the heat winners, clocking 6:24.09.
The day finished with two barnstorming repechage races. In the first Czechia beat Spain by less than two tenths of a second and Denmark denied Great Britain a spot in the A|B semifinal by less than a second. Germany took a narrow victory over Norway in the second heat with Portugal securing the final A|B semifinal spot.