Perfect conditions welcomed the international rowing family to the opening world cup regatta of the 2023 season.
Switzerland’s Macon wielding, 19-year old, Aurelia-Maxima Janzen made an impressive start in the women’s single sculls. She led Spainish Olympian Virginia Diaz Rivas for all but the final few hundred meters. Another Tokyo 2020 Olympian won the second heat, Serbia’s Jovana Arsic, who led from start to finish. Desislava Angelova of Bulgaria secured the remaining spot direct to the A-Final. The rest race in Saturday’s repechage, including the other Swiss sculler Pascale Walker.
The first Spanish victory came in the first race of the day, the women’s pairs preliminary race. Two of the three Spanish pairs withdrew prior to the draw, leaving a three boat race between Spain, Croatia and Czechia. Spain’s new combination of Esther Briz Zamorano and Tokyo 2020 Olympian Aina Cid, who underwent surgery in the off-season, led from start to finish. But were pressured by the Czech pair who had a strong third 500m and distanced the local Jurkovic sisters. A solid lung-opener to start the international season but more firepower and rate is likely to come in the final. A repeat result would see Zamorano win her first senior world gold medal at her first world rowing cup.
In the men’s pairs four A-Final spots were at stake and the remaining crews race Saturday’s repechage. In Heat 1 Denmark and Croatia had snappy starts. Joachim Sutton and Frederic Vystavel have reunited for the first time since winning bronze at Tokyo 2020. The Danish duo initially took poll position with Switzerland in second place. By the finish the top two swapped places and Croatia’s Loncaric twins claimed third ahead of Hungary. 2022 World silver medallists Spain beat the Serbia’s Tokyo 2020 Olympic A-Finallists in Heat 2. They were both ahead of Austria and Slovenia whose punchy pace out of the blocks quickly faded.
Two Swiss crews set the early pace in the women’s doubles preliminary race. The Lobnig sisters – stroked by Tokyo 2020 W1x bronze medallist Magdalena Lobnig – cruised through the mid-race. They underrated their opposition before slipping by South Africa and Ukraine, to finish second behind Fabienne Schweizer and Lisa Loetscher of Switzerland. The Czech double snagged fifth place ahead of Switzerland 2 who faded after their early tussle at the front.
The Sinkovic brothers delivered a faultless performance on home water in the first heat of the men’s doubles. They finished almost ten seconds ahead of the Serbians who beat Argentina, India, Hungary and Thailand. The Croatian double will be joined in Sunday’s A-Final by Spain’s 2022 world silver medallists Rodrigo Conde Romero and Aleix Garcia Pujolar, who held Estonia at bay in their heat.
The last race of the morning session saw the Czech men’s quad deliver an impeccable second thousand to overhaul Ukraine and cross the finish line first in their preliminary race, but their efforts were in vain. Back on land, following an official boat-weighing, the Czech boat was found to be underweight and they were relegated to last place. Ukraine were bumped to first place having held off the high-rating, fast-finishing Swiss crew. Croatia’s hometown heroes were still last albeit (officially) third not fourth.
Ukraine’s women’s quad started the afternoon session by dispatching Switzerland by three lengths. It was the first of two preliminary races, the second being the women’s fours. Chile and Spain blasted off of the blocks leaving Hong Kong in last place. Chile’s winning Abraham sisters continuing their form from the 2023 Pan American Games Qualification Regatta.
In the men’s fours Ukraine stuck with last season’s line up. They beat two crews from India and one from Hong Kong to win the first heat in a time of 6:10.56. Switzerland had the quickest men’s four of the day. They beat South Africa to win Heat 2 in a time of 6:02.08.
A cracking race in the lightweight men’s single sculls saw Slovakia’s Peter Strecansky, 17, the youngest competitor at the regatta, book his place in Saturday’s A-Final. Strecansky was closely followed by Paul Ruttmann who squeezed his Austrian teammate Lukas Reim into the B-Final along with the Argentine sculler, Santino Menin.
The men’s single sculls quarterfinals closed out the day’s racing. Bulgaria’s Kristian Vasilev was the first men’s single quarterfinal winner. Reigning world champion Olli Zeidler looked as comfortable in the third quarterfinal as he had in the morning’s Heat. Smooth and strong he raced the first half aggressively before easing back to rate 27 and allowing the field to close in. Croatia’s Olympic medallist Damir Martin finished 1.47s behind Zeidler.
Another Olympic giant showing his class in Zagreb was Sverri Nilssen. The Danish sculler returns to international racing for the first time since finishing fourth at Tokyo 2020. He was almost 60 meters ahead of the next quickest sculler at the halfway mark before winning Quarterfinal 4. Fellow Dane Bastian Secher finished second to Quarterfinal 2 winner Nikolaj Pimenov, who the makes his debut for Serbia having raced the last six seasons for Russia.