Early morning flat water soon disappeared as the headwind returned with a vengeance, thus more crabs when the first medals were up for grabs. A blockbuster ending for the home crowds was not on offer by Deutschland Achter but it was a mad one in Munich for the Dutch M8+. The last race had more flare, drama, and extravagance than Bavarian baroque!
The first medals of the championships went to Italy, Ukraine and Great Britain in the PR1 M1x. Italy’s Giacomo Perini slipped out to an early lead and held it to the finish. Ukraine’s Roman Polianskyi tracked behind Great Britain’s Ben Pritchard before pushing past in the third quarter. Silver for Ukraine’s Paralympic champion and bronze for Pritchard. Norway’s Birgit Skarstein extends her formidable legacy in the PR1 W1x with a dominant gold-medal-winning performance. Skarstein finished 8 seconds clear of Germany’s Manuela Diening who delighted local supporters with a silver. Ukraine’s Anna Sheremet won bronze to deny Tokyo 2020 silver medallist Moran Samuel a place on the podium.
No joy for the German crowd but relief for Italian LM4x strokeman Patrick Rocek. His boat stopping crab was not enough to stop Italy from beating Germany in their two boat straight final. It seems catching a boat-speed-improving-crab is de rigueur.
At the first marker of the W2- A-Final it was a tight contest between the Dutch, Irish, and British crews, while the Romanians tracked behind them. Through the middle thousand Great Britain took the the lead, and the Irish slipped back. In the final quarter Romania raised their rate and rowed through Great Britain’s Emily Ford and Esme Booth . Gold for Romania, silver for Great Britain, and bronze for the Netherlands. Ireland, Croatia, and Greece, missed out on the podium. “We’re so happy with the win,” says Romania’s bowwoman Iona Vrinceanu. After the medal ceremony the crowd sung Happy Birthday to Romania’s newly crowded European champion, Denisa Tilvescu.
Another winning Romanian pair in the M2- A-Final. The British did not have their best start and were unable to match the racy rhythm of Romania. While Romania, and Spain’s bronze-medallists, celebrated at the finish, the pain-etched faces of the British belied their (thwarted) golden ambitions. “Maybe not a perfect weekend,” says Ollie Wynne-Griffth, “three solid races but we didn’t step on today the way we are capable of… it’s not a gold medal – it’s a lesson”.
Ireland bolted from the start pontoon and dominated the early stages of the W4- A-Final. Unruffled by their neighbours Great Britain slipped into their smooth rhythm and found the fastest boat speed through the middle of the race. Overlap on the finish line between the four top crews. Denmark were forced into fourth place, Ireland held on to silver less than a second in front of Romania in third. The Dutch looked disappointed with fifth, and a dejected Poland finished in last place. “We had some trouble in the second 500 [meters] but our last thousand was perfect so we know what to work on before worlds [2022 World Rowing Championships],” says Frida Nielsen “I’m sad about fourth place but happy with our race.”
Romania’s M4- started with a ferocity but it was the British who delivered unmatchable speed in the second half. A gritty Romanian performance who toughed it out for a place on the podium. Gold for Great Britain, silver for the Netherlands, and bronze for Romania.
A third consecutive gold medal for Great Britain in the W4x. The British lead from the start: “It’s nice to look back and cover our position,” says Jess Leyden “That’s our motto: train hard to race easy.” The Dutch claimed silver despite the best efforts from Ukraine’s Yevheniia Dovhodko who stroked her crew to bronze.
“Italia! Italia!” Cried the animated Italian supporters as their M4x blasted clear of the pack. Poland led the chase and began to reel back the Azure. The sticking point came at at half a length of overlap. No matter the mounting effort, Italy held firm. In the dying meters Romania launched a final sprint for the line but could not deprive Poland of their silver, nor Italy of gold. Great Britain came fourth – their best performance this season – ahead of Estonia and France.
Given their team’s punchy performances in the earlier races it was no surprise to see Tokyo 2020 Olympic champions Ancuta Bodnar and Simona Radis dominate the W2x. At the first marker the Dutch maintained half a length of overlap but by the finish Romania were 7 seconds ahead of Laila Youssifou and Roos De Jong.
As British M8+ raced towards the first marker the Dutch floundered from a boat-stopping, lane-swapping crab. “Our strokeman caught a big crab,” says Nicolas Van Sprang. “First it was a buoy but then we moved all the way over, across a lane. I thought damn that’s not quite what we wanted! After that we put it all in and, at some point, I started seeing the Romanians out of the corner of my eye. After that it was eyes closed, all the way to the finish. I’ve watched a lot of rowing races but I don’t have any reference of an eights race like that. I’m really proud of the boys.” When he rewatches the race he’ll see an epic comeback. They rowed through everyone bar the Brits. Britain claimed their nation’s fourth gold medal. On the far side of the course an all-star Italian line-up delivered an incredible sprint finish to deny Germany a medal on home water.
In the LM1x Greece won the first A|B Semifinal half length in front of Switzerland. A few lengths back Bulgaria took third. They will meet the high-rating Slovenian, Rajko Hrvat, who came second to Italy’s Gabriel Soares in the other semifinal. Austria claimed the last spot in the A-Final ahead of Denmark’s Rasmus Lind.
The quicker of the two M2x semifinals went to Spain. Serbia and Lithuania took second and third place. In the second A|B semifinal the Sinkovic brothers raced from the front and safely claimed a spot in the A-Final. Italy’s Simone Venier and Davide Mumolo finished in third 0.3 seconds behind the Greeks.
The M1x semifinals were as cagey as they were entertaining; even the competitors couldn’t help but watch the action. In the final 200 meters lead sculler Graeme Thomas eyeballed the Greek Olympic champion Stefanos Ntouskos all the way to the finish line. Great Britain’s Thomas waited for a move that never came. Further back Bulgaria denied Norway’s Kjetil Borch a spot in the A-Final. In the second A|B semifinal it was Oliver Zeidler’s turn to watch like a hawk. The hometown hero led the Dutch up-and-come Melvin Twellar. Both crews relaxed in the last hundred meters, establishing a tacit agreement to conserve energy. Denmark took the last spot into the A-Final. “I had control over the last three guys,” says Denmark’s Bastian Secher. “I tried to forget about Melvin [Twellaar] and [Oliver] Zeidler and stay in my own race. The last 800 meters were really rough but I managed to get through and into the A-Final.” In his first season as a senior international he feels “happy about everything I can do this year”.
Karolien Florijn established a big lead and crossed the finish in a time of 07:59.10, for the Netherlands. The home crowd were pleased to see Alexandra Foester take second place, as she continues to rediscover her form during this regatta. Greece’s Evangelia Anastasiadou finished in third place.
A heartbroken Jeanine Gmelin, the Swiss W1x, tested positive for Covid and withdrew ahead of the second A|B semifinal. While Gmelin isolated in her hotel room Spain’s Virginia Diaz Rivas delivered a strong performance to secure her spot in the A-Final. Magdalena Lobnig took second place 3 seconds ahead of Norway in third.
Spain’s W4- placed 3rd in their B-Final. “It doesn’t seem like it is working enough to carry on with, especially as this Olympic cycle is a short one. We don’t have enough time to improve and qualify next year, so we might be changing to the pair. It is a boatclass that Spain knows well,” says former W2- European champion Aina Cid. Cid admits she has kept tabs on the W2- event at Munich, “I’ve been looking at it because it is not going so well in the four. I wonder how I might have done in the pair. In recent years I would have been competing in the A-Finals and racing for the medals. It is bittersweet. There’s a feeling of nostalgia too. At the end of the day, we tried the four and it is a chance to learn.”
For European Rowing Championships day three gallery shots, click here.