Repechages concentrate the mind wonderfully, and as day three dawned at the Racice 2022 worlds it was time for a short sharp session in which 44 more crews would fall off the medal pathway and into the doldrums of the C/D semis and finals. This suited a bigger crowd than had been seen on the two previous days, perhaps because some supporters had now turned up after not travelling to the early heats. Their Tuesday reward was some thrilling racing, including the eights heats and quads repechages, events which always provide a more frenetic atmosphere than the small-boat races.
Although it was three-through to the semis in the quads, that didn’t help Romania’s women’s quad, who were unlucky enough to be between New Zealand and Germany in the lanes and to fall a length down on both in the first half of the race to get wash from both sides. That left Romania suffering at just the wrong point on the course, when they were trying to get back on the Poles for the last qualifying slot. To thunderous shouting from the grandstands they closed from two seconds behind to less than one, but it wasn’t quite enough to reach the A/B semis. Germany meanwhile ended halfway between winners New Zealand and third-place Poland, but that puts them well down the likely finishing order of the semi-finals (more of the German woes later) since all these repechage qualifiers have already lost to three of the nine crews already bagging semi-final spots.
The men’s quads were fun, the first repechage going off noisily then ending in a tumultuous sprint which produced two unclear results initially labelled photofinishes. After early leaders Switzerland were caught, the photofinish for first was won by France by only 0.06 seconds quicker than the Swiss, while Lithuania managed to stay just ahead of a good Belgian crew by a third of a second and the Czechs by double that. The second repechage was not quite as close, but with much less of a gap between China and Norway, lying second and third to Estonia. Overall France weren’t quite as quick as Estonia but at least they had no bladework errors this time as they did on Sunday. It was disappointing to see China, as winners of the first two world cup quads, so slow in the event this end of the season, since they should by now have recovered from the Lucerne Covid issues which left them sixth in July.
There were also reps for the coxless fours, Canada being dropped out of contention after coming fourth in the women’s race but a more brutal qualification of only two per race for the men’s crews. The Ukrainian sweep crews have finally found places to train around Europe since the early upsets when war started in the spring, and their four matched and then topped China’s world cup I bronze medallists in the early stages of the first rep. This was followed by France managing to charge through China in the third quarter to push the Asian hopefuls out of qualification. Switzerland, anchored by Boat Race duo Roman Roeoesli and Simon Schuerch in the bow pair, came under serious fire from the German coxless four at the end of the second rep, but both were comfortably ahead of Lithuania and Italy in qualification despite the latter’s furious dash to the line.
In the lightweight women’s doubles reps Greece’s young duo (including 16-year-old Dimitra Kontou) saw off Olympic champions Valentina Rodini and Federica Cesarini (ITA) who only just managed to beat Poland by 0.03 seconds in the last stroke of a two-to-qualify race format. Meanwhile Switzerland’s Patricia Merz and Frederique Rol were comfortable ahead of Australians Anneka Reardon and Lucy Coleman, and Canada’s 6th-placed Olympians beat New Zealand’s new partnership of Rachael Kennedy with 2019 LW2x champion Jackie Kiddle. The closest of the four lightweight reps in a very evenly-matched event was the third, in which Chinese Belgrade silver medallists Zou Jiaqi and Xiuping Qiu soared off away from Germany’s Reichardt twins then held on confidently as the field closed up completely behind them. Germany’s efforts in holding off the Czech Republic finish charge were particularly impressive given the lacklustre racing of many of their team’s other crews this week.
The German issue has been hitting the ever-active Deutsche press recently and involves a fair degree of navel-gazing after critiques from current rowers and the relatively poor results in Munich last month. These amounted to just five out of ten crews in A-finals, a lowly fourth for the M8+, and their only medal a W1x bronze. Yesterday the German Rowing Federation announced in its daily round-up that their men’s double of Max Appel and Moritz Wolff had to be withdrawn due to “bootsinterner Differenzen” (“internal crew differences”) after finishing a disappointing fourth in their heat, although the World Rowing communication says it is because Appel cannot row for medical reasons. Then on Tuesday morning veteran lightweight Marie-Louise Draeger withdrew from her repechage before the start, announcing a premature and permanent retirement from the sport due to a back injury suffered on training camp and which worsened this week. “I had imagined it all differently, but my body showed me that it was time to stop”, said Draeger, who had planned to retire after racing for the last time here.
Added to all this, the Zeidler siblings (Olli and Marie-Sophie) had recently been highly critical of the federation’s management whose leader is sports director Mario Woldt, and before the regatta M8+ stroke Torben Johannesen had described it to the German press as “a farce”. “There are people in this council who are the focus of criticism. They sort of control themselves”, he added, after an internal review was announced which apparently plans to have several employees reviewing their own work. “You lose confidence in the association because a lot is announced but nothing is implemented”.
On Tuesday the German men’s eight finished fourth in its heat joining several other crews in repechages, many of whom were the second-slowest to qualify for A/B semifinals, so watch this space for further developments. The best of the men’s eights on the day were the British and Canadians, winning the two races ahead of the Romanians and Dutch. Romania gunned it all the way to the line without making a dent in the strong British lead, while the Dutch led but were rowed down in a tense battle with Canada and Australia. The Maple Leafers outrowed the other two eights in a lovely surge to which nobody had any reply. The women’s exhibition race was won by the US, but was unlikely to be a reflection of true speed given the doubling-up going on with the Dutch and Romanians in particular.
Before the repechages and eights the day had opened with heats and exhibition-contests from the remaining para-rowing and non-Olympic events. To nobody’s surprise Olympic champion Roman Polianskyi (UKR), five-times world champion Erik Horrie (AUS) and European champion Giacomo Perini (ITA) took the heat wins in the PR1 men’s singles, on a flattish lake which saw only short bursts of wind later in the morning. Anna Sheremet (UKR) and Birgit Skarstein (NOR) won the only finals places in the PR1 women’s singles, with Nathalie Benoit narrowly the best of the rest on time. Slotted in between the doubles and eights the German para-four quietly beat France to win the PR3 Mix4+ repechage, making them along with scullers Olli Zeidler and Alexandra Foester the best chances for German medals here.
Wednesday’s racing is another short day with a few reps and a slate of singles and doubles quarterfinals in which those aiming for medals will want to finish top three at least but ideally close to the front.