Funereal weather in Racice for day two of racing. It’s impossible for a British writer to sum up Monday 19th September 2022 at the world rowing championships without talking about Queen Elizabeth’s funeral. Quite a few of us working here in Racice took a break either during the funeral ceremony or soon after, and whilst still keeping an eye on the rowing, watched a bit of the broadcasts. The British crews training and racing wore black ribbons, but we haven’t spotted any other Commonwealth athletes following suit. The skies however were dark most of the day, with brief showers during the morning and blue skies only breaking out in late afternoon.
Lots of events started on Monday, kicking off with some of the newer events such as PR2 singles, PR3 doubles and PR3 pairs, which are giving some of the smaller para-rowing groups extra racing time. One profiting was veteran Corne de Konig (NED PR2) who will be hoping now to repeat his two-golds feat of 2018 in the single and double and started with a seven-second M1x win in his exhibition race.
The fours and quads also got going, providing two of the best races of the day. In the men’s fours after Romania and Britain had won their heats (the latter with David Ambler subbing for Matt Aldridge for medical reasons), there was a raging battle between Poland, Germany and the Netherlands in the third race of the event. Poland put their noses in front first, but with all three countries fielding strong crews and unwilling to yield the only two semifinal places to anyone else, it was a hell of a fight. Coaches yelling, in the second half the Poles and Dutch managed to draw away from Germany, but still neither wanted to let the other win, so a sprint developed with the two leaders’ bowballs alongside until the Dutch hardened a fraction more to take the win near the line. That was followed by Australia’s demonstration of ambition, winning in a time 1.6 seconds quicker than both Romania and Britain, who had equalled one another on precisely 5:54.90. However, the USA and Switzerland closed hard on Australia near the end with the USA qualifying directly to the semifinal where they could pose quite a threat to two of the heat winners.
The men’s quads were also eventful, particularly in the penultimate race of the morning, during which the French had some kind of crab or problem off-camera some distance from the grandstands, which cost them any chance of challenging Romania, whom they had been close to, for the second spot behind Britain’s quad. It can’t have been weather, since the wind behaved much better than the day before, a lighter tail with flatter water. The other top men’s quads — Poland, Italy, Ukraine and the Netherlands — reached the semifinals comfortably while the rest must go via the repechage including unlucky Lithuania who very nearly passed the Dutch on the line, and the Chinese who looked completely off-form.
The women’s quads were a mixed bag, no real worries for the nine who qualified top-three, but China versus Australia was very tight at the line for the win, the Asians taking it over the Antipodeans, and looking better than the Chinese men had. Ukraine and Britain won the other two heats. The best race in the women’s fours was the last, in which China and Poland had a major scrap behind leaders Australia, despite both being well clear of fourth-placed New Zealand and the top three going through. It remained competitive to the end and China were 0.04 ahead of Poland at the line, one of only two photofinishes so far this week. The other winners in the women’s fours were Britain and Ireland, both highly composed.
Both sets of women’s doubles took to the lake, some very strong performances in the LW2x seeing the usual suspects of France, Britain and the USA win solo semis spots, along with Irish duo Aoife Casey and Margeret Cremen who beat Germany and perhaps unexpectedly Italy by clear water. The reps for that event, where there will be many more places on offer, should be good races.
In the openweight women’s doubles it will surprise nobody that Romania’s star players Ancuta Bodnar and Simona Radis posted the quickest time, several seconds faster than the Dutch and Irish who were the other heat winners. Runners-up to Irishwomen Sanita Puspure and Zoe Hyde were the Lobnig sisters, Magdalena teaming up with Katharina to give herself a change after coming fourth in the singles at the Europeans. She also told Austrian reporters that time in the quicker boat would help her singles skills. The W2x event has quite a lot of good young scullers in it, some of whom could certainly make the semifinals interesting and one or two might make the medal race.
Romania also took women’s pairs honours, posting a time four seconds quicker than New Zealand legends Kerri Williams and Grace Prendergast, a race apart. But the Romanians had the USA hard on their heels whilst the Kiwis were already well ahead of the Irish pair by halfway. The third winning crew was the Dutch, Ymke Clevering and Veronique Meester comfortably taking it from the British but neither looking particularly fussed with a three-through qualification.
Later in the day the initial repechages were held, the first point at which some crews finally drop off the medal pathway. The biggest casualty of Monday’s reps was American W1x Kara Kohler, who started too slowly to get on terms with Jeanine Gmelin (SUI) and Lenka Antosova (CZE), both of whom are too canny to let that kind of opportunity go by. They took the last two places on offer for the semis and Kohler along with Norway’s Eva Kristiansen in another rep can now finish no higher than 13th.
The other early repechages were the men’s pairs and doubles, and lightweight men’s singles and doubles. None saw any major casualties, though Hungary’s Adrian Juhasz and his pairs partner Bela Simon will be disappointed to be out of the top twelve. After six races 24 of the 25 men’s doubles are now through to the quarterfinals, with only the Cote d’Ivoire now dropped from the competition for coming last in the repechage.
Tuesday’s racing will feature the first sight of the eights, including Ukraine, the remaining para-events, and a lot of repechages many of which will let only two through to the semi-finals. The wind is expected to begin sliding round to a northerly direction over the next couple of days, which will mean crosswinds verging on headwind by the end of Wednesday, though at relatively light levels.