Day two in Lucerne, at World Rowing Cup III

Lucerne, Switzerland

4 minute read
Words Rachel Quarrell
Photography Benedict Tufnell
Published 08.07.23

The first medals were handed out at Lucerne on Saturday, the non-Olympic programme shrunk now to just the lightweight singles, though whether or not that will survive past Paris is anyone’s guess. What may be the penultimate Lucerne LW1x and LM1x finals were suitably classic contests won by the USA and Switzerland, who now lead the medal table until 10:15 on Sunday morning.

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Sophia Luwis took the LW1x gold in an excellent determined-lightweight performance, toughing out and passing early leader Siobhan McCrohan (IRL) until the Irishwoman had to concede defeat, letting Luwis win by 4.5 seconds in lordly style. Behind them there was a blistering scrap between Georgia Miansarow (AUS) and Olivia Bates (GBR), the Aussie catching up again after being passed by the Briton in mid-course, and forcing a photofinish. Bronze to Bates again by just 0.06 seconds, saying she had “clung on for the last few strokes” in a field which is tightening and becoming more competitive by the week. Luwis, the new champion, has shifted out of the pack and is going very fast, while Varese winner Aurelie Morizot had a bad day and finished sixth.

Lightweight Andri Struzina may have been edged out of the Olympic-class LM2x this summer by teammates Raphael Ahumada Ireland and Jan Schaeuble but on Saturday afternoon he scored his own hit winning the LM1x gold when his last-ditch sprint reeled in Poland’s Artur Mikolajczewski a couple of strokes before the line. “I knew it was going to be tight, but I didn’t know if I’d won”, said Struzina afterwards. “Not many Swiss people get the chance to race and win on the Rotsee in front of a home crowd, this is special.” However, the race was not unexpected, as he made clear: being able to sprint after a gruelling race was a deliberate tactic for which the team prepares. “We spoke of this in training, so many times we had to row 25km and then we had to sprint at the end”, explained the former under-23 champion.

The roll of C, D, E, F and G finals used up most of Saturday morning, an important ranking exercise for athletes seeking funding, selection and belief from their national federations. Kjetil Borch, still struggling to recover from a difficult and injury-prone two years after Tokyo and a C-finalist twice already this season, was dumped into the D-final after coming last in Friday evening’s brutal quarter-final progression. He struggled to hold onto Bruno Cetraro Berriolo (URU) but did manage to fend off a late charge from Monaco’s Quentin Antognelli to finish 20th. Fingers crossed the Norwegian Olympic silver medallist manages to find more form before the Belgrade worlds: final-regatta qualification in 2024 will be a complete nightmare even for high-calibre scullers.

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The lightweight doubles semis gave plenty to ponder on, from the French double of Laura Tarantola and Claire Bove doing just enough to take first place, to Mexico launching its first LM2x into the A-final since 2010, after Miguel Angel Carballo Nieto and Alexis Bladimir Lopez Garcia pushed past France’s Hugo Beurey and Ferdinand Ludwig in the third quarter. The other semi was 3 seconds quicker, Paul O’Donovan and Fintan McCarthy (IRL) consolidating their usual stranglehold after early leaders Germany had had their fun, then sitting on the Swiss and Spanish at a steady 37 until the buoys turned red, when they had to lift it a bit to make sure of the win.

In the LW2x first semi Greece and New Zealand indulged in a scrap to the line behind leaders France with neither giving way: clearly the inner lanes and bragging rights in the final were a priority. In the end Greece managed to hold off the Kiwis by 0.19 seconds for second place, begging the question of just how hard all of them will have to pull on Sunday for the medals once the British, Romanians and Irish oarswomen from the other semi are back in the frame.

The Swiss supporter cowbells vied with the real thing from the herd up on the hillside, as the Swiss women’s quad won their repechage to join their men’s pair and lightweight men’s double in the (Olympic boatlcass) A-finals. The W4x could be interesting, another match-up between Varese champions China and the rest of the world, of which Ukraine, the Netherlands, Switzerland and the other repechage winners Britain are the main contenders.

The fairytale for Austria’s 51st-year anniversary men’s eight vanished in a flash as Canada beat them by nearly a second to the last qualifying place for the M8+ A-final. It was a weird repechage, headed initially by Romania who brought their rate down to 34 for a fair chunk of the second half, content to sprint only briefly and let the battling Dutch and Germans beat them. With four going through it was a sensible conservation of effort given that ROU anchormen Marius Cozmiuc and Sergiu Bejan had already overtaken the British in a speedy M2- semi-final, and will have to race the pair three and half hours before their M8+ medal attempt on Sunday.

New Zealand, absent from Varese, have six Sunday finalists, while Australia and the Netherlands have eight apiece, Britain and Romania each have nine. Switzerland are unlikely to hold onto their world cup lead but the contest for the overall 2023 trophy between Australia and Britain could rest on a few key results, particularly since GBR can gain points with only one of their two men’s fours.

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