Day two in Zagreb at World Rowing Cup I

Zagreb, Croatia

3 minute read
Words Row360
Photography Benedict Tufnell
Published 06.05.23

Another day of great racing and great conditions (sunny with a gentle tailwind) saw the first world cup medals of 2023 won on Lake Jarun.

Photo SLO LM1x
Credit Benedict Tufnell

The racing schedule ended with the two lightweight single sculls A-Final races.

Friday’s heat times indicated a close battle was in store between Switzerland and Slovenia. It proved to be just that, and the men’s lightweight A-Final was arguably the race of the day.

The experienced Hungarian, Peter Galambos, was the quickest starter but was closely tracked by Switzerland’s Andri Struzini. Struzini, the fastest A-Final qualifier, stole a half length advantage over the chasing pack and extended this to a full length and almost clear water at the halfway mark.

Row360 coverage of 2023 World Rowing Cup I

If not for the incredible efforts of Slovenia’s Rajko Hvrat Switzerland might have won their first gold medal of the regatta. Hvrat piled on the pressure as well as the stroke rate – batting away above 40spm – and the race for gold distanced the chasing pack.

As the red buoys beckon Hvrat found yet more rate and speed. Struzini launched a last-gasp effort but the gold was Slovenia’s by less than half a canvas. Both scullers clocking sub-seven-minutes and Hungary’s bronze medallist just 0.41s over.

By contrast the margins between the women’s lightweight scullers were significant, as per Friday’s preliminary race. Thus, it was tall order for Tosca Kettler, the only Dutch athlete competing at this regatta, to overturn the 7 seconds between her and the Czech sculler.

Kettler got away cleanly and was first to 500m, but a confident and smooth-sculling Kristyna Neuhortova bided her time before attacking the middle thousand. At the halfway mark they had a significant margin over Croatia’s Dora Dragicevic who led Thailand and Hong Kong.  

The margins between these five scullers stretched in the second half of the race, and despite striking a higher stroke rate Kettler was unable to overturn Neuhortova’s lead. At the finish the rankings were the same as in the preliminary race, Czechia, the Netherlands, Croatia, Thailand, and Hong Kong. But silver medallist Kettler had closed the gap from 7s to 3s. Local supporters were pleased to celebrate Dragicevic’s first world cup medal.

Row360 coverage of 2023 World Rowing Cup Series

Three lightweight doubles repechages preceded the A-Final medal races.

Four from six lightweight women’s doubles progressed to Sunday’s A-Final. The race was dominated by the two Swiss crews and their familiar, familial Rol rivalry. The long-established combination of Patricia Merz and Frederique Rol looked the smoother of the two, and both boats took chunks out of the rest of the field. It was a Swiss one-two, with the aforementioned Switzerland 1 taking the win. Chile and Argentina claimed the last A-Final spots ahead of Thailand and Hong Kong.

Spanish fans enjoyed the men’s lightweight doubles repechages: Their number two crew winning Rep 1, and number one crew winning Rep 2.

In the first repechage Spain 2 established an early lead with Austria close behind. (At this regatta the Austrians are wearing black ribbons in memory of Christoph Seifriedsberger.) Iraq and Chile were in third and fourth but as the race progressed Chile slipped back and Croatia also dropped off the pace. Tokyo 2020 Olympian Mohammed Al-Khafaji stroked Iraq’s lightweight men’s double and kept the front runners honest all the way to the finish. Ultimately, Iraq missed A-Final qualification. Austria took the lead briefly but Spain 2 dug deep to win by half a length.

2023 World Rowing Cup I, day two in pictures

There was another barnstormer of race in the second repechage, Spain 1 kept their noses in front while India and Estonia traded blows the whole way down the tack. The top three distanced the rest of the field and as the finish line approached India pressured the Spaniards for the win. A full sprint ensued: Estonia missed A-Final qualification, while Spain held off India for the win.

Reigning Asian M1x Champs gold medallist Chi Fung Chan finished in last place in the first race of the day, M1x D-Final. It was a similar fate for his sweep teammates who finished last in the men’s four repechage – a race won by the South Africans ahead of Austria who beat the two crews from India. All crews bar Hong Kong progressed to Sunday’s A-Final.

Switzerland’s Pascale Walker will be disappointed to be in the B-Final, she finished third in the women’s single sculls repechage. Czechia’s Lenka Luksova took the win despite coming under pressure through the third 500m. Slovenia’s Nina Kostanjsek will also join Sunday’s medal race.

Germany’s Ollie Zeidler and Denmark’s Sverri Nielsen won their respective men’s single sculls semifinals while Croatia’s hometown hero Damir Martin was unable to progress. Locals were able to cheer the Loncaric brothers who won their men’s pair repechage. Hungary missed out to the Austrian men’s pair for the last spot into the A-Final by just 0.27 seconds.

Sunday promises to be all action with twelve medal finals still to come.

Row360 coverage of 2023 World Rowing Cup Series