The 2023 World Rowing Cup series starts in Zagreb, Croatia. Lake Jarun hosts the 2023 World Rowing Cup I from 5-7th May 2023. With the first shot at Paris 2024 Olympic qualification fast approaching a strong start to the 2023 season is critical.
Women’s single sculls
Twelve women’s single scullers are set to race in Zagreb. From the 2022 World Rowing Championships W1x A-Final it is only Virginia Diaz Rivas who races the women’s single at the first world cup. The Spanish Olympian successfully switched from pair to single after Tokyo 2020. She set a new Spanish indoor 2k record earlier this year and is a strong favourite to top the podium at Zagreb.
Competition comes from Czechia, Serbia and Azerbaijan. There are two Czech scullers Anna Santruckova and Lenka Luksova (née Antosova). Santruckova raced in the Czech quad at Racice and in her single at the past two Under 2023 world championships. Luksova is a triple Olympian in the women’s double scull. Serbia’s Tokyo 2020 W1x Jovana Arsic and Azerbaijan’s Diana Dymchenko will also be fighting for the medals.
Arsic and Dymchenko, the latter of whom formerly represented Ukraine, won gold medals at the recent 2023 Paolo D’Aloja Memorial regatta in Italy. They shared the podium with Tokyo 2020 W1x Olympic silver medallist Anna Prakatsen. As a Russian athlete Prakatsen was banned from competing internationally. She now sculls for Uzbekistan and, although not racing in Zagreb, she hopes to race at the 2023 World Rowing Cup later this summer. She was born in Minsk and first sculled for Belarus before switching to represent Russia during the Tokyo Olympiad.
A fascinating competition is brewing within the Swiss ranks. The outcome is likely to determine who races their single at the 2023 European Rowing Championships in Bled, Slovenia. Aurelia-Maxima Janzen, 19, who trains independently from the Swiss team, takes on the more established Pascale Walker, 27. The winner is expected to inherit the vacant Swiss women’s single sculls spot previously held by Jeannine Gmelin who retired earlier this year.
Desislava Angelova of Bulgaria is a longstanding single sculler who regularly features in the B-Final. A place in the A-Final at Zagreb is a possibility.
Thailand’s Nuntida Krajangjam is also racing. She secured a bronze medal in the lightweight women’s single sculls at the 2022 Asian Rowing Championship.
Men’s single sculls
The men’s single sculls has the largest entry (25 crews) and there are familiar faces among the field. Faroe Islander Sverri Nielsen, 29, is set to make a return after his fourth place finish at Tokyo 2020. He will compete against fellow Danish sculler Bastian Secher, 23, who has made solid progress in Nielsen’s absence.
Reigning world champion Oliver Zeidler might be eyeing a hat trick of World Rowing Cup gold medals this season. Even for such a German sculling powerhouse this feat could endanger his performance at the 2023 World Rowing Championships. Regardless, Zeidler has produced frighteningly quick times on the erg this winter and is a strong contender in Zagreb.
Croatian locals can cheer on two Olympic legends. Tokyo 2020 M1x Olympic bronze medallist Damir Martin and the former men’s quad world champion and London 2012 Olympic silver medallist David Sain.
Bulgaria’s Kristian Vasilev provides more Olympic pedigree. The Rio 2016 men’s double Olympian produced a solid 2022 season in his single. He won a silver medal at Lucerne and a bronze medal at Munich after Zeidler faded in front of his home crowd at the European Championships. Five weeks later Vasilev ended his 2022 world champs campaign prematurely after the quarterfinals. He will be gunning for a strong start to the Olympic qualification year especially after failing to qualify for Tokyo 2020.
Bulgaria has two more scullers entered: Lazar Penev, who (until now) has raced as a lightweight, and Emil Neykov. Neykov is the son of two-time Olympic W1x medallist Rumyana Neykova and is a former Under 23 world champion (2022) and bronze medallist (2021). He briefly partnered Vasilev in the men’s double last year.
Finland has two entries, Olli-Pekka Karppinen and Joel Naukkarinen. Naukkarinen has an immense engine, as proven by his multiple indoor world rowing medals and records, as yet his impressive power has not translated into flat-water silverware. He recently announced his focus is no longer on indoor rowing, instead he hopes to qualify for Paris 2024.
Another noteworthy sculler is Ivan Corsunov, who delivered a sterling performance at Racice stroking the Moldovan men’s double to fifth place. At Zagreb he competes alone. And Hong Kong’s reigning men’s single sculls Asian Championship gold medallist Chan Chi Fung renews his rivalry with silver medallist Prem Wattanasith of Thailand.
Lightweight single sculls
Slovenia’s Rajko Hrvat and Switzerland’s Andri Struzina are two athletes with podium aspirations in the lightweight men’s single sculls. They will continue their tough-racing rivalry at Zagreb. Struzina finished fourth in Munich having been denied a European championship bronze medal by Hrvat last summer. The Swiss sculler was later beaten into sixth place at the 2022 World Rowing Championships in Racice when Hrvat won (you guessed it ) a bronze medal.
A first world cup medal is on offer for the lightweight women’s single sculls. There are five entries including Czechia’s Kristyna Neuhortova who is more often found in the lightweight women’s double. Tosca Kettle is the sole Dutch representative at Zagreb. Hong Kong’s 2022 Asian Rowing Championships silver medallist Wing Wun Leung and Thailand’s Rawiwan Sukkaew, 19, will likely be targeting the upcoming Asian Games. Croatia’s Dora Dragicevic will have the backing of the home supporters.