PHOTO AND STORY COURTESY WORLD ROWING
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The first day of the 2023 World Rowing Championships saw a packed programme of racing. An early breath of wind gave way to hot sun and flat water and allowed plenty of great contests to play out on the Ada Ciganlija Regatta course in Belgrade.
Champions show their class
Both reigning Olympic champion Stefanos Ntouskos (Greece) and reigning World champion Oliver Zeidler (Germany) looked controlled in winning their heats of the men’s single sculls and earning one of the two automatic quarterfinal places. Japan’s Ryuta Arakawa, Denmark’s Sverri Nielsen and the fast Dutchman Simon van Dorp also made easy work of their heat wins. There was a superb battle for second behind Zeidler in heat 3, with Norwegian Olympic silver medallist and former world champion Kjetil Borch edged out by a fast-finishing Trevor Jones of Canada.
“It was close, and at one point I thought I had a bit more, but then I could in the last 500m pull it back. But at the line I had no idea. You’ve just got to go and throw everything at it,” said Jones.
Florijn challenged by Arsic
Defending champion Karolien Florijn was almost caught out by home favourite Jovana Arsic in the last heat of the women’s single sculls. Florijn led out but Arsic fought back and had her bows in front at the halfway mark, forcing Florijn to respond – and she did, eventually crossing the line in the fastest time of the day, 7:18.55. Australia’s Tara Rigney, Olympic champion Emma Twigg of New Zealand, and Germany’s Alexandra Foester all posted fast times too and are certainly in the leading group. But Olympic silver medallists Anna Prakaten (Uzbekistan) was off the pace and will race in tomorrow’s repechage.
Arsic said: “It was good to row here. It’s my city, with my people. I’ve prepared for this all year, I’m in good shape now – I think the best in my life.”
Birthday boy Torres makes it a day to celebrate
Italy’s Niels Torres, world champion in the lightweight men’s quadruple sculls last year, turned 24 years old on Sunday and he led from the start in his heat to take one of the four quarterfinal spots. But the fastest time of the day was set by Switzerland’s Andri Struzina in heat 3, sculling across the line in 6:53:47 ahead of Samuel Melvin of the USA. There was also strong showings from Algeria’s Sid Ali Boudina in heat 1, and Japan’s Naoki Furuta in heat 2, who looks like he could be on form to produce his best-ever international result.
Comeback queens shine
Several competitors in the lightweight women’s single sculls have not raced this season – but showed they are in good shape coming into Belgrade. Romania’s Gianina van Groningen, who raced just once last year, won her heat in the fastest time of the day (7:35.23). Kenia Lechuga of Mexico has also not raced internationally this season, but beat Zusanna Jasinska of Poland in a close race in her 2023 debut. And 2022 silver medallist Martine Veldhuis of the Netherlands, who has been racing openweight since last year, won heat 1. American Sophia Luwis was the fourth heat winner.
Swiss lightweights on form
After their surprise defeat at World Rowing Cup III, Ireland’s lightweight men’s double sculls defending World champions Fintan McCarthy and Paul O’Donovan have clearly put in the work in the last few weeks. They crossed the line well clear of the pack in heat 1. However, the quickest time of the day came in heat 5 as the Swiss double of Jan Schaeuble and Raphael Ahumada Ireland beat Norway in 6:11.93. German duo Paul Leerkapp and Jonathan Rommelmann rowed well to win heat 4 in their strongest showing of the season.
“We’re a new double, just started this season – I took a year off last year – and so coming back into rowing was already a struggle for me. We hoped that during the season it gets better just from doing more hours and rowing together, and that’s what’s helped the most. Each kilometre, each race, each piece we did helped us come closer together and go faster,” Rommelmann said.
Brits cruise to victory
The British men’s pair of Oliver Wynne-Griffith and Tom George were third in Racice last year and second at this year’s European championships, but they were able to control their heat of the men’s pair after what Wynne-Griffith said had been a good training block. Romanian world champions Marius Cozmiuc and Sergiu Bejan won their heat by just over a second ahead of the USA. Switzerland, Spain and Australia were the other heat winners, and hosts Serbia also claimed a quarterfinal spot by finishing second to Australia.
Are the Dutch the double to beat?
The Netherlands’ Melvin Twellaar and Stef Broenink arguably looked the most relaxed of all the men’s double sculls, easing to a seven-second victory in their heat. Romania’s Florin Arteni and Ciprian Tudosa posted the fastest time of the day (6:08.15) but in a tighter race in which Germany were second. China won heat 3 over Italy. The USA’s Sorin Koszyk and Benjamin Davison surprised Ireland and France in heat 4, rowing strongly to take the win as the chasing crews battled for position. And Martin and Valent Sinkovic of Croatia took the final victory of day one, rowing through Norway in the second half of the race.
“It was an interesting race,” admitted Valent Sinkovic. “We expected New Zealand to be really fast, not to give up; we were a little bit surprised by the Norwegians. They were fast for the first 1000m, but we stuck with our race plan and it was a good first race.”
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