With temperatures and the wind rising, day 4 of the 2023 World Rowing Championships delivered nailbiting racing. Crews knew they had to progress through the repechages or quarterfinals on the programme to keep their Paris 2024 hopes alive – and the devastation and exhaustion from those who missed out was clear to see, with athletes slumped on the docks or helped away by coaches after giving it their all on the water.
Solid wins see Paris tickets booked
The PR1 women’s single sculls got day 4’s racing underway, with tickets to the Paris 2024 Paralympic Games on the line for the two top finishers in both repechages. France’s Nathalie Benoît won the first repechage comfortably ahead of China’s Rio 2016 Paralympic silver medallist Wang Lili; in repechage 2, it was Ukrainian 2022 bronze medallist Anna Sheremet who took the win, with Germany’s Manuela Diening in second. Both Benoît and Wang carried tokens in their boats: Benoît a small plastic figurine as a mascot, Wang a good luck note from the volunteer helping the Chinese team with translation.
“I felt great. I tried a few little things compared to yesterday’s race, I tested things out and made the most of having an extra race. Everyone’s worked hard, and you see everyone’s at a good level. It’s a great motivation to race strong boats – it’s stimulating, even if it’s stressful,” said Benoît.
Semi-final line-ups complete for PR1 men
The four repechages of the PR1 men’s single sculls determined the remaining eight semifinalists of the event. Germany’s Marcus Klemp, European bronze medallist this year and a regular finalist, had a fast final 500m to come through Spaniard Javier Garcia for the win in the second repechage. Paralympic bronze medallist Rene Campos of Brazil progressed safely behind Alexis Sanchez, and Israel’s Shmuel Daniel was a long way clear of the field in repechage 4. Uzbekistan’s Egamberdiev Kholmurod, Mexican Michel Munoz, and Poland’s Arkadiusz Skrzypinski were the other scullers progressing.
Dutch made to fight
There was almost disaster for European silver medallists Corne de Koning and Chantal Haenen in the first PR2 mixed double sculls repechage. A crab off the start saw them lose a couple of lengths on the field, and they did not come into a qualifying position until the 1500m mark. The Dutch duo finished second, just over two seconds ahead of Brazil and five behind Poland’s 2022 world silver medallists Jolanta Majka and Michal Gadowski. In the second repechage, China’s Liu Shuang and Jiang Jijan were comfortable winners, but defending champions Iaroslav Koiuda and Svitlana Bohuslavska found themselves in a battle with Israel for second, winning by 0.32 seconds. Poland, China, the Netherlands and Ukraine all booked places in the final and at Paris 2024.
“We’ve had better moments, but when everything will settle down in the body we feel very satisfied. We caught a very huge crab off the start so already lost a couple of lengths from the rest of the field off the start, and had to reel in first the other crews. It was a good feeling that we got it done,” said de Koning.
Competitive PR3 Mix2x racing
The PR3 mixed double sculls continues to be a thrilling event to watch, and the second repechage saw Brazil and Germany go head-to-head for the win. Brazilians Diana Barcelos and Jairo Frohlich crossed the line first, while Germany beat the young Ukrainian crew for the second qualifying spot in the final. In repechage 1, the USA and Great Britain were first and second in a relatively straightforward race.
Sprint sends South Africa to semifinals
South Africa’s Paige Badenhorst and Katherine Williams said they had been inspired by their men’s four teammates’ row on Tuesday into throwing everything into their sprint for the line in the repechage of the women’s double sculls. It took them through Germany for the crucial second place behind the Netherlands. But there was heartbreak for early race leaders Great Britain, who lost speed dramatically in the last 500m. Australia won repechage 1, with Norway in second, well ahead of the rest of the field.
Badenhorst said: “It’s not over until it’s over. Anything can happen. I just kept thinking ‘go for it’. We watched our four do something similar yesterday and we took our inspiration from that. There’s another job to do still, but this is a big win for us.”
Borch out, favourites progress
Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games silver medallist Kjetil Borch (Norway) drifted across the line in fifth place in his quarterfinal of the men’s single sculls, after a race led from start to finish by reigning champion Oliver Zeidler of Germany. New Zealander Thomas Mackintosh was a fairly close second to Zeidler with Japan’s Ryuta Arakawa third. Olympic champion Stefanos Ntouskos, the impressive Dutchman Simon van Dorp, and Dane Sverri Nielsen were the other three quarterfinal winners, with van Dorp posting the fastest time of 7:05.97.
“I had a very tough draw for the quarterfinal, it was kind of the race of the day, maybe more like a semifinal. It was a very good race, very tough conditions especially in the second 1000m, very slow, so you really needed to have some power in the boat to pull away from the others. It was a bit difficult to come into racing here on Sunday, but now I feel ready and now the World Championships can really start,” said Zeidler.
A tough day for Olympic silver medallists
Just like Borch, Tokyo 2020 Olympic women’s single sculls silver medallist Anna Prakaten of Uzbekistan is out of the running for Paris 2024 qualification, after she finished fourth in quarterfinal 1. The race was won by Olympic champion Emma Twigg, in a time almost identical to that of the USA’s Kara Kohler, who won quarterfinal 3. Australian Tara Rigney and the Netherlands’ Karolien Florijn also won their races. There was good news for home fans, with Serbian Jovana Arsic making it safely through to the semifinals.
Twigg said: “It was another solid race, another step forward. When I saw (the quarterfinal draw) I thought ‘that’s going to be a challenge’. It gives me confidence moving forward.”
Bales-Smith overturns the form book
Based on progression from the earlier round, Murray Bales-Smith would not have been among those favoured to make the lightweight men’s single sculls semifinal – but the South African secured his spot with a great row in quarterfinal 2 from the tricky lane 5. Switzerland’s Andri Struzina set the fastest time of the day (7:34.42) to win that quarterfinal; the other quarterfinal victors were Algeria’s Sid Ali Boudina, Poland’s Artur Mikolajczewski, and Italy’s Niels Torres.
France out, Swiss look supreme
In a series of relatively close lightweight men’s double sculls quarterfinals, Switzerland’s Jan Schaeuble and Raphael Ahumada took the most comfortable win – but the fastest time was posted by Irish Olympic and World Champions Fintan McCarthy and Paul O’Donovan to win the first quarterfinal (6:46.53). Quarterfinal 2 saw two photofinishes, with Spain edging out Czechia for first and China denying Greece the third qualifying spot. France’s Hugo Beurey and Ferdinand Ludwig missed out on semifinal qualification and the chance of a Paris 2024 berth, just weeks after beating the Irish at World Rowing Cup III. Norway won the third quarterfinal.
Ahumada said: “It was good, a little bit of wind but we managed it quite well. At least we had some traction with the blades. We are used to it – where we train, that’s also the conditions, so it was perfect for us. We enjoyed it.”
Are the Brits the boat to beat?
The British men’s pair of Tom George and Oliver Wynne-Griffith were able to look back on the field in quarterfinal 3 of the event, while South Africa and Australia battled for second. Switzerland won the first semifinal, while hosts Serbia finished a disappointing fifth. The USA and Spain pushed each other to the fastest times of the round in quarterfinal 2, Spain eventually crossing the line first. The last quarterfinal was delayed after the Danish boat was damaged in the warm-up, but when it did take place defending champions Marius Cozmiuc and Sergiu Bejan of Romania came through the Danes to claim the win.
“We’re probably not a stereotypical headwind crew, so it’s really promising that we had a good result in conditions that maybe don’t favour us as much. We’re really excited. Just have to beat one crew now and then qualify the boat, which is so exciting,” said William Bender of the USA.
Norway bump out USA in men’s doubles
The USA’s men’s double won their heat on Sunday in style, but they were unable to find the same speed in Wednesday’s quarterfinal and found themselves fourth after a stunning scull from Norway. At 1500m only 0.34 seconds separated Norway, Spain and Italy; Spain’s Aleix Garcia and Rodrigo Conde won the sprint, with Italy second and Norway in the third semifinal qualifying spot. The other quarterfinals were more straightforward as Romania, the Sinkovic brothers of Croatia, and the outstanding Dutch crew of Melvin Twellaar and Stef Broenink all took wins. And defending champion Hugo Boucheron of France, now rowing with Valentin Onfroy, also safely progressed to the next round.
“We’re just getting fit at the moment. The way that we train, we’re getting better throughout the tournament. We were really pushing hard the last couple of weeks and now it’s time to recover a bit and get into race mode. We’re slowly getting there,” promised Broenink, in ominous words for the competition.