Close finishes for World Rowing Championship titles
15 Sep 2018

Close finishes for World Rowing Championship titles

Finals at the 2018 World Rowing Championships in Plovdiv, Bulgaria continued including the men’s and women’s pair featuring some of the stars of rowing.

The rowers got to enjoy flat calm conditions on the Plovdiv regatta course under sunny skies with temperatures rising into the high 20s degrees Celsius as the day of racing continuing. Watching from the sidelines was president of the International Olympic Committee, Thomas Bach

Para PR2 Mixed Double Sculls (PR2 Mix2x) – Final

The reigning World Champions, Annika van der Meer and Corne de Koning of the Netherlands sat in the centre lane. They were quick earlier in the week in the heats and despite both rowers also racing in the single, they look like they have fitness and energy to burn. Van der Meer and de Koning got into the lead right from the start. Behind them a strong battle was going on between Brazil and Poland with Ukraine right there as well. Brazil’s Josiane Lima and Michel Gomes Pessanha had gained a slight edge. This crew finished second behind the Netherlands earlier this season at the World Rowing Cup. Paralympian Lima is a very experienced para-rower and she sat in the bow seat.

Then Poland’s Michal Gadowski and Jolanta Majka did a push and managed to move ahead of Brazil and away from Ukraine. Meanwhile the Dutch continued to power ahead of the field. But Poland was in hot pursuit and closing on the Dutch with Ukraine getting the better of Brazil. At the line a new World Championship Best Time. Van der Meer and de Koning had rowed to a time of 8:07.92 – just a second down on the World Best Time.



Corne De Koning (s), Netherlands, gold

“It feels very good to defend our world title from last year. Yesterday we didn’t have much time to celebrate so today we will let loose for a bit.”


Michal Gadowski (b), Poland, silver 

“Brazil is a very strong team but we had a good race and great conditions.”


Iaroslav Koiuda (s), Ukraine, bronze

“We’re very tired but we really liked the race. We’re happy but we would have liked gold to be honest.”

Para PR3 Mixed Coxed Four (PR3 Mix4+) – Final

It was hard to look past the British crew. They are the reigning Paralympic Champions and have been on a many-year winning streak. There has been some crew changes in that time, but their boat speed is always good. But at the start it was the Americans in the lead. Great Britain held their pace and these two countries went neck-and-neck through the middle of the race together. France and Australia were also right on the pace and not only challenging for bronze, but they were in striking distance of a more colourful medal.

Then Great Britain did a push coming into the third 500 and they got their nose ahead of the US. The sprint was on to the line. The British rated 35 with the United States at 37 and France giving it their all at 34. The medal order had been decided in one of the best finishes seen ever in this boat class.


Oliver Stanhope, Great Britain, gold

“That really went to plan. We always had belief in ourselves for today. Credit to the whole crew, we really stepped it up and a big thanks to the whole team to have made this possible.”

 Danielle Hansen (s), United States of America, silver

“When you want a medal you have to better your time each race. We were able to really lay it down today. To recover for our race later, I just have to listen to my coach.”

 Antoine Jesel (s), France, bronze

“We had a very good race and a great start. We kept contact with the USA throughout. We’ve had a really good week in our boat and this is an end that we are happy with.”


Russia and Korea posted the fastest time in their repechage. A lot of these athletes were racing at the international level for the first time in this growing boat class. Russia led the way at the start and used the middle of the race to extend their lead over Korea. Rating 33 Russia stayed in front right through to the line. There was a big cheer for Tunisia as they crossed the line a distance back after a fine effort.


Women’s Pair (W2-) – Final

The World Champions New Zealand won early this season at the World Rowing Cups, but they were beaten in the semifinals by Canada. They sat next to each other and New Zealand’s Grace Prendergast and Kerri Gowler went off into the lead right from the first stroke. New Zealand got to the first 500m mark just a fraction ahead of Canada’s Caileigh Filmer and Hillary Janssens. The Canadians then got their nose in front with these two boats already way out ahead of the rest of the field. Behind them Italy, China and Spain were neck-and-neck in the fight for bronze.


The Italian crew of Alessandra Patelli and Sara Bertolasi had managed to push away from China and Spain going into the middle of the race. Meanwhile the real fight was going on at the head of the field. Canada remained with a slight lead but New Zealand was not giving up. There is no doubt the sprint to the line would be a ripper. Canada had now gone to 36 and were successfully holding off New Zealand at 39. Canada had become the new World Champions and in a time just over a second outside of a World Best Time. Down the outside Spain had put on the overburners. Anna Boada Peiro and Aina Cid had overtaken Italy and crossed the line in bronze rating 40.


Hillary Janssens (s), Canada, gold

“It was a really good race. We knew that New Zealand would be with us in the first 500 meters so we just stuck to our plan. We are still very young so this winter we will work on our technique and our fitness to keep getting better.

Grace Prendergast (b), New Zealand, silver

“We put everything out there. We tried to improve the first 500 meters in the race. We knew that Canada were going to be very tough but are very satisfied with the outcome. We’re a little disappointed with not winning but we know we gave it our best."

Anna Boada Peiro (b), Spain, bronze

“I was really emotional before the start so I wasn’t sure how that would go but our race went really well and controlled. At the end we just pushed for it with our eyes closed and made it.”


It is not often that you see the United States in a b-final of the women’s pair, such has been the standard at this regatta. They came out at the back of the pack with Great Britain and Australia setting the standard at the head of the field. Victoria Opitz and Gia Doonan of the United States then really started to move and got up with Australia and went after the British. Opitz and Doonan are also rowing in the eight later at this regatta. At the line Great Britain’s McKellar and Taylor had held off any challenges.


Men’s Pair (M2-) – Final

Coming through from the semifinals it looked like the European Champions, Martin and Valent Sinkovic of Croatia would be the crew to beat. They scored the fastest qualifying time and in their second year of being in the pair the former Olympic Champions from the double looked like they had what it would take. The Sinkovics were the first to show a the start and they managed to have nearly a boat length lead around the 600m mark. Behind them only a second separated the other five boats with France’s Valentin and Theophile Onfroy just ahead. Then New Zealand’s Thomas Murray and Michael Brake moved into a piece and got their boat a fraction ahead of the Onfroys.

Meanwhile the Sinkovics went through the middle of the race with a very handy lead. But only half the race had gone by and Romania was now making a move. The Kiwis were at 41 with France and Romania pulling them back in. Romania’s Marius-Vasile Cozmiuc and Ciprian Tudosa had got their bow ball into second. Rating 38 the Sinkovics continued to lead. Romania went to 42 with France at 43. The Sinkovics had become the World Champions with Cozmiuc and Tudosa taking silver ahead of the Onfroy brothers.



Valent Sinkovic (s), Croatia, gold

“This feels like winning for the first time. The race felt perfect and at the 1000 meters it felt we could get the gold.”

Ciprian Tudosa (s), Romania, silver

“Very good race. We’re feeling happy with the result. The Sinkovic brothers are still more experienced than us. We had some good speed today and that was our best race this year.”

Theophile Onfroy (s), France, bronze

“Today we fought to the end and we gave everything! We raced very efficiently and that’s what got us the medal today.”


South Africa took a blistering start and they were still at 44 strokes per minute with 250m rowed. Great Britain and Serbia had been the fastest qualifiers from the semis and they were yet to show in today’s race. The Czech Republic, who at every World Cup this season, then pulled into first with the British coming after them. Lukas Helesic and Jakub Podrazil of the Czech Republic held off every challenge to finish first.


Lightweight Women’s Double Sculls (LW2x) – Final

Through the season the Dutch had been showing best form. They took gold at the European Championships and won the World Cup at the start of the season. But today they were up against the reigning World Champions, Ionela-Livia Cozmiuc and Gianina-Elena Beleaga of Romania as well as last year’s silver medallists, Zoe McBride and Jackie Kiddle of New Zealand. But it was the new British pairing that had the lead at the start with Romania in hot pursuit. The slow-starting Dutch (Ilse Paulis and Marieke Keijser) followed in fourth but were still very much on the pace.

Cozmiuc and Beleaga then pushed into the lead with the British and Switzerland the closest challengers. Coming through to the final sprint Romania continued to lead with the Dutch now moving up on the Swiss and the British. Margins were closing. Who had the best sprint? Romania went to 41 and the Dutch matched them at the same stroke rate. The United States, though was moving the fastest at 39. Romania had won. The US overtook the Dutch to score silver.


Gianina-Elena Beleaga (s), Romania, gold

“I can’t explain how I’m feeling at the moment, there are so many emotions going through my head. We’re very happy with this title and hopefully we’ll continue to the Olympics.”


Emily Schmieg (b), United States of America, silver

“This is an unreal feeling! We’re thrilled that we could execute the race plan today. We’re not quite sure what happened during the race but we stayed in the moment. It’s truly ecstatic!”


Marieke Keijser (b), Netherlands, bronze

“I have no memories of the race so that’s a good thing. I think we should be happy with this result. I don’t really care about the pressure from the outside, I just really wanted this for ourselves.”


Silver medallists in the European Championships, Poland was a surprise to be in this b-final. They must have been the favourites and the crew of Weronika Deresz and Joanna Dorociak of Poland were the first to show. South Africa was in hot pursuit. South Africa then got into the lead with Poland slipping back. Canada now came flying and they had the lead coming into the final sprint. Canada and South Africa were neck-and-neck. Then Italy’s Valentina Rodini and Federica Cesarini came flying through. Italy had won.


Lightweight Men’s Double Sculls (LM2x) – Final

The Olympic medallists, Norway had to change their crew after Kristoffer Brun couldn’t compete. Substitute Jens Holm came into the boat and they came out at the start just behind the Italian crew of Stefano Oppo and Pietro Ruta. The Italians took bronze at the European Championships and they have a world of experience in their boat. Now the Olympic silver medallists, the O’Donovan brothers of Ireland had moved into second. This meant that Italy would really have to move as Ireland are known for having a strong finish. Ireland was underrating Italy by four pips and still gaining with every stroke.

Oppo and Ruta tried to match the O’Donovan brothers, but they had now found themselves in the silver medal spot. The O’Donovan brothers continued to move with Italy now seeing Belgium coming. The O’Donovan brothers had taken their first ever World Championship title in the double and they had done it in a time just a second outside of the World Best Time. Italy had to settle for silver with an outstanding effort by Tim Brys and Niels van Zandeweghe of Belgium giving them the bronze. This result bodes well for Brys and van Zandeweghe who will get to row on home waters at next year’s World Rowing Championships.


Gary O'Donovan (b), Ireland, gold

“Today we took our best strokes ever out on the race. Italy were ahead for a little bit but we didn’t panic. We managed to make our move. It’s a really exciting time and there’s great belief within the team and we’re starting to see some results now.”

Pietro Ruta (s), Italy, silver

“Most important to us was to equal our placing last year, which was a silver medal but we know every year it gets more difficult as this is the only Olympic boat class for the lightweight.”

 Niels Van Zandweghe (s), Belgium, bronze

“No idea how we raced but I remember that at the 1000 meters we were all still in one line, that’s when Tim gave a push. In this race everything came out that hadn’t come out in our training.”


Japan shot out to the lead but they were soon overhauled by a flying Czech Republic. The Czechs went to 39 through the second 500 and took the lead. There was no stopping Jiri Simanek and Miroslav Vrastil of the Czech Republic now. They kept their stroke rating high and moved completely away from the field. Poland made a last minute push, but no one was catching the Czechs.


Women’s Four (W4-) – Final

Coming through from the semifinals the United States had not only recorded the fastest time but they had beaten the reigning World Champions, Australia. First to show and first through the 500m mark was the United States new line up for 2018, Wanamaker, Boxberger, Bruggeman and Reelick. Denmark, who had won their semifinal two days ago, followed closely in second. The United States then tried to shake off Denmark and the US did a push. Denmark then realised they had more to contend with. At the half way point both Australia and Poland were moving with the Danes.

With the US still in the lead, Australia began to move. Goodman, Hawe, Werry and Stephan were going after the gold medal and trying to close on the US. This put the Australians into second with the sprint to the line now on. The US went to 39 with Australia at 41 and Russia flying down the outside at 41. The US had won with just 0.27 of a second separating Australia and Russia. Australia had narrowly held on to silver.


Erin Reelick (s), United States of America, gold

“Great race today! We came in just trying to improve from our semi-final and heats performance. Really tough race today but we just stuck to the plan. We were aggressive from the start and so nice to see the result. Hopefully this is a stepping stone to 2020.”

Lucy Stephan (b), Australia, silver

“This is definitely a step up from last year so overall it has been a positive season. It’s great to have this event back at the World Championships as I raced this at the Under 23s and I’ve always loved this boat class.”

Ekaterina Postapova, Russia, bronze

“We really wanted a medal today and we were hoping for a step up from our bronze last year. Next year we definitely want silver or gold. We had a slow start but at the end we found our speed and gave it everything.”


This boat class has really grown ever since it became an Olympic event and this b-final indicated how the quality had grown. Leading at the start was Italy. But they were soon overtaken by Great Britain who managed to extend their leading position through the middle of the race. Once in the lead the British stayed there right to the line.


Men’s Four (M4-) – Final

There is no doubting the dominance of the reigning World Champions, Australia. They have kept the same crew of Hicks, Turrin, Hargreaves and Hill who took gold in 2017 to be the most consistent crew lining up today. Next to them was last year’s silver medallists, Italy who have had some crew changes since 2017. First to show was Romania. This under-23 crew won at the World Rowing Under-23 Championships and then became the European Champions. Then pushing ahead of Romania was Australia. The Australians had come out at 50 strokes per minute and maintained their high rating.

Australia crossed the half way point in the lead with a virtual line forming behind them between the remaining crews. From second to sixth only two seconds covered the field. Then Italy did a huge push and got ahead of the Netherlands and tried to close on Australia. But the Australians were flying. What could Italy do? The answer was rate high. Italy went to 46 then 48. Australia was looking despirate and had to go from 41 to 43. With every stroke Italy was coming. The finish line came too soon for them. The World Champions had protected their title by just 0.25 of a second. But the happiest crew was Great Britain. They had taken third and after an average season had really proved themselves.



Poland performed the race of their regatta coming out in the lead at the start and holding it right through to the finish. This was despite challenges from Belarus, the Czech and South Africa. What a close finish! With Poland winning in a time of 5:50 the next three crews were split by just half a second.



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