Memories of the World Rowing Championships may still be fresh, but racing has done a quick turn to Plovdiv, Bulgaria, for the 2011 European Rowing Championships. Plovdiv is welcoming international rowers back to their waters for the first time since the 1999 World Rowing Junior Championships. Read on to find out who to watch out for in the 14 events racing from 16 to 18 September 2011.
Women’s Pair (W2-): It will be hard to look past Camelia Lupascu and Nicoleta Albu of Romania. They won at both the 2009 and 2010 European Championships and are gearing up to make it three in a row. The duo may receive a good run for their money from Claudia Wurzel and Sara Bertolasi of Italy. The Italians finished seventh at the recent World Rowing Championships, whilst Romania was fifth.
Men’s Pair (M2-): A bronze medal at the World Rowing Championships for Niccolo Mornati and Lorenzo Carboncini of Italy gave them a huge confidence boost and they will be going to Plovdiv in a positive state of mind. Mornati and Carboncini are both extremely experienced and last year at the European Championships they were second. But also very much up on Italy’s pace are the Gkountoulas brothers from Greece. The brothers finished fourth to Mornati and Carboncini by less than a second. It is likely that these two crews will dominate the field and be the front pace-setters.
Women’s Double Sculls (W2x): This race may go Ukraine’s way. Anastasiia Kozhenkova and Yana Dementieva have moved from their country’s medal-winning women’s quadruple sculls and into the double. They found success almost instantly with a bronze medal at the Samsung World Rowing Cup in Lucerne earlier this season. Then at the World Rowing Championships they finished fourth.
Right on the tails of Kozhenkova and Dementieva are likely to be the Czech Republic’s Antosova sisters. Lenka and Jitka Antosova were sixth at this year’s World Rowing Championships and in their third season of rowing together the Antosovas have been regular A-finallists picking up a fair few medals along the way. Watch out too for Italy’s top double for many years: Laura Schiavone and Elisabetta Sancassani were in the quad at this year’s World Rowing Championships, but they are back in the double to try and improve on their 2010 European Champs bronze medal.
Men’s Double Sculls (M2x): A real mixture of talents in this event means that everyone sitting in the starting blocks will be open to possibilities. This review is thus one of ‘maybes’. Maybe it will be Lithuania at the head of the field. Saulius Ritter and Rolandas Mascinskas are one of the only entries that have spent the season rowing together. They finished a credible tenth at the World Rowing Championships earlier this month.
Maybe it will be the Italians: Pierpaolo Frattini became a World Champion two weeks ago when he won the men’s coxed pair. Now sculling, Frattini has partnered with Romano Battisti whom he rowed with in the men’s eight at last year’s European Rowing Championships.
Men’s Four (M4-): The standout crew in this event is in little doubt. Greece’s Papachristos, Tsilis, Tziallas and Christou have just come off a season which was capped by a World Championship silver medal. Greece also finish second in this event at last year’s European Rowing Championships and in recent years their small sweep squad have been establishing themselves as a force worthy of recognition. It is likely that Greece will leave the rest of the crews to race for second.
Women’s Single Sculls (W1x): It is difficult to look past the new World Champion Mirka Knapkova (on the left) of the Czech Republic. Knapkova goes to Plovdiv on top of the world and, in the absence of Ekaterina Karsten of Belarus and any other World Rowing Championship A-finalists, Knapkova will be hard to beat. Knapkova, however, still needs to keep on her toes as the very experienced Julia Levina of Russia is lining up. Levina can be a little inconsistent but has the ability to pull off an upset if she has her best race.
Men’s Single Sculls (M1x): Mindaugas Griskonis (on the right) of Lithuania has been working away in the single for several years now with noticeable improvement. At the World Rowing Championships the 25-year-old sculler finished seventh and during the season he managed to break into the top six at one of the stages of the Samsung World Rowing Cup. Griskonis also raced at the Beijing Olympics in 2008, finishing eighth. On paper he is the one to beat.
Germany’s Falko Nolte will be trying to prove himself and will give Griskonis a good run for his money. Nolte has spent the season as Germany’s number two single and raced to a fourth place finish at the second World Rowing Cup.
Lightweight Women’s Double Sculls (LW2x): Whenever Alexandra Tsiavou leaves her single to team up with Christina Giazitzidou in the double they make history. Earlier this month at the World Rowing Championships Tsiavou and Giazitzidou finished first to become World Champions. They are also defending champions at the European Championships and they should make easy work of the field lined up at Plovdiv.
The biggest threat is likely to come from Great Britain. Kathryn Twyman and Andrea Dennis are the number two double for Great Britain and thus raced at the World Championships in the lightweight quadruple sculls. They won this. They also came second (behind their number one crew) at the Munich World Rowing Cup earlier this season.
Lightweight Men’s Double Sculls (LM2x): At last year’s European Rowing Championships in Portugal, Pedro Fraga and Nuno Mendes were the stars. Fraga and Mendes are Portugal’s most successful rowers and in 2010 took silver in front of their home crowd. Fraga and Mendes are back again as they work towards their second Olympic Games.
The race for gold is most likely to have the Italians in the mix. Lorenzo Bertini and Elia Luini of Italy recently took a bronze at the World Rowing Championships and they have regularly been on the medals dais since they came together at the European Championships in 2009.
Lightweight Men’s Four (LM4-): It is hard to look past the Italian line-up of Daniele Danesin, Andrea Caianiello, Marcello Miani and Martino Goretti. The Italians finished second earlier this month at the World Rowing Championships in a race that was full of upsets and they are racing again at Plovdiv just to prove that their silver was no fluke. To beat the Italians will be hard, but there is no doubt that the Czech Republic will try their best. The Vetesnik brothers, Juri Kopac and Miroslav Vrastil have been together since 2009 and are slowly moving up the ranks.
Women’s Quadruple Sculls (W4x): Ukraine has a solid tradition in this event and they come to Plovdiv as the only line-up that is the same as the one at the World Rowing Championships in Bled earlier this month. The crew of Kateryna Tarasenko, Tetiana Kolesnikova, Nataliia Huba and Svitlana Spiryukhova finished sixth at Bled and will be the crew to beat in Plovdiv.
Men’s Quadruple Sculls (M4x): On paper, Russia look to be the crew to beat. They have maintained their fifth-place finishing World Championship crew of Vladislav Ryabcev, Igor Salov, Nikita Morgachev and 2004 Olympic Champion Sergey Fedorovtsev, and it is likely that this is the crew they will be using to get back to Olympic glory next year.
Poland should be interesting. The current Olympic Champions have had a difficult 2011 season and ended up fourth at the World Rowing Championships in Bled. The crew racing at Plovdiv has retained Piotr Licznerski and Konrad Wasielewski of the Bled crew and with Wiktor Chabel and Kamil Zajkowski racing in the middle of the boat, this crew could pull out a few surprises.
Women’s Eight (W8+): Romania must feel an element of ownership to this event. They are the defending European Champions and they run their eight with a very stable women’s sweep squad that sees limited changes in the line-up. They also won the eight in 2009 and 2008 under the guidance of coxswain Teodora Gidoiu. In Plovdiv the crew has six of the same athletes as a year ago and they are the exact same crew that raced to fourth at the World Rowing Championships earlier this month.
Romania is the team to beat. Likely to put up a good challenge are Ukraine and Poland. Both of these crews raced at the World Rowing Championships and finished seventh and eighth respectively. The field of six boats also includes a new British line-up which features a bunch of up-and-coming national team members.
Men’s Eight (M8+): Poland finished second at the 2010 European Championships. This could be their year to break into the gold medal spot. Seven of the nine members from 2010 remain in the boat and the crew is identical to their World Championships crew that raced to a fifth-place finish earlier this month. With Daniel Trojanowski in the cox seat, this is a very established crew that has been working towards the London Olympics ever since the Beijing Olympics wrapped up. Finishing in third behind Poland a year ago was Ukraine. Their crew has also remained relatively stable and they will be ready to push Poland to the line.