Germany rule men's eight as Dutch dominate at European Championships
Poznan in Poland hosted the first, and last, major on-water rowing event of the 2020 season with Romania's men's pair defeating Croatia's Sinkovic brothers.
The European Championships in Poznan offered momentary respite for rowers and rowing fans alike in this pandemic-disrupted year.
The restrictions that made the event possibly were in view everywhere, particularly on the podium, where team medals were awarded by a member of the crew.
With less than a year to Tokyo 2020, some of the potential stars were in action in Poland with the Netherlands showing they will be a potent force after winning eight golds, for more than any other nation.
Romania and Italy won four golds apiece while Germany's men's eight and Irish single-sculler Sanita Puspure gave a hint of what could be to come in Japan.
Read on for results and a recap of all the action in Poznan.
Germany retain men's eight title (M8+)
Germany are men's eight European champions once more after another power-packed performance in Poznan.
Three years after setting the world record of 5:18.68, the Germans retained their title although the absence of reigning Olympic champions Great Britain meant this was easier than future challenges to come not least Tokyo 2020.
A strong second half of the race saw Romania pass the Netherlands for silver.
After a dominant Olympic cycle, Germany will fancy their chances of topping the podium in Tokyo 2020, just as they did at London 2012.
Romania rock women's eight (W8+)
Romania kept up their strong tradition in the women's eight with an emphatic victory.
Olympic gold medallists in 1996, 2000 and 2004, the Romanian women's eight took bronze at Rio 2016 behind the USA and Great Britain.
They will be likely medal contenders again in Tokyo after winning their fourth consecutive European crown.
Germany won the battle for silver, holding off a late surge from the Netherlands.
Romania's Amalia Beres said afterwards, “Very happy, we really needed this competition. And to do it with my sister (Madalina) here today is amazing.”
Sinkovic brothers stunned by Romanian pair (M2-)
Before that women's eight success, Romania secured three golds in succession in Poznan.
The siblings were seeking a hat-trick of European titles to add to their two world titles in the pair having switched to sweeping after their double sculls Olympic gold at Rio 2016.
But after making a fast start, they found themselves behind the Romanians at halfway and Cozmiuc and Tudosa, who took silver behind the Sinkovic brothers at the 2018 World Championships, moved clear to win by almost three seconds.
Tudosa said afterwards, "This is a great feeling. Today we just made sure we raced our race. We expected a good race but to win gold is a dream come true."
The Romanian squad chartered a flight to Poznan to avoid any extra risks as they attended their first international competition in more than a year.
"It’s more expensive than our traditional way of going to an event but we have the opportunity to travel more safely,” said team manager Dorin Alupei before the competition.
It was money well spent as Romania shone with the men's pair win between victories for Adriana Ailincai and Iuliana Buhus in the women's pair, and Nicoleta Bodnar and Simona Radis in the women's double sculls.
Ireland's Sanita Puspure eyes Olympic gold (Wx1)
Sanita Puspure retained her European title in the women's single sculls in Poznan, proving yet again that she's one of Ireland's top prospects for gold in Tokyo next summer.
There's been a rowing revolution in Ireland inspired by coach Dominic Casey and Paul and Gary O'Donovan's silver medal at Rio 2016.
Latvian-born Puspure is the two-time reigning world champion and showed why by setting a pace no one else could live with.
Austria's former European champion Magdalena Lobnig took silver with a strong sprint securing bronze for Greece's Anneta Kyridou.
“It was very fast," Ireland's Puspere said, "I just kept my head down and focused on my race. I executed it the best I could, but those girls are fast!”
Lobnig said, "Sanita was too strong. It’s been a difficult season so I’m really pleased.”
Denmark win men's Single sculls (Mx1)
Sverri Nielsen won the men's single Sculls after a stunning final 500m.
Nilsen claimed Denmark's only medal in Poznan, and denied home favourite Natan Wegrzycki-Szymczyk who was cheered on by the restricted crowd.
The Rio 2016 Olympian took silver with Norway's Kjetil Borch, who won double sculls bronze in Rio, taking the bronze.
Borch had led for much of the way before being overhauled by Nielsen and Wegrzycki-Szymczyk in the closing stages.
“Really good race for me," Nielsen said afterwards, "tried to stay close to Norway and wait for my time until the last 500m. So happy to get a medal.”
Dutch double in fours
It was a great day for the Netherlands who finished atop the medal table with eight golds, one silver and two bronze medals.
They women's four retained their title coming clear of Italy in second and Ireland third.
Dutch stroke Veronique Meester said, "It was a good race. We had some really good pushes. We managed to get a length ahead of the others. Last year we won, so we really wanted to do this again. We were doing some fast times in the summer so I’m very pleased to win."
The Italians and Irish were having their first competition as a crew, a not uncommon predicament in Poznan in this strange year.
Italy's Aisha Rocek and Kiri Tontodonati admitted it was a "difficult race".
They added, "We have not been together very long but I am really proud of us and it is a good start."
Ireland's Aifric Keogh said, "This is our first A final as a crew, our first big event as a crew. We knew there were some big names in this event. We had some steering difficulties off the start, but we managed to get it back together."
Inspired by the women's four, the Dutch men's four also delivered the goods despite this being their first race together.
Italy pulled hard to take silver and Poland finished on the podium in bronze much to the delight of the local fans.
Rio 2016 men's eight bronze medallist Boudewijn Roell was impressed by his newly-formed team's ability to build through the competition.
He said, "We didn’t know what to expect. Our first race didn’t go as planned. Our second race was better, and in the semis we really got it together. We started fast, and ploughed through it. Amazing!”
The Netherlands retained their European title in the men's quadruple sculls with Italy taking silver and Lithuania the bronze.
There was also Dutch success in the women’s quadruple sculls and the women's lightweight double sculls with Martine Veldhuis taking gold in the women's lightweight single sculls, a non-Olympic discipline.
Veldhuis held off a strong challenge from the slow-starting Sofia Meakin to take victory with the Swiss claiming one of two medals on the day for her nation.
Paola Piazzolla of Italy completed the podium
Veldhuis said, "It’s very nice to stand here and have the gold medal. Really happy for this, this has been a great experience,”
“I had a really bad start," admitted Meakin, "But I managed to stay in my bubble and get into my race. I normally start quick, so this was quite different. I sprinted at the end and I think the Italian was quite surprised.”
Netherlands win Men’s double sculls (M2x)
There were plenty of up-and-coming rowers on show in Poznan and youth came to the fore in the men's double sculls.
The Netherlands took gold, hitting a mighty stroke rate of 44 per minute at times with Switzerland holding off Ireland's late charge to take silver.
Dutch bow Melvin Twellaar, 22, said “It’s an incredible feeling. It’s been a frustrating season with Covid. But we believed in our training. And it’s great to come away with the win."
Switzerland's Barnabe Delarze said there was work to do before the Olympics next year: "It was a fight, it always is in the double. There are a few new crews out there, single scullers who went into the double. There are also some good crews who aren’t here. We weren’t sure what to expect this weekend. We’re happy, but we still need some fine tuning before next year.”
Ireland's Ronan Byrne was delighted after he and Darragh Lynch made a successful step up to senior competition by finishing on the podium.
“This is huge. We’re a new crew, and we did well at Irish trials. We won at U23s, and to know at even a step up at the senior level we can podium is huge."
Trading Places - Lightweight men’s double sculls (LM2x)
At the 2019 Euros, it was Germany who took top spot ahead of Italy. In Poznan, Italy reversed the order.
A monstrous final sprint from German duo Jonathan Rommelman and Jason Osborne made it close, but Italy's Stefano Oppo and Pietro Ruta just held on to win by 0.13 seconds with Belgium taking bronze.
Oppo beamed afterwards, "We had a strong pace during the race. This is my first title in the double. For me it’s magic."
Germany stroke Osborne was happy with silver, “It was a very strong field. So even though we didn’t win we are happy with the result. It was important to race today and get the boat moving."
Italy double up in lightweight quadruple sculls
Two of Italy's four golds came in non-Olympic disciplines, the men's and women's lightweight quadruple sculls.
World champions in 2019, the women took a commanding win ahead of Germany.
Italy's Silvia Crosio said, "We tried to be fast off the start and push off from the German boat. By the 1000m mark, we were well ahead. This is our 2nd year in the crew, and it’s a great one."
The men also took gold with Germany again having to settle for second place.
European Championships Paralympic rowing
Paralympic events were held at a European Championships for the first time in Poznan with four events completed.
In the PR1 para women's single sculls 2019 world silver medallist Nathalie Benoit lived up to her billing as favourite, leading from the start to take gold.
"This means a lot, because it’s the first time para is included in the European championships," said Benoit, "and I know there is a very strong field in para rowing in Europe.”
The Ukraine's Anna Sheremet took silver and Sylvia Pille-Steppat from Germany bagged bronze.
In the PR1 men's single sculls reigning World and Rio 2016 Paralympic champion Roman Polianskyi took gold with a polished performance, Russia's Alexey Chuvashev secured silver.
“We had a great atmosphere in our team. But we still always have to work hard. Coming here and winning means a lot to me” - Polianskyi
"We live for this moment" - PR2 Mixed double sculls
Corne de Koning and Annika van der Meer retained their PR2 mixed double sculls title ahead of Ukraine with Poland taking bronze.
The Dutch world silver medallists were delighted with gold in Poznan saying: “Very special to win here. We pretty much live for this moment. We haven’t raced for 14 months. So it’s great to do this.”
In the PR3 mixed coxed four, it was gold for Italy from Ukraine with France taking bronze.