First Full-Fledged European Championships... Finally

The upcoming European Rowing Championships in Montemor-o-Velho, Portugal are due to be much different from the previous years: for the first time since the championships were restored in 2007, Europeans get the opportunity to compete in all rowing events (not just the fourteen Olympic ones) and, unlike the past years again, most of the European rowing elite will really be present.

Rowing is a part of Europe's history. Source: Wikipedia.

The new history of the European Rowing Championships is problematic: the regatta was always held after the World Championships or Olympic Games and thus remained overshadowed by the real peak of the season. Many of the best European rowers did not bother to come – either because they already wanted to relax, or because they knew their main rivals would also stay home, or because they had anyway accomplished success on the world level for that season (European countries won 57% of rowing events at the 2008 Olympics and 70% of all events at the 2009 World Championships). Take Great Britain, one of the superpowers of rowing: two years ago, they sent seven boats to the European championships; last year, there was only one British boat.

In their current shape, the European Rowing Championships have largely become a regatta for: 1) reserve crews, 2) hopeful juniors, 3) experimental lineups, and 4) consolation prize seekers, i.e. those who might not be satisfied with their performance in the preceding World Championships or Olympic Games (see below for examples).

What makes the difference this year is the unusually late term of (and the long distance to get to) the World Rowing Championships in Karapiro, New Zealand in early November. The European Championships have thus turned to the season’s climax for some who will not go to Karapiro (such as Polish men’s quad) and to a good test race for those who still have a long time to wait for the World Championships (such as the single scullers Tufte of Norway and Synek of the Czech Republic).

European Rowing Championships in Amsterdam, 1921. Source: screen grab from a video at Wikimedia Commons.

Looking Back at Previous Years

Last year, the European Rowing Championships featured the fourteen Olympic events and were held after the World Championships. Out of the nine European crews that had become world champions, five went on to compete at the European Championships. Poland as the holder of the world titles in women’s double and men’s quad cannot be counted because they sent different lineups to the European Championships (see “category 1” above and below). The Belarussian single scull queen Karsten probably attended the 2009 European Championships due to the fact that they were hosted by her home country – she had not participated in the previous years.

Coming out of the four basic types of crews who have rather overwhelmed the start lists of the European Championships (see above), one may collect the following interesting examples:

Category 1 – reserve crews: Poland became world champions in women’s double and men’s quad last year. The country was then present in the same events at the European Championships – but the lineups were totally different. And the strength of Polish rowing was obvious: both reserve crews got bronze medals.

Category 2 – hopeful juniors: Bulgarian single sculler Aleksandrov who now competes for Azerbaijan won the European bronze in 2007 while still 17 years old.

Category 3 – experimental lineups: Czech Republic became the European champions in men’s eight in 2007 with a crew made up of the best Czech scullers (including Synek and Chalupa).

Category 4 – consolation prize seekers: Czech women’s single sculler Knapková especially enjoyed her European gold in 2008 after she had finished fifth at the Olympic Games in Beijing, largely due to medical problems. Estonian men’s double Raja – Taimsoo had got bronze at the World Championships in 2009 (finishing behind Germany and France) but then won at the European Championships (with the German and the French absent).

Combination of categories 3 and 4: At the World Championships last year, there was a French lightweight men’s four who finished fifth. The crew then re-appeared at the European Championships with half of the lineup changed. Result? Not only did the French win but they also beat the fresh world champions of Germany.

No comments:

Post a Comment