Feature photo: Carling Zeeman bites her gold medal on April 17, 2016 (Photo: Detlev Seyb/MyRowingPhoto.com via FISA/World Rowing).
Canada leaves the first world cup of the season in Varese, Italy with four medals – including one gold – after three boats saw the podium on Sunday.
Leading the line for Canada was a gold in the women’s single sculls from Carling Zeeman. Silver medals were also gained from the men’s quadruple sculls and women’s eight on Sunday. Combining with a lone trip to the podium for Katherine Sauks on Saturday (more on this below), Canada enjoyed a four-medal weekend.
Zeeman, the single sculls Pan Am champion last summer at Toronto 2015 and a world championship finalist, had the last say in a close-contested field, winning in seven minutes, 49.410 seconds over Ekaterina Karsten of Belarus (7:50.970) and Ireland’s Sanita Puspure (7:51.400).
“The start has been something I have been working on because I tend to start in the back,” Zeeman told World Rowing post-race. “Every 500 metres I looked across and everyone was in a straight line. I knew I have a very strong finish, so I knew I could make a move.”
In the women’s eight Canada couldn’t hold off a late charge from the Dutch as the Netherlands (6:22.380) squeaked ahead of Canada (6:22.620) by three tenths of a second. Russia took home world cup bronze.
The world championship bronze medallists, Canadians usually have Netherlands’ number in this event, however at least one member of the squad kept the race in perspective, with the long view looking to the Olympic Games this summer in Rio.
“We would have loved to be the ones in the middle of the podium,” Lauren Wilkinson said, “but it’s still early in the season so there is still lots of speed to gain. It’s always fantastic to race in a setting like this.”
The women’s eight team in the Varese final was made up of Lisa Roman, Cristy Nurse, Natalie Mastracci, Susanne Grainger, Wilkinson, Ashley Brzozowicz, Christine Roper, Antje von Seydlitz-Kurzbach and Lesley Thompson-Willie (coxswain).
In the men’s quad sculls Canada raced out to an early lead after coming through to Sunday’s final via repechage on Saturday. It wasn’t long though before the Russian foursome was out in front, eventually holding on for gold in 6:02.180. Canada followed closely in 6:04.920 for second place, well ahead of Poland in third (6:08.250).
Following the race, Will Dean shed some light on the mentality in the Canadian camp.
“There are five people in our quad squad,” Dean said. “It doesn’t really feel like competition. We race really hard against each other, but we have each other’s backs. We are working toward the Olympic Qualification in Lucerne. In preparation we will do a training camp in Italy.”
World Rowing Cup I ended with Netherlands topping the medal table with three gold and seven trips to the podium. Canada’s four medals was the third best total haul over the weekend among nations, though its lone gold puts it fifth in the table with Poland, Croatia and South Africa (each with two gold) placing ahead of the Canadians.
World Rowing Cup II will be in Lucerne, Switzerland with competitive races scheduled from May 27 to 29.
Saturday, April 17
Rowing Canada is on the board at the first World Cup of the season in Varese, Italy, on the strength of a silver medal from Katherine Sauks.
The lightweight women’s single sculls final was delayed on Saturday because Sauks had an equipment issue. The hold-up was worth the wait for the Canadian, who finished in seven minutes, 39.700 seconds to make the podium.
“I am very happy because it is my first medal at the World Cup level,” Sauks was quoted by World Rowing, the sport’s governing body, on its website. “I broke an oar in the warm up and that is why the race was delayed, so I am especially proud of my result. I would like to think I could have done better if this hadn’t happened, but of course you never know.”
Marieke Keijser of Netherlands won the race in 7:36.610, with Italy’s Federica Cesarini (7:44.910) taking third place at World Rowing Cup I. Cesarani had jumped out to a punishing lead in the opening 500 metres, before Keijser and Sauks pulled her in before passing. The Italian had to hold on against a Swiss boat challenging for the podium in the closing stages.