2022 Gold Cup Claimed by Twellaar (NED) & Twigg (NZL)
October 30, 2022 John FX Flynn, row2k
Twellaar (NED), 2022 Men's Gold Cup Champion
The Gold Cup returned from another hiatus in its long, storied history--this time a two year, pandemic lay-off--and featured open time trials to encourage participation in the US and Youth categories, in addition to its signature four sculler finals for cash prizes, and the Gold Cup itself.
Melvin Twellaar and Emma Twigg won the right to put their names on the Gold Cup's base: a first for Twellaar and a second time running for Twigg. Lauren O'Connor and Jacob Plihal took the Lotman Challenge prizes for US scullers, Molly McDonnell and Sam Subramaniam won the Hoffman Challenge for Youth scullers, and Molly Moore and Russell Gernaat claimed the top spots in the Para singles for the Blackwell-Duling Challenge.
Twellaar Adds Gold Cup to His Euro's Win and Worlds Silver
Melvin Twellaar, the current Worlds' silver medallist and Euro's champion, won what amounted to a round 4 against Olli Zeidler, with some tidy and smooth sculling in what was the anticipated showdown of the regatta--with all due respect to GB's Graeme Thomas, who took third here, as he did at Worlds, and Norway's Olympic silver medallist Kjetil Borch, the 2019 Gold Cup winner.
Zeidler has been the only man to beat Twellaar in the Dutch sculler's first year in the single after winning silver in the epic Tokyo Doubles final (won, only just, by France) --and Twellaar also collected a World Cup win at Poznan, in Zeidler's absence, and the win outright over the German at the European Championships.
Zeidler, Thomas, and Borch hoist the Gold Cup Champ
"We are all in the single, and know what you need to do to get to the top level," said Twellaar. "We have a lot of respect for each other, so that makes it really enjoyable to stay here all week and train with each other and laugh about some things."
"The hospitality of this organization, the Gold Cup, is great," Twellaar added. "I have never experienced something like this: I really felt at home and really enjoyed the week. Normally you race against these guys, then you go home and the race against them the next time--but now, we had the chance here to know each other a bit better."
Twellaar did admit that the race here--a re-row with four of the the Racice Worlds finalists--was, he said, "a bit heavy on the lungs," after the month-long holiday between Worlds and today, but called his time here "an amazing week."
Zeidler, for his part, bookended his first season after a disappointing Olympic Games with wins at World Cup 1 and Henley Royal before closing with his triumphant gold at Worlds. That gold--his second World title--and his Henley victory had put him in a position to win the Gold Cup's Triple Challenge and its $50k prize, but that check remained unclaimed at the end of the day.
Twigg Ends Epic World Tour with Repeat Gold Cup Win
Twigg (NZL), 2019 and now 2022 Women's Gold Cup Champion
Short of hopping on an erg for an indoor race or grabbing a sweep oar, Emma Twigg has raced pretty much every sort of rowing event--and distance--in the past five weeks:
2k's in Racice, 6k and 4k at Coastals, the 250m out and back of the Beach Sprints, and then the full go at the Charles last weekend before the 750m Gold Cup standard here today. Not surprisingly, the Olympic champ was at or near the top throughout, and capped it all off with a masterful row to outlast one of the few women to get ahead of her this year, World Champ Karolien Florjin. GB's Hannah Scott took third and Tara Rigney, the Worlds' bronze medalist from Australia, was a close fourth in the short race.
All of Twigg's racing has meant a lot less traditional training time, but her experience played the key role in her win today:
"I feel like I haven't done a lot of training since the World Champs: it's been very you know, hit or miss at all these different regattas. But I think some of the Beach Sprints training may have paid off, having done the sprinting and stuff in Saundersfoot.
"This is one race where, when you've raced it once, you learn how to race 750 and when you need a push," said Twigg. "There's a period of time in the race where you do have to kind of consolidate but then you get going again pretty quickly. It's a lot of fun.
Rigney, Scott, Florijn, and Twigg with the Gold Cup
"I always refer to this time of year as the part of the sport that I love the most is reuniting with friends, meeting new people, and new forming new friendships. These are all people that I haven't spent a lot of time with, and it's been really cool to get to know them. Even in talking to Tara [Rigney], at the World Champs, I was saying that having done this regatta adds an element when you see each other again at the world champs, in the boat park, the next year, which is pretty cool--I love it."
US Elites - The Lotman Challenge
This year's Lotman Challenge for the elite US Scullers opened the path to the final--and the cash prizes--to a much wider field, adding the Time Trial element to fill the four boat final.
That created a chance for Lauren O'Connor, from the Saratoga Springs ARION sculling team, to collect a win, and a paycheck, just ahead of the next round of US National Team selection--which ramps up with Pan Am Trials in less than two weeks.
O'Connor, a recent Wisconsin graduate, made the B Final at the first NSR in the single this past year and then took 6th in the double at NSR 2. Today, the format, and her timing in the last 250, were just right for a win to get her 2023 campaign off on a strong note.
"I very much enjoy time trials," said O'Connor. "They are a fun thing to do, but it was very cool have this format and to say you can have as many competitors as you want. You just have to go fast, and it doesn't really matter what your previous scores have been."
O'Connor came home just ahead two US senior team members--Kara Kohler, the USA's single sculler this year, and Maggie Fellows who bowed the US Quad at Worlds--and fellow ARION sculler Veronica Nicacio made the final and took fourth.
"I don't know if this win really moves me anywhere," O'Connor said. "But but it's fun to see and good to know that I have that speed in me and I just need to prolong it for another 1200 meters. It is a nice confidence thing, to know that I've been working on my starts a lot and I have a good solid start. And to know that I can be right there with the other US women. They're great competitors. I've raced them a lot in the past couple of months, and it was great to get to see them again."
In the Men's Final, Jacob Plihal made the most out of hopping back in the single after racing the US Men's Quad at Worlds, getting out ahead of Worlds teammates Christopher Carlson and Andrew LeRoux; Finn Putnam, who raced the US quad at the Final Olympic Qualifier in 2021, took third, between Carlson and LeRoux.
Green Racing Project's Plihal
"The time trial was huge," Plihal said. "I was not expecting to have done very well, based on how it felt, so it was a nice surprise to come out of it.
"A different structure to this race this year, so it was all about going as fast as possible to make it out of the time trial and then being really good about recovery, getting set up to go hours later. Today was about managing two races, versus just a one-off, which has been the past format."
Like Twigg, Plihal talked about how to approach this race, the 750 meters that is not really short enough to be a flat out sprint:
"You can't go max because you're going taper off really hard before the finish," he noted. "With a building headwind throughout the day, I was thinking about rowing a stroke that emphasizes the back end finish a little bit more and keeping the rating up. That helped carry me through in the middle of a race, which was pretty vital today. It's about making sure not to go too hard too soon, and pay the consequences later. I feel like I was able to manage that, so I'm definitely happy about that."
Youth Singles - The Hoffman Challenge
For a regatta with scullers from all around the world and the nation, the Women's Youth Single went to a local, rowing out of her own boathouse: Molly McDonnell, from the Cooper's own South Jersey Rowing Club.
South Jersey's McDonnell
"It was a really fun race," she said. "I got to race my teammate, Grace Moore, in the final, who I get to practice with every day. It was really fun to have that same competition in the race and I love Grace: always great competition.
"It was really nice to be somewhere I was comfortable," McDonnell said, about racing on home water. "Helped get rid of the nerves."
The Men's Youth race also came down to teammates pushing each other: Brunswick School's Sam Subramaniam won the final over schoolmate Reed Eddy.
Eddy, the younger of the two, had won the Time Trial, but Subramaniam--a senior--took the side-by-side race.
"I came to the final, planning to attack it from the beginning," said Subramaniam. "I want wanted to get ahead in the first 250, to take the lead and then just sit there."
"I executed that," he laughed, "pulling some crazy splits from the start, but I was able to maintain it and won by over a length, so that was pretty good."
Subramaniam's teammate, Eddy, had himself quite the warm-up before the final: on his way to the start--the first time--the shoes in his older single finally gave way, and he flipped into the water. Back on shore, his coaches found him a loaner boat so he could dash up to the start, still wet from his swim, to jump into the race. There is not--yet--a trophy for the scull-swim-swap trifecta, but it was a solid job to take second after all of that, for sure.
Para Singles - The Blackwall-Duling Challenge
Moore, near lane, and Pearl Outlaw off the start in the Para Final
The morning's finals started with the Para events that form the the Blackwall-Duling Challenge, named for Christopher Blackwall and Fred Duling, who ewere both on hand to award trophies to the winners: Molly Moore and Russell Gernaat.
Moore, a gold medalist in 2019 in the PR3 pair, competed in the US Para Four this past summer, and Gernaat, a 202One Paralympian, was back in the PR2 single he raced in Racice at Worlds.
With just one women's and one men's final, the Para scullers rowed mixed category races here, using a staggered start between classifications. Moore was able to make up the stagger on Madison Eberhard, a PR2 athlete, to reach the finish first for the win.
Gernaat, going through
The Men's final wound up a stroke for stroke sprint for the line between Gernaat and Andrew Mangan, the USA's PR1 sculler, as Gernaat caught Mangan right at the end for most exciting finish of the day--you can watch it here:
Pearl Outlaw, the visually impaired Para rower who usually races in a double with a sighted partner, was able to scull in a single here today thanks to an innovative remote control rudder (which you can see on her stern in the row2k galleries). row2k will have to report back on the full story of this adaptive tech, but it allowed Outlaw to race the course solo, and to participate in the event--which had the autonomy to relax the rules so that Outlaw could race.
The assistive rudder, which was operated from a chase launch by its inventor, Bob Berry, to keep her in her lane is a game-changer for her, said Outlaw:
"It makes a huge difference in racing and training because I can relax and just row at the same level as sighted people. Otherwise I'd be listening for verbal commands, as opposed to just being able to get into the race or into the workout have that mental focus. So, I've really enjoyed the last four days we've been training with it."
Notes From The Course
Hand-Hewn Trophies - The replica singles which each winner received are hand-made by Fred Duling himself, who said he once heard from someone hoping to buy one of his replicas to row in, after seeing a "low priced single" online. Fred's response? Well, you'd have to be pretty small to fit.
The Shoes That Gave Out - The single with the faulty--i.e. old--shoes that sent Reed Eddy into the drink? It once belonged to US Olympic Champ Wyatt Allen, who rowed the single for the US after winning the eight's gold in Athens. That was back in 2005 which is, apparently, a lifetime ago, at least in shoe-years.
If you enjoy and rely on row2k, we need your help to be able to keep doing all this. Though row2k sometimes looks like a big, outside-funded operation, it mainly runs on enthusiasm and grit. Help us keep it coming, thank you! Learn more.