For different reasons from the Latin & South American qualifier, which saw a compressed schedule due to COVID concerns in Rio, the European Olympic Qualifier held in Varese on April 5-8 was briefly blown off course by high winds before completing racing for the coveted Olympic spots at stake in the Men's & Women's Singles, Men's & Women's Lightweight Doubles, and Men's and Women's PR1 Adaptive Singles.
Even during a pandemic, rowing is still an outdoor sport.
Russia's Hanna Prakhatsen took this one pretty handily, building a strong early lead and taking the top spot by nearly 11 seconds ahead of Ukraine's Diana Dymchenko, Serbia's Jovana Arsic and Sweden's Lovisa Claesson.
The biggest surprise in this event was Greek sculler Anneta Kyridou finishing off the pace in 6th. Kyridou (a former US collegiate rower at Tennessee) finished in a strong bronze medal position at the 2020 European Rowing Championships last October, and won her opening heat at the qualifier, so looked like a sure threat to qualify. Unfortunately, Kyridou flipped doing a practice start right before the final at the qualifier, and this mishap seemed to have knocked her off her game, as she was unable to regain her earlier form.
Russia's W1x Hanna Prakhatsen
Observers had also been looking at the match-up of some fairly heavy duty Olympic medalist progeny, with Finland's Eeva Karppinen and Estonia's Greta Jaanson going head to head here; Karppinen of course is the daughter of the great Pertti Karppinen, one of only two men to win Olympic gold in the men's single at three Olympic Games ('76, '80 and '84), while Jaanson is the daughter of Estonian great Jueri Jaanson, a six-time Olympian who was the 1990 world champ in the single, 2004 Olympic silver medalist (at the age of 38) in the single, and 2008 silver medalist in the double.
Neither Jaanson nor Karppinen figured in the final tally, with Karppinen finishing 5th and out of qualifying, while Jaanson ended her regatta in the B-Final.
Russia's Hanna Prakhatsen, Serbia's Jovana Arsic and Sweden's Lovisa Claesson claimed the Olympic qualification spots, with Dymchenko missing out due to the qualification rules.
Greece's Stefanos Ntouskos did not flip before the final, but he, along with the rest of the Men's Single field, did race his semifinal mere hours before the final, courtesy of the weather delay. Ntouskos was inititally led by Russia's Alexander Vyazovkin, but caught him at the 1000m mark, muscled past him, and held on for the win.
Hungary's Bendeguz Petervari-Molnar was third, with Serbia's Aleksandar Filipovic, Austria's Lukas Reim and Turkey's Onat Kazakli rounding out the field.
This event saw the toughest application of the WorldRowing qualification rules applied, with the three qualification spots going to Greece, third place Hungary and sixth place Turkey.
The WorldRowing Olympic qualification rules for Tokyo stipulate that no country can qualify more than one crew at the Qualifying regattas, and in the case of two crews being eligible, the highest ranking crew takes the slot; the tough result for the Russian, Serbian and Austrian singles was that each one had a crew from their country finish higher than they did.
The only exception would be if a country did not qualify any crews at the 2019 World Champs in Linz, and won multiple events. With Russia winning the Women's Single and the Light Women's Double, that case played out here.
Confusing? These folks think so too.
It's worth mentioning, too, that crews that don't qualify at any of the WorldRowing continental regatta can still make Tokyo via the FOQR, to be held at Lucerne in May, so a few of these crews still have a shot.
Lightweight Women's Double
A final only, the Lightweight women's double was a straight shot for all of the marbles. Russia's Anastasia Lebedeva and Maria Botalova took this one going away, much like the Russian Women's Single had done. Greece's Zoi Fitsiou and Evangelia Anastasiadou gave brave chase, but it was not quite enough. Austria's Valentina Cavallar and Louisa Altenhuber took third, and by virtue of the Greek Men's Single winning his event, took the 2nd qualification spot in the event.
Russia's LW2x Anastasia Lebedeva and Maria Botalova
Lightweight Men's Double
As lightweight racing tends to be, this was the tightest result of the day, with Ukraine's Igor Khmara and Stanislav Kovalov prevailing over Portugal's Pedro Fraga and Afonso Costa by just over a second at the line. The result in this event was also the most straightforward, with both the Ukrainian and Portuguese crews qualifying directly for the Tokyo Olympics.
Portugal's Pedro Fraga and Afonso Costa in the LM2x
Belarus' Liudmila Vauchok took the single Paralympic qualification spot ahead of Sweden's Ebba Einarsson, while Spain's Javier Reja Munoz took the Men's top position.
Belarus' Women's PR1x Liudmila Vauchok