There were mixed fortunes for Northern Ireland’s quartet of rowers at the European Championships at Lake Sava in Belgrade.
There were silver medals for Richard and Peter Chambers for Great Britain in the men’s lightweight four and a very creditable performance for Leonora Kennedy and her partner Lisa Dilleen, rowing for Ireland, in the women’s pair but for Alan Campbell there was the disappointment of finishing last in the final of the men’s single sculls which will raise some question marks as he moves forward.
The Chambers boys along with Chris Bartley and Mark Aldred, were taking part in their first international regatta as a quartet and were beaten to the gold by defending champions Denmark who also hold the world title but there was enough evidence to suggest that the GB foursome will be pushing them hard for that championship when the world comes together in Amsterdam at the end of August.
Last year the Chambers brothers rowed together as a lightweight double scull so this was their first final back in the four since they won Olympic silver in London in 2012.
They never led the Danes, who blasted out from the start, but they held off a challenge from the French and pulled away in the final 500m, closing the gap to within a length by the finish.
“It’s disappointing not to beat the Danes but they are a very fast crew but not unbeatable. The race was not our finest piece of work. We have many things we want to work on and change and we will try some of that over the next three weeks. Today was a start that we can build on,” said Richard.
His younger brother Peter added, “That wasn’t too bad for our first attempt together. Good start to the racing season. Got a fight on our hands towards the next world cup. We got right into a strong rhythm and did our plan well but we needed to be a bit quicker off the start.”
The final of the single sculls started well enough for Campbell and the Olympic bronze medalist was only 0.16 off the lead at the end of the first 500m but from that moment in he slipped off the pace and further down the field eventually finishing almost 8 seconds behind winner Ondrej Synek of the Czech Republic.
There maybe some questions raised about Campbell’s future in the single sculls after this result and pressure may build once again for him to move into another boat and the GB double scull faired no better also finishing last although the situation is unlikely to change this year.
The second World Cup of the season is in Aiguebelette in France in three weeks time and Campbell is uncertain if he’ll take part as he and his wife Juliet are expecting their first child in the coming weeks.
The Irish team had a strong European Championships highlighted by a bronze medal for Sanita Puspure in the women’s single sculls. The Latvian born international, who represented her adopted country at the London 2012 Olympics, produced the best performance of her career as she was just beaten to silver by Chantal Achterberg of the Netherlands by two-hundredths of a second and wasn’t far away from winner Mirka Knapkova from the Czech Republic.
Enniskillen’s Leonora Kennedy and Lisa Dilleen also performed well finishing fourth in the women’s pair, less than two seconds behind Holland. GB world champions Helen Glover and Polly Swann won the race but as the campaign for Rio 2016 really began in earnest this was a terrific start for Kennedy and Dilleen.