Henley’s Internationals Star Come Rain or Shine

The international talent at Henley Royal Regatta this year flexed its muscles on day three with 12 of the 17 nations competing through the sunshine, breeze and invigorating  showers. But this is Regatta week and even the picnicking paddleboaters showed Olympian bursts of speed as they hurried for cover.  

Oliver Zeidler, Germany’s 6ft 8in European and World Champion in the Men’s Single Scull won his first race of The Diamond Challenge Sculls (Men’s Single Sculls) with a controlled win over Britain’s William Young (Cambridge ’99 Rowing Club).

Zeidler, racing for Frankfurter Rudergesellschaft Germania 1869 e.V., Germany, who won this event in 2019, has already shown his form and intent by winning at World Cup I in Belgrade at the end of May.

"It is one of the nicest regatta experience I've had."

“Winning in 2019 was pretty awesome,” Zeidler said. “It is one of the nicest regatta experiences I’ve had in my short career and winning this high profile event at my first attempt was really, really good. Henley is a crazy event: powerful, colourful, a bit crazy, 

“The man v man, head-to-head is pretty awesome and really unique, especially for an international rower that’s usually racing in a big field. Now you only have one guy to handle and it’s really nice. And with the crowd very close to you it makes it very, very special to race here.”

Polish / Ukraine duo debut tomorrow 

The unique Polish / Ukraine duo in the Stonor Challenge Trophy (Women’s Double Sculls), were out training before their Regatta begins tomorrow. Poland’s Agnieszka Kobus-Zawojska, a silver medallist in the women’s quadruple sculls in Tokyo, and former European champion Olena Buriak have been training together since Kobus-Zawojska invited Buriak and her family to stay in Warsaw at the start of the war. 

“The war started and I was woken up in my sleep by explosions in my city,” Buriak said. “Within a few hours, Agnieska messaged me on Instagram and asked how I was so she said come to Poland, so I did, and that was the right decision I think. It took five days to get there and I had to go a long way through Romania and wait 47 hours on the border. If I had gone to the Polish border it would have been 4-5 days. My husband, who  is  Belarusian, was at a masters rowing camp in America and when Russian attacked he understood he would have to fly back and protect Ukraine.” 

"We should be human, not only athletes."

For Kobus-Zawojska it was a quick decision. “We weren’t friends, we were opponents, but in Poland everyone helps Ukraine and in my opinion it was my duty to ask my rowing opponents - it’s just sport, it’s not life,” she said. “We should be human, not only athletes, we have to show to the world that we have to fight not in normal life only in sport and this is the most important thing about our race I think." 

For both it is their first Henley Royal Regatta. “I am very satisfied and very happy to be here, our collaboration is not only about rowing but about friendship and peace,”  Buriak said.

And for Kobus-Zawojska, more used to the quad sculls, it is something new too. 

“Oh, it’s completely different,” she said. “We’ve only been training for one and a half months, I am not so strong, and Olena in my opinion is the strongest rower in the world. It’s totally different but we will see. At the Polish championships there is no crowd, here I am really proud I am a rower.”

And Buriak said they have already felt the support. “I always try to show the best of my country and we really feel the support here, from the whole rowing community,” she said.

Twigg out 

There was sad news that Emma Twigg, the New Zealand Olympic champion, had withdrawn from the The Princess Royal Challenge Cup (Women's Single Sculls) for medical reasons. Twigg (Waiariki Rowing Club, New Zealand) won The Princess Royal in 2009 and 2019. 

The competition continued without her although the heavens opened as Molly Harding (Molesey Boat Club) completed her unopposed scull over with a wry if not dry smile.

Twigg had been the heavy favourite, so that has completely opened up the Draw for the rest of the field. Especially as Twigg’s biggest threat, Magdalena Lobnig of Austria (racing for Völkermarkter Sport- und Turnverein 1868), who won Olympic bronze in Tokyo and bronze in the 2017 and 2018 World Championships, has already withdrawn.

Great Britain’s 20-year old finalist from last year on her debut, Lauren Henry is on the other side of the draw, but it certainly increases the chance of her going one better this year. “I feel like this year I’m a bit less of an unknown, equally I’m really looking forward to the challenge,” she said. “Obviously she’s Olympic champion (Twigg) so you’d expect her to do very well, it’s probably really opened it up in the final as Lobnig has also pulled out of that side of the draw, so that side is now really open. 

But after beating AMJ Walters (St. George’s College) easily Henry (Leicester Rowing Club) was focussing more on her next round opponent tomorrow, and such is the international strength of the field she will need to get past USA’s Kara Kohler (Texas Rowing Center), who just won bronze in the Women’s Double Sculls at World Cup II and is an Olympic bronze medallist in the quad (London 2012) and World Championship bronze in 2019. 

Florida Crew knockout PP holders 

There will be a new name on the Prince Philip Challenge Trophy (Junior Women’s Eight)  after Winter Park Crew, USA knocked out the holders and inaugural winners, Headington School. Winter Park from Florida have been flying since they were asked to come through the Qualifying Races on Friday. 

But not all the overseas stars had it their way as last year’s finalists, Surbiton High School, saw off a very spirited challenge from Melbourne Girls’ Grammar School, Australia, as the day finished bathed in glorious sunshine. 

Read about all action on the water here.

Highlights include:


Notes to the editor


Henley Royal Regatta, founded in 1839, is the best-known rowing regatta in the world, renowned for its match-racing.  It is one of the highlights of the summer sporting and social calendar in the UK, as well as the rowing calendar internationally.  Nearly 400 races are staged at the Regatta, featuring Olympians and emerging stars from around the world.

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