Piešt’any – Open SLovak Championships – Day 1 long read

Friday

Left Brno around 11am. We took the shorter but windy road to Uherske Hradiste, then up into the White Carpathian mountains, crossing the border pass and then down into Slovakia through some valleys with scattered cottages that could have been from a fairy-tale. Then we drove into the valley of the river Váh towards the spa town of Piešt’any on the banks of the river Váh, where the Open Slovak Rowing Championships would be held.

One has to understand that Slovakia is a proud but small rowing country. There are 5 clubs in total, but about 8 Czech clubs and one Austrian club were participating as well.

A view of the race course in Piešt'any
A view of the race course in Piešt’any

Each of us did a brief 30 minute row and then we were off to the hotel, which turned out to be a lovely place with great food, great wine and a garden terrace to dine. Also they gave us bicycles, on which we could bridge the 4km between the hotel and the race venue by a very pleasant bike ride along the lake.

Piestany 009

Saturday

A day full of races. First to go was our daughter Lenka who had to be third or better in her single to qualify for the final on Sunday. When I took her picture at the 500m point she was in fourth place but she managed to secure a place in the final.

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I took the picture from the 500m because our son Dominik was already waiting for the start. Here he is in lane 2, at the moment of the start:

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I wanted to cycle next to him on the bicycle, but after 10m the chain fell off, so I had to spend a minute to put it back on, then chase him on the bumpy path. The chain came off one more time, so I saw Dominik finish third only from the distance. Here is a picture of our bronze winner:

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Then it was time for a quick lunch. At 13:55, the Masters quad was on the program. We had to wait for the 4- to finish (they came in 3rd place) to rig the boat with the quad riggers. A warming up run, and on the water.

The quad race was a 2 boat affair. Bratislava, the third contender, had withdrawn. They wanted to save energy between the 4- and the 8+ race. We had two guys in our quad who had already rowed the 4-, and so had our opponent, the local club Piešt’any. We were out of the starting block head to head with them. In the first 500m they managed to stay about half a length behind us, but then they started to fall behind.

My first Slovakian title. We each got a small “gold” medal and a bottle of “Schauma for grey hair” shampoo:

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Two hours later we were launching the eight. We were up against Piešt’any proper in their best boat, against Bratislava who had withdrawn from the quad race to save energy for the eight, and us. In exchange for a liter of home-made Slivovice we were allowed to borrow their worse eight and two of their Masters rowers who hadn’t qualified for their proper eight.

We took our Junior sculler as a cox. He is taller than I and has a bit more than 55kg.

Of course the race organisers had put us in the slower lane 1, with less tailwind and less current.

Out of the starting blocks we were half a length behind and drifting into lane 2. We were almost clashing oars with Piešt’any when our cox finally managed to turn the boat. We got our stroke together in lane 1 proper and started to make some gains. I was in bow seat, and we were one man behind Piešt’any who were leading. Bratislava was half a boat length behind us.

Apparently the cox called three strong 10s during the race but I couldn’t hear anything. We were driving from one end of the lane to the other. I later heard that the rudder was almost impossible to control.

At the 500m mark we managed to pass Piešt’any and clear a boat length. With 250m to go we were a boat length and a bit in the lead but in lane 3, Bratislava was suddenly making quick gains.

We pulled hard for another 25 strokes. The cox managed to not park our eight in the bank and we managed to pass the finish line a second before Bratislava. The eight, our least expected win.

The Piešt’any crew took their loss very sportly. They accused their men who had rowed with us of not having fulfilled their secret mission to slow us down. Who knows … In the end they invited us for a beer, which became two beers.

Then we all cycled back to the hotel and had a great dinner in the garden.

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