Jeannine Gmelin’s hopes of retaining her European single sculls title in front of her home crowd on Lucerne’s Rotsee today were frustrated by Ireland’s world champion Sanita Puspure.
The 37-year-old former Latvian took an early lead and held it all the way to the line as she set a European best time of 7min 23.18sec.
Gmelin, making her characteristic late move through the field, did not have quite enough to move past the final opponent and had to settle for silver ahead of the fast-finishing London 2012 champion Mirka Topinkova Knapkova of the Czech Republic.
“The plan was to go off really hard at the start and I was really having to hang off the blades as Jeannine was coming and the Swiss crowd was really loud,” said Puspure, who began competing for Ireland in 2010, four years after moving there.
“It was only in the last five strokes that I thought I was going to be able to win.”
A disappointed Gmelin told World Rowing: “That race was really tough but I want to say a really big thank you to my team that helped me get here.”
In the men’s single sculls, Rio 2016 silver medallist Damir Martin, winner of the European title in 2015 and 2016, had looked on course to earn a hat-trick this week but ended up drifting back to fifth place as Germany’s up-and-coming talent Oliver Zeidler took gold in his first appearance at these Championships.
Zeidler came through with a late sprint, bringing Dutch sculler Stef Broenink through with him for silver.
“It’s my first European Championships, so to win it is excellent,” Zeidler told World Rowing.
Croatia’s spirits were lifted by their world champions, brothers Martin and Valent Sinkovic, who successfully defended the men’s pair crown as they wore down the challenge of Serbia’s Martin Mackovic and Milo Vasic.
Romania won a battle to replace Serbia in second place and as the latter crew faded, Spain came through to take bronze.
Germany's world champions in the eight retained their European title after dealing with the challenges of Britain and the Netherlands, who took silver and bronze, respectively.
In the women's eight, Romania also defended their title – but only just, finishing just 0.06sec clear of a new British crew.
The women’s pair saw gold go to the new Spanish combination of Virginia Diaz and Aina Cid as they produced a late surge that took them past Romania and Italy.
The Netherlands beat their own European best time in winning the women’s four, setting a mark of 6min 24.84sec.
Britain’s new configuration in the men’s four that has earned them so many medals down the years got straight to the gold standard, holding off Poland and Germany to win in 5min 51.01sec.
“It was a great team effort here and it’s really amazing to come away with a win,” said Britain’s Matthew Rossiter.
The women’s quadruple sculls produced a shock as world and defending champions Poland – voted World Rowing crew of the year for 2018 – could only finish fourth in a final won by Germany.
The Netherlands won the men’s quadruple sculls in a European best time of 5min 35.75sec.