Vanuatu claim their first ever Commonwealth gold at the Commonwealth Beach Rowing Sprint Championships
Sandbanks Beach, Poole, provided the backdrop to a sensational two days of racing at the inaugural Commonwealth Beach Rowing Sprint Championships
Riilio ‘Rio’ Rii of Vanuatu dived to victory to take the country’s first ever Commonwealth gold medal, in any sport at the inaugural Commonwealth Beach Rowing Sprint Championships.
Rio sprinted to the line and dived for the buzzer just ahead of England’s Gian-Luc Angiolini who took silver in the coastal men’s single sculls. Titled “the people’s champion” because of his raw talent and passion, Rio was roared on by the crowds who lined the beach to take the historic gold, with emotional scenes on the podium afterwards as he collected his medal.
Bronze went to Scotland’s Gregor Maxwell, who kept out a strong charge from Wales’ Jerry Owen, who threw himself over the line to pick up fourth place.
In the coastal women’s single, a dominant performance by Scotland’s Robyn Hart-Winks saw her take the gold over Canada’s Meghann Jackson.
Hart-Winks led from the outset after getting a strong beach start before slaloming up the 250m course. Her sprint back to shore couldn’t be matched by Canada’s Jackson and, for the second time at the Championships, Hart-Winks grabbed the Scottish solitaire for a celebratory sprint to the line to claim the victory.
In the bronze medal race, England’s Gillian Mara had a sensational row to win by nearly 10 seconds over Wales’ Charlotte Heath.
In the coastal women’s double sculls, England’s Kate Parkinson and Gillian Mara raced Scotland’s Robyn Hart-Winks and Alex Rankin in the gold medal final.
It was neck and neck for most of the race but Scotland were able to exit their boat on the beach first giving them a couple of feet lead into the final beach sprint, taking the buzzer ahead of England.
Canada’s Meghann Jackson and Emily Cameron, picked up the bronze medal after a dominant row against the Welsh crew of Charlotte Heath and Bethyn Jones.
It went right to the wire in the final race of the Championships, with Scotland taking on Canada in the gold medal final for the coastal men’s double sculls.
In a fast and furious race, which saw both crews land on the beach at the same time, it came down to the last 25m sprint up the beach to determine the winner.
As both countries approached the line it was too close to call, but a stretching dive to the finish line buzzer by Scotland’s Gregor Maxwell allowed them to take victory over Canada by mere finger tips.
An exhilarating way to conclude racing for the Commonwealth Beach Rowing Sprint Championships.
In the medal finals on Friday, Canada took gold in the mixed coastal coxed quad, ahead of Scotland in silver and Welsh in bronze. And in the team relay event, Scotland struck gold, ahead of Canada in silver and England in bronze.
Closing the Championships, Mark Davies Chair of British Rowing who hosted the event said: “It’s been a remarkable few days of racing, and the performances by all the athletes has been outstanding. It is our ambition to see rowing return to the Commonwealth Games, so to host such a successful event in Poole this weekend is a big step on this journey.”
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