Krystsina Staraselets (BLR) secured the gold medal in the women's junior singles sculls on 20 August – but she says it is far too early to compare her with Belarusian rowing icon Ekaterina Karsten.
Four gold medals were up for grabs at the Nanjing 2014 Youth Olympic Games regatta, with Romania winning two and Germany’s world 2,000m junior single sculls champion Tim Ole Naske proving he is just as good over 1,000m.
However, much of the talk at the Xuanwu Lake Rowing-Canoeing venue centred on Staraselets, whose win had many wondering if she can go on to emulate a woman who is considered rowing royalty in Belarus.
Karsten – a double Olympic single sculls champion and six-time world champion – won her first Olympic title at the Atlanta 1996 Olympic Games, the year Staraselets was born!
But the teenage Staraselets has far too much respect for her idol to lend weight to such comparisons. “She has been a hero of mine all my life,” said the 18-year-old.
“She was winning championships before I was born but I don’t want to compare myself to her so early in my career. “Obviously she is an inspiration and someone we all look up to, but I am young and I have a long way to go.”
Staraselets propelled her scull to a last-gasp 0.26-second win over early leader Athina Maria Angelopoulou (GRE) with France’s Camille Juillet taking bronze, 2.47 seconds behind the winning time.
Juillet said she had trouble adjusting to the 1000m race distance. “I’ve rowed so much lately over the 2000m [most recently at the Junior World Championships in Hamburg (GER) in early August] that it has been difficult all week to adjust,” she said.
Naske in the groove
Junior men’s single sculls gold medallist, Tim Ole Naske had no such problems. The world 2,000m junior champion relished the challenge of the Youth Olympic Games short course format.
“It’s been a week of just going as fast as I can and going for a big finish,” Naske said. “Coming back in distance has been something I’ve had to work on but I had enough rows this week to get my rhythm, and it all came together today.”
However, Naske was pushed all the way by Boris Yotov (AZE), who took silver, and bronze medallist Dan De Groot (CAN), with the three crossing the line within a second of each other.
Romanians boss the pairs
In the junior women's pairs, Romanian duo Cristina Georgiana Popescu and Denisa Tilvescu took gold medal after sitting fifth at the halfway mark.
“We had a good race and we knew from the start we’d have to go very fast to win,” said Popescu. “We felt good, our boat was going fast and it’s good that we are able to win and share gold with the men.”
Their compatriots Gheorghe Robert Dedu and Ciprian Tudosa won the junior men's pairs after trailing eventual silver medallists Miroslav Jech and Lukas Helesic of the Czech Republic after 500m, with Gokhan Guven and Eren Can Aslan taking bronze.
“It’s a continuation of the good work Romanian crews are doing at the junior level," Dedu said. “We are performing well in competitions all over the world and it should surprise no one that we are so consistent in so many events.”