By David Williams
Welsh rowing pair Vicky Thornley and Ben Pritchard have returned from the European Rowing Championships with silver medals.
The pair both finished runner-up in their respective finals at the European Rowing Championships in Varese, Italy, as they returned to competitive action.
Thornley took silver in the women’s single sculls, while Pritchard also finished second in his final of the para single sculls race for PR1 athletes.
There was also a bronze medal for another Welsh rower, Graeme Thomas, in the final of the men’s double.
Thornley, who is building towards the delayed Tokyo Olympics later this year, was pleased with her progress between semi-final and final, if not her eventual placing behind Russia’s Hanna Prakhatsen.
“It’s not quite the position I wanted to finish in and it was a bit too big of a gap to be honest,” said Thornley.
“I felt like there were a few mistakes, but generally I did make the changes that I wanted to make from the semi-finals.
“In a way that’s definitely a positive to take away, and just remembering that this is our first race of the year and we’re building through the season – so that was definitely a good step on from the semi-final and a good place to start the season, I think.
“We’ll race again, hopefully, in six weeks’ time in Lucerne, and there’s a lot of work to do between now and then, and if that’s another step on from here then that’ll be good.
“And, hopefully, more crews from outside of Europe will come and race there, so that could give a bit more guidance as to how things are before Tokyo.”
Pritchard took sliver after battling the defending world and European champion Roman Polianski all the way in their PR1 M1X final.
The City of Swansea Rowing Club member and former triathlete, who also has Japan on his mind this summer and the Paralympics, said: “Hopefully in Tokyo I’ll be one step further up if training goes well.”
“Earlier in the week I said that getting to the A final was the main aim, and here I am on the middle step!”
Thomas joined John Collins in picking up bronze in the final of the men’s double and said: “We had no idea where we’d come – a classic men’s double sculls blanket finish – but we’re really pleased to get on the podium.
“It’s been a long time and we’ve missed out a few times, like in Linz in 2019 when we got fourth place, so to be on the right side of things is really great.
“We’ve been going well in training and in the team speed order we placed quite highly, so we knew we had speed, but you don’t know what everyone else will be doing.
“You don’t know whether they’ve found speed, lost speed or whatever, so we’re just happy to be in the mix. There’s plenty to work on still, but today’s a good stake in the ground.
“All the feelings – the nerves, the anxiety – all feel so distant when you’re in lockdown, but now it’s real and here we are enjoying it, with a smile on my face behind my mask.”