New Zealand’s boosted its reputation for producing world class single scullers after Emma Twigg and Thomas Mackintosh claimed podium finishes on the final day of the World Rowing Championships in Serbia.

Olympic champion Twigg has taken another significant step towards defending her title in Paris next year after claiming silver in the Women’s Single Sculls.

The 36-year-old is in her ninth senior world championship spanning 16 years.

She used all that experience against other medal favourites, Karolien Florijn from the Netherlands, Australian Tara Rigney and the USA’s Kara Kohler in this morning’s (NZT) final.

Florijn claimed gold to maintain a two-year unbeaten run in the boat, but Twigg can now set her sights on her fifth Olympics and closing the gap on the 25-year-old.

Florijn finished in 7min 14.35sec, with Twigg crossing in 7:19.43 and Rigney 7:21.07.

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Emma Twigg, Karolien Florijn (Netherlands), Tara Rigney (Australia) and the USA’s Kara Kohler after the Women's Single Scull A Final. photo: Art of Rowing. 

Thomas Mackintosh is short on experience in this boat class but has again shown his huge promise with a bronze in the Men’s Single Sculls.

He was only selected for the prestigious single sculling spot in June and quickly proved his natural talent with a bronze medal in his first outing at the World Cup regatta in July.

Mackintosh was considering leaving the sport at the start of the year before a stint of club rowing in Japan reignited his passion. He was in the New Zealand Eight that won gold in Tokyo in 2021. But it was his return to the Sea Forest Waterway in May to row the All-Japanese Championships with Toyota that gave him new focus.

Helping a crew of club rowers to their first ever eights championship was an epiphany for Mackintosh, and he decided he would continue, albeit with a new challenge in mind.

Mackintosh moved into medal position through the first 500m of this morning’s final after typically blistering starts from Germany’s Ollie Zeidler and Simon van Dorp from the Netherlands.

The Hawke’s Bay sculler was level with van Dorp at the 1350 mark before the Dutchman pulled away again.

Zeidler led all the way to win in 6:38.08, with van Dorp second (6:39.26) and Mackintosh crossing in 6:40.33.

This compressed Olympics cycle has put plenty of pressure on all athletes and programmes, and New Zealand’s Lucy Spoors and Brooke Francis have packed more than most into the three-year gap between Games.

Spoors won silver in the Women’s Eight at Tokyo, Francis silver in the Double Sculls.

They then took a break to start families before returning to the demands of full-time training and combining in June to row the double for the first time together.

They qualified the boat for Paris in the semifinals on Friday and were in contention for a medal in last night’s final.

They went through the first 500m in third and were able to hold that position until around the 1500m mark before being overrun to finish fifth in 6:54.99.

Romania won gold in 6:46.94 to defend its title with Lithuania crossing in 6:50.34, the United States claiming bronze in 6:50.45.

It was a top result for Spoors and Francis who were third in the B Final of the World Cup regatta in Lucerne in July, and they now have plenty of time to complete their comeback for Paris.

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Lucy Spoors and Brooke Francis in the A Final of the Women's Double Sculls. PHoto: Art of Rowing. 

The day got off to a great start in the Men’s Double Sculls, with Ben Mason and Robbie Manson qualifying the boat for Paris after finishing fifth in the B Final.

Manson, who is still the fastest man to ever row a single sculls, has likened the doubles event to a “shark tank’’.

It’s a tank that goes deep as well - none of the crews in the B Final would have looked out of place in the A Final.

The field for the B Final was nearly inseparable going through the 1500m mark, with only 0.49s separating the top four crews. The new combination of Manson and Mason was a further 1s back and hung in with the fast finish to seal the Paris qualification.

“It means everything, so awesome,” said Mason. “Your childhood dream and everything you’ve been working for this season has just happened in the last minute. It’s all becoming reality which is just insane, it’s so cool.

“It was a real fight right to the finish line which is awesome...really meaningful that we had to fight right to the line to earn it.”

It’s the third time Manson, who had a break from international competition at the end of 2019, has qualified a boat for the Olympics from a B Final.

“I guess at the start of the year I didn’t intend to be here, so to be able to come back and do this is pretty awesome.”

New Zealand finished the regatta with three medals, including the bronze won by the Men’s Coxless Four on Saturday, and qualified eight boats for Paris.

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The Men’s Double Sculls, Ben Mason and Robbie Manson in the Men's Double Sculls B Final. photo: Art of Rowing. 

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Andy Hay

Andy Hay is a freelance producer, writer and rowing coach. He was cox of the world champion New Zealand eight of 1982 and '83. He is NZ Olympian #446.