Now for the Quads
Reigning Champions: Lithuania
2017 saw an epic battle between Lithuania and Great Britain, with the Lithuanians coming out on top, but the story from the 2017 World Championships was how Graeme Thomas stepped into the stroke seat on the start line to replace the injured Pete Lambert and led the crew to an amazing silver medal. This year Lithuania remain the crew to beat whereas the British have had a very mixed season.
The Lithuanians have three of the crew that won the World Championships with Dovydas Nemeravicius, Rolandas Mascinskas and Aurimas Adamovicius, they are joined by Saulius Ritter. Ritter is an Olympic silver medallist in the M2X at Rio and finished 4th in that boat class last season. They haven’t raced much in the quad this season, with just a 6th place in Lucerne and a silver medal in Strathclyde.
The British have had a very up-and-down season. They made a change from the crew that won silver last year with M1X bronze medallist Tom Barras coming in in place of Jack Beaumont. Barras joins John Collins and Jonny Walton (who were the GB M2X at the Rio Olympics) and Graeme Thomas. Thomas was unlucky to miss out on the Olympics due to injury, but after his heroics in 2017 he keeps his seat back in the boat in which he won a World silver medal in 2014. So far this season they have wins in Belgrade and Lucerne, but slipped to 7th in Linz and 6th in Strathclyde. Consistency looks to be their problem. It remains to be seen whether they race like Lucerne of Linz at the World Championships, if it’s the former they will win gold….if the latter they might not even make the A-final.
Italy have forced themselves into medal contention this year. They have only raced twice this year (in Linz and Strathclyde) but won gold on both occasions. The crew is Filippo Mondelli, Andrea Panizza, Luca Rambaldi and Giacomo Gentili. Gentili and Panizza were in the M4X last year but had a disappointing World Championships where they could only finish 12th. The addition of Mondelli and Rambaldi, who were bronze medallists in the M2X last year, have transformed the crew from also-rans into serious medal contenders.
One of the big stories in the run-up to this year’s World Championships is that double Olympic champion, Mahe Drysdale from New Zealand, lost the M1X spot to Robbie Manson and has won a seat in the Kiwi quad (his first time in a crew boat since racing in the M4- at the Athens Olympics). Drysdale joins Lewis Hollows, Nathan Flannery and Cameron Crompton – all of whom were still in junior school when Drysdale made his senior international debut! This season the Kiwi quad (with Jordan Parry racing instead of Drysdale) finished 5th in Linz and 7th in Lucerne. It’ll be interesting to see how Drysdale fits into the crew dynamic and whether the addition of his power and experience can lift the Kiwis into a medal position.
One place ahead of the Kiwis in Linz were their neighbours across the Tasman Sea, Australia. They have a crew of Caleb Antill, Campbell Watts, Alex Purnell and David Watts. Antill was U23 World Champion in 2016 and Purnell and Campbell Watts were in the M8 that finished 8th in Sarasota, and David Watts was in the M2X that raced in the C Final. As well as finishing 4th in Linz they then took 5th in Lucerne. An A-Final placing in Plovdiv will be a good result.
The Netherlands have had a solid season so far this year, and have tried out a number of different combinations. After a 5th place in Belgrade, with a crew of Abe Wiersma, Koen Metesmakers, Amos Keijser and Freek Robbers, they settled on a crew that included Stefan Broenink and Dirk Uitenbogaard in place of Robbers and Keijser. This combination took silvers at both Linz and Lucerne, but then slipped to 5th at the Europeans. Their performances during the World Cup series certainly show they have the speed to challenge for the medals.
Poland were 5th at the 2017 World Championships, but for 2018 they only have two of that crew remaining, Wiktor Chabel and Dominik Czaja. They are joined this season by Maciej Zawoski, who last raced at a World Championships in 2015 finishing 14th in the M2X, and Szymon Posnik, who made his senior debut this season. During this year’s World Cup series they placed 5th, 6th and 3rd. They also raced at the European Championships in Strathclyde, picking up another bronze medal.
The final crew to mention are the Germans, Ruben Steinhardt, Philipp Syring, Hans Gruhne and Stephan Kruge. They started the season well, taking silver behind the British in Belgrade (having led the race for 1990 of the 2000 meters), but have been steadily heading backwards since then, they finished 3rd in Linz and then 4th in Lucerne. It remains to be seen if they can reverse this trend in Plovdiv.
My picks…..if the British race to their potential then they could win gold, but I’ve a feeling the Lithuanians will take it with the British in silver and the Italians in bronze.
Reigning champions: The Netherlands
This has the makings of one of the most competitive events at the regatta, so far this season there have been six different nations amongst the medals. But, it’s the Germans who have emerged as the leading contenders for the gold. There crew is Marie-Catherine Arnold, Carlotta Nwajide, Franziska Kampmann and Frieda Haemmerling. The stern pair of the crew (Kampmann & Haemmerling) were in those seats at the World Championships last season that finished 4th. Nwajide also raced at the World Championships, finishing 10th in the W2X. Arnold is the most experienced of the crew having finished 7th in the W2X at the Rio Olympics, she also has a hatful of World Cup and World and European medals. This season they started with a slightly different line-up in Belgrade and finished out of the medals, but since changing to the World Championship line-up they have dominated with wins at both Linz and Lucerne.
The Netherlands are the reigning world champions and they have three of that crew returning (Olivia van Rooijen, Sophie Souwer & Nicole Beukers), they are joined this year by Karolien Florijn. The three returners from the 2017 also have Olympic experience. Beukers was in the W4X that won silver (behind the Germans) in Rio and van Rooijen and Souwer were in the W8 that finished 6th. Florijn is the youngster of the crew, making her senior debut in 2017 winning a silver medal in the W8 at the European Championships and 6th at the World Championships. This season they have two podium appearances with bronze medals at Lucerne and again at the European Championships. They will need to find more speed if they hope to retain their title, but will be one of the top contenders for one of the minor medals.
Poland and the Netherland had a ding-dong battle during the 2017 season, with the Poles winning the World Cup but the Dutch winning the Worlds. The Polish have kept the same line-up that finished in silver last year with Agnieszka Kobus-Zawojska, Marta Wieliczko, Maria Springwald and Katarzyna Zillman. They will be desperate to get revenge on the Dutch this season. So far the results are 2-2. The Dutch won in Belgrade with Poland in silver, in Linz the Dutch were 5th and Poland 6th but in Lucerne the Poles beat the Dutch (2nd & 3rd) and then at the Europeans it was gold for Poland and bronze for the Netherlands. The recent history between these two crews almost make it a race within a race
China last won a World Championship medal in this event in 2014 (silver), but haven’t won gold since 1993. They have an experienced line-up with three Olympians (Ling Zhang, Yeuwei Wang and Yang Lyu). The 4th member of the crew is Xiaotong Cui, she missed qualification for Rio as part of the W8. In 2017 China (with 2 of the 2018 crew onboard) finished in the B-Final. But so far in 2018 they have shown that they have medal potential with 4th in Belgrade and Lucerne and a silver in Linz.
Another crew who have shown glimpses of medal potential are the Australians. This year’s crew contains three of the boat that finished 6th at the 2017 World Championships (Genevieve Horton, Caitlin Cronin and Rowena Meredith) along with W2X bronze medallist Olympia Aldersey. At their first appearance of the season in Linz, they took bronze behind Germany and China and then in Lucerne they were 6th (in a final won by Germany with a 2nd German boat in 5th). They will be an outside bet for a medal.
Another outside bet to make the podium are the British. They produced an excellent performance in 2017 to take the bronze. This year’s crew contains three of that boat (Jess Leyden, Mathilda Hodgkins-Byrne and Melissa Wilson). Stroking the crew this year is Olympic W8 silver medallist Zoe Lee. Lee missed the whole of the 2017 season with injury and perhaps surprisingly when she did return she went into the sculling squad, returning to a boat class she last competed internationally in back in 2016. 2018 hasn’t been the smoothest for the British, with illness and injury forcing withdrawal from Belgrade and Lucerne. Their first race in Belgrade was a reasonable 7th and they followed this with a more encouraging performance at the Europeans where they were just off the podium. If they get everything right in Plovdiv then a medal is possible.
Ukraine finished 4th at the Rio Olympics and had the same line up for 2017 and 2018 (Daryna Verkhogliad, Olena Buryak, Anastasiia Kozhenkova & Ievgeniia Dohvodko). 2017 was a disappointing year when they dropped back to finish 8th of the 9 crews. 2018 has shown a more encouraging turn of speed, in their two appearances so far they have 4th in Linz and an excellent silver from the European Championships.
The final crew to mention are the USA. Their quad hasn’t raced so far this season, but they have three of the crew that finished 5th on home water last year – Elizabeth Sonshine, Emily Huelskamp & Maureen Mcauliffe. The fourth member of the crew is Kara Soucek, she makes her international racing debut having been the sculling spare last season. As with the British and Australians, the US have the potential to challenge for the bronze but an A-final finish is probably more likely.
My picks….Germany are showing signs that they can dominate this event like they did in the 2016 season, they’ll take the gold with the Netherlands and the Poles renewing their rivalry and Poland getting the best of the Dutch for the silver.
just a quick note….for those looking for previews of the International Events (LW4X and LM4X) time constraints mean I’ve had to focus on the Olympic class events only….sorry