The World Championships preview part 6: The eights

For most of the Olympic-class events if you make the A-Final, then that’s job done, your boat will be on the start line in Tokyo. But, in the eights just making the A-Final isn’t going to be enough. You have to be in the top 5. This means that the battle at the back of the A-Final will be just as fierce, if not more so, than that for the medals. No-one wants to finish 6th, the worst possible place. So, who will make it, and will miss out?

 

M8

Entries: 10

Olympic qualifying places: 5

 

2018 Champions: Germany

 

 

Germany set out to win every World Championship title of the Olympiad, they did it in the London Olympiad and the British did it for Rio. In fact, since 2009 Britain and Germany have won every World and Olympic title. Germany are on track to achieve their aim of winning the three world titles of the Olympiad, having won in both 2017 and 2018. But, Great Britain have been getting closer and closer. The Olympic champions had a disaster in 2017, missing out on the A-Final completely. But chief coach, Jurgen Grobler, has been slowly rebuilding his squad and is targeting peak performance in 2020. The British returned to medal-winning ways in 2018 with a bronze. In 2019 they’ve been chasing the Germans throughout the season with silver medals at both the European Championships and the Poznan World Cup. But, in Rotterdam for the 3rdWorld Cup the British finally got back on top of the podium, beating the Germans by a length. But (and it’s a big but), the weather played a big part in GB’s win, GB’s Mo Sbihi admitted that conditions were “laney” and the result should be taken with a pinch of salt. But, this could also be all part of the mind games going on between the British and Germans. Germany will know they have beaten Britain on countless occasions in the last few years, Britain will want to lull them into thinking that Rotterdam was a “blip” whereas GB know they have the speed to take down the German machine. Whatever else goes on in the 8’s race, the battle between the Germans and the British will be fascinating.

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There Great Britain Men’s 8. Photo: Nick Middleton/British Rowing

 

But, there are 8 other crews in the race, all of them looking to get among the medals and get on the plane to Tokyo. New Zealand’s 8 has been garnering a lot of the limelight this season, with 2 of the biggest names in the sport finding seats in the boat. Mahe Drysdale moved into the 8 after losing the selection battle for the M1X spot to Robbie Manson, Hamish Bond joined the crew after deciding that he wasn’t going to make the New Zealand Olympic cycling squad.. The addition of these two legends has galvanised the crew from one that finished last in 2018 to a boat of genuine medal-contenders in 2019. The Kiwis last won a World Championship M8 medal in 1983 when they won gold, this year’s crew could well change that. The longer this crew stays together, the faster they get. If they put together a decent regatta, and if the Germans and British become preoccupied with what each other are doing then the Kiwis could sneak it.

 

The biggest unknown of this event will be the USA. They’ve not raced as a crew all season (there was a US crew racing in Rotterdam, but that was the U23 crew – who went on to win a silver medal at the U23 Worlds). But, the US have a great history in this event and they’ve put together a very strong outfit. They have 6 of the crew that finished 4thin 2018, but only 5 of the athletes have raced this season, with the no.1 M4- of Alex Karwoski, Connor Harrity, Mike Di Santo and Austin Hack (who finished 5that the Poznan World Cup) along with Alex Richards (who raced in a 2ndUS M4- in Poznan that came 11th). They will be looking to spring a surprise on the more established crews and should have the pace to take a qualifying spot.

 

Australia are another serious challenger for the medals. They finished runners-up to the Germans at last year’s World Championships. They’ve been fiddling around with their line-up all season. Only 6 of the crew remain from the 2018 line-up. Their results so far this season have been a little disappointing, with a 5thplace at the 2ndWorld Cup and 6thin Rotterdam. However, for Linz they have brought in Tim Masters, who won gold in the M4- in Rotterdam, Spencer Turrin (gold in the M4- in 2018 and gold in the M2- in Rotterdam), along with Alex Purnell (silver in the M4X last year) and Karsten Fosterling, who last rowed for Australia at the Rio Olympics. Fosterling wasn’t on the original entry list (that was James Medway), so the Australians are playing musical chairs with their squad at the moment. But, this looks a very powerful 8 and should produce a better result than their 6thplace in Rotterdam.

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Karsten Fosterling, representing Australia for the first time since the Rio Olympics. Photo: Rowing Australia

 

 

Canada’s last world title was in 2007 with the crew that went on to win Olympic gold in Beijing. Since then, the biggest men’s boat has somewhat lost its way with the Canucks. The focus switched to the smaller boats but the medals became elusive. A Canadian M8 hasn’t made the A-Final at the World Championships since 2011, in fact Canada didn’t even have a M8 between 2013 and 2017. When they returned to the boat class in 2018 they ended 8thof the 9 crews at the World Championships. But, the 2019 crew look a much better proposition. Their one appearance at the World Cup this year in Poznan netted them a bronze medal behind the Germans and British. The crew are coxed by the legendary Lesley Thompson-Willie who returns to international competition after retiring after coxing the Canadian W8 at the Rio Olympics. She turns 60 next month and make her debut in 1981. If Canada qualify for Tokyo (and if Thompson-Willie stay in the coxes seat) it will be her 8thOlympics! The crew are stroked by London Olympic silver medallist Will Crothers.

 

The crews likely to be battling it out for the crucial 5thqualifying spot are liekely to be the Netherlands, Italy and Romania. The Dutch were bronze medallists at the European Championships and then took 4that the Rotterdam World Cup. Romania finished one place behind the Dutch at both the Euro’s and in Rotterdam. They also raced at the 1stWorld Cup winning a silver medal…..albeit in a two crew race. Italy have struggled so far this season finishing 6that both the Europeans and Poznan. They will need more speed if they hope to qualify for Tokyo. The final crew in the event are Russia, 5that the Europeans, and last of the 8 crews at Rotterdam (beaten by the US U23 M8).

 

My picks….I reckon GB will get the better of the Germans with the USA taking the bronze.

 

Predicted Olympic qualifiers: GBR, GER, USA, AUS, NZL

 

 

W8

11 entries

Olympic qualifying places: 5

 

2018 Champions: The USA

 

 

When a USA W8 fails to win a gold medal it’s a fairly major event. They’ve dominated this event for the last dozen years, winning the Olympic titles in Beijing, London and Rio. They’ve also won 8 of the last 9 world championships. The only country to have beaten them at a World Championships since 2006 were the Romanians who won in 2017 (the shock for that year wasn’t just that the US were beaten, they were out of the medals altogether!) But, “normal service” was resumed in 2018 when the US returned to the top of the podium. The crew for 2019 however, haven’t had the best of starts, their one appearance so far was at the 2ndWorld Cup in Poznan and they were beaten into 2ndby Australia. But, they are a powerful line-up with multiple Olympic and World champions on board and will still be favourites to take gold.

The USA W8 – World Champions in 2018. Photo: USRowing

 

Canada have often played bridesmaid to the US’s Bride, six times in the last ten World Championships years they finished 2ndto the US, and on the rare occasion the US didn’t win the gold the Canadians still finished as runners-up (when Romania won in 2017). Not since Vienna in 1991 has a Canadian W8 come out on top at a World Championships. They have 5 of the crew that won silver last year along with the world championship gold medal pair of Hillary Janssens and Caileigh Filmer (who are doubling-up in the W2-). There’s also 2018 U23 world Champion Avalon Wasteneys. The core of this crew raced at the 2ndand 3rdWorld Cups finishing a disappointing 6thin Poznan but then taking the bronze in Rotterdam. The crew for Linz is definitely stronger than in Rotterdam, so I fully expect Canada to be up challenging the US.

 

One of the favourites to overthrow the USA are New Zealand. The Kiwis have never won this event, but came closest in 2015 when they finished runners-up to the USA. This year’s crew stands a real chance of repeating that feat or even going one better. The crew includes the outstanding pairing of Grace Prendergast and Kerri Gowler, who are doubling-up and favourites for the W2-. 2018 was a disappointing season for this crew, after medals at the 2017 World championships and silver and gold in the World Cups they ended up 7thout of 8 at the World Championships. This season has also seen them among the medals with a gold at the final World Cup in Rotterdam. If they get everything right then they are capable of beating everyone.

 

After taking silver at the Rio Olympics, Great Britain have been in the long process of rebuilding their women’s squad following a wave of retirements. The crew for this year contains just two of the Rio crew, Zoe Lee and Karen Bennett. Since Rio the British have been regularly in the A-finals at the world championships, but not threatening the medals. This year has seen them step on, taking silver at the European Championships and an excellent bronze in Poznan. Rotterdam was less successful for GB when they slipped back to 5thin the tough conditions, but they will be heading into Linz confident that they can achieve a top 5 finish and with an outside chance of a medal.

 

Australia are another nation with their sights firmly set on Tokyo. As with the Kiwis and Canadians, they have a couple of athletes who are doubling-up in the W2- (Annabelle McIntyre and Jessica Morrison. They also have 7 of the crew that finished in the bronze medal position last year. Also in the crew is Molly Goodman, who won silver in the W4- last year and U23 international Bronwyn Cox. So far this season the Aussies have had a great season, taking gold in Poznan and silver in Rotterdam. They will be desperate to secure Olympic qualification by right this year. In 2015 they missed out, and also missed out at the Final Olympic Qualification regatta, only to receive a last minute call up following the exclusion of the Russian team. This time round they want to make no mistake. (as an interesting aside, it’s fun to note that the Aussie men’s 8 is being coxed by a women, and the women’s 8 by a man…..there was an interesting discussion on the Rowperfect Facebook page recently about whether men respond better to a female cox and vice versa).

 

Russia will also be desperate to make an appearance at the Olympics having been forced to sit it out in Rio. They have had a reasonable year so far, with a bronze medal at the European Championships and a 4thplace at the Rotterdam World Cup. At the heart of the crew are the quartet that won gold in the W4- at the 2017 European Championships. This is a young crew (average age of 23 compared to the likes of the USA at 28 and the Kiwis at 25) so they will only improve as they have more time together. But they will be in the mix for an Olympic place if not a medal.

 

Romania are another very young crew, with an average age of just 21 (excluding the 29 –year-old Daniela Druncea in the coxswain’s seat). But, despite their youth they are an extremely rapid unit. Winners of the European Championships this season they slipped back slightly in Rotterdam where they came 6th. But, they will definitely be contenders for an Olympic spot.

 

It’s quite rare to see a Women’s 8’s event with as many as 11 entries (and with more entries than the men’s event) and it’s particularly pleasing to see crews from countries who do not normally race the eights. One such crew is Denmark. This is the first time they’ve raced a women’s 8 at a World Championships since Tampere in 1995. The crew is mainly made up of former U23 and junior athletes and they will have little expectation of qualifying for the Olympics, but it will be a great learning experience for the athletes and will pave the way for their development throughout the Paris Olympiad.

The other countries racing are China (silver medallists – in a race of 3 – at the first World Cup, and 9thin Rotterdam), the Netherlands (winners in Plovdiv at the start of the season but only 8that the 2ndand 3rdWorld Cups) and Germany (7thin Poznan and 10thin Rotterdam).

 

My picks….despite the loss to Australia in Poznan I still think this will be another World title for the USA with the Kiwis in silver and the Australians in bronze

 

Predicted Olympic qualifiers: USA, NZL, AUS, CAN, GBR

The World Championships preview part 5: the quads

M4X

Entries: 18

Olympic qualifying places: 8

2018 Champions: Italy

 

Italy are the defending champions and they are back with the same line-up for 2019. Filippo Mondelli, Andrea Panizza, Luca Rambaldi and Giacomo Gentili not only won the world title last year, they also took gold at the Europeans. So far this season they’ve raced at the Regatta Internazionale Memorial Paolo d’Aloja in Piediluco and the European Championships in Lucerne. On both occasions they were comprehensively beaten by the Dutch. They will be anxious to reverse those results in Linz and mount a successful defence of their title.

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Filippo Mondelli of Italy. Photo: Phlanx.com

 

The Netherlands crew that won in Piediluco and Lucerne are Dirk Uittenbogaard, Abe Wiersma, Tone Wieten and Koen Metesmakers. 5thin the world last year, 2019 has seen them step on from a 5thplace last season. Their win at the European Championships was their first title at a European or World championships in this boat class since 1989. They also raced at the 3rdWorld Cup on home water in Rotterdam where they were pushed down into bronze by Poland and Germany. A medal in Linz is a strong possibility for the Dutch

 

Germany have an extremely experienced crew with Rio Olympic champions Karl Schulze and Hans Gruhne on board (Schulze also won gold in this event in London). They are joined by Timo Piontek and Max Appel, they were both in the crew in 2017 that finished 8th. Last year’s German M4X struggled to find medal-winning speed, and only Gruhne remains from that crew. They’ve been getting better as the season progresses but are yet to find the middle of the podium. 4that the European’s they then took bronze in Poznan and silver in Rotterdam. The question is, can they go one better in Linz?

Timo Piontek of Germany. Photo:Rudern.De

 

 

Poland dominated this event in the early 00’s winning gold at the Worlds and Olympics from 2005 to 2009. Since then however, the trophy cabinet has been empty. Their best result coming from the 2011 Worlds and the Rio Olympics where they finished 4thon both occasions. The 2019 crew however, will start as favourites to win their first M4X for a decade. Dominik Czaja, Wiktor Chabel, Szymon Posnik & Fabian Baranski won gold at both the 2ndand 3rdWorld Cups (with Chabel and Baranski also winning gold at the first World Cup along with Miroslaw Zietarski and Mateusz Biksup). In fact, the only blip for the Poles came at the European Championships when a crew of Czaja, Adam Wicenciak, Posnik and Biksup finished 7th.  They will be confident heading into Linz thatthey can take gold.

Another country with strong hopes for a medal are Great Britain. Jonny Walton, Jack Beaumont, Angus Groom and Pete Lambert have shown they are capable of beating just about anyone, but they lack consistency, and their performances so far this season, bronze at the Europeans followed by a 5thand 6that the 2ndand 3rdWorld Cups have been a little below par. All four of these athletes raced at the Rio Olympics, with Beaumont, Groom and Lambert finishing 5thin the quad and Walton 5thin the M2X. Whilst the competition is very fierce, the British will want to demonstrate that they can mix it with the likes of the Poles, Italians and Germans and be serious contenders, not just for a medal, but for the gold.

Another crew who have struggled somewhat this season are Lithuania. They have three Olympians onboard, two of whom (Rolandas Mascinskas and Aurimas Adomavicius) won this title in 2017. 12thin 2018 was a big disappointment and for 2019 Mascinskas and Adomavicius are joined by Zygimantas Galisanskis and Dominykas Jancionis. Galisanskis raced in this boat back in 2015 and returned to international competition at the start of 2019 racing in the M1X at the first World Cup where he finished 25th. Jancionis was in the crew that finished 9that the Rio Olympics before moving to the M4- for the 2017 season. So far in 2019 the Lithuanians are yet to show medal-winning form, 11that the Europeans was followed by 7that the Poznan World Cup. They will need to have stepped on significantly for Linz or they may run the risk of missing out on a top 8 finish.

Australia have tweaked the line-up of the crew that finished 4that the Rotterdam World Cup last month. Joining Cam Girdlestone and David Watts from the crew that raced in Rotterdam, are Hamish Playfair and Campbell Watts. This latter duo raced in the M2X at the 2ndand 3rdWorld Cups finishing 5thand 6threspectively. Australia have a strong record in this event, silver medallists in Rio (in a crew which included Girdlestone) they won silver behind the Italians in 2018 (with both Campbell and David Watts on board). This new line-up certainly has the pedigree to be challenging for the medals and will definitely be in the mix.

No discussion of the M4X can be complete without talking about Norway, stroked by the legendary Olaf Tufte. He’s aiming to qualify for his 7thOlympic Games and with two golds, one silver and 2 bronze Olympic medals to his name he is genuinely one of the “superstars” of the sport. The 43-year-old is joined in the quad by Martin Helseth, Erik Solbakken and Jan Oscar Helvig. The Norwegians were 6thin this event in 2017 (with Nils Jakob Hoff stroking instead of Tufte who was racing the double with Kjetil Borch). Injury prevented the crew from racing as a quad at the 2018 World Championships, where Solbakken and Helvig raced the double to a 10thplace. They’ve made a reasonable start to their 2019 campaign. 5thplace at the Europeans was followed by a brief excursion into doubles for the 2ndWorld Cup, before returning to the quad for Rotterdam where they just missed out on an A-Final place and ended up winning the B-Final. Should Norway make the top 8 in Linz it will be one of the most popular results of the regatta and should, assuming he stays fit and healthy, see Tufte take his place on the start line for his 7thOlympic Games.

Tufte

Norway’s Olaf Tufte – could he be heading for his 7th Olympics!

 

4thin the world last year were New Zealand. That year they had Mahe Drysdale on board, helping the crew of Nathan Flannery, Cameron Crampton and Lewis Hollows record New Zealand’s best ever result in the M4X at the World Championships. With Drysdale moving to the M8, his place is taken by Jordan Parry. 2019 is Parry’s 2nd season on the senior international circuit, but he has a strong pedigree in the quad having won gold and silver at U23 level in 2017 and 2016 respectively. He made his senior debut last year racing at the 2ndand 3rdWorld Cups (deputising for Drysdale). So far this season they have won bronze at the 2ndWorld Cup (their first World Cup medal since 2015) and followed that with an 8thplace in Rotterdam. As with the Norwegians, the Kiwis have the pedigree to qualify for Tokyo, but I’ve a feeling they will be in the scrap for the final two spots at the front end of the B-final.

One crew who will be expecting to qualify for Tokyo are Ukraine. They have the same line-up that won bronze last year, Dmytro Mikhay, Sergii Gryn, Olexandr Nadtoka and Ivan Dovdogko. The issue for the Ukrainians is one of consistency. Three of the crew won gold at the 2014 World Championships, setting the World Best Time in the process. But in 2015 they were 8th, 6thin Rio followed in 2016 and then 3rdlast year. So far this season the crew have race at the European Championships finishing 6th. For a crew with 7 Olympic appearances between them their inconsistency is very frustrating. They will need to be at their best to make the qualification standard.

China have benefitted from being based in Europe for the summer season (an innovation put in place by High Performance director Steve Redgrave). This means they’re one of the few countries that have raced at the full World Cup series. Their M4X is Xudi Yi, ha Zang, Dang Liu and Quan Zhang. They spent the first World Cup in doubles with the bow pair finishing 7thone place behind their stern pair. For Poznan they moved into the quad finishing 6th. In Rotterdam they finished 9th. An Olympic qualifying place in Linz will be a big challenge for the Chinese and they have an outside chance of a top 8.

Another crew with an outside chance of Olympic qualification are Russia. 10thin the world last year they also finished 10that the European championships this year. Rotterdam saw the crew of Vadislav Rybacev, Artem Kosov, Nikolay Pimenov and Pavel Sorin produce a much stronger performance taking 5th.

The final crews to briefly mention are Estonia, 3rdin the world in 2017 but have been B-Final finishers since then, Moldova, silver medallists at the first World Cup and 7that the U23 Worlds this year. Belarus’s crew includes Stanislau Shcharbachenia and Dzianias Mihal who are doubling-up in the M2X, and the USA who were 8thin Poznan.

 

My picks….Germany in gold, Poland in silver and (I hope) Great Britain in bronze.

Predicted Olympic qualifiers: GER, POL, GBR, NED, ITA, AUS, NOR, LTU

 

W4x

Entries 12

Olympic qualifying places: 8

2018 Champions: Poland

 

Statistically speaking the W4X is the easiest boat class to qualify for Tokyo with 12 crews chasing 8 places. But, the quality of the field gunning for those 8 places is incredibly high and almost all of the twelve crews are in with a shout.

China have been the dominant force so far this season The crew of Yunxia Chen, Ling Zhang, Yang Lyu and Xiatong Cui were winners at both the first and 2ndWorld Cups and also took the Princess Grace Challenge Cup ay Henley. All bar Chen were in this crew at last year’s World Championships where they finished 4th. The Chinese haven’t won this event since 1993 and haven’t been among the medals since 2014. But, under the guidance of coach Paul Thompson, this year’s Chinese boat will be going into the World Championships as the ones to beat.

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China’s management team….Paul Thompson and Sir Steve Redgrave. Photo: Row360

 

Last year’s World Champions, Poland, are back to try and defend their title. 2019 sees them with the same line-up that won the title in Plovdiv, Agnieszka Kobus-Zawojska, Marta Wieliczko, Maria Springwald and Katarzyna Zillmann. This quartet also raced together in 2017 taking the silver medal. Kobus-Zawojska and Springwald were in the bronze medal Olympic crew from Rio and Wieliczko and Zillmann won gold that year at the U23 World Championships. This season they had, for them, a slow start, finishing 4that the European Championships and they were runners-up to the Chinese at the Poznan World Cup and the Germans in Rotterdam.

Germany used to dominate this event (in one guise or another) winning 16 World Championship titles between 1985 and 2014. Their record at Olympic level is even better, having won every Olympic title except in Beijing and London.  For 2019 they’ve kept two of the crew that won a silver medal last season, Franziska Kampmann and Freida Haemmerling.  They are joined by Daniela Schultze (who raced in this crew at the 2017 World Championships) and Michaela Stahlberg (10thin the W2X last year). So far this season they have a gold medal from the European Championships and a bronze from Poznan (with Carlotta Nwadjie instead of Schultze). They then took gold at the final World Cup in Rotterdam, and come into Linz on a high that they can take their first World title since 2014.

The Netherlands have a strong record in this boat class over the last few years. Silver medallists in Rio, they won the world title in 2017 (their first in this event).  2018 saw them win the European title and then bronze at the World Championships. Linz sees the full world championship-winning crew from 2017 reunited, Olivia van Rooijen, Inge Janssen, Sophie Souwer and Nicole Beukers. So far this season the Dutch have been racing with Mieke Wilms in the stroke seat and they’ve had a run of silver medals at both the first and 2ndWorld Cups and the European Championships. By their own high standards their performance in Rotterdam, where they came 5th, was something of a disappointment. It remains to be seen if the reintroduction of Beukers to the stroke seat will get them back among the medals.

 

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Nicole Beukers of the Netherlands. Photo: World Rowing

 

Australia haven’t won this event since 2003, and haven’t won a medal since 2006. They have a new crew for 2019 with just one returner from the 2017 and 2018 crews, Rowena Meredith. She’s joined by Katrina Bateman, making her return to international competition for the first time in 4 years, and Fiona Ewing and Cara Grzeskowiak, both of whom make their senior international debuts having last raced for Australia at the 2016 U23 World Championships. They’ve made a strong start to their 2019 campaign, finishing 4thin Poznan and then taking the bronze medal at the Rotterdam World Cup.

Great Britain won 4 out of 5 World titles between 2005 and 2010. Since then they have been struggling to establish a truly world class crew. But, slowly, they’ve been developing a strong unit, and after the disappointment of not qualifying for the Rio Olympics then bounced back with a bronze medal at the 2017 World Championships (the first medal in this event since gold in 2010). They finished 5thin 2018 with a crew of Jess Leyden, Holly Hill, Mathilda Hodgkins-Byrne and Zoe Lee. For 2019 Lee has moved back into the W8 (where she’d won an Olympic silver medal in Rio), and in her pace has come the younger Hodgkins-Byrne sister, Charlotte. She’s an outstanding young talent having won the U23 World Championships in the BW2X last year and then finished 4that the senior World Championships. Now in the quad they’ve made a solid start to 2019, 5that the European Championships was followed by 4that the Rotterdam World Cup. A medal may be just out of their reach in Linz, but they should comfortably qualify for Tokyo.

 

 

The USA won their one and only World title in this boat class in 2015. Their crew for Linz includes Lauren Schmetterling at bow. She was Olympic W8 champion in from Rio and she also has world championship gold medals from the W8 from 2013, 2014 and 2015. She’s joined by Sophia Vitas at 2, Emily Huelskamp at 3 and Kathryn Roach at stroke. Huelskamp was world champion in the W4- back in 2013 and is the only member of the 2018 W4X remaining. This crew haven’t raced at any of the 2019 World Cups so will be something of an unknown quantity, but the USA seldom produce slow women’s crews, so they will definitely be ones to watch.

The final crew to mention are the young Romanians. Larisa Elena Rosu, Elena Logofatu, Nicoleta Pascanu and Tabita Maftei. They all made their senior international debuts this season, finishing 6that the European Championships. They then went on to race at the U23 World Championships where they picked up a bronze medal.  They will be in a battle to secure the final qualifying place against the likes of New Zealand, Italy, France and Russia.

My picks…Germany in gold with the Chinese in silver and the Polish in bronze.

Predicted Olympic qualifiers: GER, CHN, POL, GBR, AUS, NED, USA, ROU

 

The World Championships preview part 4: The coxless fours

M4-

Entries: 22

Olympic Qualifying places: 8

2018 Champion: Australia

Australia won this event in 2017 and 2018 and will be odds on favourites to make it a hat-trick of titles in Linz. Alex Hill and Jack Hargreaves are the only survivors from the World Championship gold medal crew. For 2019 they have been mixing up the crew throughout the season. Jack Hargreaves and Alex Hill were in the gold medal crew in 2017 and 18, but Hill has been racing in the M2- this season, winning gold at both the 2ndand 3rdWorld Cups. Hargreaves has been in the four and was joined at the start of the season by Joseph O’Brien and Nick Purnell. O’Brien was in the M2- last season that finished 13thand Purnell rowed in the M8 in 2018 that won the silver medal. The changes from 2018 haven’t had much of an impact on their speed, they’ve raced at the 2ndand 3rdWorld Cups and won gold both times. The addition of Hill for Linz (replacing Tim Masters) can only make them quicker. The question for Linz is who will win silver and bronze and how far behind the Aussies will the rest of the world be.

Great Britain have a huge pedigree in this event and their battles with the Australians over the years have been epic. They have a new crew for this year with Matt Rossiter, Ollie Cook, Rory Gibbs and Sholto Carnegie. They came into 2019 with relatively low expectations, Carnegie and Gibbs were coming out of the U23 team, and Cook and Rossiter missed election for the M8. But, they have formed a very fast crew right from the off. Their first race together was at the European Championships where they won gold. They followed this up with a 4thplace in Poznan, a win at Henley and then an excellent silver behind the Australians in Rotterdam. For a new crew this is an outstanding start to their time together. At the start of the season the expectations on this crew was Olympic qualification, now the expectations are for a medal, and a good one at that. They may not beat the Australians, but I fully expect the Brits to be at the head of the chasing pack.

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Great Britain’s M4- Photo: Anthony Benoit

Runners-up to the Australians at the 2018 World Championships were Italy. Their crew is built around three Rio Olympic medallists, Matteo Castaldo was in the M4- that finished 3rdbehind the British and Australians. Also in the crew are the Olympic bronze medal pair of Marco di Castanzo and Giovanni Abagnale. The fourth member of the crew is Bruno Rosetti. He was in the M8 that won bronze in 2017, he was also in the four with di Costanzo and castaldo that won silver last year. So far in 2019 they started relatively slowly with a 5thplace at the European Championships, but followed that up with a much stronger performance in Poznan where they took silver behind the Australians. The battle for silver and bronze is going to come down to a fight between the Brits and Italians.

Another strong crew are Germany. Felix Wimberger and Max Planer were both in the M4- that finished 12thin Rio. They both moved into the M8 for 2017 and 2018, winning gold before losing their places in the top boat for 2019. They are joined by Felix Brummel and Nico Megret who were part of the M4- last season that came 6th. This season they’ve had some mixed results, a bronze medal at the European’s was followed by a B-Final placing in Poznan. Rotterdam saw them return to the podium taking bronze behind the Aussies and Brits.

Romania have a young crew with three of the U23 World Champion crew from 2018 (Mihaita-Vasile Tiganescu, Stefan-Constantin Berariu and Cosmin Pascari). As well as winning the U23 Worlds this crew also won gold a the senior European Championships last year. The fourth member of the crew is U23 bronze medallist Mugurel-Vasile Semciuc, he was in the BM8 in 2018. The four of them came together for the senior World Championships making the A-Final. So far this season the crew finished a disappointing 9that the Europeans, but followed that with a much better performance in Rotterdam where they finished 5th. As a young crew they are definitely ones to watch for the future, but they will do well to make the A-Final this year.

Winners of the 1stWorld Cup of the 2019 season were Poland. Their crew were all members of the M8 that finished 5that the Rio Olympics. At last year’s World Championships this finished at the front of the B-Final to take 7thoverall. In 2019, as well as gold from Plovdiv, they also have medals from the European Championships and the 2ndWorld Cup in Poznan. At the final World Cup they made the A-Final and will be one of the main contenders to repeat that achievement in Linz.

South Africa will be another strong contender to get Olympic qualification. Their crew includes Jake Green and David Hunt who were in the M4- that just missed out on a medal in Rio. They are joined by Kyle Schoonbee and Sandro Torrente. 10thplace in 2018 was a bit of a disappointment for a crew of this quality. So far in 2019 they had a great result at the Piediluco Regatta, winning the M4- event and pushing the top Italian boat into 2nd. They also raced at the Poznan World Cup reaching the A-Final.

The USA have put together a really interesting new crew. Stroking the boat is Clark Dean, the Harvard sophomore is a two-time junior World Champion in the single scull and was a key member of the Harvard varsity 8 during his Freshman year. But it’s a massive step up as a 19-year-old to be stroking one of the top US sweep boats trying for Olympic qualification. Dean is backed-up by three highly experienced athletes, all of whom were members of the US M8 that finished 4thlast year. At bow is Tom Peszek who represented the US in the M2- at the London Olympics, and won medals in the M8 in 2013 and 2017. In the 2 seat is Tom Dethlefs, he was also member of the US M8 in 2013,2014, 2015 and 2018. Sitting at 3 is Andrew Reed who was a member of the silver medal M8 in 2017. They are an untested combination, but US M4-‘s are always quick and this looks a very exciting combination. They could well spring a surprise on more established crews.

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Clark Dean, stroke of the USA M4-. Photo: World Rowing

New Zealand have selected a very young crew, three of whom won silver at this year’s U23 World Championships (Ben Taylor, Tom Mackintosh and Tom Russel), they are joined by Ian Seymour, 10 years their senior, who made a return to international competition this season following a break of 7 years. He raced as a 2ndNZL M2- at the 2ndand 3rdWorld Cups finishing 20thin Poznan and 10thin Rotterdam. Olympic qualification would be a major achievement for this crew.

The final two other crews to mention who have an outside chance of qualification for Tokyo are Belarus and the Netherlands. Belarus have three of the crew that finished 8that the World Championships last season, so far this year they placed 6that the Europeans and 8thin Poznan. The Netherlands have put together a new crew for Linz, two of whom raced at the Rio Olympics (Vincent Van der Want and Boudewijn Roell). These two, along with Jan van Der Bij, were in the M8 that won bronze at the European Championships this year. They entered two fours at Rotterdam, with van Der Want and Roell finishing 10thin one crew and van Der Bij, and the fourth member of the Linz crew, Nelson Ritsma, taking 7th. It remains to be seen with the new line-up will have the pace for a top 8 finish.

 

My picks…Australia in gold, Great Britain in silver and the USA pipping Italy for the bronze

Predicted Olympic qualifiers: AUS, GBR, USA, ITA, GER, POL, ROU, RSA.

 

W4-

Entries: 16

Olympic qualifying places: 8

2018 Champion: USA

Time for this event to get serious, Tokyo see the return of the W4- to Olympic competition after a break of 28 years. As with the M4- there are 8 qualifying spots up for grabs (as well as world championship medals0 and the competition is going to be fierce.

The USA are the defending champions and they have two of that crew back, Maddy Wannamaker and Molly Bruggeman. At bow in this crew is Vicky Opitz, a four-time World Champion from the W8, this year is her first in the smaller boat. The final member of the crew, occupying the 3 seat is the legendary Caryn Davies. A three-time Olympic medallist (including two golds), she retired from international competition after the London Olympics. She spent a year at Oxford University and stroked the Dark Blues to an historic win in the first Boat Race to be raced on the same course and the same day as the men’s Boat Race. The lure of a possible 4thOlympics, 8 years after her last, was too great a chance to pass up (just like Greg Searle returning to the GB squad for London 2012 after “retiring” in 2000). This crew has yet to race this season, although they did race (without Davies) at the Poznan World Cup and finished 4th(although they raced the final with a sub after Maddy Wannamaker fell ill). As a full strength unit they will be a match for any crew in the event.

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Caryn Davies of the USA, returning to competition after a 7 year break. Photo: World Rowing

Canada are the reigning Olympic champions in this event and have a crew taken from their silver medal winning W8 from 2018. All four of the crew have won world titles at U23 level and will fancy their chances of a medal this year. Three of the crew, Madison Mailey, Stephanie Grauer, & Jennifer Martins raced in the W8 in Rotterdam picking up a bronze medal. The fourth member of the crew, Sydney Payne raced in the four finishing 4th.

Australia were World Champions in 2017 and runners-up to the USA in 2018. They have three of that crew back for 2019, Katrina Werry, Sarah Hawe and Lucy Stephan. The fourth member of the crew is Olympia Aldersey, a world bronze medallist in the W2X from both 2014 and 2017. As a foursome they raced at both the 2ndand 3rdWorld Cups, placing 3rdin Poznan and winning in Rotterdam. Their showdown with the US will be a great battle.

One of the surprises of the season so far has been the strength of the crew from Denmark. They have three of the crew that finished 4thlast year (Ida Jacobsen, Frida Sangaard Nielsen and Hedvig Rasmussen). The fourth member of the crew is Rasmussen’s pairs partner from the bronze medal winning pair of 2017, Christina Johansen. This line-up also raced at the 2ndand 3rdWorld Cups, winning in Poznan and finishing runners-up to the Australians in Rotterdam. They will be strong contenders for a medal.

Another strong contender for a medal are China. Min Zhang and Fei Wang finished 6thin this event last season and for 2019 they are joined by U23 bronze medallist Zifeng Wang, and Xingye Xu who raced in the W8 last season. They’ve been among the medals both time they raced this season winning bronze in Plovdiv and silver in Poznan. They also made the final of the Town Challenge Cup at Henley.

Victors over the Chinese at Henley were The Netherlands. They have two of the w8 that finished 4thlast year, Ellen Hogerwerf and Ymkje Clevering along with 2018 W4X bronze medallist Karolien Florijn. The fourth member of the crew is Veronique Meester who was in the W8 in 2017. As well as winning at Henley, this crew won the European Championships and the 1stWorld Cup. On home water at the final World Cup in Rotterdam that placed 5th. They will definitely be in the mix for a medal,

Great Britain were World Champions in this event back in 2016, but since its inclusion in the Olympic programme they’ve struggled somewhat to find a truly competitive crew. Their latest iteration however, looks really promising. The crew is anchored by 2013 World Champion, and Rio silver medallist, Polly Swann. Joining her is Holly Hill, with whom she won bronze in the W2- at the Rotterdam World Cup this season. Sitting at bow is Sara Parfett, who, along with stroke Emily Ford, has raced in the four all season, placing 6that the European Championships and Poznan World Cup, and then 7thin Rotterdam. This is undoubtedly a faster combination than has raced all season and an A-final finish will be the minimum they are looking for.

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Holly Hill and Polly Swann, members of the GB W4-. Photo: British Rowing

Another crew that has an outside chance of a medal are Romania. All four of the crew (Viviana-Iuliana Bejinariu, Ioana Vrinceneau, Madalina Beres and Denisa Tilvescu) raced in the W8 throughout the 2017 and 2018 seasons, winning both the European and World titles in 2017 and finishing 5thin the world last year. Since moving to the four at the start of the 2019 season they’ve won silver at the Europeans and bronze in Poznan. Given the strength of the field in Linz a medal may just be beyond them, but they won’t be far off.

With the majority of countries playing around with their line-ups trying to find the best combinations, it’s refreshing to see a crew that has remained as a unit for a number of years. Poland is such a crew. Their line-up of Joanna Dittmann, Olga Michalkiewicz, Monika Chabel and Maria Wierzbowska have been racing as a four since 2017. During that time they’ve won silver medals at both the 2017 European and World Championships and another European bronze medal in 2018. So far this season they’ve taken another bronze at the Euros but then struggled somewhat at the World Cups, taking 10thin Poznan and 8thin Rotterdam. They will need to recapture their 2017 and 2018 speed if they hope to grab one of the Olympic spots.

New Zealand’s crew includes Rio Olympian, Eve Macfarlane. She was 12thin the W2X at the Olympics. Joining her in the W4- are Kelsi Waters (bronze medallist from the 2017 W8), former U23 international Davina Waddy and Phoebe Spoors who raced to a 9thplace in this event last year.  They’ve raced at both the 2ndand 3rdWorld Cups, with a 9thin Poznan and a 6thin Rotterdam. They will have their work cut-out to get that top 8 finish.

The final crew to mention are the young crew from Ireland. This crew contains three of the crew that won a silver medal at this year’s U23 World Championships, Eimar Lambe, Tara Hanlon and Emily Hegarty. They are joined at bow by Aifric Keogh who finished 5thin this event in 2015 and 6thin the w2- at last year’s World Championships. Olympic qualification may just be beyond their reach this year, but they could be in contention for an Olympic spot at next year’s final qualifying regatta and will definitely be names to watch for the future.

My picks…..USA to retain their title with the Aussies in silver and Denmark in bronze.

Predicted Olympic qualifiers: USA, AUS,DEN, NED, CHN, ROU, CAN, GBR

 

Next up, the men’s and women’s quads

 

The World Championships part 3: The Double Sculls

In part three it’s time for the men’s and women’s double sculls.

 

M2X

Entries: 31

Olympic qualifying places: 11

2018 Champions: Hugo Boucheron and Matthieu Androdias (France)

 

The 2018 champions from France, Hugo Boucheron and Matthieu Androdias, are back to defend their title. They have been racing together as a double since 2015, they made the A-Final at the Rio Olympics and again at the 2017 World Championships. 2018 was their annus mirabilis winning gold at both the European and World Championships. But, 2019 has, so far, been something of an annus horribilis. They just made the A-Final at the European Championships, but then could only manage 8that the Poznan World Cup and 11thin Rotterdam. They will be desperate to recover their 2018 speed, otherwise they stand a real risk of not qualifying direct for Tokyo.

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Matthieu Androdias and Hugo Boucheron of France. Photo: Zimbio

If the French have been struggling this season, the same can’t be said for their neighbours from Switzerland. Barnabe Delarze and Roman Roeoesli have had an outstanding year so far. The 2018 silver medallists have stepped-up this season, winning silver at the European Championships and then gold at both the Poznan and Rotterdam World Cups. They’ve been racing together since the U23’s and were members of the M4X that won gold at U23 level back in 2014 and then went on to finish 7that the Rio Olympics. Switzerland have never won a M2X World title (their silver last year was the first World Championship M2X medal since 1985), but these two have a real chance of achieving that.

Another country in a rich vein of form this season are the British, John Collins and Graeme Thomas. They were both members of the M4x that finished a disappointing 7thin the world last season. But, since chief coach Jurgen Grobler put them together in the double, and under crew coach Dan Moore, they have “clicked” and produced some excellent results. 4that the European Championships they took silver at the Poznan World Cup and then bronze in Rotterdam. They have a real chance of delivering Britain’s first World Championship medal in this boat class since 2010.

John Collins and Graeme Thomas celebrate after winning silver at World Cup II. Credit Nick Middleton

John Collins and Graeme Thomas of Great Britain. Photo: Nick Middleton

Ireland’s M2X of Philip Doyle and Ronan Byrne have certainly made a big impression this season. Doyle, a doctor at Belfast City Hospital, and partner Byrne from Cork, finished 9that the World Championships last season. 10that the 2019 Europeans was followed by a remarkable performance at the Rotterdam World Cup where they missed out on the gold by just 7/10thof a second.  This was Ireland’s first heavyweight men’s medal since 2005. It remains to be seen if the Irish can back up this performance with a strong result in Linz, but they’ve certainly made the rest of the world sit up and take notice (including, I suspect, the British coaches…Doyle is from Northern Ireland so would be eligible to row for Great Britain!)

One of the most experienced crews in the event are Belarus. Stainslau Shcharbachenia and Dzianis Mihal have 7 Olympic appearances between them. Shcharbachenia made his senior debut back in 2002 at the age of 17 and raced in the M4X at the Athens Olympics. He and Dzianis represented Belarus at the Beijing Olympics in the M2X where they finished 7th, and then as part of the M4- at the London Olympics. They were split up in rio, with Shcharbachenia racing to a 5thplace in the M1X and Dzianis taking 9thin the M4-. They were reunited in the M2X this season and made a positive start in Plovdiv, winning the bronze medal (the first M2X World Cup medal for Belarus). But, so far that’s as good as it’s got. 11that the Europeans was followed by a very disappointing 20thin Rotterdam. They will need to turn around their form fairly quickly or will struggle to make the qualifying standard for Tokyo.

Another crew have struggled a bit this season are John Storey and Chris Harris from New Zealand. The 2017 World Champions came into the 2019 season on the back of a World Championship bronze medal from 2018. Their opening salvo at the Poznan World Cup was a poor 13th, their worst performance as a crew. That was followed in Rotterdam by a slightly better 9thplace. But, unless they can find their 2017 or 2018 form they will find themselves in the desperate battle for the final qualifying places.

Winners of the first World Cup this season were the Chinese, Zhiyu Liu and Liang Zhang. This was a big improvement for them having last raced in the M4X that finished 13thin 2017. At the 2ndWorld Cup they couldn’t quite replicate this form, ending up 7th. Rotterdam was looking promising until Zhang had to withdraw after the semi-final due to illness. A medal in Linz is probably out of their reach, but an Olympic qualifying place shouldn’t be.

Canada have a new crew for the 2019 season, a mix of youth and experience. The youth is in the form of two-time U23 BM1X World Champion, Trevor Jones. He’s one of the most exciting young scullers in the world, and Linz sees him make his senior international debut. The experienced member of the crew is Matt Buie, he sculled in the M4X from 2013-15 and then partnered Conlin McCabe in the double in 2017. He raced in the Canadian M8 at the start of the 2019 campaign and then the double with Aaron Lattimer in Poznan. It remains to be seen what sort of speed this new combination has, but it’s an exciting prospect.

Another crew that combines youth and experience are the Germans, Tim Ole Naske and Stephan Krueger. Naske was U23 World champion in the BM1X in 2016 and then reached the A-final in the M1X at the senior World Championships in 2017. He lost out on selection for the M1X to Ollie Zeidler but for 2019 he’s formed a partnership with the highly experienced Stephan Krueger. Krueger is a triple-time Olympian racing in the M4X in Beijing and then partnering Marcel Hacker at the London Olympics before moving back to the M4X for Rio.  So far in 2019 this double have raced at the European championships (finishing 7th) and then won bronze in Poznan and then 5thin Rotterdam. They may not get amongst the medals in Linz but they should comfortably qualify for Tokyo.

Another crew who should finishing comfortably in the top 11 are Poland. Miroslaw Zietarski and Mateusz Biksup raced together in the M4X that finished 4that the Rio Olympics.  They moved in the double in 2017 winning silver at the World Championships (the first M2X medal for Poland at a World Championships since 1998). They followed this up with 8thlast season. They are one of the few athletes who have raced at all three World Cups and the European Championships.  They won gold as part of the M4X in Poznan. Zietarski won gold at the Europeans partnered by Fabian Baranski, with Biksup finishing 7thin the quad. They reformed as a double for the 2ndWorld Cup, finishing 4thand then finished 8thin Rotterdam.

Winners of the B-Final at the 2018 World Championships were the young Dutch duo of Amos Keijser and Nikki Van Sprang.  Van Sprang also raced in this boat class at the 2017 World Championships, partnered by Bram Schwarz, finishing 12th. Keijser was a member of the M4X that just missed a medal in 2017. So far this season they’ve a 5thplace at the Europeans and 7thin Rotterdam. A top 11 placing should be within their reach.

The final two crews to mention are the Romanians and Lithuanians. Romania have Ioan Prundeanu and Marian-Florian Enache. They’ve been racing together as a double since 2017 when they finished 10that the World Championships. 2018 saw them win silver at the European Championships and make the A-Final at Worlds. So far in 2019 they’ve another European championships medal (bronze) but struggled with the conditions in Rotterdam, slipping to 10th.

Lithuania have two Rio Olympians, Saulius Ritter won silver (partnering Mindaugus Griskonis) in the M2X and Dovydas Nemeravicius finished 9thin the M4X. Nemeravicius stayed in the quad for 2017, winning the world championships. He was joined in the quad by Ritter in 2018, taking silver at the Europeans. They ended the 2018 season with a disappointing 12that the World Championships. Since moving to the double for 2019 they’ve had mixed results, 8that the Europeans was followed by 6thin Poznan. Both Romania and Lithuania need to be on their best form to secure Olympic qualification.

My picks….Switzerland in gold with Great Britain in silver and Germany in bronze.

Predicted Olympic qualifiers: SUI, GBR, GER, NZL, IRL, POL, FRA, NED, LTU, ROU, CHNImage result for double sculls

 

W2X

Entries: 22

Olympic qualifying places: 11

2018 Champions: Milda Valciukaite and Ieva Adomaviciute (Lithuania)

 

It’s easy to forget that Milda Valciukaite is still only 25, she’s been a feature of the W2X circuit since she was a teenager, winning her first world title at the age of 19, and her first Olympic medal at 22. She’s joined by Ieva Adomaviciute, a two-time U23 World champion in the BW1X. They came together in the double in 2017 finishing just outside of the medals. 2018 saw them win bronze at the Europeans and then took the World title in Plovdiv. 2019 hasn’t gone according to plan so far, 5that the European Championships was followed by a very disappointing 14that the Poznan World Cup, the first time in their senior international careers that they’ve not made the A-Final. Clearly something went very wrong in Poznan. Assuming that performance was a blip, I would expect them to be back at the sharp end of the A-Fina in Linz.

Any discussion about top crews in small boats will always include a New Zealand crew, and the W2X is no exception. Brooke Donoghue and Olivia Loe formed their partnership in 2017 and went unbeaten throughout 2017 culminating in a gold medal at the World Championships in Florida. They started 2018 in the same manner, winning the 2ndand 3rdWorld Cups before slipping to silver behind the Lithuanians at the World Championships. So far in 2019 they have wins at Henley and also at the 2ndWorld Cup in Poznan, they will be coming into Linz as the overwhelming favourites.

Loe Donoghue

Brooke Donoghue and Olivia Loe of New Zealand

Australia have a new combination this season, with Amanda Bateman and Genevieve Horton. Horton raced in the double at the Rio Olympics finishing 9thand she followed that up with an U23 silver medal in 2017 and a 7thplace in the W4X at the 2018 World Championships. Bateman made her senior international debut this season after a year on the U23 team. As a double they’ve made a strong start to the 2019 season winning medals at both the Poznan and Rotterdam World Cups.

Winners of the 1stWorld Cup were China, with a crew of Shiyu Lu and Yuwei Wang. 20-year-old Lu finished 10thin the BW1X at the 2018 U23 World Championships and makes her senior debut this year. Wang is far more experienced having raced in the W4X that finished 6thin Rio. Following their win in Plovdiv this year they went on to finish 5that the Poznan World Cup. They should be comfortable qualifiers for Tokyo but may not get among the medal in Linz.

 

One crew who have really stepped on in 2019 are Romania. Nicoleta-Ancuta Bodnar and Simona Geanina Radis formed their partnership this season after a disappointing 2018. Bodnar raced in the W2X with Larisa Elena Rosu finishing 18thand last at the World Championships. Radis was a member of the W4X that finished 10th. However, since coming together as a double this season, they have shown tremendous form. Silver at the European Championships was followed by gold at the Rotterdam World Cup. This duo are a very exciting prospect, and they are still both only 20-years-old.

The USA also have a new combination for 2019 and it’s one that combines youth and experience. The experience comes from Gevvie Stone, the Rio silver medallist had taken a step back from the sport after Rio to concentrate on her medical studies, but having qualified as a doctor she felt the pull of the river and returned to training. She’s joined in the double by Cicely Madden, a graduate of Brown University finished 4thin the BW2X at the 2017 U23 World Championships. 2019 sees her make her senior debut, and she and Stone have made an immediate impact, winning a silver medal at the Poznan World Cup. A medal is a distinct possibility for the Americans.

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Gevvie Stone and Cicely Madden of the USA. Photo: USRowing

 

Canada haven’t won a medal at the World Championships in this event since 1994, but their crew for 2019; Gabrielle Smith and Andrea Proske have an outside chance of changing that. 6thin the world last year they started 2019 with a 9thplace at the 2ndWorld Cup, but then won bronze in Rotterdam. They will be in the mix for an Olympic qualification spot.

Greece have selected an exciting young crew, Dimitra-Sophia Tsamopolou and Anneta Kyridou. Tsamopolou is still only 19 and Kyridou 20. They are part of an outstanding young Greek U23 squad and won gold in the BW2X at the World Championships this year and could well become the stars of the Paris Olympiad. An A-Final placing in Linz would be a great achievement in their first year on the senior circuit.

Another young crew looking to impress are Belarus. Tatsiana Klimovich and Krystsina Staraselets were U23 World Champions in this boat class in 2017. They raced as part of the W4X in 2018 finishing 8th, before moving back to the double for 2019. Their campaign got off to a great start with a silver medal at the 1stWorld Cup in Plovdiv and they followed that with a 4thplace at the Europeans. They are another crew for whom an A-Final finish will be a great achievement.

France have had a mixed season so far. Their pairing of Helene Lefebvre and Elodie Ravera-Scaramozzino have been racing together for a number of years and finished 5that the Rio Olympics. They just missed the A-Final at the Worlds in 2017. 2018 started well with gold at the European Championships, but this was followed by disappointment at the World Championships where they ended up at the back of the B-Final. 2019 saw them unable to defend their European title, finishing 8th. The French coaches tried them both in different combinations at the 2ndWorld Cup but neither reached the A-Final. Back together for the World Championships, they will be hoping to recapture the sort of speed they had in 2016 and 2017, otherwise qualification for Tokyo will be a real challenge.

Another crew with Olympic experience are the Czech Republic, Lenka Antosova and Krystina Fleissnerova. They finished 10that the Olympics and then followed that up with good performances throughout 2017, winning the European Championships and then placing 7that the Worlds. They repeated their 7thplace finish at the 2018 World Championships and so far this season have a mixed bag of results, a disappointing 13thin Poznan was followed by an excellent 4thin Rotterdam. They will be a number of crews vying for an A-Final finish.

Ukraine have selected two highly experienced athletes; Daryna Verkhogliad and Ievgeniia Dovhodko. They’ve been racing together internationally for a number of years, although have only raced together as a W2X on one occasion (finishing 21stat the 2015 World Championships). They have had much more success as part of the W4X, in which they have won medals at the European Championships in 2016, 2018 and 2019. They also have a 4thplace from the Rio Olympics. There is no W4X quad for Ukraine in Linz, so they are back in the double and are a bit of an unknown quantity. One thing’s for certain, they will be hoping for a much better performance than the last time they raced in this boat class.

Roos De Jong and Lisa Scheenaard of the Netherlands raced together in this boat last season winning silver at the European Championships and finishing 5that the World Championships. Linz will be the first time they have raced together in 2019. De Jong has been a part of the W4X that won medals at both the first World Cup and the European Championships and finished 5thin Rotterdam. Scheenaard has had a strong season in the W1X, winning the first World Cup and making the A-Final at the European Championships. She took her 2ndWorld Cup medal of the season with a bronze at the final race in Rotterdam. If they can show similar speed to the last time they raced as a W2X they could well be in the hunt for a medal.

Italy have two Stefania’s, Gobbi and Buttignon. Stefania Gobbi finished 9thin this boat class in 2017 and then raced in the quad for 2018. Stefania Buttignon makes her senior debut this season having won gold in the BLW2X at the 2018 U23 World Championships. This season they picked up their first medal together with a bronze at the European Championships, and then took 8thin Poznan. They may struggle to make the A-Final but should be expecting to get an Olympic qualification place.

Germany’s Leonie Menzel and Pia Greiten won silver at the U23 World Championships last season. They both made their senior debuts in 2019 but have yet to race together this year. Menzel spent most of the season in the double with Carlotta Nwadjie, winning the European Championships and then taking 7thand 5that the 2ndand 3rdWorld Cups. Greiten raced with Daniela Schultze at the 2ndWorld Cup finishing one place ahead of their team mates and then she raced in the W1X in Rotterdam taking 10thoverall. Back together for Linz they will be one of the crews battling for the final Olympic qualifying places.

Another young crew are the Hungarians, Vivien Preil and Zoltana Gadanyi. They finished 5that the Poznan World Cup and then took bronze at the U23 World Championships last month. Olympic qualification will be a great achievement for this young crew.

The final crew to mention are Great Britain; Kyra Edwards and Ruth Siddorn. They are another young duo having both been part of the GB U23 team in 2018, Siddorn finished 5thin the BW1X and Edwards won bronze in the BW4X. They made they debut as a crew at the Rotterdam World Cup placing 8thoverall. As a young and relatively new crew they will be getting better and better the more time they have together. An A-Final finish is probably beyond them at the moment, but they should be able to achieve a top 11 placing.

 

My picks….it’s going to be tight at the top but I think New Zealand will have the edge with the USA in silver and Romania in bronze.

Predicted Olympic qualifiers: NZL, USA, ROU, AUS, LTU, NED, GRE, CHN, BLR, CZE, GBR

 

The World Championships part two: The coxless pairs

Time now to look at the men’s and women’s pairs….

 

M2-

Entries: 26

Olympic qualifying places: 11

2018 champions: Martin Sinkovic & Valent Sinkovic (Croatia)

 

Sinkovic M2-

The 2018 World Champions, Martin and Valent Sinkovic from Croatia. Photo: Instagram

 

After dominating the M2X event throughout the Rio Olympiad, the Croatian Sinkovic brothers turned their attention to the coxless pair, with the stated aim of dominating that boat class in the same way as they had in the double. Things haven’t gone as smoothly as they would’ve wished. Beaten into silver by the Italians at their first World Championships as a pair in 2017, they’ve also been dogged by injuries (especially to Martin’s back) meaning they’ve missed a lot of competition. However they showed their potential in winning both the European and World titles in 2018. They started 2019 reasonably well, finishing 2ndat the 1stWorld Cup and then retaining their European title. They started well in Rotterdam, winning their heat, but a flare-up of Martin’s back injury saw them withdraw. On form they can beat anyone in the world, the question is, are they fully race fit?

The Italians have reunited the pairing that won the world title in 2017; Matteo Lodo and Guisepe Vicino. This duo were members of the M4- that won bronze in Rio and then moved to the pair winning the European and World titles in 2017. The pair was split up in 2018, with Lodo racing with Domenico Montrone in the pair at the European Championships and then moving into the M4- that finished 2ndat the World Championships. Vicino missed the 2018 season through injury, but returned this year and partnered Giovanni Abagnale to a 4thplace at the European Championships and 6thin Poznan. Now reunited with Lodo, they are one of the most exciting and dynamic partnerships in world rowing.

Canada have selected Kai Langerfeld and Conlin McCabe, two of their most experienced athletes. McCabe won a silver medal as part of the M8 back in 2012 and Langerfeld won bronze in the M2+ that year as well. But, since 2012 the Canadians have been trying (and for the most part failing) to find a medal-winning combination in smaller boats. This pair spent the Rio Olympiad in the M4- making the A-Final at the Olympics but not threatening the medals. So far in the Tokyo Olympiad the Canadian team have tried McCabe in the M2X (which finished 16thin 2017) and Langerfeld in the M4- (8thin 2017) before finally moving them back into the M8 for 2018. Unfortunately that M8 also failed to fire and ended 8that the World Championships. So, now the Canadians have moved their two most experienced rowers into the pair to see if that will work. Well, the signs are encouraging, in their first appearance as a pair at the Poznan World Cup they won a bronze medal. Could it be that the Canadians have finally found a combination that can win medals at worlds?

Winners of the first World Cup this season were the Serbians, Martin Mackovic and Milos Vasic. Their win over the Croatians was a bit of a surprise. They only came together as a pair this season. Mackovic won bronze in the M2+ at the 2015 World Championships and then became U23 World Champion in the BM2- in 2016. Vasic is far more experienced, having raced at both the London and Rio Olympics. He, and partner Nenad Bedik, won medals throughout the 2017 season and made the A-Final at the World Championships. 2018 was less successful and their best performance was 4that the European Championships. With Bedik moving to the M4- Vasic formed a new partnership with Mackovic, as well as winning the 1stWorld Cup they made the A-Final at the European Championships and then 4that the 2ndWorld Cup. A medal will probably be beyond them in Linz, but an A-Final finish shouldn’t be.

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Mackovic and Vasic of Serbia. Photo: Sportklub

 

2ndat the 2018 World Championships were the Romanians, Marius-Vasile Cozmiuc and Ciprian Tudosa. Cozmiuc, the elder of the two by 5 years, raced in the M4- at the Rio Olympics. 22-year-old Tudosa made his senior debut whilst still a teenager in 2016 and won a silver medal in the M4- at the 2017 European Championships. Cozmiuc was also a member of the M4- and in 2018 they formed a pair, taking bronze at the European Championships and then silver at the Worlds. So far this season they won silver at the Europeans and then finished 5thin Rotterdam.

One of the most experienced pairs racing in Linz are the Czech’s Lukas Helesic and Jakub Podrazil. They have been racing together as a pair since 2015. They finished 4that the 2016 Europeans and then went on to win the B-Final at the Rio Olympics. In 2017 and 2018 they regularly won medals on the World Cup circuit but couldn’t quite make the A-Final at the World Championships. They will be heading into this year’s World Championships on a high having won silver at the final World Cup in Rotterdam.

Bronze medallists last year were the French brothers Theophile and Valentin Onfroy. They were members of the M4- that finished 11that the Rio Olympics. In 2017 they moved into the pair finishing 4that the World Championships. 2018 was a great year for them, winning medals at both the European and World Championships. 2019 has been led successful so far, with 8thplaces at both the 2ndand 3rdWorld Cups. They will need to improve and get back to their 2018 speed if they want to secure a comfortable qualification for Tokyo.

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Theophile and Valentin Onfroy of France. Photo: Zimbio

 

One crew who have stepped up this season are the Spanish, Jaime Canalejo Pazos and Javier Garcia Ordonez. After making the A-Final at the World Championships last season, they have made the podium twice so far in 2019, winning bronze at the 1stWorld Cup and the European Championships. An A-Final finish will be a very realistic target.

New Zealand dominated the M2- event throughout the London and Rio Olympiads, the task of filling those very big shoes has fallen to Thomas Murray and Michael Brake. They were members of the M8 that finished 6thin Rio and then with Eric Murray and Hamish Bond relinquishing the M2- seats Thomas Murray moved to the pair with James Hunter. They won bronze in 2017 with Brake staying in the M8 that finished 6th. In 2018 Brake and Murray came together in the pair finishing 5that the World Championships. 2019 has seen them take medals at both the 2ndand 3rdWorld Cups. Another medal in Linz is a real possibility.

Great Britain are another nation with a strong tradition in this boat class, the battles between Pete Reed and Andy Hodge against the Kiwis were great to watch. This year’s crew is new, with Morgan Bolding joining Tom Jeffery. Bolding was a member of the outstanding Oxford Brookes crew that won the Ladies Plate at Henley in 2018. He made his senior debut this season racing as GBR2 M2- in Poznan and again in Rotterdam. Tom Jeffrey has been a member of the GB squad since 2017. He raced in the M2- with Tom George finishing 5that the 2017 World Championships. They came together as a pair for the Rotterdam World Cup where they finished 6th. But, what’s interesting is that they were beaten by their team mates, Harry Glenister and George Rossiter. Internal testing resulted in Bolding and Jeffery getting the nod with Glenister and Rossiter being relegated to the position of spares. If they make the A-Final it’ll be a great result, but if they miss out they should still take an Olympic qualifying spot.

Australia, like Great Britain, have a long and proud history in this event, but they’ve not won a World Championship medal since Drew Ginn and Duncan Free won gold in 2007. This year Australia have selected a new pairing that mixes youth with experience. The experience comes in the form of Josh Hicks, a member of the world champion M4- in 2017 and 2018. He moved into the M8 for the 2019 Poznan World Cup and then the pair for Rotterdam. The youth in this pairing comes from Sam Hardy. The 24-year-old made his senior debut this season after three years on the U23 team. They raced as the Australian 2ndpair in Rotterdam winning the B-Final (with their team mates, Spencer Turrin and Alex Hill, winning gold). This pair looks like it has potential but for them the target will be to make the A-Final if possible or top end of the B-Final as a minimum.

South Africa have two of the most experienced athletes in the field, John Smith and Lawrence Brittain. Smith won gold in the LM4- at the London Olympics and just missed ut on a medal in the LM2X in Rio. With the demise of the LM4- as an Olympic event he’s stepped up to the heavyweight division. Brittain narrowly missed qualification for the London Olympics, but he and partner Shaun Keeling went on to win a fantastic silver medal at the Rio Games. Post Rio both Brittain and Smith were members of a M4- that had a lot of potential, but a mixture of illness and underperformance meant they could only manage 13that the 2017 World Championships. In 2018 Brittain moved back to the pair partnered by Jake Green ending up 10th, Smith remained in the M4- and also finished 10th. They didn’t race at any of the World Cup regatta’s so their form is difficult to gauge, but they are a pair with a huge amount of potential.

Other former lightweights stepping up to the heavyweights are the Irish, Mark O’Donovan and Shane O’Driscoll. They were world champions in the LM2- in 2017 but moved to the heavyweight division to try and qualify for the Olympics. In 2018 they could only manage a 16th place and have not yet raced in 2019, so must be considered outside bets to claim a top 11 place. But, Irish rowing is on a roll at the moment and it would be a fantastic achievement if they do manage to get in the top 11.

 

 

Mark O'Donovan and Shane O'Driscoll

Shane O’Driscoll and Mark O’Donovan of Ireland. Photo: Debbie Heaphy

 

 

Greece and Lithuania both have young pairs who raced at this year’s U23 World Championships. The Lithuanians, Povilas Stankunas and Mantas Juskevicius took the silver and the Greeks, Ioannis Kalandaridis and Athanasios Palaiopanos, won the bronze. A top 11 finish for either of these pairs will be a great achievement.

The USA haven’t won a medal in this event since Adam Holland and Ed Murphy won bronze at Aiguebelette in 1997. This year the US have, like the Australians, selected a pair mixing youth with experience. Anders Weiss raced in this boat class at the Rio Olympics, finishing 11thpartnered by Nareg Guregian. In 2017 and 2018 he partnered Michael Colella finishing 11thand 15threspectively. This season he’s joined by Ezra Carlson. Carlson was a member of the outstanding University of Washington crew that won gold at the IRA Championships in 2015, he represented the USA at the U23 World Championships in 2016 and makes his senior debut this year. They have also not raced on the World Cup circuit, they will be an outside bet for Olympic qualification.

Of the remaining crews the ones to watch include Chile; Ignacio Abraham and Christopher Kalleg Andrate – winners at the Pan-am Games, the Netherlands; Freek Robbers and Michiel Mantel and the Argentinians; Augustin Diaz and Axel Haack (winners of the Silver Goblets at Henley).

My picks…Italy in gold with Croatia in silver and New Zealand in bronze.

Predicted Olympic qualifiers: ITA, CRO, NZL, ROU, SRB, GBR, CAN, AUS, RSA, ESP, CZE

 

 

 

 

W2-

Entries: 26

Olympic qualifying places: 11

2018 Champions: Cailegh Filmer and Hilary Janssens (Canada)

Since the retirement of the outstanding British duo of Helen Glover and Heather Stanning, the W2- has become one of the most unpredictable events on the programme. Just when you think one crew is beginning to dominate, another pops up and beats them. Immediately after Rio it looked as though the Kiwis would dominate throughout the Olympiad. Kerri Gowler and Grace Prendergast finished 4thin the W8 at the Rio Olympics but moved to the pair for 2017 and went unbeaten throughout 2017 winning the world title in Florida. They picked up where they left off in 2018 winning both the 2ndand 3rdWorld Cups. But, when it came to the world championships they were beaten into silver by the Canadians. So far in 2019 they took gold at the Poznan World Cup, but were surprisingly beaten into silver in Rotterdam by Australia (their first defeat in the W2- at a World Cup). What’s interesting is that the Kiwis (and the Canadians and Australians) are also doubling-up in the W8. With such large entries in both the pair and the 8’s this is going to result in an awful lot of racing. Despite this the Kiwis will still go into Linz as the favourites to win their 2ndWorld title.

 

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Kerri Gowler and Grace Prendergast of New Zealand. Photo: Rowing New Zealand

The reigning champions from Canada, Caleigh Filmer and Hilary Janssens, are back to defend their title. This isn’t as straightforward as it sounds. Rumours abound that the pair split up after the 2018 World Championships following a serious falling-out between the two athletes. Nothing official has been said about this, but Janssens raced with a different partner, Sydney Payne, at the Poznan World Cup where they finished 4th. She then moved into the W4- for Rotterdam (with Payne, Lisa Roman and Nicole Hare) taking another 4thplace. Filmer hasn’t raced at all so far this season. But, whatever the truth of the alleged disagreement between Filmer and Janssens, they’ve clearly made up, or at least put their differences to one side, and have returned to the boat together and will be a major threat to the Kiwis. As mentioned above, both Filmer and Janssens are also racing in the W8 which will be an added challenge.

Winners of the final World Cup in Rotterdam were the Australian pairing of Jessica Morrison and Annabelle McIntyre. They’ve been doubling-up in the W8 all season and in Poznan took silver in the pair and gold in the eight with those positions being reversed in Rotterdam. McIntyre made her senior debut in 2018 as part of the W8 that finished 3rdat the World Championships. Morrison was a member of the Aussie W8 that were a last minute addition to the Rio Olympics. She stepped away from the sport after the Olympics but returned for 2019. She and McIntyre have quickly formed a very effective partnership and have a gold and silver so far this year to prove it. They are also doubling-up in the eight in Linz, so the top three pairs in this event will all contain athletes who’ll be involved in a hell of a lot of racing. They’ll all have to be careful that they don’t get jumped by pairs who are just focussing on a single event!

One pair who could capitalise on the extra racing that the Kiwis, Canadians and Australians are having to do are the Americans. They’ve selected the highly experienced duo of Megan Kalmoe and Tracey Eisser. Kalmoe is bidding to qualify for her 4thOlympics (although Tokyo will be her first in a sweep event). She was a member of the W4X that won bronze in London and then took the world title in 2015. She’s no stranger to the W2- though, having won a silver medal at the World Championships in 2014 partnered by Kerry Simmonds. Eisser was also a member of the World championship winning W4X in 2015 and she and Kalmoe raced together in the quad at the Rio Olympics.  They then raced together as a W2- in 2017 winning the silver medal behind the Kiwis. Kalmoe missed the 2018 season whilst Eisser stepped into the W8 winning the World title. Now for 2019 they are back together in the pair and made a strong start to their campaign with a bronze medal at the Poznan World Cup. With no doubling-up to worry about, they could well spring a surprise on the favourites.

Tracy Eisser and Megan Kalmoe of the USA. Photo USRowing

Romania are normally the ones who double-up in the W2- and W8, but surprisingly this year they are one of the few top crews who aren’t. Cristina-Georgiana Popescu and Amalia Beres are a young pairing and were both members of the W8 that won the European Championships this season. 22-year-old Beres, made her senior debut at the Linz World Cup last season, finishing 7thin the W2-. She went on to win silver in the U23 BW4- that year. After winning gold in the W8 at the 2019 European’s she moved into the pair with Popsecu, finishing 4that the Rotterdam World Cup. 23-year-old Popescu won gold in the W4- at the 2017 European’s and also went on to win silver at the u23 Worlds. This is an exciting young duo and could well deliver Romania’s first medal in this event since 2013.

Spanish rowing is on something of a high at the moment. After finishing 6that the Rio Olympics (the best ever performance by a Spanish women’s crew) the pairing of Aina Cid and Anna Boada Peiro went from strength to strength culminating in a superb bronze medal at the 2018 World Championships (Spain’s first World Championship medal since 1991). But at the start of the 2019 season Boada Piero surprisingly announced her immediate retirement from the sport. Under the guidance of former British coach, Robin Williams (who guided Glover and Stanning to two Olympic gold medals), the Spanish moved Virginia Diaz Rivas into the pair with Cid. She had previously represented Spain in the W1X finishing 11thin 2017 and 14thin 2018. This new duo made an immediate impact by reaching the A-Final in their first regatta at the Plovdiv World Cup and then went on to win the 2019 European Championships. They raced in Rotterdam, reaching the A-Final and placing 5thoverall.

Greece have a young pairing of Maria Kyridou and Christina Bourmpou. Both are still 18-years-old, but have already made a big impact on the rowing scene. Winners of the JW2- at both the Junior World Championships and the Youth Olympics in 2018, they made their senior debuts at the European Championships this season were they finished a strong 5th. Last month they raced at the U23 World Championships taking the gold medal. They are clearly a very talented pair and will be ones to watch in the coming few years. A qualification spot for Tokyo will be a great return from their debut senior season.

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U23 World Champions from Greece, Maria Kyridou and Christina Bourmpou. Photo:Zimbio

 

The South African’s have also selected a young crew, with 22-year-old Tayla-May Bentley and 19-year-old Jessica Schoonbee. They are both making their senior debuts in Linz, but earlier this season they took silver behind the Greeks at the U23 World Championships, they will be another crew to watch in the future. Olympic qualification will be a major achievement for this pair.

Rounding-off a trio of young medallists from the U23’s are the Russians, Elena Daniluik and Ekaterina Glazkova. They took bronze at the U23’s this year and earlier finished at the back of the B-Final at the European Championships.

Bronze medallists from this year’s European Championships are the Italians, Kiri Tontodonati and Aisha Rocek. Tonodonati raced in the W1X at the 2018 Europeans finishing 4thand went on to race the W2X at the World Championship finishing in the B-Final. Rocek also made the B-Final at last year’s Worlds as a member of the W4-. Following their medal-winning performance at this year’s European’s they raced at the Poznan world Cup, finishing 5th. Given the strength of the field in Linz they will do well to make the A-Final, but will definitely be in contention for a top 11 spot.

Great Britain are another nation for whom Linz is all about making the top 11 rather than an expectation to get among the medals. Their crew of Sam Courty and Annie Withers were 6that the European’s this year before moving into the W4- at the Poznan World Cup (finishing 7th) and then back to the pair for the final World Cup where they placed 8th.  An Olympic qualifying spot should be achievable for this pairing, but it will be a battle.

Chile have an outstanding young crew, 2 of the Abraham quadruplets (all of whom are on the Chilean national rowing team), Melita and Antonia. This dup raced in the LW2X at the Rio Olympics whilst still teenagers. They reached their first Senior A-Final at the Poznan World Cup in 2017 where they finished 4thin the W2- and went on to win the U23 World Championships that year. 2018 saw them take bronze at the U23’s and then they raced the W2X at the Senior World Championships. So far in 2019 they have a 9thplace at the Poznan World Cup and also took gold at the Pan American Games. It would be a fantastic achievement for this pair to qualify for the Olympics.

China finished 5thin the World last year and they have the same pair, Xinyu Lin and Rui Ju, back for 2019. Now under the guidance of former British Chief Women’s Coach, Paul Thompson, the Chinese as a team are becoming medal contenders across the women’s boat classes. Lin and Ju raced at both the first and 2ndWorld Cups this season, taking 4thin Plovdiv and 9thin Poznan. As with a number of crews in Linz, their focus will be on getting in the top 11 rather than among the medals.

Other crews to mention are the Irish (Aileen Crowley and Monika Dukarska) who were 6thin Rotterdam, and the Ukraine (Oksana Golub and Olena Buryak) who were 7that the European Championships.

My picks……New Zealand in gold, the USA in silver and Australia in bronze.

Predicted Olympic qualifiers: NZL, USA, AUS, CAN, ESP, ROU, GRE, CHN, ITA, GBR, CHI

 

Coming up in part 3….the M2X and W2X

 

The World Championships part one: the single sculls

 

The World Championships are always the highlight of any season, the culmination of the efforts for thousands of athletes from across the rowing world. But, the world Championships in the year before an Olympics assume extra special significance, they offer countries the first (and main) opportunity to qualify boats for the Olympic regatta. Get a spot now and you can focus on preparing for Tokyo, get it wrong and there are precious few chances left to grab the remaining places. So, as a result you’ll see crews finishing 5th, 6thor even 11thcelebrating like they’ve won a medal, and for those who do reach the podium, the medal is almost something of a bonus (at least in the Olympic events). This year’s World Championships are being held on the Linz-Ottensheim course in Austria. It last hosted a FISA event in 2018 when it played host to the 2ndWorld Rowing Cup.

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The Linz-Ottensheim course. Photo: InsideTheGames.biz

 

This year’s Worlds has attracted a huge entry with over 1200 athletes from 80 nations including crews from Benin, Qatar, Iran and Trinidad & Tobago. So, without further ado, here’s my take on the ones to watch in each boat class….

 

M1X

44 entries

Olympic qualifying places: 9

2018 champion: Kjetil Borch (Norway)

 

Reigning champion, Kjetil Borch from Norway is back to defend his title. But he’s not had the best of seasons, injury to his knee at the start of the season meant he was not fully race fit and that was reflected in a 9thplace finish at the European Championships. However, as the season has progressed he’s been getting back up to speed culminating in a 2ndplace at the final World Cup.

The breakout performance this season has come from Sverri Nielsen of Denmark. Prior to this season he’d never won a medal and had only a couple of World Cup A-Final appearances to his name and in 2018 he finished 7that the World Championships. All that changed this season. He opened with an excellent 4thplace at the European Championships and then won gold at both the Poznan and Rotterdam World Cups, making him the on-form sculler of the season.

The athlete who was, perhaps, expected to dominate this season is Ollie Zeidler of Germany. He won medals throughout his debut World Cup season in 2018 and reached the A-Final at the World Championships. 2019 looked good with a win at the European Championships and at Henley, but he slipped back to 5that the Poznan World Cup and then in Rotterdam really struggled in the wind and bumpy water, ending up 13thoverall – and he was not happy about it

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If the conditions are benign in Linz he will be a major contender. But, with Tokyo looking like it could provide “challenging” conditions, the big German needs to get used to racing on rough water and in strong winds.

Ondrej Synek of the Czech Republic is the most experienced member of the field. He’s been competing internationally since 2001 and 2019 marks his 15thseason in the single scull. He’s looking to qualify for his 5thOlympic Games. He’s also the most decorated athlete in the event with five world Championship titles to his credit as well as a further seven silver and bronze world Championship medals and three Olympic medals. Last season he took silver behind Borch and so far this season he’s not raced much with a 6thplace at the European Championships and a 4that the Rotterdam World Cup. Should he miss the podium in Linz, it will be the first time he’s failed to win a medal in his career in the M1X.

Another sculler who hasn’t quite delivered this season as expected, is Robbie Manson of New Zealand. He’s the holder of the World Best Time and won the 2ndand 3rdWorld Cups last year before slipping to 5that the World Championships. During the New Zealand summer season he beat Olympic Champion, Mahe Drysdale, for the M1X spot, but so far this season his results have been disappointing, a 7thplace in Poznan was followed up by 5that Rotterdam. As a single sculler he’s never finished higher than 5that the World Championships, whilst a similar result in Linz will at least guarantee the boat for Tokyo, questions will still be asked about who will be the best bet to defend the title won by Mahe Drysdale in Rio?

Continuing the theme of scullers underperforming is Damir Martin of Croatia. The Olympic silver medallist struggled throughout 2017 and 2018. 2019 has, so far, shown some signs of his 2016 speed. Gold in Plovdiv was followed by 5that the Europeans and then bronze at the Rotterdam World Cup (albeit over 6 seconds behind Borch in silver).  I think Martin’s focus will be on securing an A-final placing and ensuring his place on the plane to Tokyo.

Cuba’s Angel Fournier Rodriguez is one of the most enigmatic athletes on the circuit, often entering an event but then withdrawing. When he does race he’s usually at the sharp end of things. Silver at the Worlds in 2017 was followed by A-final appearances at both the 1stand 2nd2018 World Cups. He missed the 2018 Worlds and has only raced once so far this season taking a bronze medal in Poznan.

 

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Angel Fournier Rodriguez of Cuba. Photo: World Rowing

Tom Barras, the 2017 bronze medallist, won the selection battle for the Great Britain M1X slot after outperforming the 2018 European bronze medallist Harry Leask. Barras had a slightly frustrating 2018 season as part of the GB M4X winning gold at the 1stand 3rdWorld Cups but missing the A-Final at the 2ndWorld Cup and again at the World Championships. He moved back into the single at the start of the 2019 season and after a disappointing 7that the Europeans he produced a strong performance in Poznan to finish 4th. He was another athlete who struggled with the conditions at Rotterdam and found himself back in the C-Final. If he performs to his ability then qualification for Tokyo should be straightforward and he could even challenge for a medal.

Another sculler who’s had an “up-and-down” couple of years is Mindaugus Griskonis of Lithuania. He’s aiming to qualify for his fourth Olympic Games and won a silver medal in the M2X in Rio. He’s also got a number of European and World Championship medals to his credit. He started 2018 with a 20thplace at the Belgrade World Cup, but ended it taking bronze at the World Championships in Florida. 2019 hasn’t been the best of seasons so far, he’s raced twice, with a 16thplace at the Europeans and 8that the Poznan World Cup. He will need to recover his form of 2018 or may miss out on qualification this year.

If Griskonis is having a disappointing year, the same can’t be said of Pilip Pavukou of Belarus. Heading into the 2019 season his best performance had been a 5thplace in the M2X at the 2017 Lucerne World Cup. However, for 2019 he’s moved into the M1X and has emerged as a serious contender. He won silver at both the first and 2ndWorld Cups and also finished on the podium at the European Championships.

Poland’s Natan Wegrzycki-Szymczyk finished 7that the Rio Olympics, and has spent the last few years balancing racing the single scull internationally with racing in the M8 for the University of California, Berkeley. After graduating from Cal in 2018 he joined Cambridge University and stroked the winning Blue Boat in the 2019 University Boat Race. Now with his Cambridge studies completed his focus can return to the challenge of qualifying for Tokyo. He raced at the Europeans finishing 13thbut has gradually improved throughout the rest of the season, taking 9thin Poznan and 6thin Rotterdam. A medal in Linz is probably a bit of a stretch, but he will be targeting an A-Final place to secure his spot.

It’s a mark of the strength of the single scull field that of the 11 world class scullers mentioned above, 2 of them will miss out on Olympic qualification.

It’s excellent to see the depth of the field in this event, with scullers from the Bahamas (former Cambridge University Boat Club President, Dara Alizadeh), Benin, India, Nigeria, Paraguay and Vanuatu.

So, who do I think will take the honours? If conditions are favourable I could see Ziedler backing up his European victory with the World title. Borch in silver with Nielsen of Denmark in bronze. I’ll also go out on a limb and try and predict the Olympic qualifiers (in no particular order).. GER, NOR, DEN, NZL, CZE, BLR, CUB, GBR, CRO

 

W1X

39 entries

Olympic qualifying places: 9

2018 champion: Sanita Puspure (Ireland)

 

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2018 World Champion, Sanita Puspure of Ireland. Photo: World Rowing

This is a ridiculously talented field, with no fewer than five W1X World Champions taking part, and some very experienced scullers and world championship medallists are going to miss out on the all-important Olympic qualifying places.

Defending champion, Sanita Puspure of Ireland, missed the entire World Cup season through a mixture of illness and funding constraints. Her one appearance was at the European Championships where she took gold. 2018 was a massive “break-though” year for the 37 year old. Prior to the 2018 season her best results had been a couple of European Championship bronze medals, but 2018 saw her pick up 2 World Cup silver medals before taking the big one at the World Championships. The gold medal at the 2019 Europeans showed that the 2018 performances weren’t a “fluke” as she beat Jeannine Gmelin, the 2017 World Champion, by 1 second.

If 2018 was Puspure’s “Break-Through” season, then 2017 belonged to Jeannine Gmelin of Switzerland. After finishing 5that the Rio Olympics, Gmelin worked with British coach Robin Dowell and totally dominated the 2017 season, going unbeaten throughout 2017 and into 2018. However, disagreements between the Swiss team management and her coach disrupted her preparation for the World Championships and almost led to her quitting the team. But, heading into 2019 she has an agreement with the Swiss team to allow her to continue to be coached by Dowell, and she’s taken silver medals at both the European Championships and the Rotterdam World Cup.

The big news in this event for 2019 has been the return to competition of New Zealand’s Emma Twigg. The 2014 World Champion took time away from the sport after finishing 4that the Rio Olympics, but she’s back for 2019 and has made an instant impact. The New Zealand team raced at both the 2ndand 3rdWorld Cups, with Twigg taking the gold medal both times. She also won her 2ndPrincess Royal title at Henley Royal Regatta (10 years after winning her first). She will be heading into Linz as the favourite to take the title.

 

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Emma Twigg of New Zealand

One of the most experienced competitors in the field is Mirka Knapkova Topinkova of the Czech Republic. She’s been a fixture of the W1X scene since making her senior debut in 2001. She was the 2011 World Champion and the 2012 Olympic Champion and is looking to qualify for her 5thOlympics. She took a year out after Rio and had a family, but she returned in 2018 and raced in the W4X (the first time she’d raced in that boat class) ending 14that the World championships. For 2019 she’s back in her usual W1X and is back to medal-winning ways, taking bronze at the Plovdiv World Cup and another bronze at the European Championships. She also raced at the Rotterdam World Cup where she reached the A-Final. She’s perhaps not quite the force she has been in the past, but she should be able to secure qualification for Tokyo.

Whilst Knapkova is one the most experienced athletes in the field, she’s a mere novice compared to Ekaterina Karsten of Belarus. The 47 year-old is striving to qualify for an unprecedented eighth Olympic Games. She made her international debut before most of her competition were out of nappies. Her longevity is quite remarkable, and there is no-one in World Rowing as experienced as she is. A few stats – Olympic gold in Atlanta and Sydney, with silver in Athens and bronze in Barcelona and Beijing, 6 World Championship gold medals, 4 silvers and 6 bronze. She’ll certainly have huge support in her efforts to secure a top 9 finish. She may no longer be challenging the top of the podium, but her results in 2018 and 2019 certainly show she’s still more than capable of qualifying for her 8thOlympic Games.

Magdalena Lobnig of Austria has been one of the most consistent performers on the international stage. Since starting her single sculling career in 2013 she’s only missed qualifying for the A-Final on 2 occasions. She’s a regular on the podium and the highlight of her career to date was a gold medal at the European Championships in 2017. She won bronze at the World Championships last year and so far in 2019 she has a 4thplace at the European Championships and a silver at the Poznan World Cup. Her’s would be one of the first names on a list of potential Olympic qualifiers.

2018 was a very disappointing year for Great Britain’s Vicky Thornley. The Rio W2X silver medallist won the European Championship and silver at Worlds in the W1X in 2017 and looked as though she was going to emerge as one of the major contenders for 2018. A-Final appearances at the 1stand 2ndWorld Cups were encouraging, but over-training meant she became injured and had to miss the rest of the season. She made a relatively low-key return to competition at the 2019 Europeans, taking 7th. But, she’s been getting better and better as the season progressed with a 5thplace in Poznan and 4thin Rotterdam (missing the bronze medal by 6/100thof a second. If she continues improving the way she has then a podium finish isn’t out of the question, and Olympic qualification should be a given.

 

thornley

Vicky Thornley of Great Britain

The USA haven’t won a medal in this event at the World Championships since Michelle Guerette took bronze in 2007 (and before anyone shouts at me, yes, I know Gevvie Stone won Olympic silver in Rio, but I’m talking specifically about the Worlds!) Their single sculler for the last couple of seasons has been Kara Kohler, an Olympic bronze medallist in the W4X in London, she started in the W1X at the beginning of the 2018 season ending up just outside of the medals at the World Championships. She’s raced once so far this season, taking a 4thplace at the Poznan World Cup. In a packed and stacked field she will be expecting an A-Final placing at the very least.

Another strong North American sculler is Carling Zeeman of Canada. She’s been racing in the single scull since 2015 and has a 10thplace finish at the Rio Olympics. She finished the 2018 season in 9thspot and will be hoping to finish no lower than that in Linz. She’s made one appearance on the World Cup circuit so far this season with a bronze medal from Poznan.

Denmark’s Fie Udby Erichsen is another seasoned campaigner on the W1X circuit. She first raced in this boat class at the 2010 European Championships and the highlight of her career came in London when she won the Olympic silver medal. She took a break after London and returned to the sport in 2014 and raced at the Rio Olympics finishing 9th. A 4thplace at the 2017 Europeans was encouraging although she missed the A-Final at the World Championships. 2018 was a much better season, culminating in a 5thplace finish at the World Championships. 2019 has seen her continue to make the A-Final with a 5thplace at the Europeans and 6thin Poznan. In such a strong field in Linz she may struggle to secure an A-Final place, but a top 9 finish overall is the minimum she should expect.

Annekatrin Thiele of Germany is a three-time Olympic medallist, including gold in the W4X from Rio. She’s also got a hatful of World and European medals to her credit. But, since moving to the W1X in 2017 she’s struggled to make the podium (her sole medal being a bronze from the European Championships in 2017). She reached the A-Final at the World Championships last season but so far in 2019 she has a 9thplace from the 2ndWorld Cup and a 5thfrom the 3rd. As with Erichsen, she may struggle to make the A-Final, but will definitely be in the mix at the sharp end of the B final, and a qualification spot.

The final sculler to mention is China’s Yan Jiang. The 30 year-old won silver in the W4X at the 2014 World Championships and followed that up with a 6thplace at the Rio Olympics. She raced in the W2X in 2018 finishing 9thand then moved to the single scull for the 2019 season. She started with a bang by taking silver at the Plovdiv World Cup but then struggled in Poznan ending up 11th. She’s another sculler who’ll be targeting a top 9 finish rather than focussing too much on getting among the medals.

Among the rest of the field, the scullers to mention include Diana Dymchenko of Ukraine, 3rdat the 2018 European Championships and 11thin the World last year, this season she raced at the Europeans finishing 8th. Also should mention Aikaterina Nikolaidou of Greece, 4thin the W2X at the Rio Olympics, she was 5that the 2018 Europeans and raced in the W2X at this year’s Euro’s finishing 6th, and finally the 2017 U23 World Champion, Lovissa Claesson of Sweden.

 

The battle between Puspure, Twigg and Gmelin is going to be pretty special, and if Thornley and Lobnig bring their A games they could also be in the mix for a medal. I’m going for a Kiwi gold with Ireland in silver and Switzerland in bronze.

Predicted Olympic qualifiers: NZL, IRL, SUI, GBR, AUT, USA, CZE, CAN, BLR

 

Next up….The men’s and women’s coxless pairs.

The U23 World Championships – a partial preview

Image result for U23 World Rowing championships 2019

It’s always interesting to watch the U23 World Championships as it gives an insight into who will be the stars of the future (although some who race the U23’s are already stars and have made their mark on the senior scene). This year’s Championships head to Sarasota in Florida, venue of the 2017 senior World championships.  So, here’s a (brief) look at who will be the main contenders to watch.

 

BM1X

24 scullers

The most likely favourite for this event is Germany’s Marc Weber. He was the runner-up at last year’s championships. The 21-year-old raced at both the Wedau and Ratzburg regattas this season, winning the Senior B M1X at the Wedau and the Senior A M1X in Ratzburg.

Greece’s Stefanos Ntouskos is the most experienced athlete in the field. An U23 bronze medallist in the BLM2- back in 2015, he went on to represent Greece in the LM4- at the Rio Olympics making the A-Final. After Rio he picked up a silver medal in the BLm2- at the U23’s before moving to heavyweight in 2017 finishing 14thin the M4- at the European Championships and 4thin the BM2-. IN 2018 he switched to sculling, finishing 16thin the M2X at the Senior World Championships and 13that this year’s Europeans.

Another athlete with senior racing experience is Romania’s Mihal Chiruta. He raced in the M1X at the European Championships, finishing a very creditable 8th(beating the reigning senior World Champion in the process). He raced at the U23’s last year finishing 17thin the BM4X.

An athlete to watch making the step up from the junior ranks is Australia’s Cormac Kennedy-Leverett. The Queenslander was JM1X World Champion in 2017 and silver medallist in the same event last year. He was selected to represent Australia at the 2018 Youth Olympic Games where he won bronze in the JM1X.

Brazil’s Lucas Ferreiraraced at the Senior World Championships in 2017 finishing 24th. Last year he raced at the U23’s and made the A-Final finishing 6thoverall.

Another name to watch out for is South Africa’s Thabelo Masutha. His aim is to qualify for the Tokyo Olympics and will be racing at the Senior World Championships in Linz next month in an effort to do so. He was the youngest competitor at the senior World Championships last year reaching the quarter finals and ending up 4thin the D-Final. In 2017 he became the first black South African to win a medal at the Junior World Championships, and earlier this year he became the youngest man ever to win the prestigious Silver Sculls at the Buffalo Regatta in East London. He raced at the Piediluco Regatta in Italy in April finishing 6thin the B Final of M1X.

Russia’s Alexander Vyazovkin won silver in the U23 BM4X in 2017 and raced in the senior M4X throughout the 2018 season, finishing 6that the first World Cup and 10that the 2nd. They raced at the European Championships last year placing 1stin the B-Final.

 

BW1X

13 scullers

 

A small, but very talented field. The leading contender will most probably be Emily Kallfelz from the USA. The Princeton University student was US Rowing’s “U23 Female Athlete of the Year” in 2018. She’s already raced at the U23 World Championships three times, taking 4thin the BW2X in 2016, bronze in the BW1X in 2017 and then silver in the same event last year.

Italy’s Clara Guerra is probably the most experienced athlete in the race. She had an excellent 2018 winning bronze in the BLW2X and also bronze in the LW1X at the Europeans and then silver at the Senior World Championships. This season she has a 5thplace in the W1X at the Piediluco Regatta and 15that the European Championships.

Desislava Angelova of Bulgaria finished one place behind Kallfelz at last year’s U23 World Championships to take the bronze medal. She’s been racing on the senior circuit this season, just missing a medal at the 1stWorld Cup and then placing 11that the European Championships. It should be a good battle between her and the American.

Louise Munro of Canada is making her 2ndappearance at an U23 World Championships. The Queen’s University, Ontario, student finished 5thin the BW4X last year.

Germany’s Alicia Bohn will be a strong medal contender. She had two years on the German junior team, finishing 4thin the JW1X in 2015 and then taking silver in 2016. She moved up to the U23 team in 2018 finishing 4thin the BW4X. This season she raced in the open W1X at the Wedau Regatta in Duisburg placing 1stin the B-Final.

Another athlete heading to her 2ndU23 World Championships is Australia’s Ria Thompson. The Queensland University student raced in the U23 BW2X last year placing 5th. She raced in a number of events at the Sydney International Regatta earlier this year, taking gold in the U23 BW1X.

Megan Hancock of South Africa is one of only 3 athletes who haven’t already raced at U23 level. She has, however, raced at Junior level, winning a silver medal in the JW1X in 2017.

Another of the athletes making the step-up from the junior ranks is Great Britain’s Georgina Robinson-Ranger. The University of London student raced in the JW4X at the Junior World Championships last season finishing 5th, and went on to represent Great Britain at the Youth Olympic Games. This season she raced in the Championship 4- at Henley Women’s Regatta losing in the final to Edinburgh University.

 

BM2-

12 crews

South Africa won this event last year and have one of the crew, Charles Brittain, back to defend the title. He’s joined by Luc Daffarin, who raced in this event in 2015 finishing 5th. In 2018 he raced in the U23 BM2X finishing 12th.

The main threat to South Africa retaining their title will be Romania.They finished one place behind the South Africans last year and have both of the crew back for 2019, Florin-Sorin Lehaci and Dumitru-Alexandru Ciobica. They have both raced at the senior level with Ciobica winning silver in the M4- at the first World Cup this season and Lehaci a bronze in the M8 at the 1stWorld Cup in 2018.

Greece are another duo with senior racing experience. Ioannis Kalandaridis and Athanasios Palaiopanos raced at the European Championships this season finishing 11th. Kalandaridis is the reigning U23 World Champion in the BM2X and raced in the BM1X in 2017 finishing 8th.

Povilas Stankunas and Mantas Juskevicius of Lithuania both rowed in the BM4- at both the 2017 and 2018 U23 World Championships, finishing 7thon both occasions. They also raced in the M4- at the Europeans in 2018 finishing 12th.

Great Britain have a strong pairing of James Snowball and Rufus Biggs. Snowball, from Oxford Brookes University, was a member of their 2nd8 throughout the season racing at Duisburg and Ghent culminating in a win in the Temple Challenge Cup at Henley Royal Regatta. Rufus Biggs has just graduated from Brown University where he was Co-Captain. He rowed in the Varsity boat for three of his four years at Brown, he’s also a two-time winner of the Fawley Challenge Cup at Henley.They are coached by cox of the Women’s 8, Morgan Baynham-Williams.

The Netherlands have a duo who are both making their World Rowing debuts, Robert Tiemeijer and Willem van Soest. Coached by Peter Wiersum, they raced as Aegir/Theta at the Netherlands Student Rowing Federation championships taking the bronze medal in Elite M2-.

 

BW2-

14 crews

The two leading crews in this event look to be Greece and the USA. The duo for Greece are Christina Bourmpou and Maria Kyridou. They raced at both the Junior and U23 World Championships in 2018. They won gold at the Juniors and then missed a medal at the U23’s by 1 place. They ended the season winning gold at the Youth Olympic Games in Buenos Aires. This season they made their senior international racing debuts, taking 5thin the A-Final at the European Championships. What’s scary is that both of these athletes are still only 18, if they continue their progress, they could be major contenders for the Paris Olympiad.

The USA has Sarah Johanek and Hadley Irwin. Johanek, from Rutgers University, won gold in the U23 BW4+ last year and Irwin, from Princeton University, took bronze in the BW8.

Representing Australia are the Sydney University duo of Tara Rigney and Dyone Bettega. They won U23 W2- at the Sydney International Regatta and Bettega rowed for Australia at the U23’s last year finishing 6thin the BW8.

Great Britain have paired Emily Lindburg from the University of London, with Esme Booth from Oxford Brookes University. Both are making their International debuts this season. Earlier in the year they raced in an U23 W4- at Duisburg Regatta finishing 4thbehind three senior boats.

The Netherlands have 2018 U23 BW8 gold medallist Eve Stewart. She’s joined by Jessy Vermeer who spent a couple of years on the Junior team, and represented the Netherlands at the Youth Olympic Games. Vermeer is studying at Ohio State and rowed in the Varisty crew that finished 6that the NCAA’s. Stewart is a student at Iowa and stroked the Varsity 8 to a 9thplace at the NCAA’s.

South Africa have also selected two athletes that are studying in the USA. Tayla-May Bentley and Jessica Schoonbee. They are both at the University of Michigan ad also attended the same school, St Mary’s School Waverly in South Africa. At Michigan they both rowed in the Varsity 8 that won the Big Ten Championships and bronze at the NCAA’s. Schoonbee’s brother, Kyle, is a member of the senior South Africa squad.

 

Germany have two returning U23 internationals, Sonja Schlosser finished 4thin the BW4+ and Leonie Berge raced in the BW4- that finished 11th. At the Ratzeburg Regatta earlier this season, Berge raced in the W2- winning the silver medal, and Schlosser was a member of the German U23 W8 that won gold.

 

BM2X

14 crews

New Zealand have selected a duo of gold medallists from the BW4X in 2017, Jack Lopas and Oliver Maclean. They are both studying in the USA. Lopas was a member of the outstanding Yale Varsity crew that went unbeaten throughout the 2019 season. Maclean spent his Freshman year at Northeastern University before transferring to the University of California – Berkeley, where he rowed in the Varsity 8 that finished 4that the IRA Championships.

Germany were bronze medallists in this event last season and have the same two athletes back again, Anton Finger and Henrik Runge. Runge has senior representative honours to his name as well as U23, having raced in the M2X at the Senior World Championships in 2017 finishing 15th. He was also in the U23 BM4X that finished 6thin 2016. Finger is in his 3rdyear on the U23 team, as well as winning bronze in 2018 he finished 8thin this boat class in 2017. They raced at the Ratzeburg Regatta in early June, winning the M2X event.

Great Britain have selected two athletes currently rowing for Leander Club. Viktor Kleshnev and James Cartwright were both members of the GB JM4X that won silver at last year’s Junior World Championships and are making their debuts at U23 level. Earlier this season they raced in the Leander quad that lost in the quarter finals of the Prince Of Wales Challenge Cup at Henley Royal Regatta.

Italy have one of the most experienced crews in the event. Andrea Cattaneo and Luca Chiumento have been racing on the senior circuit this season, finishing 9that the European Championships and 12that the 2ndWorld Cup. They both raced at the U23 World Championships last year, with Cattaneo finishing 4thin the BM2X and Chiumento winning a silver medal in the BM4X. They raced in this boat class in 2017, finishing 10th. Cattaneo also raced at the Piediluco Regatta in April, finishing 4thin the M2X partnered by Emanuele Fiume.

Representing the Netherlands is Jaap de Jong and Ralf Rienks. De Jong is more used to racing with one oar, having been a member of the Brown University Varsity 8 all season. He was a junior world champion in 2015 and raced in the U23 BM8 last season finishing 6that the World Championships. Rienks, from the Technical University in Delft, rowed in the U23 BM4- in 2017 that finished 4that the World Championships.

Switzerland  have half of the JM4X that won gold in 2017, Dominic Condrau and Valentin Huehn. They both raced at the U23 World Championships last year, with Condrau finishing 6thin the BM4X and Huehn 14thin the BM1X. This season they won gold in the M2X at the Swiss National Championships.

The final crew to mention are the USA.They have Cole Dorsey and Mark Couwenhoven. Dorsey raced in the 3rdVarsity 8 at George Washington University, and Couwenhoven, a member of the Craftsbury Sculling Center,  won the M1X at the Dad Vails this season.

 

BW2X

11 crews

As in the BW2- it’s Greece who look to have the strongest combination. Anneta Kyridou and Dimitra-Sofia Tsamopouldou raced in this event two years ago, winning the bronze medal. Kyridou went on to race in the BW2X last season (partnered by Sofia Asoumanaki) finishing 4th. She then partnered Aikaterini Nikolaidou at the European Championships this season taking another 4thplace. Tsamopouldou raced in the BW4- last season that finished 8that the World Championships.

Australia have selected two experienced U23 internationals, Giorgia Patten and Harriet Hudson. For Hudson, this will be her 3rdyear on the U23 team, she won silver in the BW4X in 2017 and followed that up with a 5thplace in this boat class last year. Patten raced in the BW2- last season, finishing 5th. They both raced in the U23 W1X at the Sydney International Regatta this year (Patten for Western Australia, and Hudson for Sydney) with Hudson taking silver and Patten the bronze.

Germany are always strong in women’s sculling, and this year no exception. Lisa Gutfleisch raced in the BW1X in 2018 finishing 1stin the B Final. The previous year she raced the JW1X at the Junior World Championships finishing 6th. She’s partnered by Nora Peuser who steps up from the junior team. In 2017 she won silver in the JW2X at the Junior World Championships. They both sculled at the Ratzeburg Regatta (albeit in different W2X combinations) with Gutfleisch placing 3rdand Peuser 6th.

Elizabeth Sharis of the USA finished 4thin this event last season. For 2019 she’s joined by her Stanford University team-mate Emily Delleman. Delleman was junior World Champion in 2016 and raced on the U23 team last season placing 6thin the BW4X. Whilst at Stanford they both raced in the Varsity 8 that finished 4that the NCAA’s.

 

 

BM4-

12 Crews

This has the makings of a fascinating contest.Romania are the defending champions, but they only have one member of last year’s crew, Stefan-Constantin Berariu, back for 2019. He’s joined by two other U23 medallists, Alexandru Chioseaua and Mugurel Vasile Semciuc. They both won bronze in the BM8 last year. The final member of the crew is 2018 Junior World Champion Alexandru-laurentiu Danciu. All four of this crew have already made an impact on the Senior stage. Berariu raced in the M4- at the 2018 World Championships, finishing 5th. The crew also have a World Cup silver medal from this year’s 1stWorld Cup and members of the crew also raced at the European championships.

Great Britain were 2ndto the Romanians last season and they have a crew full of U23 medallists. David Ambler and Charlie Elwes were both in this boat last year. Ambler also has an U23 bronze medal from the BM8 in 2017 and has been a regular member of the Harvard Varsity 8. Elwes won another silver in this boat in 2017 and is also studying in the USA and was a member of the outstanding Yale Varsity crew that went unbeaten in the 2019 season. Tom Digby is another member of the Yale Varsity and also has two U23 silver medals to his credit – from the BM4- in 2017 and the BM8 last year. Freddie Davidson is the only member of the crew not studying in the USA, the new Cambridge University President is a Boat Race winner and was a member of the silver medal U23 BM8 last season. This quartet raced in the Visitors Challenge Cup at Henley Royal Regatta, breaking the course record on their way to victory.

New Zealand also have a crew full of U23 medallists. Ben Taylor and Sam Jones won silver in the BM4+ last season and Tom Mackintosh and Thomas Russel were bronze medallists in this event last season. Mackintosh and Russel also raced in the M4- at the Senior World Championships last year finishing 15th. During the New Zealand domestic season, Jones won gold in the Premier M4- at the National Championships with Mackintosh, Taylor and Russel in 2nd.

Australia have a crew that are all making their U23 debuts. Their crew unites rowers from opposite sides of the Australian Boat Race. Marcus Britt and William O’Shannessy from Sydney University, and the Lavery brothers, Nicholas and Rohan from Melbourne University. All four raced at the Sydney International Regatta earlier this year, with the Sydney University duo of Britt and O’Shannessy winning gold in the U23 M2- and the Melbourne Lavery brothers winning gold in the U23 M4-.

The USA have one crew member with previous U23 experience, Liam Corrigan. He finished 4thin the Bm2- last year and was a member of the Harvard Varsity crew this season. At bow is Beck Thomas who rowed in the Yale University 2ndVarsity this season. In the middle of the boat are David Bridges and George Esau, both from the University of Washington. Esau was a member of the 1stVarsity and Bridges the 2V.

Germany reached the A-Final of this event and have 3 of that crew back for 2019. Friedrich Dunkel, Paul Heinrich Seiters and Marc Kammann are joined by Olaf Roggensack who finished 4thin the BM8 last season. The raced at the Ratzeburg Regatta this season finishing 2ndto the Dutch Senior M4-.

Another country who reached the A-Final in this boat class in 2018 were Italy. Edoardo Lanzavecchia and Giorgio Casaccia were members of that crew, and return for 2019. Nunzio di Colandrea won bronze in the BM8 last season, and the final member of the crew, Matteo Sandrelli, raced in the BM8 in 2017.

 

BW4-

11 crews

Canada look to be the form crew in this event. They have two members of the U23 World Champion BW8 from 2018, Ivy Elling Quaintance and Isabel Ruby-Hill. They are joined by two members of the University of Victoria, Piper Battersby and McKenna Simpson. Simpson rowed at the U23’s last season finishing 10thin the BW2-.

China have two experienced U23 internationals on-board, Xiaoxin Liu won a bronze medal in this event last year, and Mingwei Zhao competed in the BW2- at the 2016 U23 World Championships. Zhao has also raced at the Senior World Championships finishing 10thin the W2- in 2017. They are joined by two international debutants, Ziwen Zhou and Fengiiao Sun.

Spain also have a crew of experienced U23 internationals, Nuria Puig Aguilo and Victoria Cid I Centelles finished 14thin the BW2- and Aitzpea Gonzalez 12thin the BW4- last year. The 4thmember of the crew is former Junior international Esther Briz Zamorano.

Great Britain have two of the crew that just missed out on the medals in the BW8 last year, Alex Rankin and Lauren Irwin. They are joined by Lydia Currie and Hope Cessford. Currie is a team mate of Rankin’s at Edinburgh University and won gold at the EUSA Championships last year. They raced together as part of the winning Champ 4- at Henley Women’s Regatta this year. Cessford finished 7thin the JW4- at the Junior World Championships in 2017, and has just finished her Freshman year at Harvard University. Whilst at Harvard she raced in the 6 seat of the Varsity 8 that won Eastern Sprints.

Germany won the W4- at Ratzeburg Regatta earlier this season, the crew includes Charlotte Koerner who was 4thin the BW4+ , Marieluise Witting finished 11thin the BW4- last year and former junior internationals Charlotte Von Bockelmann and Mira Moch.

Rowing in Ireland is experiencing a real purple patch at the moment and their U23 W4- look to be serious contenders. Emily Hegarty and Tara Hanlon raced in the BW2- last year and finished 12th.  Hegarty then partnered Aifric Keogh in the W2- at the Senior World Championships reaching the A-Final. They are joined by Claire Feerick and Eimear Lambe who raced as a pair at the Poznan World Cup this year finishing 12th. Hanlon and Hegarty were part of the Irish W4- at the Poznan World Cup and finished 11th. As a quartet this crew raced at the Piediluco regatta placing 4thin the A-Final of W4-, just 1 place behind a senior Irish crew that included World Champion Sanita Puspure.

New Zealand have two of the crew that finished 5thlast year, Catherine Layburn and Charlotte Spence. They are joined by Jemma James, who finished 14thin the BW1X last year, and Grace Watson who won bronze at the Junior World Championships last year. At the New Zealand National Championships earlier this year, Layburn and Spence won the U22 W2- and also took bronze as part of the Auckland Regional Performance Centre Premier W4-.

Russia have three of the crew that raced in the BW8 last season, Elena Mozgunova, Elena Shapurova and Marina Rubstova. The 4thmember of the crew is Maria Kubyshkina, she raced in the U23 BW8 in 2017 that won bronze and then went on to race at the senior world championships.

The USA crew includes two members of the Stanford University varsity 8, Chase Shepley and Kaitlyn Kynast. Kynast was a member of the BW8 that won bronze last year. They are joined by Meredith Koenigsfield from the University of Iowa and Teal Cohen, who won the NCAA’s with the University of Washington.

 

BM4X

13 crews

Great Britain look to be strong favourites in this event. They are the defending champions and have three of the 2018 crew back again. Sam Meijer is already a double U23 World Champion, winning the BM2X in 2017 and the BM4X in 2018. He’s also a double junior world medallist and has, in fact, only lost one race at a World Championships (finishing 2ndin the JM4X in 2014). The Harvard graduate was the sculling spare for the senior GB team in 2018 and is targeting a place in the 2020 Olympic team. Josh Armstrong was also in the gold medal crew last season and finished 7thin the U23 BM1X in 2017. He’s an outstanding talent and raced in the senior M1X at the 2ndWorld Cup in 2017. The third returner is Matt Haywood from Nottingham Rowing Club. The fourth member of the crew is George Bourne of Durham University, who was spare for the U23 team last year. As a crew they won the Prince of Wales Challenge Cup at Henley, equalling the course record in the process.

The main challengers to Great Britain look to be Italy. They were runners-up to GB last season, but only have one member of that crew returning, Pietro Cangialosi. The other three athletes are all experienced U23 internationals, Gustavo Ferrio won bronze in the BM4+ and Salvatore Monfrecola finished 6thin the BM4-. The final member of the crew is Emanuele Giarri who came 10thin the BM1X. This season Giarri and Cangialosi raced in the M2X at Piediluco winning the B-Final.

Hungary finished 4thlast year and, like GB, have 3 of that crew back again; Marton Szabo, Kristof Acis & Mate Bacskai. The fourth member of the crew is Daniel Dano who raced in the BM1X finishing 19th.

It’s not often that Moldova get mentioned, but they have a strong quad this year. Alexandru Masnic, Ivan Corsunov, Alexandr Bulat and Chirill Vistochi-Sestacov finished 8thlast season. This year they’ve raced on the senior circuit winning silver at the 1stWorld Cup and took 13that the European Championships.

Finishing 1 place ahead of Moldova at the European Championships was Switzerland. Their crew includes Scott Baerlocher and Linus Copes who finished 6thin the Bm4X last season. They are joined by Pascal Ryser who came 11thin the BLM2X and Kai Schaetzle sculled at the Youth Olympic Games.

 

Sadly I’ve run out of time to write about any of the other events before racing starts. But I will add a bit about the other events before the finals take place.