The 52nd Head of the Charles Regatta

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Next weekend in Boston (Massachusetts…not Lincolnshire) there is the “Ultimate two-day rowing competition”…The Head of the Charles. Over 11,000 athletes will race in 66 different events, ranging from Men’s 70+ singles all the way up to Championship 8’s. Many of the world’s top rowers will race the 3 miles from the Boston University DeWolfe Boathouse to the finish just before Northeastern University’s Henderson Boathouse.

Here’s how the main events stack up….

 

Men’s Champ 1X

27 scullers

Defending champion: Mahe Drysdale

Course record: 17:11.64 (Andrew Campbell 2014)

Drysdale is racing the Charles this year but not in the single (more on that later). In his absence last year’s runner-up, John Graves (Craftsbury Green Racing Project) starts bow number 1.  Graves was part of the US M4X that just missed out on qualifying for the Rio Olympics this year. He’ll be looking to make the most of his local knowledge over the tricky Charles course.

Starting bow number 2 is the Olympic silver medallist, Damir Martin (Veslacki klub Tresnjevka). Martin had an outstanding 2016 season and will surely start as favourite to take his first win on the Charles. It wouldn’t surprise me to see him overhaul Graves and cross the finish line first.

Bow no.3 belongs to the two-time winner Kjetil Borch (Horten Rokklub) The Norwegian won in 2012 and 2013 (breaking the course record in the process). He’s another athlete who’s had an outstanding 2016 season culminating in an Olympic bronze medal in the M2X with Olaf Tufte.

Starting in 4th is another Rio Olympian, Cuba’s Angel Fournier Rodriguez (Equipo Nacional de Cuba). He was due to race this event in 2015 but scratched. The Cubans huge power could make him a real threat over the 3 mile course.

Bow no.5 is one of the best scullers to come out of Mexico for a very long time, Juan Carlos Cabrera (Marina Nacional). Cabrera finished 8th in Rio (the best result by a Mexican M1X since Joaquin Gurza finished 7th in Barcelona).

A few other names to watch out for further down the start order are Benjamin Dann (Craftsbury Green racing Project – Bow #7) another of the 2016 US M4X, Michael Scmid (See-Club Luzurn – Bow #21) who raced in the Swiss LM2X in Rio, and finally Ruben Knab (A.S.R Nereus – Bow #26) a member of the Dutch national squad since 2011 and London 2012 finalist.

My pick for the win is Damir Martin with Kjetil Borch in 2nd and John Graves in 3rd.

 

Women’s Champ 1X

28 scullers

Defending champion: Gevvie Stone

Course record: 18:33.0 (Kathleen Bertko 2013)

It’s difficult to see anyone getting the better of Dr Gevvie Stone (Cambridge Boat Club). The Olympic silver medallist is aiming for a hat-trick of victories and her 7th in total (equalling the great Anne Marden). No-one knows the Charles better than Stone and it’ll be a significant upset if she doesn’t get win number 7.

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Defending champion Gevvie Stone

The field in the women’s 1X doesn’t have the spread of international competition that the men’s event has but it’s still a quality field. There are just 2 overseas entrants in the event, but they are both extremely talented athletes. Leading the international charge is Vicky Thornley (Leander Club – Bow #3). Thornley is the best sculler in Britain – and I would argue she’s possibly the best sculler in Europe at the moment – A silver medal in the W2X in Rio was one of the most outstanding achievements of the British team in Rio. I’ve been saying for a number of years that if Thornely focussed on the 1X (and received full support from GB Rowing to do so) she could become a real contender for the gold in Tokyo.

The 2nd overseas competitor is Lucy Spoors (Unaffiliated – Bow #17). The New Zealander was part of the W4X that narrowly missed qualification for the Rio Olympics.

But, despite there not being too many overseas competitors, the field is by no means weak. The top of the start order reads like a “Who’s Who” of US national team athletes.

Starting bow #2 is Lindsay Meyer (Vesper Boat Club) the US’s W1X representative at the 2010 World Championships and bronze medallist at last year’s HOCR and 5th in 2014.

In Bow #4 is the first of three of the Olympic champion W8 to be racing in the single, Lauren Schmetterling (US Training Center – Princeton). More familiar with sweep than sculling she’s still going to be a formidable opponent and finished 6th in this event back in 2012

The 2nd of the Olympic W8 racing this event is Ellie Logan (New York Athletic Club – Bow #5) Unlike Schmetterling, Logan does have form in the 1X. She’s a double Olympic Champion in the W8 but has also raced internationally in the W1X with World Cup medals and an A-Final appearance at the 2013 World Championships.

The 3rd Olympic gold medallist racing is Emily Regan (US Training Center – Princeton bow #6). The Michigan graduate has only ever lost one international race – coming 2nd in the W4- at the 2014 World Championships.

Starting bow #7 is Mary Jones (Unaffiliated), she finished 6th last year and raced for the USA in the LW1X at this year’s World Championships, just missing a medal.

Bow number 8 is another US National teamer, Victoria Opitz (US Training Center – Princeton) – she missed a spot on the US team in 2016 but was in the W8 that won the World Championships in 2015.

One place behind Opitz is Olivia Coffey (Unaffiliated). Coffey was a member of the W4X that won the World Championships in 2015 (although she missed selection for the Olympic boat).

My picks are: Gevvie Stone for a record-equalling 7th victory ahead of Vicky Thornley with Ellie Logan in bronze.

 

Men’s Champ 2X

25 crews

Defending champion: Potomac Boat Club (Will Cowles & Sam Stitt)

Course record: 15:40.5 (Croatia – Valent & Martin Sinkovic)

Champ doubles at the Charles are always great fun as there are plenty of unusual “All-Star” combinations and 2016 is no different. Cowles and Stitt are back to defend their title. They’ve both raced for the USA and Will Cowles missed qualifying for the Olympics with partner Stephen Whelpley. Stitt has won this title four times with three different partners. Starting immediately behind them are the Graves brothers, Tom and Peter. This pairing have won three times and posted a faster time than Cowles & Stitt in 2015 only to be denied victory by a 5 second penalty. These two pairings have been duelling on the Charles for years and it’s always good to watch.

But, behind these two HOCR veterans there’s some really exciting duos to take them on.

Starting bow #3 racing as Horten Rokklub are Mahe Drysdale and Olaf Tufte…2 giants of the rowing world. Tufte won the doubles at the Charles with Itzok Cop in 2012 but it’s great to see 2 legends in a boat together…..I can think of no other sport where rivals team up the way they do at the Charles. It’s one of the unique features of this great event.

Bow #4 sees another “All-Star” crew with Aussie James McRae teaming up with Canadian Julian Bahain racing as Club d’aviron de Boucherville. Both of these guys raced in Rio, with McRae winning silver in the M4X and Bahain finishing 8th.

Starting 5th is the first of 3 Leander club doubles. John Collins and Jonno Walton were the GB M2X at the Rio Olympics and as such must start as one of the favourites for the event (indeed they are the only established heavyweight double with Olympic experience.

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Leander Club’s John Collins and Jonno Walton.

The 2nd Leander double (bow #7) are Jack Beaumont and Pete Lambert. Both these guys raced in the GB M4X that finished 5th at the Rio Games (with Beaumont being a last minute substitute). This could well be the makings of a GB M2X for the Tokyo Olympiad and they’ll be keen to get one over their more established team mates.

The 3rd Leander double (bow #8) is actually a Leander and Imperial College composite, with lightweights Jonathan Clegg and Adam Freeman-Pask. Clegg raced in the GB LM4- in Rio and Freeman-Pask was a regular in the GB Lightweight squad until his retirement in 2014.

One of the most charismatic entries is that from Irish composite from Skibereen and University College Dublin (bow #6). Paul and Gary O’Donovan were one of the stars of the Rio regatta when they won silver in the LM2X and gave an interview that has gone into Olympic folklore….”pull like a dog” and “podium pants” have entered into the rowing lexicon! Behind the fun are two extremely talented racers. Paul followed up his Olympic silver with a gold in the LM1X at the World Championships. They could well give some of their heavyweight opponents a bit of a shock.

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The O’Donovan boys enjoying their time in Boston!

 

Another strong lightweight boat are starting #9 – Danske Studenters Rokklub – the 2012 Olympic champions Mads Rasmussen and Rasmus Quist. They perhaps aren’t the force they once were, but they are still one of the most experienced doubles in the field.

My picks….I’m going to be a little bit partisan and go for a Leander 1,2 with Collins & Walton getting the better of Beaumont and Lambert with the Graves brothers taking 3rd.

 

Women’s Champ 2X

21 doubles

Defending champion: Orca/PRO composite (Chantal Achterberg & Inge Janssen

Course record: 17:27.5 (R.V Oude Tonge – Elisabeth Hogerwerf & Inge Janssen 2014)

Leading off in bow #1 are last year’s runners-up, Anne Lolk Thomsen and Juliane Rasmussen (Danske Studenters Roklub). The Danish lightweights were 9th in Rio but they will be acting as the hare to the “greyhounds” racing up behind them!

Favourites for the event must be Emma Twigg and Kimmy Brennan (bow #2 racing as HRRC/MUBC composite). It’s another amazing example of how the sport of rowing brings two fierce adversaries into the same boat, Twigg, the 2014 World champion and Brennan the 2015 World Champion and 2016 Olympic champion. Watching these two racing together could be one of the highlights of the regatta.

But, they aren’t the only all-star boat in the event. Starting bow #3 is another composite with Carling Zeeman and Jeanine Gmelin (racing as RCU/SRC). Gmelin finished 5th in Rio and Zeeman 10th.

Bow #4 is the Austrian-Irish combination of Magdalena Lobnig and Sanita Puspure, both of whom raced the W1X in Rio (Austrian Lobnig finished 6th and Irish woman Puspure a slightly disappointing 13th).

These three composites; Brennan/Twigg, Zeeman/Gmelin and Lobnig/Puspure represents 6 of the finest single scullers in the world, and to see them racing together is fabulous.

Other pairings to highlight are the Swiss lightweights, Patricia Merz and Frederique Rol (Lausanne sport Aviron – Bow #6) who just missed qualifying for Rio. Also watch the Leander double of Vicky Meyer-Laker and Pam Relph (Bow #7) What’s particularly interesting about this double is Relph is a Paralympic gold medallist so it’s interesting to see her competing in an able-bodied boat class. Meyer-Laker is a regular in the GB squad as was a spare for Rio.

My picks…Brennan/Twigg for gold ahead of Zeeman/Gmelin in silver and Lobnig/Puspure in bronze.

 

Men’s Champ 4+

18 crews

Defending champion: Camp Randall Rowing Club

Course record: 15:34.4 (Princeton Training Centre 1997)

Winners of the last 3 years are Camp Randall from Wisconsin. They were listed in the draw but have confirmed that they will not be defending their title.

Starting bow #1 in the place of Camp Randall are Cambridge University. This is the first public appearance of members of the Light Blue 2017 Boat Race squad. They have a cosmopolitan line-up with Louis Margot, a former Swiss U23 international, Wisconsin alumni Ben Ruble, Princeton alumni Pat Eble and Brit Felix Newman. Their performance will give an early indication of the strength of the Light Blues for next year’s Boat Race.

Favourites for the event are probably the Princeton Training Centre crew starting bow #3. This boat contains half (Matt Miller and Charlie Cole) of the US Olympic M4- that finished 7th in Rio. They are joined by three of the US Olympic M8 (Alex Karwoski and Glenn Ochal and cox Sam Ojserkis). Frankly with a pedigree like this it’ll be a surprise if any other boat gets within 10 seconds of them.

Starting bow #4 are the Danish Rowing Federation. They have World LM2- silver medallists Jens Vilhelsen and Emil Espensen along with Jens Nielsen and Steffen Jensen from the 5th placed LM4X from the Rotterdam World Championships.

Behind the Danes are a crew from the outstanding University of California – Berkeley programme. Their top athletes will be in the Champ 8’s but the 4 are no slouches, with Brit Jack Goodsen-Kaye, American U23 internationals Kyle Flagg and Alex Wallis and Aussie U23 Jack Cleary.

As well as testing themselves against international opposition, Cal will also be keen to beat their domestic opposition, especially the Ivy-leaguers of Princeton, Harvard and Yale.

Other crews to watch out for are Lyon National Rowing Centre (Bow #13) a crew of French U23 internationals.

My picks…Princeton Training Centre in gold, Cal in silver and Cambridge in bronze.

 

Women’s Champ 4+

19 crews

Defending champions: US Rowing

Course record: 17:27.3 (London Training Center Canada 2003)

US Rowing crews have won this event for the last 3 years, but this year they haven’t entered. Only three international crews are in the draw, Denmark with bow #3, Don Rowing Club of Canada in bow #4 and Lyon National Rowing Center, France. The Danes are a mix of youth and experience. The youngsters are the 2016 JW2- silver medallists Frida Sanggaard Nielsen and Ida Petersen, the experience are the Olympic bronze medallists, Hedvig Rasmussen and Anne Andersen. The French (bow #11) are another mix of youth and experience. The most experienced member of the crew is Chloe Poumailloux, a member of the senior W4x that missed qualification for Rio. She’s joined by U23 international Diane Albrecht and juniors Alice Renaud and Anne-Elise Communal.

Bow #1 are the New York Athletic Club, this crew includes Nigeria’s first ever female Olympic rower, Chierika Ukogu, she’s joined by Michigan alumni Michelle Sosa, former Cambridge Blue and University of Illinois coach Sam Sosa and Boston College alumni Megan Carmody.

Starting bow #2 are Brown University, with half of the 2nd Varsity boat from the 2015-16 season.

My picks..Denmark in gold with INSA Lyon in silver and Brown in 3rd

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Weeks Bridge

Men’s Champ 8

26 crews

Defending champion: Yale

Course record: 13:58.9 (USRowing 1997)

This event is where the Head of the Charles gets really fun….the cream of US Collegiate crews up against some “All-Star” boats from across the world. This year is no different. The Charles sees a line-up of some of the best scullers and rowers in the world racing as West End Rowing Club (Mahe Drysdale’s home club) starting bow #4….how’s this for a line-up:

Bow: Julien Bahain (Canada) Olympic bronze medallist

2: Alan Campbell (GB) Olympic bronze medallist

3: James McRae (Australia) Olympic silver medallist

4: Angel Fournier Rodriguez (Cuba) World silver medallist

5: Olaf Tufte (Norway) double Olympic gold medallist

6: Mahe Drysdale (New Zealand) double Olympic gold medallist

7: Damir Martin (Croatia) Olympic silver medallist

Stroke: Eric Johannesen (Germany) Olympic gold medallist

Cox: Peter Wiersum (Netherlands)

But, they will have their work cut-out, starting one place behind them are Leander Club with some of Great Britain’s finest…

Bow: Matt Gotrel – Olympic gold medallist

2: Stewart Innes – 4th Olympic Games

3: Matt Langridge – Olympic gold medallist

4: Alan Sinclair – 4th Olympic Games

5: Tom Ransley – Olympic gold medallist

6: Will Satch – Olympic gold medallist

7: Will Fletcher – World silver medallist

8: Alex Gregory – double Olympic gold medallist

Cox: Phelan Hill – Olympic gold medallist

Starting ahead of these two outstanding boats are the crème of the US collegiate system. Starting Bow #1 are the defending champions, Yale. What’s interesting about this boat (from a British perspective) is that they have five British athletes on board – Charlie Elwes, Ollie Wynne-Griffith, Sholto Carnegie, Robert Hurn and freshman Tom Digby. They’ve already got victories under their belt this season with a win at the Head of the Housatonic. They will be relishing going up against some of the world’s greatest rowers.

Bow #2 is the University of California – Berkeley. The IRA champions have a very talented international line-up with two Austrians, a Dane, a Pole, a Serbian, a Dutchman, an American and a Canadian. The boat has four U23 World Champions and includes Poland’s Olympic M1X representative Natan Wegrzycki-Szymczyk.

Bow #3 are Harvard, they last won this event back in 2011 and this year’s boat includes a Brit, an Aussie, two South Africans and four Americans.

Washington are the most successful University in this event in recent years, with wins in 2008, 2010 and 2012. This year sees them start bow #6 and they have their own international line-up with a Brit, Serbian, Swiss, Dutch and four Americans

The Americans will be hoping “home field” advantage, (and perhaps a post-Olympic drop-off from some of the superstars) to take some scalps.

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Double Olympic gold medalist Alex Gregory, stroke of Leander’s Men’s Champ 8

My picks…Leander in first, West End in 2nd and Cal in 3rd.

 

Women’s Champ 8

33 crews

Defending champions: Cal Berkeley

Course record: 15:26.5 (USRowing  2007)

If the men’s Champ 8’s has an impressive line-up, the women’s event looks even better…it’s an “All-Star Scullers” v “All-Star Sweepers” v The USA’s finest.

The “All-Star Scullers” crew, racing as Cambridge Boat Club (Bow #4) is another who’s who of the world’s best scullers:

Gevvie Stone (USA) Rio Olympic silver medallist

Kim Brennan (AUS) Rio Olympic Champion

Emma Twigg (NZL) 2014 World Champion

Carling Zeeman (CAN) 10th W1X Rio Olympics

Jeannine Gmelin (SUI) 5th W1X Rio Olympics

Magdalena Lobnig (AUT) 6th W1X Rio Olympics

Mirka Knapkova (CZE) London Olympic Champion

Sanita Puspure (IRE) 13th W1X Rio Olympics

 

The “All-Star Sweepers” crew, starting one place behind the scullers, are racing as the New York Athletic Club. It’s fundamentally four of the top five W2- crews from the Rio Olympics;

Grace Luczak (USA) 4th in Rio

Felice Mueller (USA) 4th in Rio

Heather Stanning (GBR) Rio gold

Jess Eddie (GBR – subbing for Helen Glover) Rio silver

Rebecca Scown (NZL) Rio silver

Genevieve Behrent (NZL) Rio silver

Kate Christowitz (RSA) 5th in Rio

Lee-Ann Persse (RSA) 5th in Rio

Seeing these two superstar crews going head to head, and starting one after the other is going to be very exciting. But, it’s not just about these two boats. The other 31 crews are all University boats with only one from outside the USA (A.A.S.R Skoll from the Netherlands, bow #25). Unlike the men’s University squads, there are far fewer overseas students in the women’s programmes.  There will be three University crews starting ahead of the “Great 8’s”. Leading off in bow #1 is Brown, winners of Collegiate 8’s at the Head of the Housatonic earlier this month (their 3rd straight victory in the event).

In Bow #2 is the University of Virginia, bronze medallists last year this is their first public race of the season following a bronze medal at the NCAA Championships last season.

Bow #3 are Princeton, like Virginia they are making their season debut on the Charles. 4th last season they finished 6th at the NCAA championships and followed that with a trip to the UK and a win at Henley Women’s Regatta and a semi-final placing at Henley Royal.

Outside of the top five, the Dutch could be the dark horses of the event, among the crew they’ve got two Rio Olympians on board, Carline Bouw – silver medallist in the W4X, and Lies Rustenburg from the 6th placed Olympic W8. They may suffer from getting through traffic thanks to their low bow number.

My picks: New York (all-star sweepers) ahead of Cambridge (the scullers) with Brown the best of the rest.

 

Those are the top, Championship, events. But, there are some really interesting crews in some of the other classes as well. The Alumni eights always throw up some intriguing line ups. Washington Alumni (Bow #2) look to have one of the strongest boats with three Olympians on board (Robert Munn, Conlin McCabe and Ante Kusurin). Another Alumni crew to watch are the Cambridge University old-boys racing as Crabtree Boat Club (bow #13) They have Rio gold medallist George Nash in the 5 seat and senior Austrian international Alex Leichter. In the women’s Alumni event the University of Michigan Alumni lead off and they have four Olympians in the crew including gold medallist Amanda Elmore. Fat Cat (bow #4) have a crew full of senior and U23 internationals including World Champion Heidi Robbins.

 

Finally, as a Brit I want to give a shout out to the 40 British clubs, Universities and Schools that have made the trip across the Atlantic to fly the flag in Boston. Good luck to all (especially Upper Thames Rowing Club!)

The Head of the Charles should be on every rowers Bucket List….on year I’ll tick it off mine (if only as a spectator or commentator….my racing days are over)! Maybe in 2017….

The future of Lightweight rowing – Part 2

Back in March I wrote an article for Rowglobal.com reviewing the FISA Conference, which actually was far more interesting than it sounds. The main thrust of the discussion was the future of Lightweight Rowing in the Olympic Games. Well, after the World Championships in Rotterdam there was another National Federations Conference which raised some big issues for the future of the sport.

The most important element was the somewhat innocuous removal of Rule 37. This particular rule covered who got to decide which events were included in the Olympic programme. Under rule 37 FISA were given a quota of events and a maximum number of athletes by the IOC but they were able to decide the best way to use this quota. However, this rule has now been replaced by a new Rule 37:

“Rule 37 – Olympic Games Boat Classes

 The events programme for the Olympic Regatta shall be determined by the IOC Executive Board after consultation with the FISA Executive Committee, in accordance with the Olympic Charter. The FISA Congress shall vote to select a recommended Olympic programme for the purpose of the consultation with the IOC prior to the IOC’s decision on the programme.”

In a nutshell what this means is that FISA no longer have control over what events are included in the Olympic Games. From now on it’s up to the IOC. The worry for FISA President Jean-Christophe Rolland, is that the IOC are no fans of the size and complexity the sport of rowing brings to the Olympics.

This was emphasised by the inclusion in the Conference papers of a report from the Olympic Programme Commission in 2005:

“Rowing (FISA) – Light-Weight events

The Commission noted the recommended principle of not having weight category events in the Olympic Programme outside of combat sports and weightlifting, and the fact that if this general principle is supported by the Executive Board, a review on the previous decision to include light-weight rowing events in the Olympic Programme is required.

In this regard, the Commission noted the very high athlete quota and the high number of events in the sport of rowing, and the possible lack of significant additional universality resulting from the inclusion of light-weight rowing events in the Olympic Programme.

The Commission therefore recommends the exclusion of light-weight rowing events from the Programme of the Games of the XXIX Olympiad, which would also reduce the athlete quota and number of events”.

Now, this proposal was defeated for the Beijing Olympics, but with Thomas Bach now in charge of the IOC and the Agenda 2020 programme this is very much back on the cards. The IOC have reiterated their position that weight classes should not be included in any events other than combat sports and weightlifting.

During the FISA Conference they proposed 5 changes to the current programme. Four have been proposed by the National Federations and the 5th by the FISA Council themselves. The four NF proposals are:

  1. Remove M4- and add LW4-
  2. Remove M4-, LM4- and add LM2- and LW2-
  3. Remove M4- and add W4-
  4. Remove M4- and add LW4

The 5th , and preferred option is remove LM4- in favour of W4-

So, as far as FISA are concerned Lightweights still have a place in the Olympics, but with the IOC now responsible for which events are included none of the 5 options may get approval. Rowing faces the very real prospect of lightweights losing their place in the Games. If this happens then lightweight rowing as a discipline faces a very uncertain future. We’ll know more next year, but as it stands at the moment, no-one can be certain of what events will be in the programme for the Tokyo Olympics.

The Rio Olympic Games – review

Rio 2016

Now that the dust has well and truly settled after an enthralling Olympic Games, I thought it was time to have a look back and review the Olympic regatta (and see how my predictions panned out).

The Lagoa Rodrigo de Freitas certainly made life interesting, when the wind blew it resembled something out of “The Perfect Storm” and claimed more than one victim.

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The Serbian M2- capsized during their heat

But, when the weather gods played nice it was a truly stunning venue to hold a regatta. Overall I think the racing was very fair and by the time the finals came around the conditions weren’t a factor.

Overall I don’t think any of the major rowing nations can come away from the Olympics fully satisfied. Great Britain may have finished top of the medal table with 3 golds and 2 silvers but this was one short of the minimum 6 medals that was their target. Sir David Tanner may have avoided some awkward conversations thanks to the quality, rather than quantity of his charges haul. UK Sport have already said there will be no “knee-jerk reaction” to getting 5 instead of 6 medals. It could well be that the unexpected silver medal won by Katherine Grainger and Vicky Thornley may have just secured the future funding of the British Rowing Team. But, this success can’t hide the more disappointing aspects of the British performances. The Lightweight team in particular had a very disappointing regatta. For the first time since the Athens Olympics none of the GB lightweights made the A-final. The M4X were unlucky to miss out on the medals having had to make a late crew change and the M2- may also be a little disappointed to miss the medals.

But, it wasn’t just the British who didn’t quite deliver as expected. The other rowing “super-power”, New Zealand also a somewhat mixed regatta. The M2- maintained their unbeaten run and Mahe Drysdale was involved in one of the best M1X races in the history of the Olympics. The Women’s pair also delivered a strong silver. But, as with the British there were some crews who didn’t quite hit the mark when it mattered. The W2x World Champions have looked out of sorts all season and Emma Twigg’s showdown with Kim Brennan never really materialised. Neither the World Champion LW2X nor the LM4- were in the hunt for the medals and the W8, strongly tipped to challenge for silver, also missed out. Questions are already being asked in the New Zealand media about the relative under-performance from their best funded Olympic sport.

The Germans successes in the men’s & women’s Quads will be some consolation to the men’s 8 losing to GB (again), but beyond that no other German crew reached the A-Final. The Americans took an expected gold in the W8 and Gevvie Stone took a brilliant silver in the W1X, but the much-vaunted W2- missed the medals and only one men’s heavyweight boat reached the final. The US’s no.1 men’s boat, the M4- were well off the pace in the semi-final finishing 8 seconds behind the winner.

So, how did my predictions get on….

 

M1X

Predicted: Gold New Zealand, silver Croatia, bronze Czech Republic

Actual: New Zealand, Croatia, Czech Republic

OK, feeling quite smug about this one, but what a race. The greyhound Damir Martin against the diesel-engine Mahe Drysdale. Martin did what he does best, get out quick and hang on. Mahe went off steadier, but when the torque of his engine got going it reeled the Croatian in. I really thought that with 150m to go Martin was done, but incredibly he had a sprint in him and wouldn’t let the Kiwi get away. In the end both were awarded the same time but the gold went to Drysdale by the narrowest of narrow margins, no more than 2cm after 2000m…that’s 0.001%…incredible. There was quite a lot of protesting on Twitter that both should’ve been awarded the gold and that somehow the photo-finish wasn’t accurate….basically nonsense. In the end, a wonderful race to watch, and, as seems likely, a fitting end to Mahe’s international career.

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The photo-finish of the M1X final

 

M2-

Predicted: Gold New Zealand, Silver Great Britain, Bronze The Netherlands

Actual: New Zealand, South Africa, Italy

No surprises about who would take gold. Murray and Bond end their pairs partnership after 8 years having never lost a race…incredible. They’ve just published their memoirs which should make fascinating reading, especially the relationship with former coach Dick Tonks. I’ve got a copy winging its way to me and I’ll post a review as soon as I’ve had a chance to read it. Anyway, back to the race. In the build up to the Olympics it looked likely that the British and Dutch would be the main challengers for a medal, but in the end the British just ran out of steam having been in the silver medal position with 500 to go. The Dutch looked out of sorts all regatta and failed to make the A-Final. Instead it was the South Africans, Lawrence Brittain and Shaun Keeling who won the sprint for the line ahead of a delighted Italian crew. What’s most surprising about the Italian boat is that they are pretty much a scratch pair. The original combination were disbanded after Niccolo Mornati was banned for a doping offence. The Italians’ Marco Di Constanzo and Giovanni Abagnale had never competed internationally as a pair before Rio. A great result for the Azzuri.

 

M2X

Predicted: Gold Croatia, silver New Zealand, bronze Norway

Actual: Croatia, Lithuania, Norway

No great surprises about the winners here either, although the Sinkovic’s didn’t look as smooth or as convincing as they had in previous regattas. But, as the old adage goes, “make your worst better than your opponents best” and they held on to win. The surprise of the event were the silver medal Lithuanians. After an injury to Rolandas Mascinskas, I didn’t expect the new double of Griskonis and Ritter to be a significant threat, but threat they were, leading the Croatians with 500m to go and in the end losing out by just 1 second. A fabulous performance considering the late change to the line-up. It was also fantastic to see the “old man” Olaf Tufte win yet another Olympic medal at his 6th Games.

 

M4-

Predicted: Gold Great Britain, Silver Australia, bronze Italy

Actual: Great Britain, Australia, Italy

This was a classic GB v Aussie dual, just like in London and Beijing. The Australians gave it a real go in the 2nd 500m, drawing level with the British, but they couldn’t cope with the pace the British laid down in the 3rd 500. Britain’s flagship crew delivered when it mattered and won the 5th straight M4- title. No more to be said really, the top US and Canadian crews were disappointing and the 2015 World Champions from Italy ably played their bit-part role in the GB v Aussie showdown.

 

M4X

Predicted: Gold Australia, silver Germany, bronze Great Britain

Actual: Germany, Australia, Estonia

A bit of a disappointed for the Green & Gold. They had looked in stunning, almost unbeatable, form coming into the Olympics, whereas the World Champion Germans had had a very mixed season. But when it came to the crunch the Germans found their mojo and produced a stunning display of power sculling and led from the first to the last stroke. I was really disappointed for the Brits, so often they have looked on the verge of winning a major championship only to be thwarted by injury. And so it proved again in Rio. Graeme Thomas was ruled out with a virus before racing started and was replaced by Jack Beaumont. They raced brilliantly in the circumstances to make the final, but ran out of steam in the 2nd half. But, they’re a young crew and good things will come.

 

M8

Predicted: Gold Great Britain, silver Germany, bronze The Netherlands

Actual: Great Britain, Germany, The Netherlands

Another prediction I can feel pretty smug about! So, so pleased for the GB guys. They produced a superb row, very reminiscent of the Sydney 2000 win. They took the race by the scruff of the neck and were on it from the very first stroke. The Germans, by contrast, looked a little flat and I was surprised at the distance the British were able to open up on them. As it was the gold never looked in doubt but the Germans had a real battle on their hands to hold off the Dutch for the silver medal. So, in the end the British achieved what they set out to do, the emulated the German’s feat of winning all three world Championships and the Olympic gold in a single Olympiad. GB’s coach, Jurgen Grobler was overcome with emotion at the finish….it was another medal to add to his tally, his crews have won medals at every Olympics since 1972 (the only exception being LA in 1984 when East Germany didn’t attend), an astonishing record (and he shows no sign of stopping!)

 

W1X

Predicted: Gold Kim Brennan, silver Emma Twigg, bronze Gevvie Stone

Actual: Kim Brennan, Gevvie Stone, Jingli Duan

One of the most eagerly anticipated match-ups never really materialised. All the pre-Olympic talk had been the impending showdown between Kim Brennan of Australia and Emma Twigg of New Zealand. But in the end Twigg was outclassed by the Aussie. Instead, it was the USA’s Gevvie Stone who stepped up to challenge Brennan emulating the silver medal won by Michelle Guerette in Beijing. It was a big disappointed to the Kiwis that Twigg missed the podium altogether.

 

W2-

Predicted: Gold Great Britain, silver New Zealand, bronze USA

Actual: Great Britain, New Zealand, Denmark

In the build up to the Olympics much had been spoken of the US pair. They would be the ones to end the British domination of this event. Felice Mueller & Grace Luczak chose to race the pair over the W8 and really felt they could dethrone the British. But, if I’m being a little controversial here, I don’t think the US women row the pairs very well. The current US women are immensely powerful rowers, but they have a tendency to “bully” boats along, whereas for the smaller boats it takes a little more sensitivity and touch to make it fly. That’s what the British have, they are nowhere near as big or as powerful as their opposition but they row incredibly efficiently (most of the time!) They gave their fans a bit of a scare in the heat when they only just beat a superb Danish pair, but by the semi “normal service” had been resumed. The Danes, Hedvig Rasmussen and Anne Andersen, were, perhaps the stars of the event. Coming into the regatta they had shown no great form (only making the podium once before, in Lucerne 2015) but they raced superbly and gave the Brits a real run for their money in the heat. In the final they just ran out of steam and couldn’t hold off the fancied New Zealand pair for the silver medal.

 

W2X

Predicted: Gold New Zealand, silver Lithuania, bronze Poland

Actual: Poland, Great Britain, Lithuania

This was so nearly the fairy-tale ending for the British. After all the trials and tribulations, the break-ups and the tantrums, for this crew to get so close to gold was an incredible achievement that even the most jingoistic of GB supporters couldn’t have expected. For 1900 metres the gold looked like it was heading back to Britain, but the superb Polish crew timed their race to perfection and they reeled in the British and surged ahead in the closing stages for a deserved win. But all the attention was on the British. In the post-race interview Grainger said that this silver medal meant as much, if not more than her gold from London, because of everything she and Thornley went through. It is a fitting end to a superb athlete, five Olympic Games, four silver and one gold. Surely her CBE will be upgraded to a full Dame-hood in this year’s honours list. Hopefully Vicky Thornely will carry on with her international career and hasn’t been too battered and bruised by the experience this year. She is one of Britain’s most talented scullers and I reckon, if she’s given all the necessary support she could win some major medals in the W1X.

The Kiwis had a disappointing regatta in this event, their world championship winning double looked out of form all season and to miss the A-final was a big blow.

 

W4X

Predicted: Gold Germany, silver Poland, bronze The Netherlands

Actual: Germany, The Netherlands, Poland

The winner of this was never in doubt. The Germans have pretty much owned this boat class this year but they had a real fight on their hands in the final. With 1500m gone they were trailing the Poles by 1.5 seconds. For their part the Polish had clearly decided to go for broke and try and break the Germans. But in the sprint to the line the Germans pushed through and the Polish paid the price for their boldness losing the sprint for the silver to the Dutch.

 

W8

Predicted: Gold USA, silver Great Britain, bronze New Zealand

Actual: USA, GB, Romania

I’ve said before that I’m not a great fan of the way the Americans row eights, they give it an almighty heave at the finish…I’ve heard it described as “brute force and ignorance”. But, it’s impossible to argue with its effectiveness. The USA have not lost a World Championships or Olympic Games since 2005….that’s an 11 year winning streak, and a streak that shows no sign of ending (the US U23 W8 have just won their world title by 7 seconds in Rotterdam….ominous for the rest of the world). But, whilst the winners were never in doubt it was great to see the British finally deliver on the promise they’ve been showing in the past few seasons. This crew has been years in the making and their silver medal was the first ever W8 Olympic medal for a British crew. The bronze was a surprise. A lot of the talk heading into the regatta was on the Kiwi 8, it was going to be a battle between the British and the New Zealanders for the silver medal. But in the end it was the Romanians, the previous dominatrices of the W8 who stepped up and took the bronze. A great performance from a crew who had to qualify for Rio via the “Regatta of Death”.

 

LM2X

Predicted: Gold France, silver Ireland, bronze Great Britain

Actual: France, Ireland, Norway

Another event where the real story was in the lesser medals rather than the gold. France looked imperious throughout the regatta and led the final from start to finish. But, behind them it was a great race for the minor medals. I’ve really liked the look of the Irish all season and one of my boldest predictions was that the O’Donovan brothers would take the silver and they didn’t let me down! They also won the hearts of everyone who saw them in their post-race interview….it’s a true classic!

 

LM4-

Predicted: Gold New Zealand, silver Switzerland, bronze Great Britain

Actual: Switzerland, Denmark, France

A major disappointment for both the New Zealanders and the British. Both would’ve been expecting to be on the podium, but the New Zealanders finished 6 seconds off of bronze and the British didn’t even make the final. In the end it was a superb performance of lightweight fours racing by the Swiss and Danes in the fight for gold and silver. The Swiss followed up their world championship victory with an Olympic gold medal, the first medal of any colour in this event for the Swiss. Indeed, the first 3 places in Rio mirrored those of the 2015 World Championships. The big question now is; is this the last ever appearance of the LM4- at the Olympics? We shall see, but the omens do not look promising.

 

LW2X

No predictions made (ran out of time!)

Actuals: The Netherlands, Canada, China

A Dutch win at an international regatta is always a popular occasion as it triggers the mass swim by supporters to congratulate their crew. All the talk of the potentially lethal waters of the Lagoa didn’t dissuade the Dutch from continuing this tradition in Rio. Paulis and Head were a delight to watch, they moved the boat beautifully and looked in total control. Behind them, the Canadians restored some small sense of pride for the Cannucks who had, up till then, been having a dismal regatta. One of the major talking points of this event was who wasn’t among the medals. The British had a dismal regatta ending up 2nd in the C-Final (14th overall). The Kiwi World Champions faired a little better making the A-final but they were never in the hunt for the medals finishing over 4 seconds off bronze.

 

So that’s it….all in all I think it was a fabulous regatta. Lots of surprises and a good spread of medals. If, as I (and others) predicted the majority of golds were won by GB and NZ then the attention of the IOC could’ve been even sharper on rowing to increase its diversity. But, with 10 countries winning gold and 21 countries winning some colour of medal, it’s given the sport as a whole a big boost and may, just may, have saved it as an Olympic sport for the foreseeable future.

The Olympic Men’s Lightweight double preview

Time for a whistle-stop look at the entries for the LM2X

 

Angola

Angola: Andre Matias & Jean-Luc Rasamoelina

32nd in the World last year and qualified for Rio by finishing 2nd at the African Olympic Qualifying Regatta. They raced in Varese finishing 15th and Lucerne where they finished 13th out of 13.

 

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Austria: Bernhard Sieber & Paul Sieber

2012’s U23 LM2X World Champions the Sieber brothers have yet to transfer that promise into the seniors. They’ve reached the A-Final at a few World Cups and their best ever result was 4th at the 2012 Europeans, but typically they are a mid-B Final crew.

 

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Brazil: Xavier Vela Maggi & Willian Giaretton

The home nation have only 2 crews entered and the LM2X won their spot by winning the Latin American Qualification Regatta. Vela Maggi is a highly experienced athlete having raced for Spain until 2013, including winning bronze in the LM2- in Lucerne that year. Now racing for Brazil he and Giaretton have shown good form this season finishing 10th in Lucerne and 9th in Poznan. A B final finish will be a good result.

 

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Chile: Felipe Cardenas Morales & Bernardo Guerrero Diaz

Chile took the final qualifying spot for Rio at the Latin American Qualifying Regatta. They finished 17th in the world last year and in Lucerne this season they had a great battle with the Brazilians, finishing just 8/10th second behind them in 10th. The fight between the Chileans and Brazilians for the top South American finish will be a great little sub-plot to the racing.

 

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China: Man Sun & Chunxin Wang

The Chinese has a young crew, with 20 year old Sun, who finished 5th in the U23 LM1X last year joined by 18 year old Wang. They qualified for Rio by winning the Asia & Oceania Qualifying Regatta. A real unknown quantity but I’d be surprised if they finish any higher than the C-Final

 

Denmark Flag magnet

Denmark: Rasmus Quist & Mads Rasmussen

The defending Olympic champions, the Danes broke British hearts when they defeated Zac Purchase and Mark Hunter at Eton Dorney. The Danes took a break from rowing after London and a new combination was tried based around Henrik Stephansen. But in 2015 the Olympic Champions made a comeback on won selection. They had to secure qualification via the Final Olympic Qualifying Regatta. On the water they were beaten by the Belgians, but because of the qualification rules only allowing 1 qualifier per gender via the FOQR Belgium were forced to choose between the LM2X and the M1X. They chose the latter and the Belgians miss out, but the defending champions get lucky. They raced at Varese and finished 6th. It will take something very, very special for the Danes to retain their title.

 

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France: Jeremie Azou and Pierre Houin

The hot favourites for gold. France are the reigning World Champions and followed that up with wins in Varese and Lucerne. They changed this, with U23 LM1X World Champion and World LM4X Champion, Pierre Houin replacing Stany Delayre. It was a bold move from the French, to change a gold medal line-up, but so far it looks to have been the right one. My picks to take take their first ever gold medal in the LM2X

Germany

Germany: Moritz Moos & Jason Osborne

A very talented young crew, U23 world champions in 2013 and 2014, they also won senior silver in the LM4X in 2013. They’ve had a few little injury niggles which has perhaps meant they haven’t quite delivered on the world stage as their talent suggest. But they qualified well, finishing 6th in Aiguebelette last year. So far this season they already have a medal, a silver from the European championships followed by a 7th place in Poznan. They are outside bets for a medal, but, if they stay healthy could be a gold medal favourite in Tokyo. I reckon they’ll take 5th or 6th in Rio.

 

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Great Britain: Will Fletcher & Richard Chambers

The 2015 World Silver medallists. Following on from Purchase & Hunter’s silver medal in London GB there is huge expectation on this partnership to deliver a medal for Team GB. Having struggled with injury earlier in the season their results in 2016 haven’t been particularly encouraging, 5th in both Lucerne and Poznan. But, fully fit they will be in the mix for the medals. I’m picking them for bronze.

 

Hong Kong

Hong Kong: Chiu Mang Tang & Hin Chun Chiu

3rd at the Asia & Oceania Qualifying regatta ensured Hong Kong’s place in Rio. They’ve only raced once as a double on the World Cup circuit with a 10th place in Poznan. They will be wanting to best the likes of China and Japan in Rio.

 

Ireland

Ireland: Paul O’Donovan & Gary O’Donovan

After an 11th place finish in 2015 the Irish have made a massive step up in 2016. They won their countries first ever gold medal in this event at Brandenburg in the European Championships. They then showed that this was no fluke with 2 4th places in Lucerne and Poznan. I really like this Irish crew and I love the way they scull. I think they are going to be one of the main contenders for a medal, they perhaps won’t be able to catch the French but a silver medal isn’t beyond them and they could be one of the surprises of the regatta

 

Italy

Italy: Micheletti Andrea & Marcello Miani

The Italians are a very experienced crew, Miani finished 4th in the LM2X Beijing and 12th in the LM4- in London. He spent 2015 in the LM1X finishing 12th. Andrea was in the LM2X last year with Pietro Ruta and secured qualification with a 5th place finish. Miani and Andrea raced together in Poznan taking the bronze. They will be a contender come the final, but ultimately I think they’ll just miss out.

 

Japan

Japan: Hideki Omoto & Hiroshi Nakano

2nd to the Chinese at the Asian Qualification regatta the Japanese finished 25th in the World last year. They raced in Lucerne finishing 12th of 12. Anything better than a C final will be a great result for the Japanese, and they’ll be looking to beat their fellow Asian crews.

 

Norway.jpg

Norway: Kristoffer Brun & Are Strandli

The 2013 World Champions, the Norwegians followed that victory with a bronze in 2014 and again in 2015. They will be one of the favourites to win Norway’s first ever Olympic LM2X medal. So far in 2016 they have a bronze from the Europeans and were runners-up to the French at both Lucerne and Poznan World Cups. I think they’ll just miss the medals, but it’s going to be very, very tight.

 

poland

Poland: Artur Mikolajczewski & Milosz Jankowski

7th in the world last year the Poles are a quality crew. Their best ever result was gold at the Eton World Cup in 2013. In 2016 they finished 7th in Varese, had a great race in Brandenburg – taking 4th. In Poznan they raced in the heavyweight division but withdrew at the semi-final stage. They wll be there or thereabouts in Rio but a top 12 placing will be par.

 

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South Africa: James Thompson & John Smith

The South Africans shocked the French favourites in 2014 when they pipped them to the world title. They were just out of the medals in 2015 but have started 2016 really well, gold medallists in Varese they then took bronze in Lucerne. They will be in the mix for the medals, along with the French, Irish, Brits and Norwegians.

 

swiss

Switzerland: Daniel Wiederkehr & Micahel Schmid

The Swiss finished 10th in the world last year and booked their spot for Rio. The Swiss have a fantastic lightweight squad, their LM4- are one of the favourites for gold. The LM2X aren’t quite at that level and will be looking for a strong B-Final placing. So far in 2016 Wiederkehr raced in the LM1X in Varese finishing just out of the medals. As a double they finished 8th at both Lucerne and Varese.

 

turkey.jpg

Turkey: Cem Yilaz & Huseyin Kandemir

Turkey qualified by taking the 2nd spot at the Final Qualifying Regatta. Turkey have a strong lightweight squad, the LM2X were disappointed not to qualify directly at the World Championships last year. They’ve changed their line-up for 2016 and had a good 10th place in Varese. A B final will be a strong result for the Turks.

 

USA flag

The USA:  Andrew Campbell Jr & Josh Konieczny

The USA finished 8th last year, a safe qualification for Rio but a bit of a disappointing result for the US. Andrew Campbell is one of the most exciting young lightweight scullers in the world U23 World Champion 2013 and 2014 and senior world bronze medallist in 2012. He just missed qualifying for the London Olympics. He formed a new duo with Konieczny last year. Their best result was 4th in Varese. In 2016 they raced at the Lucerne World Cup finishing 6th. There’s a lot of expectation on this crew, but I think they may miss out on an A-Final.

 

France are the standout crew in this event, but behind them it’s a real barnburner, with the Norwegians, British, South Africans and Irish all in with a shout of a medal. My picks are France in gold, Ireland in silver and GB bronze.

The Rio Olympic Lightweight Men’s Four preview

Having received a lot of “feedback” about the fact I haven’t done a preview for the Lightweight events, I thought I better write something…even if it’s not in as much detail as the other events.

 

Canada flag

Canada: Brendan Hodge, Nicolas Pratt, Eric Woelfl, Maxwell Lattimer

Canada tool the final direct qualifying spot for Rio by finishing 11th at the Aiguebelette World Championships in 2015. They quite a good history in this event. Silver in Atlanta and bronze in Beijing. But, since Beijing Canada haven’t made the A-Final in any World Cup or World championships. So far this season they’ve raced at Varese and Lucerne finishing 13th and 9th respectively. A B-final is the likely finish for the Cannucks.

 

China-Flag-4

China: Chenggang Yu, Wei Jin, Tiexin Wang, Jingbin Zhao

The Chinese have half of the crew that raced in London, Changgang Yu & Tiexin Wang. They finished 8th in Aiguebelette but made a strong strart to their 2016 campaign taking a silver medal in Varese and 7th in Lucerne. China have a mixed record in this event, World Champions 10 years ago, bronze was their last World Championship medal in Karapiro in 2010. They won’t be challenging for the medals but an A-final finish would be a great result for them.

Czech

Czech Republic: Jan Vetesnik, Miroslav Vrastil Jr, Ondrej Vetesnik, Jiri Kopac

The Czechs have never won a medal at a World Cup or World Championships, but they have had more success at the European championships, with their best result being a silver in 2013. This year’s crew are highly experienced and includes the 32 year old twins Jan and Ondrej Vetesnik. They finished 10th last year and so far this season they made the A-Final in Varese and the European Championships but slipped back to 8th in Lucerne. My expectations for Rio will be the top end of the B Final.

 

Denmark Flag magnet

Denmark: Morten Joergensen, Jacob Barsoe, Jacob Larsen, Kasper Joergensen

Denmark are regarded as the “Golden Four”..They have won more medals in this event than any other nation, including an unbeaten run from the Atlanta Olympics through to the 1999 world Championships – 13 wins at Olympic, World and World Cup level. Overall the Danes have won the world Championships 5 times since 1990 and 3 gold and 2 bronzes at the Olympics. So far this season the Danes raced in the heavyweight division at the Europeans, finishing 6th and then won bronze and silver in their “proper” event at Lucerne and Poznan. I love watching the Danes race, they go off hard and rate high and they never seem to settle….it’s just a sprint from start to finish with them. They will be one of the favourites for a medal, and with their pedigree anything less than a medal will be a big disappointment. That said the competition in incredibly fierce and open and they may just miss out.

 

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France: Thomas Baroukh, Franck Solforosi, Guillaume Raineau, Thibault Colard

In Aiguebelette the French won bronze, their first World Championship medal since 2007. In London the French crew just missed out on an A-Final finish and ended up winning the B-Final. So far this season they’ve taken two 4th places at Lucerne and Poznan. In Rio they will be an outside bet for a medal but I expect they will be towards the back of the A-Final

 

union Jack

Great Britain: Mark Aldred, Jono Clegg, Chris Bartley, Pete Chambers

By their own standards, 9th at last year’s World Championships was a big disappointment for the British. It was the first time since 2009 that GB had missed the podium at the World Championships. In London they had a fantastic race just being overtaken by South Africa in the final stages. This season they have shown signs of a return to form with silver in Brandenburg and bronze in Poznan. Expectations are high for this crew to take another Olympic medal, a bronze is the likely result.

 

Germany

Germany: Lars Wichert, Jonathan Koch, Lucas Schaeffer, Tobias Franzmann

Lightweight sweep rowing is a bit of the “poor relation” in German men’s rowing. At Olympic level their best result is 5th in 1996. They’ve had more success at the World Championships with gold in 1990 and 2009, but that was the last time they took a medal and since 2009 they’ve only made one World Championship A-Final (finishing 4th in Karapiro in 2010). In 2015 they finished out of the direct qualifying spots in 13th meaning they had to race at the Final Qualifying Regatta. 2nd place secured their place in Rio (although this was bumped up to 1st when Russia were disqualified). Also this season they have a bronze medal from Brandenburg and 5th in Poznan. A top 6 finish would be a great result, but I think a B-final is more likely.

 

Greece

Greece:  Panagiotis Magdanis, Stefanos Ntouskas, ioannis Petrou, Spyridion Giannaros

Greece are the main beneficiaries from the turmoil surrounding the Russian rowing team. The Russians finished 1st at the Final Olympic Qualifying Regatta but have subsequently been disqualified for not meeting the eligibility criteria laid down in the LcLaren report. This means that Greece, who had crossed the line 3rd in Lucerne get their slot and will be on the start line in Rio. The question will be, can they make the most of their opportunity. 16th in the World last year would suggest they will struggle. A C-final is the most likely result, but given that the Greeks didn’t even know they’d be racing at the Olympics until a week ago they’ll probably take whatever they can get.

 

 

Italy

Italy: Pietro Ruta, Livio La Padula, Martino Goretti, Stefano Oppo

The Italians love their lightweight rowing, they’ve had a lot of success in the LM8 and also the lightweight small boats. In the LM4- they won bronze in Athens and were World Champions way back in 1995. Their most recent medal came in 2013. They’ve tweaked the line-up from the crew that finished 6th last year, with the experienced Pietro Ruta coming in in place of Alberto di Seyssel. This season they had a disappointing row in Varese, finishing 12th (beaten by their 2nd LM4-) and in Poznan they finished last of the 6 entries. Despite bringing Ruta in to strengthen the crew I think the Azzuri will struggle and a mid to low B-Final finish looks the most likely.

 

Netherlands

The Netherlands: Jort Van Gennep, Timothee Heijbrock, Bjorn Van den Ende, Joris Pijs

The Netherlands qualified for Rio by finishing 5th at the 2015 World Championships. They last won a World Championship medal in 2003 and their 5th place last year equalled their best Worlds performance since that silver medal in Milan. They’ve had some good results this season, with 4th places in Varese and Brandenburg and a 6th in Lucerne. If they make the top 6 in Rio it will equal their performance at both London and Beijing.

 

NZ flag

New Zealand: Peter Taylor, James Lassche, James Hunter, Alistair Bond

The Kiwis are the form nation of this Olympiad, they’ve won 9 of the 11 World Cups, although they were pipped to gold at the Worlds in both 2013 and 2014. The crew includes double Olympian Peter Taylor. This season, despite having to race with a sub, they won both the Lucerne and Poznan World Cups. They are my picks to win their first Olympic LM4- medal, and I reckon it’ll be gold.

 

swiss

Switzerland: Simon Neipmann, Mario Gyr, Simon Schuerch, Lucas Tramer

The Swiss are an outstanding crew, European and World champions in 2015, they started 2016 as they left off with wins in Varese and retaining their European title. At the 2nd World Cup they renewed their rivalry with the New Zealanders. Throughout 2015 the Kiwis and Swiss shared wins. Heading into Rio the likely battle for gold is going to be a fight between the Kiwis and the Swiss. I think the Oar-Blacks will just pip the Swiss, but it promises to be exciting!

 

USA flag

The USA: Edward King, Tyler Nase, Robin Prendes, Anthony Fahden

7th at last year’s World Championships secured their participation in Rio. The USA don’t have a particularly strong recent history in this boat class. They last won a world title back in 1993 and last won an Olympic medal when they took bronze in Atlanta. They’ve competed at one World Cup this season and won bronze, their first World Cup medal since 2003. Whilst I’m not sure they’ll get among the medals in Rio, they’ve certainly brought US lightweight sweep back to the sharp end of the competition.

 

So that’s a whistle-stop look at the crews, my picks are New Zealand for what could be the last ever Olympic LM4- gold ahead of the Swiss in silver and the British just getting the better of the Danes to take bronze.

Th Rio Olympics Men’s 8 preview

Now time for what mean think of as the Blue Riband event of the Olympic Rowing regatta, the Men’s eights

 

Great Britain

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Will Satch 27

Olympic record: Bronze M2- London

World Championship record: 1st M8 2013, 2014, 2015

2016 record: 3rd M8 European Championships, 4th M8 Lucerne World Championships, 2nd M8 Poznan World Cup

Andy Hodge 37

Olympic record: 9th M8 Athens, Gold M4- Beijing, London

World Championship record: 6th M8 2002, 3rd M8 2003, 1st M4- 2005, 2006, 4th M4- 2007, 2nd M2- 2009, 2010, 2011, 1st M8 2013, 2014

2016 record: 3rd M8 European Championships, 4th M8 Lucerne World Championships, 2nd M8 Poznan World Cup

Matt Langridge 33

Olympic record: 7th M2X Athens, silver M8 Beijing, 3rd M8 London

World Championship record: 9th M4X 2003, 7th M4X 2005, 5th M8 2006, 3rd M2- 2007, 1st M4- 2009, 4th M4- 2010, 1st M4- 2011, 9th M2X 2013, 2nd M2- 2014, 2015

2016 record: 3rd M8 European Championships, 4th M8 Lucerne World Championships, 2nd M8 Poznan World Cup

Scott Durant 28

Olympic record: 2016 Olympic debut

World Championship record: 5th M4- 2013, 2nd M2+ 2014, 3rd M4- 2015

2016 record: 3rd M8 European Championships, 4th M8 Lucerne World Championships, 2nd M8 Poznan World Cup

Paul Bennett 27

Olympic record: 2016 Olympic debut

World Championship record: 1st M8 2014, 2015

2016 record: 3rd M8 European Championships, 4th M8 Lucerne World Championships, 2nd M8 Poznan World Cup

Pete Reed 35

Olympic record: Gold M4- Beijing, London

World Championship record: 1st M4- 2005, 2006, 4th M4- 2007, 2nd M2- 2009, 2010, 2011, 1st M8 2013, 2014, 2015

2016 record: 3rd M8 European Championships. 2nd M8 Poznan World Cup

Matt Gotrel 27

Olympic record: 2016 Olympic debut

World Championship record: 1st M8 2014, 2015

2016 record: 3rd M8 European Championships, 4th M8 Lucerne World Championships, 2nd M8 Poznan World Cup

Tom Ransley 30

Olympic record: Bronze M8 London

World Championship record: 5th M8 2009, 2nd M8 2010, 2nd M8 2011, 1st M8 2013, 2014, 3rd M4- 2015

2016 record: 3rd M8 European Championships, 4th M8 Lucerne World Championships, 2nd M8 Poznan World Cup

Phelan Hill 37 (cox)

Olympic record: Bronze M8 London

World championship record: 4th M4+ 2007, 5th M8 2009, 2nd M8 2010, 2011, 1st M8 2013, 2014, 2015

2016 record: 3rd M8 European Championships, 4th M8 Lucerne World Championships, 2nd M8 Poznan World Cup

Great Britain were Olympic Champions in this event in 2000 and have won medals at the last two Olympics. So far during the Rio Olympiad they have won gold at all three World Championships, and they’ve a stated ambition to win all 3 World Championships and the Olympic gold in one Olympiad, something only the Germans have ever done before (which they achieved by winning gold in London). But, crucially for 2016 coach Jurgen Grobler has taken his top 4 out of the 8 to make a new M4-. In their place has come double Olympic gold medallist Andy Hodge and former world champion Matt Langridge. The other new comers are Scott Durant and Olympic bronze medallist Tom Ransley. The target for Grobler is to repeat the success of Sydney in 2000 when both the M4- and the M8 won gold. Heading into Rio the M4- are the hot favourites, but the M8 is a little more uncertain. The crew will have the confidence of three back-to-back World Championship victories, but in their new configuration the results have been a little more mixed. Bronze at the Europeans followed by 4th in Lucerne (albeit racing with Alan Sinclair in place of an ill Pete Reed). When the crew was back to full strength in Poznan they had a great race, leading to the half way mark before being overhauled by their nemesis, the Germans, who went on to win by just over ½ second. But, the signs are encouraging that Great Britain will be one of the main contenders for the gold medal. I’m picking the GB boys to do it and get gold.

 

 

Germany

Germany

Eric Johannesen 28

Olympic record: Gold M8 London

World Championship record: 1st U23 M4X 2008, 2nd U23 M2X 2010, 5th M2- 2010, 1st M8 2011, 2nd M8 2013, 2nd M8 2014, 2nd M8 2015

2016 record: 1st M8 European Championships, 2nd M8 Lucerne World Cup, 1st M8 Poznan World Cup

Felix Drahotta 27

Olympic record: 4th M2- Beijing, 7th M2- London

World Championship record: 7th M2- 2009, 6th M2- 2011, 2nd M8 2013, 2nd M8 2014, 2nd M8 2015

2016 record: 1st M8 European Championships, 2nd M8 Lucerne World Cup, 1st M8 Poznan World Cup

Richard Schmidt 29

Olympic record: 6th M4- Beijing, Gold M8 London

World Championship record: 1st U23 M4- 2007, 1st M8 2009, 2010, 2011, 2nd M8 2013, 2014, 2015

2016 record: 1st M8 European Championships, 2nd M8 Lucerne World Cup, 1st M8 Poznan World Cup

Andreas Kuffner 29

Olympic record: Gold M8 London

World Championship record: 5th M2- 2010, 1st M8 2011, 2nd M8 2014

2016 record: 1st M8 European Championships, 2nd M8 Lucerne World Cup, 1st M8 Poznan World Cup

Hannes Ocik 25

Olympic record: 2016 Olympic debut

World Championship record: 2nd U23 M4+ 2010, 1st U23 M4- 2011, 3rd U23 M2- 2012, 2nd M8 2013, 2nd M8 2015

2016 record: 1st M8 European Championships, 2nd M8 Lucerne World Cup, 1st M8 Poznan World Cup

Malte Jakschik 23

Olympic record: 2016 Olympic debut

World championship record: 12th M4- 2013, 2nd M8 2014, 2nd M8 2015

2016 record: 1st M8 European Championships, 2nd M8 Lucerne World Cup, 1st M8 Poznan World Cup

Max Munski 28

Olympic record: 2016 Olympic debut

World Championship record: 1st U23 M8 2010, 3rd M2+ 2010, 6th M2- 2011, 2nd M8 2013, 8th M4- 2014, 2nd M8 2015

2016 record: 1st M8 European Championships, 2nd M8 Lucerne World Cup, 1st M8 Poznan World Cup

Max Reinelt 27

Olympic record: Gold M8 London

World Championship record: 2nd U23 M8 2007, 2009, 1st M8 2010, 2011, 2nd M8 2013, 2014, 2015

2016 record: 1st M8 European Championships, 2nd M8 Lucerne World Cup, 1st M8 Poznan World Cup

Martin Sauer 33 (cox)

Olympic record: Gold M8 London

World Championship record: 9th LM8 2001, 1st U23 M4+ 2003, 1st U23 M8 2004, 3rd M4+ 2005, 1st M4+ 2006, 3rd M4+ 2007, 2nd LM8 2008, 1st M8 2009, 2010, 2011, 2nd M8 2013, 2014, 2015

2016 record: 1st M8 European Championships, 2nd M8 Lucerne World Cup, 1st M8 Poznan World Cup

As far as German men’s rowing is concerned the eight is all that matters, the team is even called the Deutschland-Achter – The German 8. As mentioned above, the Germans dominated this event in the London Olympiad, winning the World Championships in 2009, 2010 and 2011 before crowning it off with gold at the 2012 Olympics. The British have been their nemesis for the past 6 years, finishing runners up to them in 2010 and 2011. In the Rio Olympiad the tables have been turned and it’s GB that has dominated. The Germans will have hated playing 2nd fiddle to the Brits, in an event that they see as theirs. The crew for 2016 includes five of the boat that won gold in London and another, Felix Drahotta, with Olympic experience, the only “new boys” are Max Munski and Malte Jakschik. So this boat has a huge amount of experience and so far this season they’ve made a pretty good start to the defence of their Olympic title. Winners at the European Championships they suffered a surprise defeat in Lucerne, it wasn’t the British, but the Dutch who turned over both the Germans and the British to make everyone aware the gold in Rio isn’t going to be a two horse race. The Germans took another gold in Poznan, but crucially the Dutch were absent. So, the Germans probably head into Rio as the marginal favourites for gold but it’s going to be one of the races of the regatta to see them take on the British, Dutch and Kiwis (more on them later). I’m backing the Brits to take the gold a few feet ahead of the Germans.

 

 

 

Italy

Italy

Luca Agamennoni  36

Olympic record: Bronze M4- Athens, silver M4X Beijing, 8th M4- London

World Championship record: 2nd M4+ 2001, 6th M4X 2003, 3rd M2- 2005, 2nd M8 2006, 6th M4X 2009, 2nd M4X 2010, 10th M4- 2011, 6th M8 2015

2016 record: 2nd M8 Varese World Cup, 3rd M8 Final Olympic Qualifying Regatta

Matteo Stefanini 32

Olympic record: 19th M1X Athens, 11th M4X London

World Championship record: 1st U23 M2X 2005, 2nd U23 M2X 2006, 4th M4X 2006, 6th M4X 2009, 2nd M4X 2010, 6th M4X 2011, 16th M4X 2014, 6th M8 2015

2016 record: 2nd M8 Varese World Cup, 3rd M8 Final Olympic Qualifying Regatta

Simone Vernier 31

Olympic record: 10th M4X Athens, Silver M4X Beijing, 8th M4- London

World Championship record: 3rd U23 M8 2006, 4th M4X 2006, 18th M2X 2007, 2nd M4X 2010, 6th M4X 2011, 7th M4X 2013, 16th M4X 2014, 10th M4X 2015

2016 record: 2nd M8 Varese World Cup, 3rd M8 Final Olympic Qualifying Regatta

Vincenzo Capelli 27

Olympic record: 8th M4- London

World Championship record: 1st U23 M4+ 2007, 2nd U23 M4+ 2009, 1st U23 M4- 2010, 6th M4- 2010, 1st M2+ 2011, 8th M8 2013, 9th M8 2014, 5th M2- 2015

2016 record: 4th M2- Varese World Cup, 20th M1X Poznan World Cup

Pierpaolo Frattini 32

Olympic record: 7th M8 Athens, 11th M4X London

World Championship experience: 2nd U23 M8 2005, 2nd M8 2005, 3rd U23 M8 2006, 2nd M8 2006, 6th M8 2009, 2nd M2+ 2010, 1st M2+ 2011, 8th M8 2013, 9th M8 2014, 6th M8 2015

2016 record: 2nd M8 Varese World Cup, 3rd M8 Final Olympic Qualifying Regatta

Emanuele Liuzzi 25

Olympic record: 2016 Olympic debut

World Championship record: 1st U23 M4+ 2010, 8th M8 2013, 9th M8 2014, 7th M2+ 2015

2016 record: 10th M4- Varese World Cup

Fabio Infimo 28

Olympic record: 2016 Olympic debut

World Championship record: 8th M8 2013, 9th M8 2014, 6th M8 2015

2016 record: 2nd M8 Varese World Cup, 3rd M8 Final Olympic Qualifying Regatta

Mario Paonessa 25

Olympic record: 8th M4- London

World Championship record: 1st U23 M4- 2010, 6th M4- 2010, 2nd U23 M4- 2011, 4th M4- 2013, 7th M4- 2014, 10th M4X 2015

2016 record: 2nd M8 Varese World Cup, 3rd M8 Final Olympic Qualifying Regatta

Enrico D’Aniello 20 (cox)

Olympic record: 2016 Olympic debut

World Championship record: 1st LM8 & 1st M2+ 2013, 9th M8 2014, 6th M8 2015

2016 Record: 2016 record: 2nd M8 Varese World Cup, 3rd M8 Final Olympic Qualifying Regatta

Like Australia in the W8, the Italians are lucky to be racing in Rio. They were given a last minute entry after the Russian M’s was disqualified from the Games by FISA in response to the McLaren report on doping. The Italians missed qualifying directly at last year’s World Championships when they finished 6th in the final with only the top 5 qualifying. This meant they had to go through the Final Qualifying Regatta. The 2016 season started encouragingly with a good silver medal behind the Dutch at the Varese World Cup, but in a fierce battle at the FOQR they finished in third, behind the USA and Poland, with only the top two qualifying. At the time it looked like their Olympic dreams were over. The crew stayed together however and raced in the Grand Challenge Cup at Henley. At Henley they were convincingly beaten by the GB U23 crew which was a disappointing result for the Azzuri. But, with the expulsion of the Russians the dream was back on. This did cause some logistical headaches for the Italians, as a couple of the crew had been moved to other Olympic boats. Now, the Qualification rules state that the athlete who qualifies the boat via the FOQR has to race in that boat if they compete at the Olympics. The problem for the Italians is that one of the crew had moved to the M2- and the pairs and 8’s races are only 30 minutes apart, making it impossible to double up without rescheduling. Fortunately for the Italians, FISA have bent their own rules meaning Italy can bring in some alternate athletes without penalty. So, the crew itself….It’s one of the most experienced crews in the event with 12 Olympic appearance between them. But given the disruption they’ve suffered and the late call up (not to mention the fact they will be using Russia’s boat) anything other than 7th place for the Italians will be a great result.

 

The Netherlands

Netherlands

Kaj Hendriks 28

Olympic record: 5th M4- London

World Championship record: 4th M8 2010, 6th M4- 2011, 1st M4- 2013, 8th M8 2014, 3rd M8 2015

2016 record: 1st M8 Varese World Cup, 6th M8 European Championships, 1st M8 Lucerne World Cup

Olivier Siegelaar 29

 

World Championship record: 3rd M8 2009, 4th M8 2010, 6th M8 2011, 4th M4- 2014, 3rd M8 2015

2016 record: 1st M8 Varese World Cup, 6th M8 European Championships, 1st M8 Lucerne World Cup

Dirk Uittenbogaard 26

Olympic record: 2016 Olympic debut

World Championship record: 8th M4X 2013, 14th M2X 2014, 3rd M8 2015

2016 record: 1st M8 Varese World Cup, 6th M8 European Championships, 1st M8 Lucerne World Cup

Boudewijn Roell 27

Olympic record: 2016 Olympic debut

World Championship record: 5th M8 2013, 8th M8 2014, 3rd M8 2015

2016 record: 1st M8 Varese World Cup, 6th M8 European Championships, 1st M8 Lucerne World Cup

Mechiel Versluis 29

Olympic record: 5th M4- London

World Championship record: 11th M4- 2010, 1st M4- 2013, 4th M4- 2014, 3rd M8 2015

2016 record: 1st M8 Varese World Cup, 6th M8 European Championships, 1st M8 Lucerne World Cup

Boaz Meylink 32

Olympic record: 5th M4- London

World Championship record: 6th M8 2011, 1st M4- 2013, 4th M4- 2014, 3rd M8 2015

2016 record: 1st M8 Varese World Cup, 6th M8 European Championships, 1st M8 Lucerne World Cup

Tone Wieten 22

Olympic record: 2016 Olympic debut

World championship record: 3rd M8 2015

2016 record: 1st M8 Varese World Cup, 6th M8 European Championships, 1st M8 Lucerne World Cup

Robert Luecken 31

Olympic record: 2016 Olympic debut

World Championship record: 3rd M8 2009, 11th M4- 2010, 6th M8 2011, 1st M4- 2013, 2nd M4- 2014, 3rd M8 2015

2016 record: 1st M8 Varese World Cup, 6th M8 European Championships, 1st M8 Lucerne World Cup

Peter Wiersum 31

Olympic record: 4th M8 Beijing, 5th M8 London

World Championship record: 1st LM8 2007, 3rd M8 2009, 4th M8 2010, 6th M8 2011, 5th M8 2013, 8th M8 2014, 3rd M8 2015

2016 record: 1st M8 Varese World Cup, 6th M8 European Championships, 1st M8 Lucerne World Cup

The Dutch have shaken up this event this season. For the past 3 years it’s been pretty much a battle between the British and Germans, but in Lucerne they threw a major spanner into the German and British works when they beat the both of them. This was the first victory for the Dutch over the Germans since the Athens Olympics. The basis of this crew has been developing over the past 4-5 years. The heart of the crew is made up of the 2013 World Champion M4-, Robert Luecken, Boaz Meylink, Mechiel Versluis & Kaj Hendriks. Bronze in the M8 at the 2015 Worlds showed that they were ready to challenge for the gold and the manner of their performances so far this season as led many to pick them to win their first gold since 1996 (a crew many people believe is the best technical men’s 8 ever). It remains to be seen if they can carry their performance through the Olympic regatta. They are certainly not invulnerable, they narrowly defeated the Nereus Student 8 at the Amsterdam regatta and then finished 6th at the atrocious conditions at the Europeans. At Henley they produced a good, if not convincing, victory over the GB U23’s. They certainly have the capability of spoiling the British and German party, but ultimately I think the two “super-powers” will just have the edge and the Dutch will take the bronze

 

New Zealand

NZ flag

Michael Brake 21

Olympic record: 2016 Olympic debut

World Championship record: 2nd U23 M4+ 2014, 4th M8 2015

2016 record: 5th M8 Lucerne World Cup, 3rd M8 Poznan World Cup

Alex Kennedy 23

Olympic record: 2016 Olympic debut

World Championship record: 3rd U23 M4+ 2012, 1st U23 M8 2013, 2014, 4th M8 2015

2016 record: 5th M8 Lucerne World Cup, 3rd M8 Poznan World Cup

Shaun Kirkham 24

Olympic record: 2016 Olympic debut

World Championship record: 1st U23 M8 2013, 2014, 4th M8 2015

2016 record: 5th M8 Lucerne World Cup, 3rd M8 Poznan World Cup

Isaac Grainger 24

Olympic record: 2016 Olympic debut

World Championship record: 1st U23 M8 2013, 2014, 4th M8 2015

2016 record: 5th M8 Lucerne World Cup, 3rd M8 Poznan World Cup

Brook Robertson 22

Olympic record: 2016 Olympic debut

World Championship record: 1st U23 M8 2013, 2014, 4th M8 2015

2016 record: 5th M8 Lucerne World Cup, 3rd M8 Poznan World Cup

Thomas Murray 22

Olympic record: 2016 Olympic debut

World Championship record: 1st U23 M8 2013, 2014, 4th M8 2015

2016 record: 5th M8 Lucerne World Cup, 3rd M8 Poznan World Cup

Jonathan Wright 24

Olympic record: 2016 Olympic debut

World Championship record: 1st U23 M8 2013, 2014, 4th M8 2015

2016 record: 5th M8 Lucerne World Cup, 3rd M8 Poznan World Cup

Stephen Jones 23

Olympic record: 2016 Olympic debut

World Championship record: 1st U23 M8 2013, 2014, 4th M8 2015

2016 record: 5th M8 Lucerne World Cup, 3rd M8 Poznan World Cup

Caleb Shepherd 23 (cox)

Olympic record: 2016 debut

World Championship record: 3rd U23 M8 2013, 1st U23 M8 2013, 2014, 1st M2+ 2014, 4th M8 2015

2016 record:  5th M8 Lucerne World Cup, 3rd M8 Poznan World Cup

The Kiwis haven’t won an Olympic medal in this event since taking bronze in Montreal in 1976. Four years earlier they had won gold with a crew that is still held in awe around the world and is (along with the ’96 Dutch crew) considered one of the finest Olympic men’s 8 in history. The crew for Rio have used that ’72 crew as their inspiration. They are a very young crew, none of them have raced at an Olympics before, and with an average age of just over 22 they are the youngest crew in the competition. But, they are a settled crew that have been rowing together since 2013 and won the U23 World Championships that year, a title they defended the following year. In 2015 they competed at their first senior World Championships finishing just outside of the medals. So far this season they’ve showed good, if not spectacular form, 5th at the Lucerne World Cup was followed by bronze in Poznan (albeit 6 seconds behind the British in silver). They are a dynamic and exciting crew but I’ve a feeling the Olympics have come 2 years too soon for them to make the podium. If they stay together after Rio they could be major players in the Tokyo Olympiad.

 

Poland

poland

Robert Fuchs 25

Olympic record: 2016 Olympic record

World Championship record: 3rd U23 M8 2013, 3rd M8 2014, 8th M8 2015

2016 record: 3rd M8 Varese World Cup, 5th European Championships, 2nd M8 Final Olympic Qualifying Regatta, 4th M8 Poznan World Cup

Marcin Brzezinski 32

Olympic record: 5th M8 Beijing, 7th M8 London

World Championship record: 3rd U23 M4X 2003, 9th M2X 2005, 4th M2X 2006, 12th M2X 2007, 4th M8 2009, 8th M8 2010, 5th M8 2011, 4th M8 2013, 3rd M8 2014, 8th M8 2015

2016 record: 3rd M8 Varese World Cup, 5th European Championships, 2nd M8 Final Olympic Qualifying Regatta, 4th M8 Poznan World Cup

Michal Szpakowski 27

Olympic record: 7th M8 London

World championship record: 3rd U23 M8 2008, 4th M8 2009, 8th M8 2010, 5th M8 2011, 4th M8 2013, 3rd M8 2014, 8th M8 2015

2016 record: 3rd M8 Varese World Cup, 5th European Championships, 2nd M8 Final Olympic Qualifying Regatta, 4th M8 Poznan World Cup

Piotr Juszczak 26

Olympic record: 7th M8 London

World championship record: 3rd U23 M8 2008, 1st U23 M8 2009, 8th M8 2010, 5th M8 2011, 4th M8 2013, 3rd M8 2014, 8th M8 2015

2016 record: 3rd M8 Varese World Cup, 5th European Championships, 2nd M8 Final Olympic Qualifying Regatta, 4th M8 Poznan World Cup

Mateusz Wilangowski 24

Olympic record: 2016 Olympic debut

World Championship record: 3rd U23 M8 2013, 3rd M8 2014, 8th M8 2015

2016 record: 3rd M8 Varese World Cup, 5th European Championships, 2nd M8 Final Olympic Qualifying Regatta, 4th M8 Poznan World Cup

 

Zbigniew Schodowski 29

Olympic record: 7th M8 London

World Championship record: 3rd U23 M8 2008, 1st U23 M8 2009, 20th M2- 2011, 4th M8 2013, 3rd M8 2014, 8th M8 2015

2016 record: 3rd M8 Varese World Cup, 5th European Championships, 2nd M8 Final Olympic Qualifying Regatta, 4th M8 Poznan World Cup

Mikolaj Burda 34

Olympic record: 8th M8 Athens, 5th M8 Beijing, 7th M8 London

World Championship record: 12th M8 2001, 11th M8 2002, 8th M8 2003, 5th M8 2005, 6th M8 2006, 5th M8 2007, 4th M8 2009, 8th M8 2010, 5th M8 2011, 4th M8 2013, 3rd M8 2014, 8th M8 2015

2016 record: 3rd M8 Varese World Cup, 5th European Championships, 2nd M8 Final Olympic Qualifying Regatta, 4th M8 Poznan World Cup

Krystian Aranowski 28

Olympic record: 7th M8 London

World Championship record: 3rd U23 M8 2008, 4th M8 2009, 8th M8 2010, 5th M8 2011, 4th M8 2013, 3rd M8 2014, 8th M8 2015

2016 record: 3rd M8 Varese World Cup, 5th European Championships, 2nd M8 Final Olympic Qualifying Regatta, 4th M8 Poznan World Cup

Daniel Trojanowski 34 (cox)

Olympic record: 8th M8 Athens, 5th M8 Beijing, 7th M8 London

World Championship record: 3rd U23 M8 2001, 11th M8 2002, 8th M8 2003, 5th M8 2005, 6th M8 2006, 5th M8 & 1st M2+ 2007, 4th M8 2009, 8th M8 2010, 5th M8 2011, 4th M8 2013, 3rd M8 2014, 8th M8 2015

2016 record: 3rd M8 Varese World Cup, 5th European Championships, 2nd M8 Final Olympic Qualifying Regatta, 4th M8 Poznan World Cup

The Poles are probably the most consistent crew in terms of their line-up, 6 of the crew have been rowing together as an 8 since 2010. As a crew they have the capability of making the podium, they won bronze in 2014, but consistency looks to be their issue. In Aiguebelette last year they missed the A-Final which meant they had to race at the Final Qualifying Regatta. They finished runners-up to the USA which meant they secured the final qualifying spot (at least until the Italians were promoted). At the Varese World Cup they won bronze but then at the Europeans they were outside the medals and then in Poznan they again finished out of the medals finishing 4th out of 5 crews. In Rio the battle for the Polish will be to make the A-Final.

 

The United States of America

USA flag

Michael Di Santo 26

Olympic record: 2016 Olympic debut

World Championship record: 14th M2- 2014, 9th M2- 2015

2016 record: 1st M8 Final Olympic Qualifying Regatta, 3rd M8 Lucerne World Cup.

Sam Dommer 24

Olympic record: 2016 Olympic record

World Championship record: 4th M8 2014, 7th M8 2015

2016 record: 1st M8 Final Olympic Qualifying Regatta, 3rd M8 Lucerne World Cup

Alex Karwoski 25

Olympic record: 2016 Olympic debut

World Championship record: 14th M2- 2013, 20th M2X 2014, 7th M8 2015

2016 record: 1st M8 Final Olympic Qualifying Regatta, 3rd M8 Lucerne World Cup

Austin Hack 24

Olympic record: 2016 Olympic debut

World Championship record: 1st U23 M8 2011, 3rd M8 2013, 4th M8 2014, 7th M8 2015

2016 record: 1st M8 Final Olympic Qualifying Regatta, 3rd M8 Lucerne World Cup

Robert Munn 26

Olympic record: 2016 Olympic debut

World Championship record: 2nd U23 M8 2010, 2011, 2012, 4th M2+ 2013, 4th M8 2014,

2016 record: 1st M8 Final Olympic Qualifying Regatta, 3rd M8 Lucerne World Cup

Stephen Kasprzyk 34

Olympic record: 4th M8 London

World Championship record: 7th M2+ 2007, 9th M8 2009, 3rd M8 2013, 4th M8 2014,

2016 record: 1st M8 Final Olympic Qualifying Regatta, 3rd M8 Lucerne World Cup

Hand Struzyna 27

Olympic record: 2016 Olympic debut

World Championship record: 13th M4X 2013, 12th M4X 2015

2016 record: 1st M8 Final Olympic Qualifying Regatta, 3rd M8 Lucerne World Cup

Glenn Ochal 30

Olympic record: Bronze M4- London

World Championship record: 12th M4X 2009, 7th M2X 2010, 8th M4X 2011, 6th M2- 2014, 7th M4- 2015

2016 record: 1st M8 Final Olympic Qualifying Regatta, 3rd M8 Lucerne World Cup

Sam Ojserkis 26

Olympic record: 2016 Olympic debut

World Championship record: 1st U23 M8 2012,

2016 record: 1st M8 Final Olympic Qualifying Regatta, 3rd M8 Lucerne World Cup

The Americans love the 8, in their domestic collegiate rowing programmes no other boat matters, and that attitude continues, at least in the eyes of the public, into the national team. Whilst the US women totally dominate their eights event the men aren’t so lucky. They certainly have a strong history, they last won the title in Athens in 2004. At the World Championships in the late 1990’s the US dominated the event, winning in 1997, 98 & 99. But since the turn of the century they’ve only won the World Championships once, and that was back in 2005. Indeed, since 2005 the Americans have only won two World Championship medals, both bronzes in 2006 and 2013. The crew for Rio have had a fight on their hands just to qualify. After finishing outside of the A-final in Aiguebelette they had to race at the Final Olympic Qualifying regatta, if they had failed it would’ve been the first time since 1976 that their hadn’t been a US M8 at the Olympic Games. But, they treated the FOQR as their Olympic final and won their place at Rio. They followed this up a few days later with Bronze at the Lucerne World Cup, leading to halfway before backing off, it’s difficult to know how much to read into this result as they had peaked specifically for that week. Rio will be a very different matter. They are a fairly young and inexperienced crew, only two of them have any Olympic experience. There are high hopes that this crew can deliver a major medal for the US men, but I’m not convinced. When it comes to the Olympic final I don’t think they will have the experience or firepower to challenge for the medals.

 

So that’s it, the fight for gold is going to come down to a three-way fight between the defending Olympic Champions from Germany, the defending World Champions from Great Britain and the in-form Dutch. There’s something about the British crew that makes me think it’s going to be their year. GB for the gold ahead of Germany and The Netherlands.

 

Apologies to anyone who was looking forward to the previews of the Lightweight events, time is not on my side and unfortunately I’m not going to be able to get the write-ups done in time. Now, to sit back and watch the racing. I can’t wait!!

The Rio Olympics Women’s 8 preview

Rio 2016

 

Time for the big boats….the eights…starting with the women.

 

Australia

Australia

Meaghan Volker 25

Olympic record: 2016 Olympic debut

World Championship record: 8th W8 2015

2016 Record: 3rd W8 Final Olympic Qualifying Regatta

Charlotte Sutherland 25

Olympic record: 2016 Olympic debut

World Championship record: 1st U23 W4- 2013, 5th W8 & 3rd W4- 2013, 5th W2- 2014, 8th W8 2015

2016 Record: 3rd W8 Final Olympic Qualifying Regatta

Alex Hagan 25

Olympic record: 6th W8 London

World Championship record: 3rd U23 W4- 2011, 1st U23 W4- 2013, 5th W8 & 3rd W4- 2013, 10th W8 2014, 8th W8 2015

2016 Record: 3rd W8 Final Olympic Qualifying Regatta

Molly Goodman 23

Olympic record: 2016 Olympic debut

World Championship record: 10th W8 2014, 13th W2- 2015

2016 Record: 3rd W8 Final Olympic Qualifying Regatta

Fiona Albert 25

Olympic record: 2016 Olympic debut

World Championship record: 2nd U23 W4- 2012

2016 Record: 3rd W8 Final Olympic Qualifying Regatta

Jessica Morrison 24

Olympic record: 2016 Olympic debut

World Championship record: none

2016 Record: 3rd W8 Final Olympic Qualifying Regatta

Lucy Stephan 24

Olympic record: 2016 Olympic debut

World Championship record: 2nd U23 W4- 2012, 1st U23 W4- 2013, 5th W8 & 3rd W4- 2013, 5th W2- 2014, 8th W8 2015

2016 Record: 3rd W8 Final Olympic Qualifying Regatta

Olympia Aldersey 22

Olympic record: 2016 Olympic debut

World Championship record: 1st U23 W2X 2012, 8th W4X 2013, 3rd W2X 2014, 10th W2X 2015

2016 Record: 3rd W8 Final Olympic Qualifying Regatta

Sarah Banting 22 (Cox)

Olympic record: 2016 Olympic debut

World Championship record: 8th W8 2015

2016 Record: 3rd W8 Final Olympic Qualifying Regatta

Up until a little over a week ago Australia didn’t think they would be racing at the Olympics, they’d missed direct qualification after finishing 8th at the World Championships in 2015 and then missed out in the “regatta of death” when they finished 3rd. But, crucially, following the ruling by the IOC about Russia’s eligibility to compete FISA declared that none of the Russian W8 met the strict eligibility criteria to race in Rio. This meant that the 7th spot at the Games became vacant and was offered to the next in line from the Final Olympic Qualifying Regatta…Australia. So, the crew were rapidly recalled and thrown back into training. They are a young crew with only one member, 25 year-old Alex Hagan, having competed at the Olympics before. The core of the crew is based around the successful U23 W4- from 2013, but in total 5 of the crew have medalled at U23 level in the past 3-4 years. Given how late they’ve come back to training the expectations aren’t too high for this boat, which might be liberating for them, but in reality they will be pleased with anything other than 7th place.

 

Canada

Canada flag

Christine Roper 26

Olympic record: 2016 Olympic debut

World Championship record: 3rd U23 W8 2010, 1st U23 W8 2011, 1st U23 W4- 2012, 3rd W8 & 2nd W4- 2013, 2nd W8 2014, 3rd W8 2015

2016 Record: 2nd W8 Varese World Cup, 4th W8 Lucerne World Cup

Lisa Roman 26

Olympic record: 2016 Olympic record

World Championship record: 3rd U23 W8 2010, 1st U23 W8 2011, 1st U23 W4- 2012, 3rd W8 & 2nd W4- 2013, 2nd W8 2014, 3rd W8 2015

2016 Record: 2nd W8 Varese World Cup, 4th W8 Lucerne World Cup

Natalie Mastracci 27

Olympic record: Silver W8 London

World Championship record: 2nd W8 2011, 3rd W8 & 2nd W4- 2013, 2nd W8 2014, 3rd W8 2015

2016 Record: 2nd W8 Varese World Cup, 4th W8 Lucerne World Cup

Antje Von Seydlitz-Kurzbach 25

Olympic record: 2016 Olympic debut

World Championship record: 1st U23 W4- 2012, 2nd W4X 2013, 6th W4X 2014, 22nd W2X 2015

2016 Record: 2nd W8 Varese World Cup, 4th W8 Lucerne World Cup

Cristy Nurse 29

Olympic record: 2016 Olympic debut

World Championship record: 2nd W8 2010, 2nd W8 2011, 3rd W8 & 2nd W4- 2013, 2nd W8 2014, 3rd W8 & 6th W2- 2015

2016 Record: 2nd W8 Varese World Cup, 4th W8 Lucerne World Cup

Lauren Wilkinson 26

Olympic record: Silver W8 London

World Championship record: 1st U23 W8 2011, 2nd W8 2014, 3rd W8 2015

2016 Record: 2nd W8 Varese World Cup, 4th W8 Lucerne World Cup

Susanne Grainger 25

Olympic record: 2016 Olympic debut

World Championship record: 1st U23 W8 2011, 1st U23 W4- 2012, 3rd W8 2013, 2nd W8 2014, 3rd W8 2015

2016 Record: 2nd W8 Varese World Cup, 4th W8 Lucerne World Cup

Caileigh Filmer 19

Olympic record: 2016 Olympic debut

World Championship record: 2nd U23 W4- 2015

2016 Record: 2nd W8 Varese World Cup, 4th W8 Lucerne World Cup

Lesley Thompson-Willie 55 (Cox)

Olympic record: Silver W4+ Los Angeles, gold W8 Barcelona, silver W8 Atlanta, bronze W8 Sydney, 4th W8 Beijing, silver W8 London

World Championships: 4th W8 1981, 4th W4+ 1983, 3rd W4+ 1985, 3rd W4+ 1986, 7th W8 & 6th W4+ 1987, 1st W8 1991, 1st W8 1994, 6th W8 1995, 2nd W8 1997, 3rd W8 1998, 3rd W8 1999, 5th W8 2006, 6th W8 2007, 6th W8 2009, 2nd W8 2010, 2nd W8 2011, 2nd W8 2014, 3rd W8 2015

2016 Record: 2nd W8 Varese World Cup, 4th W8 Lucerne World Cup

Canada have won the Olympic title once, in 1992, and incredibly the cox of that boat, Lesley Thompson-Willie is in the crew for 2016. The 55 year old is heading to her 7th Olympic Games. She’s in charge of a crew that includes two of the athletes that won silver in London, Natalie Mastracci and Lauren Wilkinson. The Canadian women’s 8 has, over the past few years, been playing the bridesmaid to the USA. Between 2009 and 2014 they finished in 2nd to the US at 4 World Championships. It was the case that the US were well out in front, chased by the Canadians with the rest of the world chasing the Cannucks. But, in the past couple of years the rest of the world have been catching up. The Canadians are no longer the nailed on silver medallists they were in London. The British, New Zealanders and Dutch are all now muscling in and the Canadians will have a battle on their hands just to get ta medal. So far in 2016 they won silver in Varese (beaten by the Dutch) and only 4th in Lucerne (losing to the US, British and Kiwis). I think that sort of form will continue in Rio and I think the Canadians will miss out on an Olympic medal.

 

Great Britain

union Jack

Jess Eddie 31

Olympic record: 5th W8 Beijing, 5th W8 London

World Championship record: 6th W4- 2004, 5th W8 2005, 11th W2- 2006, 3rd W8 2007, 5th W8 2009, 4th W8 2010, 3rd W8 2011, 4th W8 2013, 6th W8 2014, 4th W8 2015

2016 record: 1st W8 European Championships, 2nd W8 Lucerne World Cup, 2nd W8 Poznan World Cup

Olivia Carnegie-Brown 25

Olympic record: 2016 Olympic debut

World Championship record: 2nd U23 W2- 2012, 4th W8 2014, 4th W8 2015

2016 record: 1st W8 European Championships, 2nd W8 Lucerne World Cup, 2nd W8 Poznan World Cup

Zoe Lee 30

Olympic record: 2016 Olympic debut

World Championship record: 4th W8 2013, 6th W8 2014, 4th W8 2015

2016 record: 1st W8 European Championships, 2nd W8 Lucerne World Cup, 2nd W8 Poznan World Cup

Fran Houghton 35

Olympic record: 9th W2X Sydney, Silver W4X Athens, Silver W4X Beijing, 6th W4X London

World Championship record: 6th W8 & 7th W2X 2001, 4th W2X 2002, 4th W4X 2003, 1st W4X 2005, 2006, 2007, 2010, 10th W1X 2011, 4th W2X 2013, 8thh W4X 2015

2016 record: 1st W8 European Championships, 2nd W8 Lucerne World Cup, 2nd W8 Poznan World Cup

Mel Wilson 32

Olympic record: 6th W4X London

World Championship record: 5th W8 2009, 7th W4X 2011, 4th W8 2013, 8th W4X 2015

2016 record: 1st W8 European Championships, 2nd W8 Lucerne World Cup, 2nd W8 Poznan World Cup

Katie Greves 33

Olympic record: 5th W8 Beijing, 5th W8 London

World Championship record: 5th W8 2005, 8th W8 2006, 3rd W8 2007, 5th W4X 2009, 9th W1X 2010, 3rd W8 2011, 4th W8 2013, 6th W8 2014, 4th W8 2015

2016 record: 1st W8 European Championships, 2nd W8 Lucerne World Cup, 2nd W8 Poznan World Cup

Polly Swann 28

Olympic record: 2016 Olympic debut

World Championship record: 1st W2- 2013, 6th W8 2014

2016 record: 1st W8 European Championships, 2nd W8 Lucerne World Cup, 2nd W8 Poznan World Cup

Karen Bennett 27

Olympic record: 2016 Olympic debut

World Championship record: 2nd W4- 2015

2016 record: 1st W8 European Championships, 2nd W8 Lucerne World Cup, 2nd W8 Poznan World Cup

Zoe De Toledo 29 (cox)

Olympic record: debut

World Championship record: 1st U23 W8 2009, 4th W8 2013, 6th W8 2014, 4th W8 2015

2016 record: 1st W8 European Championships, 2nd W8 Lucerne World Cup, 2nd W8 Poznan World Cup

 

GB have the crew with the most Olympic experience (if you exclude Canada’s Lesley Thompson-Willie) with 10 Olympic appearances between them. The most experienced rower is Fran Houghton, Rio will be her fifth Olympics having won silver at both Athens and Beijing. Katie Greves and Jess Eddie were both in the W8 at Beijing and London. The British eight has been a long time in the making and has had a couple of false dawns, they were bitterly disappointed to miss out on the medals throughout this Olympiad. But the crew have a wonderful spirit, they refer to their rowing as “sassy” and so far in 2016 they’ve made a big breakthrough, winning the European Championships and finishing only 8/10th second behind the US in Lucerne. In Poznan, in a three boat race, they finished runners-up to the Kiwis. Heading into Rio they have the confidence and experience to take a major medal. The question will be, do they go for broke and try to take on the Americans or do they focus on beating everyone else? The head says race for the silver, the heart says…go for gold. I’m picking GB to take silver less than half a length behind the USA

 

The Netherlands

Netherlands

Lies Rustenburg 26

Olympic record: 2016 Olympic debut

World Championship record: 7th W4- 2014

2016 record: 1st W8 Varese World Cup, 2nd W8 European Championships, 2nd W8 Final Olympic Qualifying Regatta

Jose Van Veen 30

Olympic record: 2016 Olympic record

World Championship record: 7th W4- 2014, 6th W8 2015

2016 record: 1st W8 Varese World Cup, 2nd W8 European Championships, 2nd W8 Final Olympic Qualifying Regatta

Sophie Souwer 29

Olympic record: 2016 Olympic debut

World Championship record: 4th W4X 2013, 8th W8 2014, 6th W8 2015

2016 record: 1st W8 Varese World Cup, 2nd W8 European Championships, 2nd W8 Final Olympic Qualifying Regatta

Wianka Van Dorp 28

Olympic record: missed qualifying for London

World Championship record: 2nd U23 W4- 2008, 14th W2- 2009, 10th W2- 2010, 3rd W4- 2011, 8th W8 2014, 6th W8 2015

2016 record: 1st W8 Varese World Cup, 2nd W8 European Championships, 2nd W8 Final Olympic Qualifying Regatta

Olivia Van Rooijen 27

Olympic record: Missed qualifying for London

World Championship record: 2nd U23 W4- 2008, 14th W2- 2009, 10th W2- 2010, 5th W2- 2013, 7th W4X 2014, 6th W8 & 9th W2- 2015

2016 record: 1st W8 Varese World Cup, 2nd W8 European Championships, 2nd W8 Final Olympic Qualifying Regatta

Monica Lanz 25

Olympic record: 2016 Olympic record

World Championship record: 8th W8 2014, 6th W8 2015

2016 record: 1st W8 Varese World Cup, 2nd W8 European Championships, 2nd W8 Final Olympic Qualifying Regatta

Elisabeth Hogerwerf 27

Olympic record: 8th W2X London

World Championship record: 3rd W4- 2011, 5th W2- 2013, 7th W4X 2014, 6th W8 & 3rd W4- 2015

2016 record: 1st W8 Varese World Cup, 2nd W8 European Championships, 2nd W8 Final Olympic Qualifying Regatta

Claudia Belderbos 31

Olympic record: Bronze W8 London

World Championship record: 3rd W8 2009, 5th W8 2010, 5th W8 2011, 6th W8 2015

2016 record: 1st W8 Varese World Cup, 2nd W8 European Championships, 2nd W8 Final Olympic Qualifying Regatta

Ae-Ri Noort 33 (cox)

Olympic record: 2016 Olympic debut

World championship record: 7th W8 2014, 6th W8 2015

The Dutch have a really strong Olympic record in this event, they’ve medalled at the last four Games, silver in Sydney and Beijing and bronze in Athens and London. They are a nation that seem to get it right at the Olympics but not at World Championship level, their last medal came back in 2009. This year’s crew have reached the Rio Olympics the hard way, 6th place at the World Championships last year meant they missed qualification for the Games and had to race at the Final Olympic Qualifying Regatta. 2nd to Romania meant they grabbed that all-important final berth.  They have just one returner from the crew that won bronze in London, Claudia Belderbos. In 2016 they shown good speed winning at the first World Cup in Varese and then having a great battle with the British at the European Championships, leading until the final few metres. They will definitely be challenging for the medal but I think they may just miss out.

 

New Zealand

NZ flag

Ruby Tew 22

Olympic record: 2016 Olympic debut

World Championship record: 2nd W8 2015

2016 record: 3rd W8 Lucerne World Cup, 1st W8 Poznan World Cup

Emma Dyke 21

Olympic record: 2016 Olympic debut

World Championship record: 2nd W8 2015

2016 record: 3rd W8 Lucerne World Cup, 1st W8 Poznan World Cup

Kayla Pratt 25

Olympic record: 2016 Olympic debut

World Championship record: 2nd U23 W8 2011, 1st U23 W2- 2012, 3rd W2- 2013, 1st W4- 2014, 2nd W8 2015

2016 record: 3rd W8 Lucerne World Cup, 1st W8 Poznan World Cup

Kerri Gowler 22

Olympic record: 2016 Olympic debut

World Championship record: 7th W8 2013, 1st U23 W2- 2014, 1st W4- 2014, 2nd W8 & 2nd W2- 2015

2016 record: 3rd W8 Lucerne World Cup, 1st W8 Poznan World Cup

Genevieve Behrent 25

Olympic record: 2016 Olympic debut

World Championship record: 4th W4- 2010, 7th W8 2013, 2nd W8 2015

2016 record: 3rd W8 & 2nd W2- Lucerne World Cup, 1st W8 & 2nd W2- Poznan World Cup

Kelsey Bevan 26

Olympic record: 2016 Olympic debut

World Championship record: 2nd U23 W8 2010, 8th W8 2010, 2nd U23 W8 2011, 7th W8 2013, 1st W4- 2014, 2nd W8 2015

2016 record: 3rd W8 Lucerne World Cup, 1st W8 Poznan World Cup

Grace Prendergast 24

Olympic record: 2016 Olympic debut

World Championship record: 7th W8 2013, 1st U23 W2- 14, 1st W4- 2014, 2nd W8 & 2nd W2- 2015

2016 record: 3rd W8 Lucerne World Cup, 1st W8 Poznan World Cup

 

Rebecca Scown 32

Olympic record: Bronze W2- London

World Championship record: 7th W8 2006, 3rd W2- 2009, 1st W2- 2010, 2011, 3rd W2- 2013, 3rd W2- 2014, 2nd W8 2015

2016 record: 3rd W8 & 2nd W2- Lucerne World Cup, 1st W8 & 2nd W2- Poznan World Cup

Frances Turner 24 (cox)

Olympic record: 2016 Olympic debut

World Championship record: 2nd U23 W8 2010, 8th W8 2010, 2nd U23 W8 2011, 2nd W8 2015

2016 record: 3rd W8 Lucerne World Cup, 1st W8 Poznan World Cup

New Zealand have never qualified a W8 for the Olympics but over the past few years the Kiwis have put together an outstanding young crew, predominantly made up of their highly successful U23 group from 2011 and 2012. The crew are led by 32 year old Rebecca Scown, the eldest in the crew by 6 years and the only one with any Olympic experience, she and Genevieve Behrent are doubling-up in the W2-, this is a tactic that the Romanians used with great success at previous Olympics but it does carry risks. Last year the Kiwi W8 surprised the Canadians, British and Dutch by taking the silver medal behind the US, the first senior World Championship W8 medal New Zealand had ever won. But, despite their youth (excluding Scown the average age is just 23 compared to GB at 30 and the US at 28), they have plenty of international honours to their credit. As well as numerous U23 medals they also gold from the W4- in 2014 and golds and silvers from the W2-. They started 2016 pretty much as they left off in 2015, winning medals. Taking bronze in Lucerne and gold in Poznan. The battle between the OarBlacks and the “sassy” Brits will be pretty epic, the silver will be between these two crews and I think the greater experience of the Brits, and the fact none of the British are doubling up, will just tip the balance in their favour.

 

Romania

romania-flag_990999197

 

Miheala Petrila 25

Olympic record: Missed qualifying for London

World Championship record: 2nd U23 W2X 2011, 1st U23 W2- 2013, 4th W8 2014, 7th W8 2015

2016 record: 4th W8 European Championships, 1st W8 Final Olympic Qualifying regatta

Roxana Cogianu 29

Olympic record: 10th W2X Beijing, 4th W8 London

World Championship record: 1st U23 W4X 2005, 1st U23 W4X 2006, 8th W4X 2007, 2nd W8 2009, 3rd W8 2010, 4th W8 2011, 2nd W8 & 2nd W2- 2013, 4th W8 2014, 7th W8 2015

2016 record: 4th W8 European Championships, 1st W8 Final Olympic Qualifying regatta

Adelina Bogus 27

Olympic record: 4th W8 London

World Championship record: 1st U23 W2- 2009, 2nd W8 2009, 2nd U23 W2- 2010, 3rd W8 2010, 4th W8 & 10th W4X 2011, 4th W8 2014, 7th W8 2015

2016 record: 4th W8 European Championships, 1st W8 Final Olympic Qualifying regatta

Laura Oprea 22

Olympic record: 2016 Olympic debut

World Championship record: 1st U23 W2X 2013, 4th W8 & 4th W4- 2014, 7th W8 2015

2016 record: 4th W8 European Championships, 1st W8 Final Olympic Qualifying regatta

Ioana Strungaru 27

Olympic record: 2016 Olympic debut

World Championship record: 2nd W8 2009, 3rd W8 2010, 2nd U23 W2X 2011, 10th W4X 2011, 2nd W8 2013, 4th W8 2014, 7th W8 2015

2016 record: 4th W8 European Championships, 1st W8 Final Olympic Qualifying regatta

Iuliana Popa 20

Olympic record: 2016 Olympic debut

World championship record: 7th W8 2015

2016 record: 4th W8 European Championships

Andreea Boghian 24

Olympic record: missed qualifying for London

World Championship record: 11th W4X 2010, 2nd U23 W2- 2011, 4th W8 2011, 2nd W8 2013, 4th W8 2014, 7th W8 2015

2016 record: 4th W8 European Championships, 1st W8 Final Olympic Qualifying regatta

Daniela Druncea 25 (cox)

Olympic record: 2016 Olympic debut

World Championship record: 2nd W8 2013, 4th W8 2014, 7th W8 2015

2016 record: 4th W8 European Championships, 1st W8 Final Olympic Qualifying regatta

There was a time when Romania dominated this event. From the Moscow Games to Beijing they never missed a podium, including wins in Atlanta, Sydney and Athens and at the World Championships they have medalled at 14 of the last 20 championships. But, in the last few years that dominance has been surpassed by the USA and now Romania is beginning to be overtaken by other nations as well. 7th in the World last year was their worst performance in over 25 years, certainly the first time they’d ever failed to make an A-Final.  Is there a crisis in Romanian women’s rowing? Probably not, but they are definitely now back in the chasing pack, rather than leading the charge. They have a talented young crew with a number of former U23 World Champions on board. The most experienced member of the crew is 29 year old Roxana Cogianu, she raced at both Beijing and London, the latter as part of the W8 that just missed out on a medal (the first time that had happened since 1976), so perhaps the writing was on the wall back in 2012. There performances so far in 2016 don’t give much encouragement that they will be pushing for a medal, they only finished 4th at the European Championships, a title Romania had won every year from 2007 to 2014. They negotiated the Final Olympic Qualifying regatta with relative ease but they’ve yet to show the sort of speed that will bring them a medal in Rio.

 

 

The United States of America

USA flag

 

Amanda Polk 30

Olympic record: 2016 Olympic debut

World Championship record: 1st U23 W8 2009, 2nd W4- 2009, 1st W8 2010, 2011, 2013, 2104, 2015

2016 record: 6th W4X Lucerne World Cup

Kerry Simmonds 27

Olympic record: 2016 Olympic debut

World Championship record: 1st U23 W8 2010, 1st W8 2013, 2nd W2- 2014, 1st W8 2015

2016 record: 7th w4X Lucerne World Cup

Meghan Musnicki 33

Olympic record: Gold W8 London

World Championship record: 1st W8 2010, 2011, 4th W2- & 1st W8 2013, 1st W8 2014, 2015

2016 Olympic record: 1st W8 & 3rd W2- Lucerne World Cup

Tessa Gobbo 25

Olympic record: 2016 Olympic debut

World Championship record: 1st W4- 2013, 2nd W4- 2014, 1st W8 2015

2016 record: 1st W8 Lucerne World Cup

Ellie Logan 28

                Gold W8 Beijing & London

World Championship record: 2nd W4- 2009, 1st W8 2010, 2011, 5th W1X 2013, 1st W8 2014, 3rd W2- 2015

Emily Regan 28

Olympic record: 2016 Olympic debut

World championship record: 1st U23 W8 2010, 1st W4- 2011, 1st W8 2013, 1st W4- 2014, 1st W8 2015

2016 record: 1st W8 Lucerne World Cup

Amanda Elmore 25

Olympic record: 2016 Olympic debut

World Championship record: 1st U23 W8 2012, 2013, 1st W4X 2015

2016 record: 1st W8 Lucerne World Cup

 

Lauren Schmetterling 28

Olympic record: 2016 Olympic debut

World Championship record: 1st W8 2013, 2014, 2015

2016 record: 1st W8   Lucerne World Cup

Katelin Snyder 28

Olympic record: 2016 Olympic debut

World Championship record: 1st U23 W8 2006, 2008, 1st W8 2009, 2013, 2014, 2015

2016 record: 1st W8 Lucerne World Cup

If the USA do not win gold in Rio it will be one of the biggest upsets in world sport. They’ve won the last two Olympic Games and have won the last 8 World Championships. The last time a US W8 lost at a world champs or Olympics was at Gifu in 2005. That’s an astonishing run of success, certainly the best in World Rowing and possibly the best in any Olympic sport. It doesn’t seem to matter which combination the American boat they just seem to keep on winning. I’m not a huge of their technique, but it works. The key personnel in the boat are Ellie Logan and Meaghan Musnicki. Logan is competing at her third Olympics and is on course for her third gold, Musnicki is also an experienced Olympian having won gold in the W8 in London. In 2016 they US have been playing around with their line-up a little, both Amanda Polk and Kerry Simmonds raced the quad in Lucerne, but are now back in the boat in which they won gold in 2015. The one race the W8 had this season was in Lucerne where they duly won, but were pushed fairly hard by the British, but they will be stronger in Rio and I can’t see anyone breaking their run of success. The USA to take their third successive Olympic title.

 

With the USA the clear favourites the real interest in this event will be the battle for silver and bronze. This looks like it’ll be a contest between GB, New Zealand, Canada and the Netherlands. The British have built a formidable unit, and without the pressure of doubling up they will be favourites to take the silver ahead of the Kiwis.