Lucerne World Cup – Preview

Rotsee
Ah the Rotsee…the lake of the Gods…this is always the most popular venue on the international circuit for the athletes and it’s not difficult to see why. A stunning natural lake, renowned for its fair racing conditions. So what can we expect from the 3rd Rowing World Cup of 2013?
Whereas the 2nd World Cup at Eton Dorney suffered from a low entry, there are no such problems at the Lucerne event; only 2 events have straight finals (W8 with 6 entries – a vast improvement on the 1 entry at Eton, and W4- with 4).

So here is my event- by- event run down of the entries with who to watch and my ever popular (but seldom correct!) medal predictions.

M1X
24 entries. Leading the way this season is Ondrej Synek. The Olympic silver medallist won at Eton Dorney and also at the European Championships and at both events he looked imperious. 2nd to Synek at Dorney was GB’s Alan Campbell. Alan has had a bit of a mixed season so far. He didn’t travel to the 1st World Cup, lost the GB trials, lost to Hacker at Essen and lost to Aleksandrov at Henley. But his race against Synek at Dorney showed that when he clicks he hasn’t lost any of the speed that brought him a bronze at London 2012.
Making his international debut for 2013 is Angel Fournier Rodriguez. The big Cuban became a real medal contender in 2012 taking bronze in both the 1st and 2nd World Cups and would have been a little disappointed not to make the A final at London 2012. It’ll be interesting to see what sort of speed he has this year.
The Netherland’s Roel Braas withdrew from the World Cup at Eton Dorney to spend time with his new baby. Fatherhood obviously agrees with him as he became the first Dutchman since 1995 to win the Holland Beker.
The enigmatic German, Marcel Hacker, is now the Granddaddy of the field at 36. He had a peculiar race at Dorney sitting towards the back of the field until waking up at 1600 metres and finishing faster than anyone. But, if he puts together a decent race he will be a big threat for the medals.
Luka Spik is always a delight to watch, he seems to have been around forever (although 2 years younger than Hacker) and made his senior debut way back at the Atlanta Olympics (whilst still a junior!)He had a good run at Henley last week beating Joseph Sullivan and Julien Bahain, before losing to eventual winner Aleksander Aleksandrov. He may not get amongst the medals at Lucerne, but he won’t be far off.
A few other scullers to highlight are the Argentinean’s Cristian Rosso and Ariel Suarez, they were the 4th placed M2X at London 2012 (an event they are also racing at Lucerne). Rosso was 6th at Dorney but they may struggle to repeat an A final showing in the singles at Lucerne.
Given their usual high standards, it’s tempting to say that the Kiwi heavyweight M1X is having something of a crisis at the moment. Mahe has only just returned to a boat and may not be back to medal form by the time of the Worlds. Olympic M2X champion, Joseph Sullivan has struggled in the single all season and was a disappointing 11th at Dorney and was comprehensively beaten by Spik at Henley. Nathan Flannery is the new “young gun” of Kiwi sculling, the U23 World Champion was 9th in the quad at Dorney. But, we have become so used to seeing the Oar-Black scullers at the front of the field over the years (first with Rob Waddell and then Mahe), that to see them struggling in B finals is something of a surprise.
Georgi Bozhilov of Bulgaria took the win in Sydney and was 3rd at Dorney. He lost to Campbell in the semi-finals at Henley but is rapidly improving and certainly looks smoother than he did at Sydney. He may not get amongst the medals this season but he will be one to watch on the road to Rio.
A couple of notable absentees from Lucerne are the Olympic Champion, Mahe Drysdale, who has returned to NZ to train for the National Trials and the winner of the Diamonds at Henley last weekend, Aleksander Aleksandrov. The Azerbaijani sculler is rapidly becoming a real medal contender and will definitely be one to watch in Korea.
My predictions…an extremely competitive field but you have to go with Synek, he’s the form sculler of the season so far. I think if Campbell puts together a good race he could push Synek and take silver with Fournier Rodriguez or Hacker taking bronze.
Synek02

M2X
11 entries. If the Kiwi M1X are struggling then its “Business as usual” for the M2X. Michael Arms & Robbie Manson have picked up the mantel laid down by Sullivan & Cohen. The new Kiwi double have yet to lose a race this season and broke the record in winning the Double Sculls at Henley last weekend. Worryingly for the rest of the world there are similarities between these two and the mighty Murray & Bond. Both were in bigger boats which finished 7th at an Olympics (Murray & Bond in the M4- at Beijing and Arms & Mason in the M4x at London). They even have similar race profiles, with a relatively controlled 1st 500 before turning on the afterburners in the middle 1000. The rest of the world will be hoping they don’t continue to follow the pattern laid down by the M2-!
Hoping to hand the Kiwis their first defeat of 2013 are the Italians, Francesco Fossi and Romano Battisti. These two raced at the Mediterranean Games in Turkey rather than at Eton Dorney and took gold in the M2X (beating Serbia’s Marko Marjanovic and Aleksandar Filipovic into silver). They also took gold at the Europeans in Seville and are probably the leading European challengers to the Kiwis (although the British, Germans and Norwegians may disagree 😉 )
It’s going to be an interesting battle between the Brits and the Germans. Matt Langridge and Bill Lucas showed an impressive sprint to take bronze at Eton Dorney (0.5 secs behind the Germans). They also looked good at Henley although would have wanted to have been closer to the Kiwis in the final than the 2 lengths verdict. The Germans, Eric Knittel & Stephan Krueger were 2nd at Eton Dorney but only 4th at the Europeans.
The Norwegians Nils Jakob Hoff & Kjetil Borch, have yet to recapture the form that brought them gold in the final World Cup of 2012. They finished 7th at London 2012 and this year were 3rd in Seville.
Outside of Europe, Lucerne sees the 2013 debut of Argentina’s Cristian Rosso and Ariel Suarez. These two were an impressive 4th at London 2012. Rosso raced the single at Eton Dorney making the “A” final, but now they are back in a boat together they will be a force to be reckoned with.

My picks….NZ for the gold…but behind them it’s going to be a huge battle between the Italians, Germans, British and Argentineans for silver and bronze…I’m going for Italy silver and GB bronze.
New Zealand's men's double sculls

M2-
I’m beginning to run out of superlatives to describe the Kiwi pair. They notched up another victory at Henley last weekend, although they sportingly only equalled the record rather than breaking it thus allowing Sir Matt Pinsent (who was umpiring the final of the Silver Goblets) to hang onto his last M2- record for at least another year ;).
Leading the chasing pack will probably be last year’s Olympic silver medallists from France Germain Chardin and Dorian Mortelette. They won the first World Cup in Sydney but were very disappointed to only finish 6th at the Europeans. They were beaten at Seville by Serbians Nenad Bedik and Nikola Stojic (who also took silver at the Mediterranean Games last week).
2nd to the Kiwis at Dorney were the Poles, Wojciech Gutorski & Jaroslaw Godek. These two have shown consistent form this season with silver also at the European Championships and have stepped on from their 10th place finish at London 2012.
Italy have two pairs entered with the ITA2 boat probably being the quicker, Marco Di Costanzo and Matteo Castaldo were 4th at the Europeans and won gold at the Mediterranean Games.
Germany also have 2 pairs racing at Lucerne and again it could well be the 2nd boat which proves to be the faster, Bastian Bechler and Paul Schroeter are U23 World Champions from the 4-.
Another nation with 2 pairs are the South Africans, Shaun Keeling has yet to find the speed he had with former partner Ramon De Clemente, speed which brought them a 5th place finish in Beijing. But, with new partner, Matthew Brittain they made the semi-finals of the Silver Goblets at Henley. The 2nd South African pair, David Hunt and Vincent Breet were U23 silver medallists last year and will be hoping to get the better of their senior pair.
Finally, it’s great to see Sjoerd Hamburger making a return to international competition deputising for the injured Rogier Blink. Oxford Blue Hamburger is himself recovering from injury having seriously damaged his shoulder last year. He had said he wouldn’t return to international competition until next year but has stepped into the pair with Mitchel Steenman just for Lucerne.
My picks…unless the world stops spinning or they are abducted by aliens it’ll be yet another win for the Kiwis. But, behind them the battle for silver and bronze will be very interesting. I’m going for a French silver and either Poland or Serbia for bronze.

KiwiM2-

M4-
14 entries. The Australians took gold at Dorney but they were chased all the way by the new British 4. The British (Alan Sinclair, Nathaniel Reilly-O’Donnell, Scott Durant & Matt Tarrant) are starting to show some serious speed, with a devastating finishing sprint. At Henley they were a length in arrears to the Kiwi LM4- with 400m left and won by 3ft. They showed a similar turn of speed at the finish at Eton Dorney taking a length out of Australia in the final 250m. They may not catch the Aussies at Lucerne but with the progress they are making it’s going to be very close in Korea.
The Dutch missed Eton Dorney, but have their European Champions racing at Lucerne (Boaz Meylink, Kaj Hendrinks, Mechiel Versluis, Robert Luecken) and 3 of this crew were 5th in the epic Olympic final.
The Kiwis have entered both their heavyweight and their Lightweight boats. The lightweights are also entered in their own event so it’ll be interesting to see if they race both. Perhaps there is an issue with making weight (too many English breakfasts during Henley perhaps 😉 ) Or maybe they wanted another crack at the GB heavyweights after their epic semi-final battle at Henley! But, it’s probably safe to say that the lightweights are the faster of the 2 Kiwi boats.
Germany have entered the same crew that took bronze at the Europeans (Toni Seifert, Felix Wimberger, Malte Jakschik, Max Planer) but they may struggle to get amongst the medals at Lucerne.
The USA have a new crew that is a mixture of youth and experience. James Grant was in the M8 that was 4th at London 2012 and he is joined by fellow Olympian Henrik Rummel and U23 World Champion Mike Gennaro. The 4th member of the crew is making his international debut, Seth Weil earned his seat with a 2nd place finish in the M2- at the 2nd US National Selection Regatta.
The Canadians have also put together a new crew based around two London Olympians; Will Crothers won silver in the M8 and Will dean was in the 9th place M4-. They are joined by Steve Vanknotsenburg who took bronze in the “lead Sled” (aka M2+) in 2011 and Spencer Crowley who raced the M2- at Dorney finishing 10th.
Both North American boats are new, development boats, and will do well to make the “A” final.
My picks, Australia gold, GB silver, Netherlands bronze.
Aus 4-

M4X
15 entries. Croatia’s Olympic silver medal crew were devastated to only finish 6th at the Europeans, but they returned to form with a crushing 3 second victory over Olympic champions Germany at Eton Dorney. The German’s will be itching for revenge at Lucerne and the battle between these two could well be the highlight of the regatta.
The chasing pack will probably be led by the Estonians, 3rd at Eton Dorney and will be looking to follow that up with a medal at Lucerne, although they are not always consistent. The British won in Sydney, but by their own admission had a disappointing result on home water. They were comfortable winners at Henley (racing with Jonny Walton subbing for the injured Graeme Thomas) and will be looking for a performance more in line with Sydney than with Dorney. There is a huge amount of potential in this boat (as seen by their narrow defeat to Croatia at Essen) if they get it right at Lucerne they could be challenging for the major medals.
Keep a look out as well for the Italians, 3rd at the Europeans they are packed with Olympic experience with Matteo Stefannini, Simone Venier & Simone Raineri all having raced at London 2012.
The Aussies have 2 boats racing. The lead boat were 4th at Dorney with Thomas Swann & Nick Purnell out of the Olympic M8 joined by medallists from Sydney Alex Belonogoff and Kieran Kobelke. The 2nd AUS boat look to be the U23’ with 3 of the boat (Tim Cleary, Peter Koster and Hamish Playfair) making their international debuts.
The North Americans also have boats with a couple of guys making their international debuts. Canada raced at the Holland Beker and took silver behind the Dutch. Michael Braithwaite & Kevin Kowalyk were the M2X at the Olympics and they are joined by debutants James Abbass & Matthew Buie. For the USA the experienced Tom Graves & Sam Stitt are joined by newbies Matt Millar & Will Cowles. As with the M4- these look to be development boats and will do extremely well to make the “A” final.
My picks…Croatia to get the better of the Germans again with GB squeaking into 3rd.
CRO M4X

M8
The big one…despite there being 8 entries, this is all about a 2 boat showdown…Great Britain v Germany. The Deutschlandachter’s air on invincibility developed during the London Olympiad has taken a bit of a battering with a comprehensive defeat by GB (and others) at Essen. Normal service was resumed at the Europeans where, with a reshuffled crew, they took gold ahead of the Poles. The Germans now have 5 of the gold medal Olympic 8 back onboard.
The British won at Eton Dorney, but only just, ahead of Poland and they had a terrible row in the race for lanes. But since the world cup the crew has been strengthened with the return of Alex Gregory and George Nash. The line-up now looks pretty impressive with 8 London Olympic medallists onboard (the 9th being a “mere” World silver medallist, Dan Ritchie). They raced this line-up for the first time in the Grand at Henley where they broke the course record. The British have set out their stall that they want to take down the Germans and win gold at the Worlds. Whether this crew carries on next year remains to be seen, the draw of the M4- is very strong for GB. But watching these two going head to head is going to be epic.
Behind the leading two crews the Poles are the obvious next best. They lead the British for 1850 metres at Eton Dorney, were 2nd to the Germans at the Europeans and are a well established crew. But, at Henley they would have been shocked to have been comprehensively beaten by the University Of Washington…quite how they view this defeat and what affect it has on them remains to be seen.
The US have re-jigged the crew that finished 2nd to the British in Sydney. They have an impressive line-up with 5 Olympians onboard (Ross James, Glenn Ochal, Stephan Kasprzyk, Thomas Peszek and cox, Zac Vlahos) they are joined by 3 U23 gold medallists (Ian Silveira, Austin Hack & Thomas Dethlefs) along with Nareg Guregian from the 2011 M8. It’ll be interesting to see if they have the speed to hang onto the Germans and British.
Of the rest of the field, the Dutch were 3rd at the Europeans and the French 3rd at Dorney. The French looked very sharp in the race for lanes at Dorney but didn’t get it right in the final. If they do get it right at Lucerne they could be serious medal contenders. Keep an eye out also for the GB2 boat. This is a development boat but they have been giving the lead GB boat a tough time in training and won the Ladies Plate at Henley in an amazing time of 5:57 (only 1 second off the Grand record…until GB1 lowered it later in the day).
My picks….GB gold, Germany silver, USA bronze.
GBM8

LM1X
Just the 29 entries! All eyes will be on Henrik Stephansen, the world champion is also racing in the LM2X but raced the single at the Europeans and won gold. Behind the Dane at Seville was Pedro Fraga of Portugal. Fraga won at Dorney (where Stephansen wasn’t racing). Denmark has impressive strength in depth in lightweight sculling with Steffen Jensen (silver LM1X Dorney) and Andrej Bendtsen (bronze LM1X Dorney) racing as DEN2 &3.
Duncan Grant of New Zealand will be hoping to improve on the 4th he got at Eton Dorney. He raced in the Diamonds at Henley last week losing convincingly to Aleksandrov. He may struggle to get in the medals again this week.
From the rest, Italian Pietro Ruta won gold at the Mediterranean Games and was 4th at the World Championships last year and is one of 3 Italians in this event. Germany’s Jonathan Koch was bronze medallist at the Europeans and took 5th at Dorney.
Given all the financial difficulties the country has faced, it’s great to see the Greeks racing at Dorney. Panagiotis Magdanis & Eleftherios Konsolas were the Olympic LM2X at London 2012 and raced at the Europeans, finishing 6th.
GB’s Jamie Kirkwood set a personal best in winning the B final at Eton Dorney. He will be hoping to go at least one place better and make the “A” final at Lucerne.
My picks: Stephansen gold, Fraga silver, Jensen bronze
Stephansen

LM2-
There were only 4 boats at Dorney, but at Lucerne this is a far more respectable 15. GB’s Sam Scrimgeour and Mark Aldred won at Dorney but they have their work cut out to win in Lucerne. The Italians have 2 very talented boats entered. ITA1 has 2012 U23 world champion Francesco Schisano, and 2011 U23 World Champion Catello Amarante II. The ITA2 boat has World silver medallist Livio La Padula and 2012 U23 World Champion Vincenzo Serpico.
The Swiss have a very strong chance for a medal, their pair of Simon Neipmann and Lucas Tramer were in the LM4- that finished 5th at London 2012 and as a pair they won the European Championships.
My picks: Switzerland gold, GB silver then one of the Italian boats for bronze.
Sui LM2-

LM2X
20 crews. Henrik Stephansen finally gets a go in the LM2X for Denmark. The world chmpion in the LM1X and world record holder on the erg is joined by Steffan Jensen who took silver in the single at Dorney. Is this the new “Dream Team” for Denmark to takeover from Olympic champions Mads Rasmussen and Rasmus Quist? Well, the last time these two raced internationally in the double they didn’t exactly set the world alight. At the 2nd World Cup in 2011 they finished a lowly 18th. But a lot can change in 2 years and this combination has the potential to be world beaters.
The French are making their first appearance at a World Cup, Jeremie Azou and Stany Delayre raced and won at the Europeans displaying the sort of form that brought them golds in the World Cups last year and a 4th plce at the Olympics.
The British Chambers brothers will renew their rivalry with the Poles, Artur Mikolajiczewski and Mariusz Stanczuk, who pipped the British at Dorney. The Coleraine boys will be desperate to reverse that result in Lucerne. Again, the British double has a huge amount of potential and are some of the fiercest racers on the circuit, if they can hook it all up they can beat anybody. I think the medallists will come from these 4 boats but also watch out for the Norwegians, Kristoffer Brun & Are Strandli, 3rd at Dorney and european silver medallists.
The Italians have entered 2 boats and have split up their experienced double of Elia Luini and Pietro Ruta (a combination that won the “B” final at London 2012). At Lucerne Luini is partnered by Andrea Micheletti and this pairing took bronze at the Mediterranean Games. Ruta has Francesco Pegoraro in the boat, Pegoraro was in the U23 LM4X that won gold last year. Whilst I don’t think either of these boats will get amongst the medals they won’t be far off.

My picks…this is really difficult to call but I’m going France, GB, Poland

LM4X
4 boats. The Portuguese have Olympian Nuno Mendes leading a boat of experienced internationals. Joao Gabriel & Octavio Barbosa Ribiero were in the bronze medal LM8 at the Europeans in 2010 and Andre Pereira Araujo raced in the LM2X at this year’s championship.
The Danes have last year’s LM2X from the Europeans (Christian Neilsen and Jens Neilsen) along with U23’s Emil Espensen and Jannik Nilton.
But, it’s the Germans who are likely to take gold with experienced internationals Julius Peschel & Jonas Schuetzeberg joined by Moritz Moos who took 4th in the JM1X last year and debutant the very Germanic sounding Jason Osborne. Osborne raced at the World Indoors last year posting a 6:31 in finishing 6th in the junior Lightweight division.
The fourth crew are from Hong Kong and aren’t there just to make up the numbers with 4 experienced internationals onboard (Kwan Hoi Lok & Chiu Mang Tang were 7th in the LM2X at Sydney)
My picks, Germany gold, Denmark silver and Portugal bronze.

LM4-
16 entries. The battle between New Zealand and Denmark was the highlight of the Eton Dorney World Cup. The two of them were never separated by more than a few feet for the whole of the course with the Kiwis holding off a frantic sprint to win by inches. As mentioned earlier, the Kiwis have entered both heavyweight and lightweight events and it remains to be seen whether they race both or not.
Joining the party in Lucerne are the Olympic champions, South Africa. They have 3 of the crew that took gold at London 2012. The 4th seat is filled by Michael Voerman who was an “A” finalist at the world junior championships in 2011. The South African’s made their 2013 debut at Henley last year. The draw kept them and the Kiwi LM4- apart. The Saffers defeated the Kiwi heavyweight 4- but lost to the British heavyweights in the final. Putting them in the mix with the Danes and Kiwis is going to be something to watch!
But it’s not just about these 3, the British will be hoping to get amongst the medals as they did at Dorney and are getting faster every time they race.
Also in the mix will be the Italians, always strong in lightweight rowing. They have a talented line-up of World Junior Champions Stefano Oppo and Paolo Di Girolamo along with senior world silver medallists Guido Gravina & Giorgio Tuccinardi. Also look out for silver and bronze medallists from the Europeans, the Czech Republic and France.
My picks…if the Kiwis race this event I pick them for gold just ahead of the Danes with the Brits just pipping the South Africans for bronze.
NX LM4

Onto the women’s events.

W1X
19 scullers. This pits the winners from the first 2 World Cups against eachother. Kim Crowe won in Sydney and a couple of weeks ago won the Holland Beker ahead of Emma Twigg. Mirka Knapkova, the Olympic Champion, won at Eton Dorney and last weekend defeated Twigg to win the Princess Royal Challenge Cup at Henley (equalling the record in the process).
These two are likely to be clear of the rest of the field and I predict a very tight battle for the gold and silver. Twigg has been the bridesmaid to these two all season and she may well play that role again. But she will have a battle for a medal. China’s Olympic finalist Xiuyun Zhang is racing in the single (having raced the W2X at Sydney). Also Lisa Schmidla makes way for the legendary Britta Oppelt in the W4X and is racing in the single at Lucerne.
Former world champion Frida Svensson showed a welcome return to form at Dorney winning silver just ahead of Eleanor Logan of the US.
From a British perspective, Vicky Thornley is getting faster every time she gets in the single and is learning a huge amount about the event. She did well finishing 4th at Dorney and an “A” final appearance at Lucerne would be a major achievement.
Other scullers to watch are Lithuania’s Ieva Adomavicute, world junior champion in 2011 and 2012, and the Netherland’s Inge Janssen , 3rd at the Europeans and 8th in the W2X at London 2012.
My picks…it’s going to be close but I’m going for Knapkova for gold with Crowe silver and Twigg bronze.
Knapkova

W2X
9 entries. Another event that pits the winners of WC1 v WC2 The Kiwis, Fiona Bourke and Zoe Stevenson took the win in Sydney and also won the Holland Beker a couple of weeks ago. The British giants (they are both over 6ft 3) Fran Houghton & Vicky Meyer-Laker were 3rd at Sydney but have improved significantly since then, taking the win at Dorney. They raced in the quad at Henley last week with Polly Swann and Helen Glover taking a comfortable win.
In this event there is the biggest of “big” names in women’s rowing; Ekatarina Karsten has moved out of the single and is racing the double with Yuliya Bichyk, however they are yet to find world-beating speed with their best performance to date being bronze at the Europeans, however you discount Karsten at your peril!
One of the main challengers for a medal will be the crew that beat Karsten & Bichyk, Lithuania’s Donata Vistartaite & Milda Valciukaite. They have taken gold in the W2X at both the 2012 and 2013 European Championships.
The USA have 2 boats, both of which look to be development boats with a mix of youth and experience in both. USA1 has the experienced international Ellen Tomek and debutant from the University of Virginia, Meghan O’Leary and USA2 has Olympic bronze medallist Megan Kalmoe with world silver medallist Stesha Carle. Kalmoe is likely to be mobbed by members of the GB men’s squad desperately lobbing to get their names on “The List” 😉
My picks…GB to get revenge on the Kiwis with the Lithuanian’s in 3rd.
GBW2X

W2-
9 entries. The gold and silver medallists from Eton Dorney will be going at it again. The new GB combination of Helen Glover and Polly Swann are showing the sort of dominance that the previous GB W2- showed in 2012. If they carry on the way they have so far it’ll give the selectors a massive headache when Heather Stanning returns next year. The Kiwis, Kayla Pratt & Rebecca Scown took silver behind the British and may have to settle for that again, such is the dominance of the GB pair.
The Germans were 3rd at Dorney but they have a new crew racing at Lucerne. Kerstin Hartmann & Marlene Sinnig have moved to the W8. In their place are twins Sara and Miriam Davids. They were both in the silver medal U23 8 last year.
The Australians have a couple of boats entered with the no.1 boat of Tess Gerrand and Katrina Bateman hoping to improve on their 7th place finish at Dorney. The 2nd boat are Charlotte Sutherland and Lucy Stephan who took an unexpected gold in the W8 at Sydney (handing the USA W8 their first defeat in 4 years).
The Romanians have a very strong tradition in this event and have entered their European gold medallists Cristina Grigoras and Andreea Boghian.
The final boat to highlight are the Americans. Another boat of youth and experience with Olympic champion Meghan Musnicki joined by U23 World Champion Taylor Goetzinger.
My picks…GB gold, NZ silver, USA 3rd.
GB W2- (2)

W4-
4 entries. The Australians have half of their gold medal 8 from Sydney and will start as clear favourites. With this event returning to the World Championship programme it is gaining in popularity. Chasing the Aussies will be a new Canadian crew including Olympic silver medallist Christine Roper, 2011 World silver medallist Christy Nurse and U23 World Champions Natalie Mastracci and Sarah Black. Bronze will be a battle between the young Kiwis who were 5th in the W8 at Sydney and the Dutch (including Kirsten Wielaard and Dominique Van der Pauw from the 2012 European W4X).
My picks…Australia gold, Canada silver, New Zealand bronze

W4X
12 entries. The overwhelming favourite will be the Germans. They won gold at Dorney and have tweaked their line-up with Britta Oppelt returning in place of Lisa Schmidla. The rest of the field will be doing very well to get within a length of the Germans. Leading the chase is likely to be the Poles. They were 2nd to the Germans at Dorney and are the only crew to have beaten the Germans this season winning at Essen.
3rd at Dorney were the young Australian crew. They are definitely a crew for the future being the current U23 World Champions in the quad. Also watch out for the silver and bronze medallists from the European Championships The Netherlands and Italy.
The USA won bronze at London 2012 and have 2 of that crew returning, Kara Kohler and Adrienn Martelli are joined by W8 Olympic champions Esther Lofgren and Zsuzsanna Francia. This looks as though it could be a very, very fast boat and it’ll be fascinating to see how they match up against the Germans.
As for the British….a disappointing season…5th of 6 at Dorney and they were beaten by a USA club boat at Henley. But they are 4 very talented athletes and the results do not reflect on the potential that this crew has. As a development boat it’s difficult to know what to expect but they will be desperate to put together a decent performance at Lucerne, an “A” final spot would be a major step forward and a big confidence boost for the crew.
My picks, Germany for gold, USA silver, Poland bronze
Ger W4X (2)

W8
Finally some entries….6 of them, so a straight final but still a vast improvement on Eton Dorney.
The leading boat will probably be the Romanians. They have 5 of their London 2012 crew which just missed out on a medal. 7 of the crew then raced at the European Championships where they took gold. Cristina Ilie and Ioana Cojocariu were in the W2X that made the “A” final at the Europeans.
The Canadians have put together a new 8with Olympic silver medallist Natalie Mastracci at 7 and world silver medallist Christy Nurse at stroke. Also in the boat are 5 U23 world champions…this is a boat with a serious amount of potential!
The Germans have put their top W2- Hartmann & Sinnig into the bow seats of their 8 which won silver at the Europeans but the Germans have always struggled to put together a fast women’s 8. On paper this looks a crew with a lot of potential it remains to be seen if they deliver this on the water.
The British were the only crew to enter at Eton Dorney and ended up racing in a quad and two pairs.
The 8 did race at Henley and had a relatively comfortable win against the GB U23 8. But they looked very good in doing so. It’s a boat packed with Olympic experience with Beth Rodford & Mel Wilson from the W4X that was 6th at London 2012 and Katie Greves, Lou Reeve & Jess Eddie from the 5th placed Olympic 8. The rest of the crew include European medallists Zoe Lee and Olivia Carnegie-Brown with the final seat taken by former U23 international Sarah Cowburn with Oxford Blue Zoe De Toledo in the coxswain’s seat.
The defending Olympic champions from the USA have a new combination with double Olympic Champion Caroline Lind in the 2 seat and double world champion Amanda Polk at bow. The rest of the crew is slightly less experienced; Heidi Robbins at 4 is a current U23 World Champion, the stern pair of Emily Regan and Kerry Simmonds were U23 champions in 2010 with Regan winning senior gold in the W4- in 2011. The USA crew also sees the international debut of Emily Huelskamp and Lauren Schmetterling. Huelskamp won gold in the W1X at the US Elite Nationals and Schmetterling won gold at Canadian Henley. This is a relatively unknown quantity but the USA seldom produces slow W8’s .
The final boat are the young Kiwis most of whom raced at Sydney finishing 5th.
My picks…gold Romania, silver Canada, bronze GB

LW1X
17 scullers. My favourite is the Greek, Aikaterini Nikolaidou. She has won 2 golds already this year at the European Championships in Seville and the Mediterranean Games in Turkey. Austria’s Michaela Taupe-Traer won gold at Dorney and was 2nd to Nikolaidou at Seville. 2011 world champion Fabiana Beltrame raced at Dorney and picked up a bronze medal one place ahead of GB’s Ruth Walzack.
One time USA competitor, Ursula Grobler, is now racing for her country of birth South Africa. She was 4th last year at the World Championships and raced in the Princess Royal at Henley last week where she lost in the quarter-final to Emma Twigg, but she didn’t let the Kiwi get away from her and closed to 3/4l at the finish.
My pick…Greece for gold with Austria 2nd and South Africa 3rd.
GRE LW1X

LW2X
15 entries. Sydney winners v Dorney winners v European’s winners…this is going to be good! In Sydney the Kiwis Julia Edward and Lucy Strack took gold. These two were the Kiwi light double at London 2012 where they finished 9th. At Dorney the Germans Lena Mueller and Anja Noske took gold. They also raced at London 2012 finishing 6th. At the Europeans they took silver finishing one place behind the Italians Laura Milani & Elisabetta Sancassani. I’d be surprised if the medals weren’t shared amongst these three crews. But of the rest the British, Imogen Walsh & Kathryn Twyman were 3rd in Sydney and 2nd at Dorney, they will be pushing hard to get amongst the medals and the Swedes Cecilia Lilja and Emma Fredh took bronze at Dorney.
My picks..Italy gold, New Zealand silver and Germany bronze.
ITA LW2X

So those are my thoughts, as always feel free to comment either here on the blog or on my twitter feed @fatsculler

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