World Championships preview part 3 – Lightweights

Time for the 3rd and final part of my World Championships preview….the little ‘uns!

LM1X
26 scullers. This is going to be a very, very interesting competition. The field is a ridiculously high standard with injuries in other events making it even more interesting. Denmark’s erg monster, Henrik Stephansen is the defending champion and also won the title in 2010, the odds are that he will get the hat trick in Chungju. But, Stephansen is a conundrum and must be causing the Danish federation a bit of a headache. He’s made no secret of his desire to be in an Olympic class boat, but so far whenever he has tried the LM2X it has failed to fire. At Lucerne he teamed up with Steffen Jensen (himself a medallist from Dorney) but they only managed 8th. The only other time he’s done the LW2X was at the Munich World Cup in 2011 where he and Jensen were 18th. What this shows is that to make a double fly takes a bit of magic and it doesn’t always work just putting 2 fast scullers together and expecting it to fly. who knows, maybe we will see Stephansen switch to sweep…his power in the middle of the LM4- would be pretty special….
Pedro Fraga, Portugal’s LM2X Olympian, has spent this season in the LM1X and is setting the pace so far this year. 2nd to Stephansen at the Europeans he has wins at both Dorney and Lucerne. The question will be whether he can best the Dane in Korea.
Another sculler who is having a great season is Andrew Campbell of the USA. The Harvard lightweight won the U23 world championships at a canter and was 3rd behind Stephansen at this event last year. Will an extra year mean that the young American can get closer to the “great Dane”?
1 place ahead of Campbell in 2012 was Hungary’s Peter Galambos. This season hasn’t been as successful for him yet. 14th in the LM2x at the Europeans he won the “B” final at Dorney and was 5th at Lucerne. He will be hoping to recapture the medal winning form he had in 2012.
Another sculler hoping to recapture his form is New Zealand’s Duncan Grant. The 2009 World Champion won in Sydney but has struggled a little in Europe. 4th at Dorney and only 9th at Lucerne, but as with Mahe in the M1X you should never discount a Kiwi single sculler. If he makes the “A” final then anything can happen.
One of the highlights of the team GB performance at Lucerne (and it has to be said there weren’t many) was that of Jamie Kirkwood. The young Brit had a storming race just missing out on the medals. The field in Korea is incredibly strong but an “A” final place would be a great achievement and would be a big statement towards selection for Olympic class boats for 2014 onwards (if Zac Purchase does return for next season as is rumoured a double with Kirkwood is not out of the question).
If this line-up wasn’t strong enough already the addition of France’s Jeremie Azou just made it ridiculously so. The Frenchman was not expecting to be racing this event at these championships. Along with his partner Stany Delayre they have won the European championships and Lucerne this year (and just missed a medal at last year’s Olympics). But a collision with the French LM4- in training has meant that Delayre misses these championships. So, can Azou do the opposite to Stephansen….convert superb LM2X speed into LM1X speed? What looked like a nailed on gold for Denmark has now become anything but.
Also in the mix will be Switzerland’s Michael Schmid. 6th last year he finished 4th at the Europeans and claimed a brilliant silver in Lucerne. He looks to be peaking at just the right time. The competition may be a little bit too hot to claim another medal but its going to be a big achievement for any of these scullers to make the “A” final.
Picking medallists actually isn’t too hard, getting the colour of medal right is!
Gold: Stephansen to get the hat-trick with Azou 2nd and Fraga 3rd just ahead of Campbell.

LM2-
9 crews. In the past couple of days controversy has blown up surrounding the US LM2- of Gregory Flood and Frank Petrucci. They have admitted to taking a banned substance, Glycerol (a hydrating agent which has been known to mask some steroids). Glycerol was added to the banned list in 2010 and the Americans have claimed they were unaware of this. I do not propose to discuss this in detail now, but it looks as though they are still planning on racing at Chungju, but the reaction of other nations towards this is not yet known….there is a long way for this story to run yet.
But, moving back to the on-water activity, the pace-setters do far this season have been the British, Sam Scrimgeour and Mark Aldred. They won in both Lucerne and Dorney and will be starting as favourites to take the world title.
The biggest challenge will probably come from the Italians; Elia Luini and Martino Goretti. Luini is one of the biggest names in Italian rowing, but is better known as a sculler. He was 7th in the LM2X at the Olympics but has switched to sweep this season. He and Goretti were 4th in the LM4- at the Europeans but are making their first appearance in the LM2- this season. A
Also challenging for the medals will be the U23 World champion pair of Simon Neipmann and Lucas Tramer from Switzerland. They also made their 2013 World Cup Debut at Lucerne coming 4th.
My picks…a comfortable gold for GB with Switzerland silver and Italy bronze.

LM2X
24 doubles. The absence of the French has blown this event wide open. The battle for the medals looks to be a 4-way affair between the British, Norwegians, Poles and Italians.
The Chambers brothers for GB started this season with a bang winning gold in Sydney. But they have slipped back 1 place at each subsequent World Cup. Richard Chambers has always said that he is using this event as a “break” from the LM4- and that he doesn’t really enjoy sculling. I fully expect both the Chambers boys to move back to the sweep boat next season. But, as for events at Chungju, if they scull to their potential they have the ability to take a major medal.
Perhaps favourites to take gold will be the Italians. Andrea Micheletti & Pietro Ruta were runners-up to the French at Lucerne and took 4th at the Europeans.
The Norwegians, Kristoffer Brun and Are Strandli, withdrew from Lucerne but they have medals from both the Europeans (silver) and Dorney (bronze).
The final medal contender are the Poles. Artur Mikolajczewski & Milosz Jankowski just pipped the British to gold at Dorney but could only manage 5th at Lucerne.
Added to this 4-way mix are the Swiss. Simon Schuerch & Mario Gyr raced in the LM4- in 2010-12 finishing 5th at the Olympics. As with the British they have switched to the LM2X this season making their debut at Lucerne taking a brilliant bronze.
The Chinese don’t have many boats racing at Chungju but they have entered the LM2X. En & Jilin Zhang are both just 16 years old, in fact none of the 8 Chinese athletes competing in Chungju were born before March 1996! God it makes me feel old!!
My picks…this is a really difficult event to call but after much consideration I’m going: gold Italy, silver GB, Bronze Poland

LM4X
10 crews. Quite a big field but this includes boats from India, Iraq, Uruguay and the hosts. My favourites for the gold will be the Danes. They were 2nd at Lucerne (behind the Germans who aren’t racing at Chungju). The main challenge will come from the Italians which includes Paolo Ghidini and Matteo Mulas who won this event at the U23 championships this season.
The Greeks have an experienced quad which includes Olympian Eleftherios Konsolas (who, along with brother Georgios, won silver in this event last year).
Keep an eye out also for the Australians. James Wilson and Edward De Carvaho were 4th in the LM2X at Sydney and their crew mates Adam Kachyckyj and Perry Ward were also 4th in the M4X at the Sydney World Cup.
My picks: Denmark gold, Italy silver, Greece bronze.

LM4-
17 crews.The Kiwis have won all three World Cups this season with their only defeat coming at the hands of the GB heavyweight M4- at Henley (and that by just 3ft) But, the Danes have pushed them really, really hard (as you would expect from the Olympic bronze medallists). The margin at Dorney it was by just 4/100ths of a sec, but at Lucerne it was a whopping 2 seconds.
Perhaps the surprise package at Lucerne were the Dutch. They took the bronze ahead of the defending Olympic champions and the fancied British, whether they can repeat, or better, this achievement at Chungju remains to be seen. The South African Olympic champions have made one change to the crew that won at London 2012 and so far this season they have losses to the GB M4- at Henley and a 4th place at Lucerne. But, you can never discount a crew of the quality of the South Africans and they are very strong medal contenders. The British only have one of their Olympic silver medal crew remaining, with Chris Bartley in the stroke seat. At Dorney they won bronze but slipped to 5th at Lucerne. But, as with the South Africans, if they race to their potential they can push the Kiwis and Danes for the gold.
Making their first appearance since the Sydney World Cup are the Australians. They have an experienced line-up who took bronze in Sydney and three of the crew have world medals from the LM8 from 2010 and 2011.
A new combination at Chungju are the Italians. Based around Armando Dell’Aquila and Livio La Padula who were 4th in the LM4- at the Europeans along with European LM2- silver medallist Giorgio Tuccinardi. The final member of the crew is Jiri Vlcek. All four of these guys were in the LM8 that won silver in 2008.
The USA have the same line-up that on the B final in Lucerne. It’ll be a strong result for them to move up to the grand final.
My picks…I foresee another epic battle between the Kiwis and the Danes and you have to pick the Oar-Blacks to remain undefeated in the LM4-. Denmark silver, and an epic battle for the bronze between the South Africans, British and Dutch with the GB boys coming out on top.

LM8
3 boats…Hey, everyone gets a medal! The Aussies include the guys who are racing in the LM4-, but my favourites for gold are the Italians. They have 6 reigning U23 world champions from the BLM2- and the BLM4-. The US boat is made up mainly of international debutants but perhaps the most interesting crewman is Dorian Weber. He raced for the US in the mixed 4+ at the Paralympics last year but I believe is the first person to row at both the Paralympics and an “Able-Bodied” World Championships.
My picks…Italy gold, Australia silver, USA bronze

LW1
23 scullers. There has been a different winner at each of the World Cups this year. 2011 world champion, Fabiana Beltrame of Brazil is coming into form just at the right time, taking the gold at Lucerne following a bronze at Dorney. She was beaten at Dorney by Austria’s Michaela Taupe-Traer. The Austrian then took silver at Lucerne having already won silver at the Europeans. She is also the silver medallist from last year and will be hoping to go one better this year. GB’s Ruth Walczak has finished 4th at each of the World Cups this year and will be desperate to move up at least one spot to take a well-deserved medal. She will have a fight on her hands though, mainly in the shape of South African Ursula Grobler. She won bronze at Lucerne and has a 4th place in this event from last year (when she competed for the USA).
But, perhaps the biggest challenge to Beltrame & Taupe-Traer will come from Aikaterini Nikolaidou. The Greek already has wins at the U23 world Championships and the Europeans. She must be a strong contender to add a world medal to her impressive seasons results.
My picks…Beltrame gold, Nikolaidou silver, Taupe-Traer bronze

LW2X
18 doubles. This event always produces excellent racing. As with the LW1X there have been different winners at each of the World Cups. The Kiwis, Julia Edward and Lucy Strack to the win in Sydney, building on their 9th place at the Olympics. They followed this up with a 3rd place at Lucerne. Winners at Dorney were the Germans Lena Mueller & Anja Noske. They won the silver at the Europeans and were “A Finalists at Lucerne. The Lucerne winners were the Italians, Laura Milani and Elisabetta Sancassani. These two also have gold from the Europeans. The only crew to race all three World Cups are the British, Kath Twyman and Imogen Walsh they have a 3rd, 2nd and 4th place finish so far this season. The 2011 LW4X World Champions will be wanting a place on the podium this year as well.
2nd to the Italians at Lucerne were the very impressive American double of Kristin Hedstrom and Kathleen Bertko. Despite not racing much this season they will be a major challenger for a medal in Korea.
Other crews to look out for include the Australians, Alice McNamara and Maia Simmonds, silver medallists from Sydney. Also look out for the Swedes, Cecilia Lilja and Emma Fredh (who has some fabulous tattoos!) who won bronze in Dorney and won the “B” final at Lucerne.
My picks…Italy gold, USA silver, GB bronze.

LW4X
9 crews. Not a huge amount of experience amongst these boats with only the Dutch having raced at Lucerne (albeit in a slightly different line-up). The Dutch quad includes Maaike Head and Rianne Sigmond who were 8th in the LW2X at London 2012.
The Chinese have 3 of the quad that finished 6th (and last) at the Eton Dorney World Cup. Their boat contains the youngest and oldest of the Chinese team…Na Lyu at the ripe old age of 17.5 and Qianwen Yang at just 15.5!
The Australian boat includes U23 LW2X finalists Georgia Nesbitt & Georgia Miansarow along with Alexandra Hayes who was 6th in this event in 2011 and debutant Hannah Clark.
The USA also have a boat of debutants but cannot be ruled out for a medal hunt.
My picks. Netherlands gold, Australia silver, USA bronze.

so that’s it. Racing starts tomorrow and it’s going to be brilliant. For those of you who follow me on twitter you may have seen that there is a little wager on the results. Sir Matt Pinsent and I have a bet with Rowing Illustrated’s Sean Wolf on who will win more medals, The USA or Team GB. This will be based on Olympic events only with gold scoring 3 points, silver 2 and bronze 1. The loser buys the winner(s) a case of beer…no pressure then for the Team GB guys!!
I’ll let you all know what happens!

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