It’s the start of the new season – hurrah!
As in 2013 the first World Cup of the season takes place down under at the fantastic Penrith Lakes course in Sydney. As in 2013 the entry is, how can I describe it….”thin”. But I think it’s a case of quality rather than quantity in some events.
2014 also marks the halfway point in the Rio Olympiad…things star to get real serious now and whilst we’ll have to wait until at least the 2nd World Cup for the British and Americans to show their hands, some of the entries at Sydney reveal a little about what some of the nations are thinking.
So, lets have a look at the events…
7 scullers. 2 Aussies, 3 Dutchmen a Chinaman and a Lithuanian. The Lithuanian, Mindaugas Griskonis, will start as favourite. He’s the only one of the “A” finalists from Chengju to be racing in Sydney and was also a “B” finalist at London 2012. Finishing 2 places behind Griskonis in London was China’s Liang Zhang. Zhang also raced the M1X at Chungju finishing 5th in the “B” final. But the main challenge to Griskonis will probably come from a trio of Dutchmen. Olivier Siegelaar and Jozef Klaassen have both come out of the Dutch Olympic 8 that finished 5th in London but rumours are that Dirk Uittenbogaard is the pick of the men in orange. 8th in the M4X last year, the word is that he is running the Dutch no.1 sculler, Roel Braas very close in training.
Of the two home scullers , Chris Morgan looks to be the fastest. He won a bronze in the M4X at the Olympics and was world champion in that boat class in 2011. Nicholas Purnell is more well known as a sweep oarsman with bronze medals in 2010 and 2011, but he raced in this event in 2013 finishing 13th.
My picks…I’m going for gold Lithuania, silver Morgan, bronze Uittenbogaard.
6 crews. This is going to be an intriguing contest between last years silver and bronze medalists. The Lithuanians, Rolandas Mascinskas and Saulius Ritter are a well established partnership taking 6th at the Olympics followed by a silver medal last year. 1.5 seconds behind the Lithuanians in 2013 were the Italians, Francesco Fossi and Romano Battisti. Battisti raced this event at the Olympics winning a silver medal. His partner, Fossi, raced in the quad and finished 11th. I expect these two crews to be ahead of the rest of the field. The Aussie no.1 boat includes Alex Belonogoff who was 8th last year and picked up an U23 bronze in 2012. He’s joined by Cameron Girdlestone, making his first international appearance since the U23’s in 2007. The 2nd Aussie boat has John Linke who was in the M8 that finished 4th in 2011 and Nick Hudson who was Australia’s single sculler the same year where he finished 18th.
The US have a new combination with Sam Stitt and William Cowles. Stitt was in the quad in 2011 finishing 8th and Cowles raced the quad at the Lucerne World Cup in 2013.
The final boat in this event are the Danes, Sverri Nielsen and Sophus Johannesen. Nielsen raced the U23’s last year and Johannesen was 12th in this event in 2013.
My picks….Another gold for Lithuania with the Italians in silver and Australia 1 in bronze.
6 crews. There is a Kiwi pair, and it does contain Murray, but it’s Thomas and not Eric. He’s joined by Alex Kennedy who were both out of the U23 World champion 8. They have mighty shoes to fill representing New Zealand in the M2-. But the favourites will be the Dutch, Rogier Blink and Mitchel Steenman. This pair were 3rd last year and in the 5th place Olympic 8. Sydney offers then a great opportunity to pick up a gold in the M2- and not too many people outside of New Zealand have done that in the last few years! The 2nd Dutch boat has Vincent Van der Want from last years 5th place 8 and debutant Geert Hemminga. The Chinese have 2 boats, neither with much form, Kang Guo last raced internationally at the Beijing Olympics and his partner Fengzhi An at the 3rd World Cup in 2010.The host have a young, inexperienced crewwith Jed Nicolle making his international debut and Nathan Bowden his senior debut having raced the Junior Worlds in 2011.
My picks…the Dutch no.1 crew to take the gold with the young Kiwis in silver and the 2nd dutch boat in bronze.
6 crews. This could turn into a fascinating battle. The Dutch world champions will want to start the defence of their title with a victory. They are unchanged from the crew that won spectacularly in Chengju. Australia, on the other hand, have split their silver medal crew into two boats. Australia 1 contain 4 guys who all rowed together in the bronze medal U23 8 in 2012. Alex Lloyd and Spencer Turrin moved to the M4- in 2013 and Angus Moore and Alex Hill went into the senior 8. The other have of the silver medal crew, Will Lockwood and Josh Dunkley-Smith are in Australia 2. They are joined by Scott Laidler from the 2013 M8 and Fergus Pragnell from the 2011 M8. Australia also have 2 more 4’s in this six-boat event, so they are guaranteed at least a bronze!
Australia 3 includes 2008 Olympic M2X champion, David Crawshay (8th in the M2X last year) along with Josh Booth from the 2012 M8, returning to the Australian team after quitting last year to focus on his medical training. Sam Hookway is making his senior debut after being part of the bronze medal U23 8 last in 2012. The final member of the crew, Thomas Larkins is also returning to the Aussie team having taken a break in 2013. In 2012 he raced at the Lucerne World Cup and in the previous year was Australia’s representative (with Cameron Mckenzie-Mcharg).
The 4th Aussie boat is a new look lightweight 4. Nicholas Silcox, Alister Foot and Darryn Purcell won silver in the LM8 last year (with Foot and Purcell being world champions in that event in 2011). They are joined by Sam Beltz from the 2012 Olympic LM4-.
The final crew in this event are the Kiwis, all doubling up in the M8, Brook Robertson, Isaac Grainger, Shaun Kirkham & Stephen Jones all are U23 world champions from 2013.
My picks…you have to expect the Dutch to take the gold, with Australia 2 in silver & Australia 1 in bronze.
Just 4 crews. The Chinese are being their usual, enigmatic selves. Jian Ma and Zhiyu Liu are both making their international debuts they are joined by Quan Zhang (9th M4X 2010) and Cunming Li (12th M4X at World Cup 3 in 2010). The Russians have a young crew with last year’s JM2X the 19 year old Evgenii Kashirin and Pavel Sorin. They are joined by two debutants, Maxim Babadzanov and Semen Yaganov. I have a feeling the might be a little out of their depth in this event. The home nation have 2 boats racing. Australia 2 have a mix of youth and experience. The experience comes from James Mcrae, world champion in 2011 and Olympic bronze medalist in 2012.The youth in this crew comes from the other 3, Hamish Playfair is making his senior debut having been in the U23 quad last year, David Watts raced the single at last year’s Sydney World Cup and Kieran Kobeleke in the quad at the Lucerne WC.
In Australia 1 are John Linke, Nick Hudson, Cameron Girdlestone and Alex Belonogoff – all of whom are doubling up in the M2X.
My picks…who knows what the Chinese will be like but I think it will be an Australian 1,2 with the gold going to the No.2 boat. I’ll plump for the Chinese to take the 3rd spot.
4 crews. The Dutch have made 2 changes from the crew that finished 5th in Chungju with Stefan Broenink and Tone Wieten replacing Rueben Knab & Vincent Van Der Want. They are the only crew not doubling up at the regatta. New Zealand have their great and exciting world champion U23 crew. Australia have 2 eights. The lead boat has their 2103 silver medal M4- along with Scott Laidlaw, Angus Moore and Alex Hill from last year’s crew with the final seat being filled by Fergus Pragnell. The 2nd Aussie boat is less illustrious but includes Olympians David Crawshay, James Chapman and Josh Booth.
My picks…this is going to be a really close battle. I’ll plump for the Dutch in 1st with Australia 1 in 2nd and the young Kiwis 3rd.
on to the Women’s events.
9 scullers. This promises to be the race of the regatta with the top 3 from 2013 all racing. Last year was all about Australia’s Kim Crow. She was unstoppable in 2013 and will be hoping to pick up in 2014 where she left off and with home support she must be starting as favourite. Her nemesis may well be the Olympic champion, Mirka Knapkova. 3rd place for the Czech last year was her worst result in a major championships since 2010 where she missed a medal entirely. What’ll be interesting is how she bounces back from that (relative) disappointment. Singles races at this point in the season are always difficult to call as some, especially the southern hemisphere scullers, are more “race-ready” than the northern athletes. The Aussies and Kiwis are coming towards the end of their summer season whereas the Europeans and North Americans are just emerging from winter. Hoping to benefit from this is last year’s silver medalist, Emma Twigg of New Zealand. I’m anticipating that these 3 will be going to head to head all season and it’ll be a ding-dong battle every time. But it’s not just about these 3. The Germans have Marlene Sinnig, more known for her sweep achievements than sculling, and the up and coming Marie-Catherine Arnold. Arnold has won medals at U23 level for the last 3 years (including gold in 2011). The 22 year old is making her debut in the senior ranks and this will be a great experience. China have 3 scullers with Weiwei Zhu probably the pick of the bunch. She raced in the W2X at the London Olympic just missing a medal. The other 2, Jingli Duan and Yan Jiang raced together in the W2X at the 2011 Worlds finishing 8th. The final sculler racing in Sydney is Estonia’s Kaisa Pajusalu. The 2010 U23 silver medalist was 5th in this race last year, a position she may well repeat this year.
My picks….it’s difficult not to go with the World Champion, I think she’ll be clear for Mirka in silver with Twigg taking bronze.
11 crews. Lithuania’s “Sports team of the year 2013”, world champions Donata Vistartaite and Milda Valciukaite were one of the exceptional crews in world rowing last year.They have been unbeaten since Grainger and Watkins hung-up their sculls. As with the other World Champions racing at Sydney they will be looking to start the new season with a win. They will definitely be starting as favourites but they will face some serious opposition. The German’s have some serious fire-power with W4X world champions Julia Richter and Annekatrin Thiele doubling. The German’s also have last years 5th placed double Julia Lier and Marieke Adams. The final German boat includes another of the W4X world champions, Carina Baer joined by Marlene Sinnig (doubling up in the W1X)
Poland are doubling up in the quad and have the same crew that finished 3rd last year. Magdalena Fularczyk partners Natalia Madaj with Sylvia Lewandowska accompanying Joanna Leszczynska. Bragging rites as well as medals will be important for these two boats….you always want to beat your teammates!
Canada have entered 3 women’s crews at the first World Cup but its an example of quality over quantity. The Canadian W2X are both from the 2013 silver medal quad, Carling Zeeman and Antje Von Seylitz-Kurzbach. The home nation has 2 crews entered with Olympian Sally Kehoe partnering 2012 U23 world champion Olympia Aldersey and Olympian Tess Gerrand with Sarah Perkins. The final 2 crews entered are the Danes with the same crew (Mette Petersen & Lisbet Jakobsen)that finished 6th last year and the Vietnamese lightweights, the Pham Thi sisters.
11 crews from 5 nations. This looks as though it could be a good tight battle. There is no obvious stand-out combination. The Kiwis have a new pair with last year’s silver medalist Rebecca Scown forming a new partnership with Louise Trappitt. Trappitt took a break after a 7th place finish in the Quad at London and rumour is these two have formed a very effective partnership. The Canadians have 2 crews racing containing 3 of last years bronze medal W8. In Canada 1 is Christine Roper and Ashley Brzozowicz. Ashley last raced at this regatta last year following 3 consecutive silver medals in the W8 from 2010-12. Canada 2 have Natalie Mastracci and Susanne Grainger from last years W8.
The USA have only bought 3 crews to the regatta and 2 of them are in this event. USA 1 has Agatha Nowinski making her senior debut after a couple of years in the U23 team, joined by the experienced Kara Kohler (bronze medalist in the W4X at the Olympics). In USA 2, Rosemary Popa and Kendall Chase are both making their senior debuts. Popa was in the U23 squad in 2011-12 and Chase won silver in the Junior Worlds in 2012.
The host nation have 4 boats entered (I assume this was meant to be a W8 but due to insufficient entries they’ve split into pairs). Aus 1 have half of the U23 world champion 4-, Charlotte Sutherland and Lucy Stephan with Aus 2 containg a 3rd member of that crew, Alexandra Hagan. Hagan is partnered by Olympian Pauline Frasca. Aus 3 has Katrina Bateman from last year’s 8 along with U23 Georgina Gotch and the final Aussie boat has Renee Chatterton, also from last year’s 8 along with international debutant Mercantile RC’s Michelle Yann.
The final 2 boats entered are the Chinese, neither of which have much form. China 1 have Min Zhang and Tian Miao. Miao was a junior bronze medalist in 2009 and Zhang 5th in the W4X in 2011. Both the athletes in the China 2 crew (Linlin Guo and Liqin Yi) are making their international debuts.
My picks….it’s going to be close, but I’m going for gold for New Zealand with silver for Canada 2 and bronze to USA1.
This should be a relative cake-walk for the Germans. They have 3 of the World Champion crew with U23 World Champion Lisa Schmidla replacing Carina Baer. The silver is likely to go to the Poles who have the same crew that took bronze behind the Germans last year and are all doubling up in the W2X. Bronze medalists are likely to be the hosts with 3 of last years quad which finished 8th. the 4th member of the crew is the highly experienced Kerry Hore another of the 2012 Olympians returning to international action. At the back of the field are the Vietnamese all of who are lightweights.
As mentioned above, a straightforward gold for Germany with Poland in silver and Australia bronze.
Finally the lightweight events…
9 scullers. No great stand out sculler is this all Australasian contest. On Hong Kong’s Wai Kin Wong raced this event at last year’s World Championships finishing 23rd. Hong Kong have two other scullers in this event, Hoi Kwan Lok and Chiu Mang Tang. Both of these guys were in the lightweight quad last year finishing a respectable 6th. Australia have entered 2 scullers. racing as Australia 1 is Richard Coakley. The 30 year old has not raced internationally since finishing 10th in the LM4- at the Beijing Olympics, indeed according to the ROMS database he has not raced at all since the Aussie Championships in 2011. Racing as Australia 2 is international debutant Jackson Harrison. The Melbourne University BC member stroked their 8 to gold in the Victoria State championships in a crew that included the likes of Will Lockwood, Josh Booth and Sam Hookway. The other 3 scullers are Nadzine Hamazah of Singapore (14th in the LM1X in 2010), Vietnam’s Llnh Van Nguyen (16th LM2X 2013) and Luigi Teilemb form the pacific island of Vanuatu.
My picks….difficult to choose but I’ll go for Kwan Hoi Lok in gold, Jackson Harrison in silver and Chiu Mang Tang in bronze.
9 crews. Favourites have to be the Greeks. Spyridon Giannaros and Eleftherios Konsolas were world champions in the LM4X last year. The hosts have 2 crews entered with the most experienced being the Aussie 1 boat of Perry Ward and Adam Kachyckyj who have raced together for a couple of years, last year they were 5th in the LM4X behind the Greeks and in 2012 they were also 5th in the LM8. The 2nd Aussie boat are the Day brothers Will and Tim from Nagambie Rowing Club, they were Open M2X champions at the Victoria State Championships earlier this year. Not sure if the Aussie’s will get among the medals. More likely the lesser medals will go to the Hong Kong team. They have split their 6th placed LM4X from last year across 3 doubles. Their lead boat are Kwong Wing Chow and Chiu Mang Tang. The 2nd HK boat is Ki Cheong Kwan and the veteran Hiu Fung Law who represented his country at the Beijing Olympics finishing in the “D” final.
My picks…Greece by some distance ahead of Hong Kong 1 with Hong Kong 2 in 3rd.
14 entries. The largest entry of any event at the World Cup. Pick of the bunch is China’s Wenyi Huang. She was part of the Chinese double that took silver behind the British at the London Olympics. I’ll be surprised if anyone gets too close to her. The main threat will probably come from teammates Miao Wang, who was 8th in the LW1X in 2012, and Dandan Pan who was 4th in the LW4X in 2011. Australia have 2 scullers with the pick being Sarah Pound who was part of the silver medal U23 LW4X last year. The Koreans have 4 scullers, 3 of whom (Sol Ji Kim, Yeonhee Park & Hyewon Jung) were in the LM4X last year that came sixth. Look out also for Ireland’s sole representative at the regatta, Claire Lambe who was 14th last year.
My picks…China in 1,2,3…Huang, Pan & Wang.
Just 4 crews. favourites will be the Kiwi pair of Julia Edward and Lucy Strack, these two were 5th last year with Edward 9th at the Olympics. The main challenge will come from the 2 Aussie boats. Australia 2, Hannah Every-Hall and Maia Simmonds. Every-Hall was 5th at the Olympics with Simmonds 7th in last year’s World Championships. In Australia 1 Ella Flecker raced the LW1X last year coming 5th in the “B” final accompanied by Georgia Nesbitt who was 5th in the LW4X. The final entry are the Czechs, Monika Novakova II and Marketa Pazderkova. Novakova is making her senior debut following 3 years in the U23 squad. Pazderkova raced at the European Championships last year finishing 11th.
My picks….gold for the Kiwis ahead of the 2 Australian boats.
So there you go….it’ll be difficult to draw too many conclusions for the rest of 2014 based on what happens in Sydney….the 2nd World Cup (not to mention the World Championships) is a long way off.