This weekend sees the first major regatta of the European season, The European Championships. This year they are taking place in Belgrade. Fortunately the venue has escaped the terrible flooding that has afflicted parts of Serbia and the championships will be going ahead as planned.
In most years the European Champs are held towards the end of the season and are used by a lot of the bigger European rowing nations to “blood” new athletes. This year is different. With the first World Cup being held early in the season in Australia the likes of Germany and GB are using the European’s as their season opener, and as such they are sending full strength teams to the championships. Indeed for the British it’s the first time they have ever sent a full team to the championships.( I gave a rundown of the GB team in an earlier blog if you haven’t already read it).
This means that for the majority of events the entry list is very, very, strong…so without further ado here is my look at the runners and riders:
23 scullers. Possibly the event of the championships. The entry includes 5 of the 6 “A” finalists from last years World Championships (Just Cuba’s Miguel Angel Fournier is missing…for obvious reasons).
Ondrej Synek of the Czech Republic dominated the single scull event last season winning the world championships in imperious style. With Drysdale still trying to recover his form it seems there is no-one really out there who can challenge Synek this year. But, The “old man” of Norway…Olaf Tufte has thrown his hat back into the ring for another shot at Olympic glory. Tufte hasn’t raced since his disappointing 9th in London, but he’s hardly been sitting with his feet up sipping margaritas….as this picture shows!
The 38 year old has been keeping himself fit and busy with lots of farming and farming competitions. It’s great to see him back on the water to show these “young pups” how it should be done!
The Norwegian is the oldest competitor in the field, but not by much! Germany’s Marcel Hacker is 363 days younger than Tufte. Hacker has had a bit of resurgence in his career in 2013. At Chungju he finished in bronze medal position (nearly catching the Cuban on the line) following a 6th place finish at the London Olympics. Hacker can be a mercurial sculler however, on form he can challenge the best in the world but there are races where he appears almost disinterested and finishes out the back. Depending which Hacker appears on the startline in Belgrade he could mount a serious challenge to Synek.
4th in Chungju was GB’s Alan Campbell. The Ulsterman had a disappointing (by his standards) 2013 finishing out of the medals at a major championships for the first time since the Beijing Olympics. In 2014 he was beaten into 3rd at the GB trials and subsequently disqualified for being late to the start and then false starting. He admits that he was not in top form at the trials and there has been considerable pressure to move him into the double. But, he’s getting another shot in the boat class he’s been racing in for 9 years and will want to kick off the international season with medal at the very least.
One of the rising stars of the single scull in the last year or so is the Netherlands Roel Braas. He first appeared on the 1X radar back in 2009 when he became U23 World Champion. But from 2011-12 he swapped 2 oars for one and was part of a very good Dutch 8. Last season he switched back to the single and came 5th at Chungju. He will also be right up there fighting for the medals.
The last of the Chungju finalists racing the single at Belgrade is Lithuania’s Mindaugus Griskonis. He’s the only one in the field who traveled down-under to race at the Sydney World Cup where he finished 2nd. An undoubtedly talented, if a tad agricultural technically, he may find the pace a little hot in Belgrade.
Perhaps the main challenge to the World Champion will come from a fellow world champion. The Croatian M4X won last year but are not competing in Belgrade so as a result Martin Sinkovic is racing in the single. In the world of Single Sculling the 24 year old is a mere lad, but what he has achieved so far in his career is incredible, a World Champion at 20 in 2010 and an Olympic silver medalist in 2012 and a world champion for a 2nd time in 2013. It’s going to be very interesting to see how he translates his speed in the quad into the single and how he gets on against Synek.
Another of the “old guard” racing in this event is Slovenia’s Luka Spik…Spik seems to have been around for ever although he’s “only” 35. Spik has raced at 5 Olympics already and made his international debut as a junior way back in 1994! Unfortunately he got a DNS at Chungju but is still perfectly capable of getting among the medals.
so those are the main contenders in the 1X, as for the medals? It’s hard to pick anyone other than Synek for the win but I’ll go for Hacker in silver and Roel Braas in bronze.
21 crews. Yet another high class field with the top four from last year’s World Championships taking part. Leading the way will be the World champions from Norway, the “Vikings” Kjetil Borch and Nils Jakob Borch. The performance of the Norwegian squad was one of the revelations of the season last year. The challenge now is whether they can carry that performance into the new season. Half way through the Olympic cycle and things now get very, very serious and the competition will be more fierce than last year. Leading the charge against another Viking invasion will be the young Lithuanians. 21 year old Roland Mascinskas and 23 year old Saulius Ritter finished just over a second behind the Norwegians at Chungju and they are an exciting young combination. They are one of the few European crews to have raced at the 1st World Cup in Sydney and won comfortably ahead of the no.1 Australian boat.
Another of the double which raced in Sydney were the Italians Francesco Fossi and Romano Battisti. They finished 3rd down under, a position that mirrored their finish at the World Championships.
The German’s have changed their line-up slightly from the crew that finished 4th at the World Championships. Stephan Krueger is now joined by Hans Gruhne. These two have raced as a double before taking silver in 2011 and we’ll have to see whether they can recapture that sort of form.
The British have completely changed their line-up from last year. With John Collins and Jonno Walton replacing Matt Langridge and Bill lucas. Last season Walton raced the first 2 World Cups as the 2nd M1X before switching to the M4X for the final World Cup as a sub for Graeme Thomas. At the recent final trials he won the B final. John Collins finished 4th at the final trials and spent last season on the verges of the senior squad, racing in the quad at the first World Cup. They have raced together before, competing in the M4X at the European championships in 2012 winning the “B” Final. They are an exciting and young combination, they may find the competition too hot to get a medal but they will be expecting a strong “A” final showing.
Another exciting young combination are the Azerbaijani’s Boris Yotov and Aleksandar Aleksandrov. Yotov is the youngest competitor in the event at just 18, but he won bronze at the Junior World Championships last year. His partner, Aleksandrov, is one of the most exciting talents in world sculling. The 24 year old raced in the songle at the World Championships in 2011 and 2013 and the Olympics in London. This combination raced at the World Cup last year in Eton and finished 4th. It remains to be seen if they carry on in the 2X or whether he goes back into the 1X at Amsterdam. I think if he stays fit and healthy he will win a major 1X medal in the next few years and has the potential to dominate the event at the Tokyo Olympiad.
The final double to highlight are the Estonians; Tonu Endrekson and Andrei Jamsa. These two were in the Estonian quad that finished 4th at the Olympics and will also be “there or there abouts”.
My picks….I’ve got a sneaking feeling this might be the Lithuanian’s year just ahead of the Norwegians with Italians in 3rd
16 pairs. The leading contenders will be the Dutch, Rogier Blink and Mitchel Steenman. They won the first world cup at won bronze in Chungju. They are a pair with a very strong pedigree and both have 2 Olympic “A” finals to their names. The French were the top pair behind the all-conquering Kiwis but they have changed their line-up with Mortelette and Chardin moving into the 8. Instead the French now have a combination of youth an experience with the 19 year old Valentin Onfroy joined by Laurent Cadot, 10 years his senior. Cadot won bronze in the coxed pair last year but they may struggle to reach the “A” final this year.
Another new line-up this year are the British. Nathanial Reilly-O’Donnell and Alan Sinclair raced together in the 4- last year and finished 5th. They have raced together as a pair for a number of years and finished 3rd at the GB Senior Trials in both 2013 and 2014. They have formed an excellent, consistent combination. They may not match the speed of the Dutch but they will be strong contenders for a medal.
The biggest challenge to the Dutch may well be the Spanish. Alexander Sigurbjonsson Benet and Pau Vela Maggi are one of the best crews to come out of Spain for a long time and just missed out on a medal in this event at Chungju. I would expect them to be very strong medal contenders in Belgrade.
The Germans are another nation with a new pair this season with 2012 U23 World Champion Bastian Bechler joined by Anton Braun. Braun was in the M8 that lost to the British in Chungju and has now lost his seat in the top boat. They both will be wanting to make a point to their coaches with a strong performance in Belgrade.
I would also look out for the Italians Marco Di Costanzo and Matteo Castaldo who finished 6th last year, and also the Poles Konrad Wojewodzic and Mateusz Wilangowski, both these 22 year olds won bronze in the the U23 8 last year.
My picks…The Dutch for the win with the Spanish in silver and GB in bronze.
12 crews. The world champions from Croatia are not racing in Belgrade, but all 5 of the other “A” finalists are.This could turn into a battle between last year’s silver and bronze medalists. The British quartet of Graeme Thomas, Pete Lambert, Charlie Cousins and Sam Townsend, created history in Chungju by becoming the first British heavyweight men’s quad to win a world championship medal. They very nearly won silver finishing just 4/10ths behind the Germans. For their part the Germans have rejigged their crew from last year with just Karl Schulze and Tim Grohmann remaining. But these 2 are joined by their teammate from the Olympic winning crew, Philipp Wende who makes his return to international competition following a year’s break after winning gold in London. The 4th member of the crew is the latest young superstar of German sculling, Kai Fuhrmann. He won bronze at the U23 championships last year following a gold at the Junior Worlds in 2012.
It’s great to see the Ukrainians out in force at this regatta given all the problems they currently face I’m sure the Belgrade crowd will give them a special cheer. The M4X offers perhaps their best chance for a medal. They have an unchanged line-up from the quartet that finished less than a second behind the British in Chungju (Dmytro Mikhay, Artem Morozov, Olexandr Nadtoka & Ivan Dovgodko), just missing out on the medals.
Another crew unchanged from Chungju are the Estonians (Kuar Kuslap, Allar Raja, Sten-Erik Anderson, Kaspar Taimsoo) they finished 5th last year. The final crew from last year’s World championship “A” final are the Swiss. This is such an exciting young combination. They have made one change from last year with junior bronze medalist Damien Tollardo replacing David Areggar. This crew has an average age of just 20 and are threatening to become major contenders in the next few years…there is some British interest in this boat as Barnade Delarze is a student at Imperial College in London.
The final crew to mention are the Poles. They have such a proud tradition in this boat class but have struggled to find a new quartet to match the exploits of their Olympic gold medal winning crew from Beijing. But in thier new line-up is the very exciting prospect Natan Wegrzycki-Szymczyk. The 19 year old is the reigning world junior champion in the single scull and is definitely one to watch for the future.
My picks….I’ve got a sneaking suspicion the Brits might snatch this from the Germans with the Ukrainians in 3rd.
16 crews. In Britain this is the event that really matters. Having prioritised the M8 in 2013 and returned with a gold medal, Jurgen Grobler has switched back to the M4-. The British consider this to be “their” boat having won gold at every Olympics this century. They have put together a completely different line-up to last years boat and the surprise is that Andy Hodge and Pete Reed will not be racing together. Reed has suffered from allergies and has seen his performance drop off. In his place comes George Nash. He joins Hodge, Alex Gregory and Moe Sbihi. Many in GB see this as a “dream team” and rumours are that this boat is absolutely flying in training. The showdown in Belgrade will be with the Dutch who, somewhat unexpectedly, won the World Championships last year. But, the Dutch have also made changes to their line-up with Kaj Hendriks being replaced by Olivier Siegelaar who was in the Dutch Olympic 8 in London.
Behind these 2 the Italians will probably be the leaders of the pack. They have an unchanged line-up from the crew that finished 4th (Matteo Lodo, Paolo Perino, Mario Paonessa & Guiseppe Vicino). Also watch out for the Germans. They always prioritise the 8 but have rejigged the 4 with only one of the crew remaining from last year (Toni Siefert). They now have 2 of last year’s silver medal 8 onboard (Kristof Wilke and Max Munski) with the final seat being filled by Bjoern Birkner from the U23 8. Also watch for the Greeks with Ioannis Tsilis and Georgios Tziallas from the 4th placed Olympic 4- joined by U23 internationals Apostolas Lampridis and Dionysios Angelopolous.
My picks….The British will expect (and demand) a victory and I’m pretty certain they’ll deliver. The Dutch will have a battle on their hands for silver with the Italians and I think the Italians will get the better of them.
12 crews. The German’s were gutted to lose to the British last year and have rejigged their line-up in a bid to reclaim their World crown. They only have 2 of the crew that lost to the British (Eric Johannesen and Felix Drahotta) Coming into the crew is Olympic champion Andreas Kuffner returning after a year away, and 3 of last year’s M4- (Max Planer, Felix Wimberger & Malte Jakschik). Whether this is the German’s fastest combination remains to be seen.
The World Champion British have also made significant changes to the crew with just Will Satch retaining his seat. Leading the crew is Olympic Champion Pete Reed. As mentioned above he’s been struggling for form this season. This has now been attributed to a dog hair allergy. With this now resolved he’s fighting his way back to top form and will be after a seat in the top boat. Reed has been quite harsh on the 8’s performance. He has said in interview that he thinks they will struggle to make the “A” final, although subsequently he’s been saying that they have been going from strength to strength.Joining Satch and reed are Matt Tarrant and Scott Durant from the 2013 4- along with James Foad who raced in the 2- last year. Foad had a wretched start to 2013 suffering a bad injury and fought his way back to fitness by the start of the regatta season, but too late to retake his seat in the 8. Now he’s at full fitness he’s taken the all important stroke seat. They might not have the speed to match the Germans but they will be medal contenders and with the likes of Tom Ransley, Dan Ritchie and Stan Louloudis to come back into the crew later in the season they could still mount a significant bid to retain their world title in Amsterdam.
The Polish have made one change to the crew that finished 4th in Chungju with U23 bronze medalist Robert Fuchs replacing Rafal Hejmej. This crew were beaten by the German’s at Duisberg (finishing a length ahead of British University Oxford Brookes).
The French have also put together a “big” 8 with 5 of last years 6th placed crew being joined by the silver medal 2- Germain Chardin & Dorian Mortelette. But, there are rumours that all is not well in the French camp. This boat was due to include Olympic bronze medalist Julien Bahain. But, Bahain has quit France altogether and is seeking selection for Canada (for whom he has dual citizenship).
The final crew to highlight are the Dutch. they have 6 of last years crew with returning Olympian Jozef Klaassen and newcomer Stefan Broenink joining the crew.
My picks…The Germans should win comfortably with the Poles in silver and the British sneaking a bronze.
Now onto the Women’s events:
15 scullers. Olympic champion Mirka Knapkova is the no.1 sculler in Europe at the moment and she should have no trouble with the competition in Belgrade. She raced at the first world cup in Sydney but was beaten into 4th by Emma Twigg, Kim Crow and Jingli Duan.
Behind Knapkova it could be quite a bunfight lead by Austria’s Magdelena Lobnig. she was 4th in Chungju and is the 2012 U23 world champion. Germany’s Annekatrin Thiele won gold in the quad last year and has an Olympic silver to her name as well. She’s no stranger to racing the 1X having finished 6th in the event in 2011.
One of the most experienced scullers in the field is the 41 year old Russian, Julia Levina. her 8th placed showing last year shows that she’s still able to mix it with the best.
At the other end of the age spectrum is Ukraine’s Natalyia Dovgodko. The 23 year old was in the W4X that won gold at the Olympics. Last year she switched to the single scull and has not yet recaptured the medal winning form, finishing 9th last year.
Also look out for the Italian, Giada Colombo who was in the quad last year that finished 6th
My picks…Knapkova quite comfortably for the gold with Thiele in silver and Lobnig in 3rd.
13 crews. This looks to be a very competitive field lead by the world champions from Lithuania, Donata Vistartaite and Milda Valciukaite. At just 24 and 20 respectively these two could dominate this event for years to come. Leading the challenge will be the British. In a change to last year’s crew 33 year old Fran Houghton (bidding to compete at her 5th Olympic Games) is joined by Vicky Thornley. Thornley raced in the 1X last year winning the “B” final. The hope is that this combination will fly and uphold the legacy laid down by Katherine Grainger and Anna Watkins.
In the Belorussian double is the legend that is Ekaterina Karsten now aiming for her 6th Olympics (if she makes it to Rio she’ll be 43!) She’s joined by Tatsiana Kukhta, 18 years her junior, who raced in the Quad last year and has an U23 bronze from 2012.
The German’s, Lisa Schmidla and Carina Baer raced in the quad at the first World Cup finishing 2nd. Baer is a reigning World Champion in the quad and Schmidla also has a gold medal from last year from the U23 quad. They perhaps might offer the biggest challenge to the Lithuanians.
The final crew to highlight at the Poles, Magdelena Fularczyk and Natalia Madaj. They were both in the Quad that came 3rd last year and both also raced at the Olympics with Fularczyk coming away with a bronze medal in the W2X.
My picks…Lithuania look too strong for everyone else but I’ll pick the British to just pip the Germans for silver.
11 crews. Another event with the reigning world champions taking part. Helen Glover and Polly Swann dominated this event last year. But, this year it should’ve been Olympic champion Heather Stanning returning to the boat. But she’s injured so Polly is back. The main threat to the British will come from the Romanians. Nicoleta Albu and Cristina Grigoras raced in the W8 last year finishing 2nd with Albu also racing in the W2- coming 2nd to the British.
Chasing these two crew will be the Dutch, Aletta Jorritsma and Heleen Boers, both of whom were in the W8 that finished 6th last year and also the local crew Ivana Filipovic and Iva Obradovic who were 7th in this event last year. An outside chance of a medal are the Germans, the Davids twins Miriam and Sara. These two were U23 silver medalists.
My picks….the British “should” win comfortably with the Romanians in silver and the Dutch in bronze.
9 crews. I’m thinking this is going to be a showdown between the British and the Germans. Last year’s GB W4X was a little disappointing. But this year’s line up is quite different with Beth Rodford and Vicky Meyer-Laker coming into the crew along with returners Kristina Stiller and Lucinda Gooderham. This quartet should have a lot more speed than last year’s crew. But the favourites will be the Germans. They have put together a new quartet which includes Olympic silver medalist Julia Richter. She’s joined by last years W2X Julia Lier and Mareike Adams and U23 bronze medalist Marie-Catherine Arnold.
Ekaterina Karsten and Tatsiana Kukhta are doubling up in the W2X and W4X. In the bigger boat they are joined by Yuliya Bichyk and Katsiaryna Shliupskaya. Bichyk raced with Karsten in the double last year winning bronze and Shliupskaya was in last year’s quad which finished 10th. They may not challenge for the top spot but they won’t be far off the medals. Another country challenging for the medals will be the Polish. They have 2 of last years bronze medal winning crew, Joanna leszczynska and Sylwia Lewandowska. They are joined by U23 internationals Agnieszka Kobus and Joanna Dittmann.
Also watch out for the Dutch, with last year’s 5th place W2- Olivia van Rooijen and Elisabeth Hogerwerf. Joining them are two Olympians Claudia Belderbos and Carline Bouw.
My picks…Germany for the win with GB in silver and the bronze going to either the Dutch or the Belorussians.
9 crews. The Romanians will be hard to beat with half of the crew that won silver last year.They are joined by 2 reigning U23 world champions (Laura Oprea and Mihaela Petrila) and Olympian Adelina Cojocaru. They will be a tough crew to beat. The British will be the main challengers 5 of the crew that finished 4th last year along with Ros Bradbury and Monica Replh who were in the Quad last year and debutant Donna Etiebet. This crew includes the highly experienced Jess Eddie and Lou Reeve who have 2 Olympic appearances to their names already. Another medal contender are the Dutch, they’ve been trading blows with the British in this boat class for a number of years and half of the crew that finished 2 places behind the British last year. The rest of the field are a mixture of youth and experience. The Italians have 5 19 year olds on board, the backbone of their bronze medal junior crew from 2013. The French are mostly U23 internationals as are the Belorussians.
My picks.. Romania just ahead of the British with the Dutch in third.
Now onto the lightweights….
21 scullers. With last year’s World Champion Henrik Stephansen having another go at the LM2X (see below) the main challenger for gold will be Portugal’s Pedro Fraga. Having raced the LM2X at the Olympics he moved into the 1X last year finishing 4th. Chasing Fraga will be the trio of GB’s Adam Freeman-Pask, Italy’s Marcello Miani and Greece’s Panagiotis Magdanis.
Freeman-Pask raced in the LM4- last year winning the bronze. I had half expected him to retain his seat in the 4- or take a seat in the LM2X. But his results at GB trials didn’t justify that, so it’s the LM1X for him this season.
Magdanis was 8th in the Olympics and was part of the gold medal winning LM4X last year.
Miani is a former World Champion in this event from 2010 and raced to 12th in the LM4- at the Olympics.
Outside of these 4 look out for Michael Schmid of Switzerland who was 6th last year and in 2012 and also the young Irishman Paul O’Donovan who won bronze in the U23’s last year.
My pick….Fraga for gold, Freeman-Pask silver and Miani bronze
19 crews. This has possibly the most tantalising showdown… World Champions Norway v France. We were denied this showdown last year when Stany Delayre was injured (leaving Jeremie Azou to have an epic dual with Henrik Stephansen in the LM1X). The French were 4th at the Olympics but have been getting faster since then. The Norwegians produced a brilliant performance last year to take the title and it’s going to be an epic contest between the two of them. But it’s not just about these two. In fact this is one of the strongest fields for years The Swiss (Simon Schuerch and Mario Gyr) were silver medalists last year and were both part of the Olympic LM4- that finished 5th.
The Danes have a new coach, Brian Richardson, his task is straightforward….find a way to make Henrik Stephansen go fast in a double. Stephansen is a phenomenon….the first lightweight to break the 6 minute barrier for a 2K ergo and triple world champion. But, the magic formula to get a fast double has, so far, eluded them. Attempting the magic trick this season is Steffen Jensen. It remains to be seen how successful they are.
The Greeks (Eleftherios Konsolas and Spyridion Giannaros) won the first World Cup and were part of the gold medal winning LM4X last year, The Italians, Andrea Micheletti and Pietro Ruta, raced last year and finished just outside the medals.
Also making the “A” final last year were the German’s, Konstantin Steinhuebel and Lars Hartig. They finished 5th last year. Hartig also raced this boat class at the Olympics finishing 6th.
The British have put together a new double with Jamie Kirkwood and Will Fletcher. Kirkwood dominated the GB trials and was 8th in the LM1X last year. Fletcher has raced in the LM4- for the past couple of year and won silver at the Olympics. Kirkwood and Fletcher are no strangers to eachother though. They both made their international debuts together back in 2006 when the raced together in the LM2X for England at the Home International Championships.
My picks….tricky…..I’ll plump for the French in 1st with the Norwegians 2nd and Greece 3rd.
11 crews. Another epic showdown in prospect. The Danes have the same line up that won the world championships last year and must start as marginal favourites. But they will have their work cut out against the British. Pete and Richard Chambers have returned to the boat in which they won an Olympic silver medal. They are joining their crewmate from 2012, Chris Bartley and newcomer Mark Aldred. Aldred won bronze in the LM2- pair and has won his seat in the Olympic class boat through some excellent performances in winter training. This quartet can pose a real threat to the world Champions.
The French also have an unchanged line up from last year with the crew that finished 4th (Augustin Mouterde, Thomas Baroukh, Franck Solforosi & Guillaume Raineau). Another medal contender are the Italians (Livio la Padula, Armando Dell’Aquila, Martino Goretti and Elia Luini). This foursome are highly experienced especially the 34 year old Luini who has a hat full of medals to his name.
My picks….I reckon the British could take this ahead of the Danes with the Italians in 3rd.
14 crews. The leading contender are the Swiss, Simon Neipmann and Lucas Traner are reigning world champions in this event and were part of the LM4- that raced at the Olympics in 2012. Chasing the Swiss will be the British. Sam Scrimgeour was 3rd in this event last year and is joined by former U23 World champion Jonno Clegg. Clegg was in the LM4- last year but has moved to the pair for this season. The Italians also have a strong pair with the LM8 world champions Stefano Oppo and Paolo Di Girolamo. At 19 and 20 respectively they were world junior champions in 2012 and will undoubtedly be a force to reckon with in the next few years.
6th last year were the Portuguese, Paulo Fernandes Da Veiga and Nuno Goncalves Coelho. I don’t think they will be up at the sharp end of the “A” final but they won’t be far off.
Also watch out for the Greek pair, Georgios Konsolas & Nikolas Afentoulis. They were both in the LM4X that won silver in 2012.
My picks….Switzerland in gold ahead of the British with Italy in 3rd.
13 scullers. Perhaps the weakest of all the events at Belgrade with only one of the competitors from last year. Aikaterini Nikolaidou of Greece won silver in this event last year (and gold at the U23’s). She will start as clear favourite. Behind her the medals are likely to come from the Netherlands’ Marie-Anne Frenken who won gold in the LW4X in 2013 and possible Italy’s Giulia Pollini who was a bronze medalist in the LW4X. The British have a Charlotte Taylor of Putney Town Rowing Club making her international debut at the age of 29.
My picks…Greece are the clear favourites with Netherlands in silver and GB 3rd.
15 crews. Olympic champion Kat Copeland of GB makes her international return having taken 2013 out. She joins Imogen Walsh who was 4th in this event last year. Any crew with Copeland in it is going to be fast so the British must start as marginal favourites. But, they will have to get past the World Champions from Italy, Laura Milani and Elisabetta Sancassani. Also a big threat are the Germans, Anja Noske and Lena Mueller who were bronze medalists last year and 6th at the Olympics. These three boats are likely to be clear of the rest of the field. Leading the chasing pack will be the Swedes with Cecilia Lilja and Emma Fredh (who has some of the best tattoos on the circuit!)
My picks….GB ahead of Italy with the Germans in third.
So that’s it….a bit of a marathon but a lot to talk about at the start of the new season. It should be a great event with some excellent racing…