World Cup 2 – Preview part 2: the women’s and lightweights events

Now for part 2 of my preview….the women’s events…

 

W1X

21 scullers. Mirka Kanpkova is the reigning Olympic & European champion and will be lining up as the favourite in Aigubelette. but, whilst she dominates the field in Europe she faces a stiffer challenge from he competitors outside of Europe. Australia’s mighty Kim Crow is not racing at this World Cup, but it’ll be Emma Twigg of New Zealand who will pose the biggest challenge to Knapkova. Twigg produced an astonishing final sprint to pip Crow on the line at the first World Cup in Sydney relegating Knapkova to 4th. 3rd at Sydney was China’s Jingli Duan showing better speed than she has shown in previous years, whether she can repeat that sort of form in Europe remains to be seen.

 

 

3rd at the European Championships was Sanita Puspure of Ireland….a brilliant result for the Latvian-born Irishwoman. Another sculler who had an excellent performance at Belgrade was Chantal Achterberg of the Netherlands, she was 2nd to Knapkova just 0.5 secs behind the Olympic Champion..
Making her season’s debut is the 2010 world champion, Frida Svensson. The Swede has yet to recapture the sort of speed she showed in 2010 but she’s highly experienced and capable of beating anyone on her day.
Austria’s Magdelena Lobnig was 4th at Belgrade and it’ll be an excellent battle between her, Puspure and Achterberg.
Another sculler capable of beating anyone on her day is the US’s Gevvie Stone. She’s making her first FISA international appearance since winning the “B” final at the Olympics.
The final sculler to highlight is Germany’s Annekatrin Thiele. The 29 year old was 6th in the single at Belgrade but was in the World Championship winning W4X last year and also won a silver at the Olympics.
My picks….Twigg for the win ahead of Knapkova with Stone in 3rd.

W2X
16 doubles. This looks to be an extremely competitive event. The Aussies, Sally Kehoe and Olympia Aldersey were winners at the first World Cup beating the Lithuanian world champions and two very strong German doubles. But, they will face a stiff challenge from their Kiwi neighbours, Fiona Bourke and Zoe Stevenson. These two were silver medalists at Chungju and will possibly start as marginal favourites. But chasing them hard will be the legendary Ekaterina Karsten along with her partner Yuliya Bichyk. The Belorussians raced in the quad at Belgrade winning the gold ahead of the much-fancied Germans. As a double they raced at the Worlds last year and picked up a bronze.
The German’s have 2 doubles racing with the lead boat of Julia Richter and Marieke Adams. These two were in the quad at the Europeans finishing 2nd to the Belorussians. The 2nd German boat contains Marie-Catherine Arnold who was also in the quad at Belgrade, joined by 2 time Junior world champion Anne Beenken.
The Poles, Magdelena Fularczyk and Natalia Madaj had a good European championships as part of the quad picking up a bronze medal. They also won bronze in the W4X at the Worlds last year.
Inge Janssen of the Netherlands won bronze in the W2X at the Europeans but she has a different partner for Aiguebelette – Claudia Belderbos who was 4th in the quad at the Europeans (and an Olympic bronze medalists from the W8).
The British, Vicky Thornley and Fran Houghton are possibly the tallest crew in the event with Thornley at 6ft 3 and Houghton 6ft 4. Houghton is the most experienced member of the GB squad and as a double she and Thornley have great potential. They were 5th at Belgrade and will be looking for a strong “A” final finish this time.
The final crew to flag up are the Americans, Meghan O’Leary and Ellen Tomek. The US are renowned for producing incredibly powerful crews and these two are no exception. They raced together at the World Championships last year winning the “B” final, a step up to the “A” final will be a good result for them.
So my picks….it’s difficult…possibly the Kiwis ahead of the Belorussians with the Aussies 3rd

W2-
16 pairs. If the M2- is all about the Kiwis then the women’s version is all about the British. Helen Glover and Heather Stanning are the Olympic Champions and totally dominated the event in 2012. In 2013 with Stannnig away on military service Glover continued to dominate the event with Polly Swann. Stanning’s return to the boat was delayed due to fitness issues for Belgrade – not that it made much difference to the result as Swann stepped back in and duly won gold (as an aside that made Helen Glover the reigning Olympic, World, European, National and Henley champion – a feat only shared by Alex Gregory from the GB M4-).
But, I fully expect the competition to be much, much tougher at the World Cup than the European Championships. This is mainly due to the presence of the Kiwis and a fleet of American boats.
The New Zealanders, Rebecca Scown and Louise Trappitt, were winners at the first World Cup and bronze medalists at Chungju. They will be hoping to push the British all the way and maybe even rattle them enough to slip up.
The Americans are all doubling up in the W8 (an event they will surely dominate) so they are all reigning world champions and extremely powerful. They will probably be looking to make quick starts to try and rattle the British.
Also doubling up in the W8 are the Canadians, Natalie Mastracci and Susanne Grainger. They were bronze medalists in the W8 last year and will be strong challengers in this field as well.
The British have a 2nd W2- racing as well with Monica Relph and Olivia Carnegie-Brown who were both in the W8 at the Europeans where they picked up a silver medal.
My picks for the medals….GB1 for gold (which I think will be fairly comfortable) with the Americans and New Zelanders battling it out for silver & Bronze (which I think the Kiwis will win).

W4X
11 crews.
This should be another very closely fought contest with the Germans, containing half the crew that won the World Championships last year (along with Julia Lier from the 5th placed W2X in 2013 and the reigning U23 1X world champion, Lisa Schmidla), up against the Canadians who have the same line up that took the silver medal behind the Germans at Chungju (Emily Cameron, Katharine Goodfellow, Carling Zeemann & Antje Von Seydlitz-Kurzbach).
The Germans were beaten by the Belorussians at Belgrade, but they are not racing in this event at the World Cup. Behind these two are the 3rd and 4th placed quads from Belgrade, the Poles and the Dutch. Poland have made one change to their crew from Belgrade with Maria Springwald replacing Johanna Ditmann. The Dutch have also made one change to their European Championships line up with Nicole Beukers coming in for Caludia Belderbos.
The British are unchanged from the crew that finished 5th at Belgrade and will be hoping for a stronger performance. They are a very talented crew but have yet to really “click” and the crew is very much a “work in progress”. When they do click they will be strong medal contenders.
The Kiwis have brought a crew containing 3/4 who won the “B” final last year with Lucy Spoors (an U23 bronze medalist from 2012) replacing Genevieve Armstrong. They, too, will be looking to make a step on from 2013 and make the “A” final.
The US are beginning to develop a strong reputation in this event with a 5th place finish last year following a superb bronze medal in 2012. At Aiguebelette they have two boats entered both of whicg have a mixture of youth and experience. The number 1 boat is lead by Olympic gold medalist, Eleanor Logan. Logan spent last season in the W1X and finished a very strong 5th at Chungju. She’s joined by World W4- champion Felice Mueller and two debutants; Grace Latz from the University of Washington and Tracy Eisser from Cornell.
The 2nd US boat contains 2 of the world championship winning W4- Olivia Coffey and Tessa Gobbo. They are joined by Olympic bronze medalist Adrienne Martelli and 2012 U23 world champion Heidi Robbins. Both these US boats are strong looking crews and could well surprise a few of the established crews.

My picks….I reckon the Germans will take it over the Canadians with the US1 boat in 3rd.

W8
5 crews.
For my money there are three crews in world rowing that so dominate their event that the rest of the world is racing for silver and bronze; the Kiwi M2-, the GB W2- and the US W8.
The US women are unbeaten at World championships or Olympics since 2005 and it’s hard to see their run coming to an end at Aiguebelette. They have made one change to the crew that won the world championships last year, with the highly experienced Megan Kalmoe swapping two blades for one as she switches from the sculling squad to the sweep (something she’s not done internationally since winning the U23 W4- title back in 2005!) replacing Emily Regan.
The Canadians will be hoping to lead the charge against their North American neighbours. They took 3rd last year and silver in 2012. This years crew contains the nucleus of last years boat (Lisa Roman, Cristy Nurse, Natalie Mastracci, Susanne Grainger and Christine Roper) joined by Olympians Lauren Wilkinson – returning to international competition for the first time since London 2012 – and Ashley Brzozowicz. The final member of the crew is Rosanne Deboef who raced in the W4X at Lucerne last year.
The British are starting to put together an 8 that can challenge the best in the world.They picked up a silver medal at the European Championships and have strengthened the crew with the inclusion of world champion Polly Swann. They may not get too close to the Americans but they could give the Canadians a good run for their money.
The Germans have made one change from the crew that finished one place behind the British at Belgrade with Sophie Paul replacing Michaela Schmidt.
The Chinese are the 5th and final crew in this event and they are their typically enigmatic selves with not much in the way of international experience. Linlin Guo and Liqin Yi were 5th in the W2- at the first World Cup, Dan Zhang, Sihui He and Qiuqiu Gao are all making their debuts and Rui Ju and Xiaotong Cui last raced internationally as juniors. As an unknown quantity it’s difficult to predict what sort of speed they have, but I don’t expect them to be amongst the medals.
My picks..The US for gold (obviously) but it’ll be very close between the British and Canadians for silver and I’ll go for the Canucks to take it (just).

Now for the lighties.

LM1X
22 scullers.
This looks to be quite an open field with no obvious standout sculler. China’s Tiexin Wang probably has the best form of the field having won the opening World Cup and was part of the Chinese LM4- that came 10th at the Olympics.
The French have 3 scullers entered all of whom have medals at U23 level. Racing as FRA1 is Alexandre Pilat who won silver in the U23 LM2X in 2011 and was 17th in the LM1X at Belgrade. FRA2 is Damien Piqueras who is making his senior international debut following an U23 silver in 2013. The 3rd of the French scullers is Thibault Lecomte who is also making his senior debut with a 2013 U23 silver to his name.
GB’s LM1X from the European Championships, Adam Freeman-Pask, is not fully fit so his place is taken by another sculler who is making the step up from U23 to senior level. Zak Lee-Green was 6th in the U23 LM1X last year and is definitely a name to watch. He could well be challenging for a medal in Aiguebelette.
Steffen Jensen of Denmark may well be the leading contender for the win. He raced in the LM2X at Belgrade with Henrik Stephansen, a combination which failed to click. Jensen has world championship medals from the LM4X in both 2010 and 2011. Another challenger will be the German, Jost Schoemann-Finck. He won gold in 2012 as past of the German lightweight men’s 8 and was in the LM4- that finished 14th last year.
The final sculler to flag up is the exciting young Irishman, Paul O’Donovan. He has a bronze medal from the U23 World Championships last year and was 14th in Belgrade. At just 20 he’s going to be quite a prospect in the coming years.
My picks…it’s not the strongest of fields so I’ll go for Wang in 1st, Jensen silver and Schoemann-Finck in bronze.

LM2-
10 pairs. The clear favourites here will be the British, Jonno Clegg and Sam Scrimgeour. They were silver medalists behind the Swiss (who aren’t racing this world Cup) at Belgrade and were both bronze medalists from last year (Scrimgeour in the LM2- and Clegg the LM4-). I expect the British to be well clear of the rest of the field. Leading the chasing pack may well be the Chinese. Jingbin Zhao and Zhenwei Hou were in the LM8 that won bronze in 2012. The French have three pairs racing the pick of whom are the no.1 boat of Clement Duret and Theophile Onfroy who were both U23 bronze medalists last year and were 4th in Belgrade. The only other crew that will be in the hunt for the medals may well be the Czechs, Jiri Kopac and Miroslav Vrastil. They were in the Czech LM4- in 2011-13 coming 11th at the Olympics.
My picks….should be an easy win for the British with the French in silver and the Chinese in bronze.

LM2X
30 doubles. A very big and fascinating field. The gold, silver and bronze medalists from Belgrade are all racing again. The French, Stany Delayre and Jeremie Azou, emerged as winners 2 seconds clear of the German’s Lars Hartig and Konstantin Steinhuebel and the world champions from Norway in 3rd.
One of the most interesting aspect of this world cup is the return of the Portuguese, Pedro Fraga and Nuno Mendes. These two raced together at the first World Cup last year but then went their separate ways for the rest of the season. It’ll be interesting to see if they can recapture the form they showed in 2012.
The Danes hunt for a fast combination in this boat class continues. At Belgrade Henrik Stephansen was partnered by Steffen Jensen. That combo failed to fire and only managed to finish 14th. At this World Cup Stephansen is partnered by Andrej Bendtsen who finished 11th in the LM2X (with Jensen) last year. It really is starting to appear that the worlds fastest lightweight cannot make a double go fast. It remains to be seen if the rumours are true that the Olympic champions Rasmus Quist and Mads Rassmussen do, in fact, make a return to international competition. If the Danes can’t find a fast combination with Stephansen there may well be a call for the “old-guard” to return.
Another interesting combination are the Kiwis, Adam Ling and Alistair Bond (younger brother of Hamish). These two are an exciting young combination with Ling (22) and Bond (24). They may not threaten the medal zone at this regatta but they will be ones to watch for the future.
Another young crew to keep an eye on are the British, Jamie Kirkwood and Will Fletcher. They were 9th at Belgrade but are getting faster every time they race. Like the Kiwis they may not threaten the medals this time but are definitely a crew for the future.
The Dutch have a strong double with the Muda brothers Tycho and Vincent. They were part of the LM4- that finished 6th at the Olympics before switching to the LM2X last year taking 7th in Chungju.
The final crew to flag up are the Polish, Artur Mikolajczewski and Milosz Jankowski who finished one place ahead of the British at Belgrade.
My picks….it’s going to be very, very close but I’m going with the French ahead of the Norwegians with the Germans in 3rd.

LM4-
11 crews. Last season saw an epic confrontation between the Danes and the Kiwis (with the British snapping at their heels). Both the Danes and the Kiwis have the same line ups as 2013 and it’s going to be fascinating to seen them renew their rivalry. The British have changed their line-up form 2013 with the Chambers brothers returning to their preferred boat class. At Belgrade they were 2nd to the Danes and will definitely be wanting to be up with the Danes and Kiwis.
Personally I think the medals will come from these three crews but the “best of the rest” are probably the French who were 3rd in Belgrade and the Americans who have 3 of the crew that finished 5th last year. Look out too for the Chinese which includes Chenggang Yu and Zhe Huang who were 4th in this boat class at the Olympics. They are joined by two debutants Tao Zeng and Jiahao Li.
My picks…I reckon the Danes will take it from the Kiwis with GB in 3rd.

LW1X
11 scullers. Ruth Walczak of GB makes her return from injury, she was bronze medalist in this event last year and will probably start as favourite. The main challenge will come from the two German boats Lena Mueller and Marie-Louise Draeger. Mueller was 2nd in the LW2X at the Europeans and 3rd in 2013. Draeger raced as an openweight sculler in 2011 taking 11th in the W1X. The other main challenger for a medal is the Kiwi Julia Edward. She raced the LW2X in 2012-13 finishing 9th at the Olympics and 5th last year. Also look out for the Aussie Maia Simmonds who was 7th in the LW2X in 2013 and won the first world cup in Sydney.
My picks…GB for win with Mueller in silver and Edward bronze.

LW2X
21 crews. Again, another big field with some intriguing combinations. The European Cchampions, Italy, are not racing in Aiguebelette and the silver medalists from Germany have changed their line up with Leonie Pless replacing Lena Mueller in the boat with Anja Noske. Pless raced the LW1X at Belgrade and picked up a bronze medal. Noske is highly experienced in this event with World Championship medals from 2013 and 2010.
Bronze medalists in Belgrade were the new British double of Kat Copeland and Imogen Walsh. A bronze in their first competitive race together was a good start and this duo will be getting faster and faster as the season progresses. Copeland is the reigning Olympic Champion and Walsh was 4th in this boat class last season.
The British also have an exciting 2nd double racing at this world cup. Ellie Piggott is the reigning U23 LW2X champion and she joins Charlotte Taylor who made her international debut at Belgrade just missing out on a medal in the LW1X. if these two gell quickly in the boat they could be a very dynamic combination.
Making their competitive return to this event are the Canadians, Patricia Obee and Lindsay Jennerich. Jennerich has not raced internationally since finishing 7th with Obee at the Olympics. These two also have a world championship silver medal to their credit from 2011. Obee continued to race after the Olympics finishing 9th in the LW1X last year. If they have the same sort of speed they showed in 2011-12 they could pose a formidible challenge.
Another intriguing combination are the Brazilians. They have a blend of yout and experience, 19 year old Beatriz Cardoso is making her senior debut following an 11th place finish at the Junior World Championships last year. She is joined by the 2010 LW1X world champion, the 32 year old Fabiane Beltrame. This has all the hallmarks of the Brazilians trying to put together a medal potential boat for Rio. I don’t expect them to be up with the leading doubles at the World Cup but it could well be a different story in 2016 on home water.
The Chinese have entered 3 crews but it’s the no.1 boat that looks to be the quickest. 22 year old debutant Tianyu Weng is joined by the experienced Wenyi Huang who won silver in this event at the Olympics. Huang was also the gold medalist in the LW1X at the first World cup in Sydney. If Weng is anywhere near as quick as Huang’s former partner Dongxiang Xu then these two could pose a real medal threat.
The Aussies have made one change to their line-up from last year. Ella Flecker replaces Maia Simmonds in the double with Alice McNamara. Last year the Aussies were 7th with Flecker 11th in the LW1X. Given the strength of the field at Aiguebelette and “A” final spot would be a great result for the Australians.
The Americans also have a new combination with Devery Karz joining Michelle Sechser. Karz is making her senior international debut having race in the U23 team in 2010 and Sechser was in the LW1X last year winning the “B” final. As with the Australians, an “A” final spot would be a great achievement for this boat.
My picks…it’s going to be really tight..anyone of three crews could take the gold – GB, Germany or Canada. I think the Germans might just sneak in ahead oft the British with the Canadians just ahead of the Chinese.

So that’s it. I’m really looking forward to watching the racing as there will be some intriguing battles as new combinations are tested and some “big guns” return to the international fray!

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