The Rowing World Championships Preview – Part 2 the doubles and pairs

Time for part 2 of my World Championships preview….the doubles and pairs.

26 crews
Defending Champions: Nils Jakob Hoff & Kjetil Borch (Norway)

Another event which has been dominated by a single crew this season. But, it’s not the defending champions from Norway. Instead it is the Croatians, Martin and Valent Sinkovic who are unbeaten so far this season with wins at both Aiguebelette and Lucerne. We’re more used to seeing these two in a quad, but a long term injury to crewmate Damir Martin, has seen the Sinkovic brothers take to the double. They’ve made quite an impact on the event so far.

For the defending champions from Norway it’s been a less auspicious season. 4th at the Europeans, 6th at Aiguebelette but they missed out on an “A” final spot at Lucerne altogether. But, when you look back to the results in 2013 they did not win a medal at any of the World Cups so they cannot be discounted for pulling something special out of the bag at Amsterdam.

Behind the Croatians it’s been a real battle for the lesser medals. Aleksandar Aleksandrov & Boris Yotov were runners up in Aiguebelette but I’m not convinced they will take a medal in Amsterdam. Aleksandrov is supposedly doubling up in the single scull and Yotov is currently in Nanjing competing at the Youth Olympics. Not exactly idea preparation for a World championships in my opinion.

More likely to challenge for the medals are the Australians, James Mcrae and Alex Belonogoff. They have medalled at all three World Cups this season with silvers at Sydney and Lucerne and bronze at Aiguebelette.

The Lithuanian’s Saulius Ritter and Rolandas Mascinskas were runners up last season and have been in the medals every time they’ve raced so far this season. Gold in Sydney was followed by victory at the European Championships, but they slipped to 3rd in their final outing at Lucerne. I’m not sure they’ll be able to beat the Croatians but they will certainly be in the hunt for the silver.

Also in the mix for the medals should be the British, Jonno Walton and John Collins. They’ve been making steady progress this season, starting with 6th at the European’s followed by 5th at Aiguebelette and 4th at Lucerne. They were also involved in one of the best every races at Henley, losing out to the French lightweights by a matter of inches. They could well be peaking at just the right time to get amongst the medals in Amsterdam.

Another crew to highlight in this extremely competitive field are the New Zealanders, Robbie and Karl Manson. Manson senior – Robbie – is no stranger to this event, he and Michael Arms dominated the World Cup season last year going unbeaten but came unstuck at the World Championships slipping to 6th. This season Robbie is joined by his younger brother, Karl. So far they have missed out on the medals but not by much. At Aiguebelette they were 4th and Lucerne 6th. They are just one of a number of crews that will be challenging for the silver and bronze medals behind the Croatians.

A couple of other crews to highlight with a chance of making the “A” final are the highly experienced Argentinians, Ariel Suarez and Cristian Rosso. These two were 4th at the Olympics and 5th last year, but so far this season they have yet to recapture that sort of form with a 9th place finish at Aiguebelette and only 13th at Lucerne. If they can get back to the speed they should at the Olympics and “A” final finish is possible.

Also watch out for the young Bulgarians, Georgi Bozhilov and Kristian Vasilev. Amsterdam is their first appearance this season in the double but they are both very talented scullers. An “A” final appearance would be an outstanding achievement although I’m expecting them to be near the top of the “B” final.

My picks…..It’s difficult to pick anyone other than the Croatians for gold, they’ve been outstanding this season. But behind them it’s a real bun-fight. I’m going to go for the Aussies in silver and the British to take the bronze.

22 crews
Defending Champions: Donata Vistartaite & Milda Valciukaite (Lithuania)

This event is possibly the most open of all the Olympic events at Amsterdam. For most of the Olympic events there are clear favourites, but in the W2X there are at least four crews in with a serious shout of taking the win.
The defending champions from Lithuania were unbeaten in 2013, but have yet to record a victory in 2014. Beaten by the Australians in Sydney, the Poles at Belgrade and the New Zealanders at Lucerne.

The Lithuanians may well start as marginal favourites given their pedigree but the performance of the New Zealanders, Zoe Stevenson and Fiona Bourke at Lucerne was remarkable. Last at the 500m mark they were still only 5th at the 1500m point and then unleashed an epic sprint that saw them take the win by half a second.

The Poles, Natalia Madaj and Magdalena Fularczyk are the current European Champions. They are, perhaps, the most consistent of all the field with a bronze medal at Chungju followed by bronze medals at all three World Cups. Gold maybe just beyond them, but they will surely be challenging for one of the medals.

Winners of the first two World Cups are the Australians, Olympia Aldersey and Sally Kehoe. But, at Lucerne they could only manage 4th, finishing 3 seconds behind the NZ winners. Kehoe was part of the Aussie Olympic eight that finished 6th. Aldersey raced in the W4X last season that finished 8th. She and Kehoe have formed a very effective partnership this season and, as with the other crews already mentioned, should definitely be in the medal hunt.

Another crew to highlight are the Americans, Ellen Tomek and Meghan O’Leary. They were 7th last year but have stepped on this season with an excellent silver medal behind the Australians at Aiguebelette followed by a 5th place at Lucerne.

My picks….this is a really difficult one to call….but I’m going to go for the Lithuanian’s to deliver when it matters ahead of an antipodean silver and bronze (Kiwis winning that particular battle).

27 crews
Defending Champions: Kristoffer Brun and Are Strandli (Norway)

The Norwegians achieved a spectacular double last year winning both the heavyweight and lightweight doubles. But, as with their heavyweight compatriots, the reigning World Champions have yet to record a win this season. Instead they have a brace of bronze medals from the European’s and the 2nd and 3rd World Cups.

This season this event has been dominated by the French, Stany Delayre and Jeremie Azou. The French could well have won last year if it hadn’t been for a severe injury to Delayre caused in a collision with another boat….his back still carries the huge scar caused by the crash.
They went unbeaten in 2013, and have picked up where they left off so far this season. Winning at Belgrade, Aiguebelette and Lucerne. They also won a spectacular victory in the Double Sculls at Henley (as mentioned above).

It’ll be a major surprise if the French don’t take the title in Amsterdam, but behind them it’ll be a great fight.
The young German crew, Moritz Moos and Jason Osborne have had a great year. They chased the French at Aiguebelette and won a superb silver. They followed this up with a win at the U23 World Championships but were denied a chance to flex their muscles at Lucerne due to injury. They are definitely ones to watch for the future having won selection for the event ahead of their more experienced teammates Lars Hartig and Konstantin Steinhuebel. A medal at Amsterdam would cap a fantastic season for the young Germans.

Another crew who have been in and out of the medals this season are the Italians, Andrea Micheletti and Pietro Ruta. 4th last year they started the season with another 4th place at the Europeans but took an excellent silver behind the French at Lucerne. They could well be peaking at just the right time.

Switzerland were runners-up last year but have yet to take a medal this season. The crew of Simon Schuerch and Mario Gyr have a best result of 4th this season at Lucerne. A medal is not beyond them but I think they will just miss out.

A crew that has been making spectacular progress this season are the British. Jamie Kirkwood and Will Fletcher were 9th at Belgrade and Aiguebelette but were a superb 5th at Lucerne. A similar result at Lucerne will be a great result and lay down a good marker for the 2015 Olympic qualification season.

A couple of other crews to highlight that’ll be challenging for an “A” final spot are the Dutch and the Czechs. Both crews are made up of twins. The Dutch Muda twins, Tycho and Vincent, won the “B” final last year and so far this season have made the “A” final both at the Europeans and Aiguebelette. They slipped back to 7th at Lucerne but will be looking for the “A” final at Amsterdam, especially on home water. The Czechs are also twins, Jan and Ondrej Vestenik. Their progress has been the opposite to the Dutch. They were “B” finalists at Belgrade and Aiguebelette but progressed to the “A” final at Lucerne.

The Danes are still seeking a fast double scull with Henrik Stephansen. The double LM1X world champion has, so far, struggled this season. He’s been partnered by Andrej Bendtsen so far this season finishing 11th in Aiguebelette and 12th at Lucerne. At Amsterdam however, he has a new partner, Jens Nielsen, who has been part of the LM4X for the past couple of season. It remains to be seen if this combination can harness Stephansen’s amazing power.
My picks….you have to go for the French for the win, but silver and bronze?….Norway in silver with the young Germans in bronze.

22 crews
Defending champions: Laura Milani & Elisabetta Sancassani (Italy)

Olympic Champion Kat Copeland took the whole of 2013 off, but has returned with a bang in 2014. She and her new partner Imogen Walsh, started relatively slowly with a bronze at Belgrade. But since then they’ve ignited the turbo and have wins at both Aiguebelette and Lucerne. They will be lining up in Amsterdam as clear favourites. Such is the dominance of the British that it was the GB “B” crew of Taylor and Stubbs which took silver in Aiguebelete.

Behind the British it promises to be an excellent contest. The Australians, Canadians, Germans and Poles are all in with a chance of a medal.
The Australians, Alice McNamara and Ella Flecker have had a mixed season, a bronze medal at Sydney was followed by a disappointing 9th at Aiguebelette. But they bounced back from that with a superb silver at Lucerne just half a second ahead of the experienced Canadian duo of Patricia Obee and Lindsay Jennerich.
Jennerich was World Champion in this event back in 2010 and has formed a very effective partnership with Patricia Obee. They were 5th at Aiguebelette and followed that up with a bronze at Lucerne. There are high hopes within the Canadian team that this pairing can deliver a major medal.
The Italian pairing of Elisabetta Sancassani and Laura Milani dominated this event throughout 2013 winning both the European and World titles. They continued that strong form by retaining their European title at Belgrade. They didn’t race at Aiguebelette and then suffered their first defeat in more than 2 years at Lucerne where they could only manage 4th. The question is, can they bounce back to form for Amsterdam?

The German’s have been playing around with their line-ups to try and find the fastest combination. They have settled on a duo of Anja Noske and Lena Mueller. This combination took silver at the Europeans. Noske raced with Leonie Pless at Lucerne but could only manage 8th.

The Chinese are a bit of an unknown quantity. Dandan Pan raced in the LW1X at Aiguebelette taking the bronze medal following a silver at Sydney. In 2013 she raced the openweight W2X finishing 7th overall. Her partner Wenyi Huang finished 6th in the LW2X at Aiguebelette and took gold in the LW1X at Sydney. She raced in the LW2X with Donxiang Xu at the London Olympics where they took silver. This could be a very fast combination and may spring a surprise.

My picks….GB for the win ahead of Italy in silver and China in bronze.

24 crews
Defending Champions: Eric Murray & Hamish Bond (New Zealand)

Is it sacrilege to say this events getting a bit boring??
Only kidding….
Bond and Murray will sweep the board again, that much is a given…..what’s interesting is what’s going on behind them. Silver is the new gold in the M2-.

Leading the charge will be the Dutch and British and possibly the new look USA pair.

The Dutch, Mitchell Steenman and Rogier Blink were winners in Sydney and then took silver at the Europeans. Illness has disrupted their season. Blink missed Henley and then they didn’t progress beyond the heats at Lucerne. If they are fit and healthy then they could well grab a medal.

The British have also been experimenting with their line-up. They’ve settled on two experienced athletes, James Foad and Matt Langridge. Their first outing in the pair this season saw them take silver at Lucerne, defeating the Serbian European Champions in the process. If they show that sort of form in Amsterdam they could well take the win….well, the silver….but that counts as a win!

The USA have a new look combination as well and have settled on Glenn Ochal and Charlie Cole. Both of these guys were in the M4- that won bronze at the London Olympics. Cole has not raced internationally since and Ochal has made one appearance, in the M8 that won at Lucerne last year.
It’ll be interesting to see how these two get on. I would imagine they see the pair as a means of proving themselves to get a seat back in the M8, and with it a potential gold medal in Rio.

Keep a look out too for the French. Laurent Cadot and Valentin Onfroy were 4th at Aiguebelette following a 7th at the Europeans.

The German’s have had a mixed season. Anton Braun and Bastian Bechler won silver at Aiguebelette but then slipped to 8th at Lucerne. If they can get it right they will certainly make the “A” final, but I’m not sure they will be in the top 3.

Serbia sprung a bit of a surprise at the European championships….winning on home water. Veselin Savic and Dusan Bogicevic skipped the 2nd World Cup and then took bronze at Lucerne.

Other crews to watch, the Italians, Marco Di Costanzo and Matteo Castaldo were 5th at Belgrade and then 4th at Lucerne. Also watch for the South African’s Vincent Breet and Shaun Keeling – 5th at Lucerne.

So, it’s obvious from the above that the field behind the Kiwis is extremely tight and should provide some fascinating racing.

My picks….Kiwis for gold obviously….but then?…..GB in silver and the USA in bronze.

15 crews
Defending Champions: Helen Glover and Heather Stanning (GB)

The British are beginning to own this event. Stanning returned to rowing earlier this year following her tour of duty in Afghanistan. She missed the Europeans due to fatigue (didn’t stop Glover from winning with her 2013 partner Polly Swann). When she did return at Aiguebelette she and Glover picked up from where they left off in 2012, by dominating the field.
At Aiguebelette they beat a flotilla of American boats and at Lucerne they were able to sit at the head of the field and watch an intriguing Kiwi v Kiwi battle develop behind them.
In the end it was the senior Kiwi pair of Louise Trappitt and Rebecca Scown that won selection for Amsterdam, despite being beaten by their U23 pair at Lucerne. They will be desperate to justify that selection by winning a major medal…whether they can challenge the British…….not so sure.

The USA will have high hopes for a medal, Megan Kalmoe and Kerry Simmonds doubled up in the W2- and W8 at Aiguebelette taking the win (in spectacular style) in the W8 and silver in the pair. Expectations will be for a repeat of that silver at the very minimum.

Keep an eye out too for the South African pairing of Naydene Smith and Lee-Ann Persse. They’ve been racing together for several years and were 8th at the Olympics followed up by 6th at Chungju. So far this season they finished 4th at Lucerne and could well challenge for the medals.

My picks….It’ll be a major shock if GB don’t win and I’m going for a USA silver and NZ bronze.

17 crews.
Defending Champions: Lucas Tramer & Simon Neipmann (Switzerland)

The defending champions have picked up in 2014 were they finished in 2013. So far they have wins at both the European Championships and the Lucerne World Cup. They will definitely be starting as favourites in Amsterdam. But, at Lucerne they were pushed mighty close by the Czech pairing of Jiri Kopac and Miroslav Vrastil. The Czechs took the win at Aiguebellete (in the absence of the Swiss).
Just behind these two are the British, Sam Scrimgeour and Jonathan Clegg. They were 2nd at the Europeans and then 4th in Aiguebelette. In Lucerne they made the podium with a bronze just behind the Swiss and Czechs. These three crews were well ahead of the rest of the field and personally I think the medals will be the same in Amsterdam…1st Switzerland, 2nd Czech Republic, 3rd GB.

12 crews
Defending Champions: Italy
Normally this event wouldn’t raise too much interest…it’s a shadow of its former glory. But this year is a little different. That’s due to the appearance in the entry list of a certain E Murray and H Bond of New Zealand. Yep, the Kiwis are trying for the double (coxed by U23 World Champion Caleb Shepherd). Not since Matt Pinsent and James Cracknell in 2001 has anyone successfully won both the coxless and coxed pairs. Given the kiwi dominance in the coxless version it’s perhaps not surprising that they’ve set themselves the challenge of the double.
But, it’s not going to be plain sailing, there are some really good crews lined up against them.
The German crew of Peter Kluge, Alexander Egler and cox Jonas Wiesen won a 3 boat final at Lucerne just ahead of the British, Alan Sinclair, Scott Durant and cox Henry Fieldman.
Look out too for the US crew of Henry Hoffstot, Taylor Brown and cox John Carlson.

I think the Kiwis will be too strong for the rest of the field and will do the double, but I’m going for GB to take the silver with the US taking the bronze.

Next up…the fours and quads.

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