Time for the final part of what has turned into a bit of an epic! It’s time for the big boats, the eights.
Defending Champions: Great Britain
what a contest there is in prospect in this event. Any one of four crews are capable of winning the gold with another couple capable of a medal. The gold should be won by either Germany, Great Britain, The USA or Russia. These four are clear of the rest, but, if any of them get it wrong then the Poles, Aussies and Dutch will be there to snap up a medal.
GB are the defending champions and they have improved as the season has progressed. We’ve yet to see them in their final configuration after Matt Gotrel was taken ill before the final in Lucerne. Stan Louloudis has moved to stroke, the seat he occupied at the Olympics and he’s seen as a somewhat talismanic figure. The British certainly have the firepower to successfully defend their title.
But, it’s the Germans who have led the field so far this year. They won at the Europeans and again at Lucerne (having given Aiguebelette a miss). They will be desperate to reclaim their crown from the British. They’ve kept a consistent line up this season. They have 5 of the crew that won the Olympics and also 5 returners from the crew that lost to the British last year. The Germans will be starting as favourites by virtue of the fact they’ve won each race they have entered so far this year.
The surprise package so far this year have been the Russians. 2nd at Belgrade and at Lucerne they are being coached by the legendary Mike Spracklen and the impact he’s had is nothing short of remarkable. There are 4 of the crew that finished 9th (out of 10 entries) last year and none of the crew have won medals at major championships until this year. At Belgrade many people underestimated the Russians – which, frankly was unsurprising given the form book. But, Spracklen’s new charges have turned the form book on its head are now one of the major contenders for the gold. Personally I don’t think they’ll quite make it but they have certainly shaken up the established order.
The fourth of the gold medal contenders in my book are the Americans. To be honest the eight is all the Americans really care about and they are deeply passionate about this boat. This year’s crew have made one appearance in Europe so far (at Aiguebelette) where, in the absence of the Germans and Russians, they beat the British into 2nd. But, the US have made three changes to the crew that raced at Aiguebelette with Sam Dommen, David Banks and Austin Hack replacing Tom Peszek, Ambrose Puttmann and Mike Gennaro. Judging by the pictures on Row2k.com the US coach, Luke McGee chopping and changing the seating order of his boat during the week – final tweaking or desperate search for rhythm??….only time will tell!
Behind these four crews there are a number of other boats that will be snapping at their heels trying to pounce on a medal. The Polish have been together for many years in a consistent line-up, but in Amsterdam they have made one change. 2 man Piotr Hojka has been replaced by U23 bronze medalist Mateusz Wilangowski. They can be a little inconsistent but on their day they are capable of challenging for the medals.
The Australians have a very talented line up that includes Olympic silver medalist James Chapman. But at Lucerne they were off the pace finishing a disappointing 6th ( and being beaten by New Zealand’s U23 crew to boot). That may have been down to a lack of preparation and I’m positive they will be more competitive at Amsterdam but I’m not sure they have the firepower to get among the medals.
The Dutch have the majority of the crew that finished 5th last year but they have not yet shown that sort of speed this season and have “B” final finishes at both the Europeans and Lucerne. Like the Australians, they have a lot of experience and will undoubtedly be more competitive on home water, but I don’t think they will get a medal.
The final crew to highlight are the French. They have put all of their top athletes into eight (a bit like the British did last year). Unlike the British they haven’t yet found medal winning speed with a 5th place at Belgrade and a 4th at Aiguebelette.
So who will win?? It’s going to be a fantastic battle but my money is on Germany to take the win ahead of the British with the Americans in bronze.
Defending champions: USA
This “should” be a comfortable victory for the Americans. But, they were given a real test by the Canadians at Aiguebelette having to come from over a length down at half way to maintain their unbeaten record. It turned into one of the races of the year with the Americans relentlessly reeling in the Canadians to take the win. For the Canadians this could have been a soul-destroying experience, but I’ve been told that they are using it as a massive motivational boost. We could really see some fireworks on the Bosbaan.
The Americans are a massively powerful crew, not particularly technically pretty, but they know how to win. The US just seem to have a conveyor belt of powerful athletes coming out of their collegiate programmes. I have heard that, thanks to the equal funding requirements laid down by the Title IX regulations, the US Women’s collegiate progamme is worth approximately $100m annually. If true that’s quite pool to draw from.
There’s been some interesting photos of the American crew training on the Bosbaan, 6 seat Caroline Lind is passionate (some would say obsessive) about sun protection. In training she ensures she is fully protected, but it does make her look slightly ghostly in appearance! (see the gallery on row2k.com) http://www.row2k.com/worlds/photo.cfm?action=pf&dir=2014Summer/USATeam2014/0821USAWEight&start=25&offset=24&label=US%20World%20Championships%20Team%20-%20Women%27s%20Eight&hi=yes#.U_fIdfldWSo
An explanation for this obsession can be found here: http://usrowing.wix.com/2014womens8#!Mrs-Shald-and-SPF-Fanatics-/cmbz/9C6D9182-B28A-4FD0-BEA5-CDB410F2AF0C
Anyway….the US and Canadians should be clear of the field and having a ding-dong battle for gold and silver, but behind them things get a little tighter. The British have been showing great improvement so far this season. Silver medalists behind the Romanians at Belgrade they have taken bronze at both the 2nd and 3rd World Cups. They will be battling in a race of their own with the Romanians for the bronze medal. At Lucerne there was on 2/10ths separating these two crews and I’ve got a gut instinct that the British will turn that deficit around in Amsterdam.
So for me there are 3 races within the W8….the race for gold between the Americans and Canadians, the race for bronze between the Romanians and British and then the race for the minor places with the likes of the Netherlands, Germany and Australia.
So who will win. The Americans by a length over the Canadians with the British half a length back winning the bronze by a canvas over the Romanians.
Defending Champions: Italy
Not much form to go on for this season and just the 5 entries (although that’s an improvement on the 3 last year).
The Italians are always strong in this event and have several athletes who have won European medals over the years. The Americans are all from the Oklahoma Training Centre and raced at Henley this year in the Ladies Plate losing in the first round to a Leander/Molesey composite.
Both the Germans and the Dutch raced as their nations 2nd 8’s in the heavyweight M8 at Lucerne with the Germans getting the better of the Dutch by a length. Home support may enable the Dutch to close the gap a little but I think the Germans will be a little too strong for the host nation.
The final crew in this event are the Turkish. They have quite a strong line-up builtt around the U23 LM4- that finished 6th this year and the 2 Turkish LM2- that raced at Lucerne finishing 7th and 9th. They could well sneak a bronze.
So my picks are Italy for gold ahead of Germany in silver and the Turks to sneak the bronze.
To summarise then, these are my medal picks for all the events:
M1X: NZL, CZE, CUBA
W1X: NZL, AUS, CZE
LM1X: USA, POR, SUI
LW1X: GRE, NED, RSA
M2X: CRO, AUS, GBR
W2X: LTU, NZL, AUS
LM2X; FRA, NOR, GER
LW2X: GBR, ITA, CHN
M2- NZL. GBR, USA
W2- GBR, USA, NZL
LM2- SUI, CZE, GBR
M2+ NZL. GBR, USA
M4X GBR, GER, USA
W4X GER, BLR, NZL
LM4X DEN, GRE, GER
LW4X GBR, NED, USA
M4- GBR, USA, CAN
W4- USA, NZL, FRA
LM4- NZL, DEN, GBR
M8 GER, GBR, USA
W8 USA, CAN, GBR
LM8 ITA, GER, TUR
In most events this year there have been some clear favourites for the gold so picking the potential winners has been relatively straight forward, but it’s what’s going on behind the favourites that is fascinating. Here’s to some great racing!