It’s that time of year again…..the World Cup season is upon us, which means it’s time for another of my previews!
When I first looked at the entries I was mentally preparing a blog bemoaning the poor entries….almost none of the big rowing names had entered…what had happened…could this be a “real” World Cup? Then I noticed I was looking at the entries for Bled International Regatta rather than the World Cup….oops!
Annnywwaaayy……when I did look at the proper entries I was pleasantly surprised….there’s going to be some really good racing. There are still some “big” names missing, none of the English speaking nations are racing (GB, New Zealand, Australia, USA, Canada). But most of the European nations are represented and there is a big contingency from China…so lets have a look…
15 scullers. The favourite from the outset is likely to be Cuba’s “Mr Cool”, Angel Fournier Rodriguez. Last year’s bronze medalist has the best pedigree of the field with a silver from 2013 and an Olympic “B” final win to his credit. The most intriguing challenger to Rodriguez is Croatia’s Damir Martin. He had a miserable 2014 missing the entire year through injury. He was part of the formidable Croatian M4X that won the World’s in 2013. In his absence his crewmates, The Sinkovic brothers switched to the M2X and blew the world away becoming the first double to break the 6 minute barrier (more of them later). It’ll be fascinating to see what form Martin is in and how he gets on in the 1X.
Another name to watch for is the big Dutchman, Roel Braas. I expected a slightly better finish from him last year than the 9th he achieved following a 4th in Lucerne and a 5th in 2013. I’m impressed with his sculling and I reckon he’s on the brink of breaking into the medals, could be the year he makes that breakthrough.
A couple of other names to look out for are the young Belgian, Hannes Obrenno, 8th last year and the 2013 U23 silver medalist and China’s Jian Ma. Ma was in the Chinese quad last year that finished 4th. The final name to flag is the 19 year old Serbian,Sljukic, the 2013 JM1X silver medalist…one to watch for the future.
My pick….Rodriguez for the win, Braas in silver and Martin in bronze
13 scullers. Mirka Knapkova is the “big” name here. She had a poor 2014, missing out on the medals at the Worlds and all 3 World Cups….in fact at the World Championships she missed out on the “A” final altogether – the first time that had happened since 2001! She’ll be hoping to make a better start to 2015 and get back onto the podium.
Her biggest challenge will probably come from China’s Jingli Duan. She had a great 2014 with a bronze medal from Amsterdam and will be looking to spoil Knapkova’s party. China have a second sculler racing, Weiwei Zhu, she was in the W2X last year and finished 5th. Another potential medalist in Bled is Austria’s Magdelena Lobnig, 4th in 2013 and 5th in 2014 she’s on the verge of a world championship single scull medal and could be up in the medals all season. Another interesting sculler to watch is Belgian’s Eveline Peleman. She had a fantastic 2014, winning the LW1X world title in Amsterdam. She’s on the comeback from injury which is possibly why she’s in the open-weight rather than the lightweight division, but she’s an exciting and exuberant sculler and I’m looking forward to seeing her take on the “big” girls!
My picks….Knapkova to be back on form with Lobnig in silver and Duan in 3rd.
20 scullers. This looks to be a very open field. The strongest competitor is probably Nuno Mendes from Portugal. He was 5th in the LM2X at London but he has struggled to regain that sort of form since with the double with Pedro Fraga misfiring during 2014 only managing a 15th place in Lucerne. Fraga has formed a new double for this year, so Mendes is in the single. Elsewhere the pick of the rest is probably Slovakia’s Lukas Babac, the 30 year old was 9th in the LM1X in Amsterdam and was a silver medalist back in 2010. Also look out for Slovenian Rajko Hrvat, a victim of the difficult conditions in Amsterdam where he only managed 17th, but he was an “A” finalist in Lucerne and should be challenging in Bled. Another sculler who struggled in Amsterdam was Bulgaria’s Nedelcho Vasilev. He was 6th in the 2nd World Cup in 2014 and 11th at the Europeans.
My picks….If Mendes is fit and healthy it’ll be difficult to see anyone getting past him with Hrvat 2nd and Babac 3rd
13 scullers. Fabiana Beltrame is the “big” name here. The 2011 World Champion made a foray into the LW2X last year but could only manage 12th at the 2nd World Cup. The 33 year old will be desperate to find a combination that is quick enough to qualify for her home Olympics, but in Bled she’s back in the single and will be lining up as favourite. The main challenge will come from the Chinese scullers Shuai Guo and Jing Liu. Guo was 6th in Amsterdam and Liu was 4th in the LW4X (an event in which she was a medalist in 2010 and 2011). The final sculler to flag up is Poland’s Joanna Dorociak. She raced the LW2X last season finishing 8th in Amsterdam.
My picks…..Beltrame followed by the two Chinese.
21 crews. When the entries were released this event had the best crew in the whole regatta, Valent and Martin Sinkovic, the first double scull to break the 6 minute barrier. However they have had to withdraw from Bled following a rib injury to Valent Sinkovic. Their withdrawal has thrown this event wide open and it’s now going to be a very, very interesting battle for the medals. The Germans have entered 4 crews (who are all doubling up in the M4X) and they are a “Who’s Who” of German men’s sculling. The shock addition is Marcel Hacker. The 38 year old lost at the German championships and has, therefore, lost the single berth in the German team. In Bled he’s partnered with Stephan Krueger. Krueger was in this boat last year which finished 5th. In the German No.2 boat are the 2012 Olympic M4X champions, Lauritz Schoof and Philipp Wende. In Germany 3 are Hans Gruhne and Lars Hartig. This is an interesting combination, Gruhne was in this boat last year and Hartig is the world LM1X silver medalist. The final German boat is Patrick Leineweber and Karl Schulze. Leineweber was U23 bronze medalist in 2013 and is joined by Olympic M4X Champion Schulze. The internal battle between these four boats is going to be “interesting”.
Away from the Germans another interesting boat are the Dutch, Ruben Knab and Stefan Broenink. Both of these guys rowed in the M8 at some point last year but are now trying their hand in the double. It remains to be seen how quick they go. The final crew to highlight are the Bulgarians, Georgi Bozhilov and Kristian Vasilev who were “A” finalists last year. I’m also interested to see the new Swiss combination of David Aregger and Jacob Blankenberger. Aregger raced in the M4X in Amsterdam finishing 6th and he’s joined by 18 year old Blankenberger, making his senior debut following a 4th place in the JM1X last year.
My picks….Germany 2 followed by Germany 1 with the Netherlands in 3rd
9 crews. Poland are my picks for this….Magdalena Fularczyk and Natalia Madaj are the world silver medalists, Olympic bronze medalists and have been a consistent partnership since 2011. Up against the Poles are the Belorussians with Ekaterina Karsten and Yuliya Bichyk – a crew with a combined age of 74! This partnership was 3rd in 2013 and were both in the W4X last year which finished a disappointing 10th, but Karsten is one of the most decorated athletes in the world and it’s brilliant to see her still mixing it with the best at the tender age of 42!!
The German’s have a couple of boats entered with the pick being the Ger1 boat of Julia Lier and Marieke Adams. Lier was in the gold medal W4X last year with Adams in the W2X which finished 8th. In the Germany 2 crew is the other half of last year’s double, Julia Richter along with LW4X bronze medalist Wiebke Hein.
The final crew to mention are the young Chinese duo of Jie and Yuwei Wang. Yuwei was in this boat class last year and finished 5th with Jie racing the first 2 World Cups in the W4X finishing 6th.
My picks….Poland in 1st with Germany 1 in 2nd and Belarus in 3rd.
21 crews. This could turn out to be the battle of the brothers…3 of the leading doubles are made up of siblings. Leading this filial charge are the Dutch, Tycho and Vincent Muda. These two switched from sweep to sculling having made the “A” final in the LM4- in London. As a LM2X they are making steady progress, a “B” final win in 2013 was followed by an “A” final appearance in 2014….the next challenge for them is to move up to the business end of the “A” final. Another pair of brothers who switched from the Olympic LM4- to the LM2X are the Czech’s Jan and Ondrej Vetesnik. The 31 year-old twins were 8th last year and will be expecting to appear in the main final in Bled. The final set of brothers racing are the Austrian Sieber’s Paul and Bernhard. They were 9th in 2013 and a slightly disappointing 12th last year, falling foul of the tricky conditions. Away from the “Band of Brothers” boats the two interesting crews to watch for are the Portuguese and the Swiss. Portugal have the highly experienced Pedro Fraga, who with Nuno Mendes made the “A” final at the London Olympics. As mentioned above that combination have failed to repeat that sort of form since the Olympics. So in Bled Fraga is joined by Nuno Goncalves Coehlo who raced in the LM2- at the 2013 and 2014 Euros and has been part of the Portuguese team for the past 14 years.
The Swiss duo of Daniel Wiederkehr and Michael Schmid could well challenge for the medals. Schmid raced in the LM1X last year winning a bronze medal. Wiederkehr has an U23 bronze medal from 2011 and raced in the LM4X in 2012.
The final crew to highlight are the Turks, Huseyin Kandemir and Enes Kusku. Turkey is rapidly becoming a serious player in lightweight rowing. 21 year old Kusku won a silver medal in the LM1X at the U23 World Championships last year and his partner, 28 year old Kandemir won a bronze in the Turkish LM8 last year. Keep an eye on these two, they could be the dark horses of 2015.
My picks..tricky…. the Muda’s for the win with Portugal in silver and the Swiss in bronze.
8 crews. A small field and the leading crew are probably the Chinese, Wenyi Huang and Dandan Pan. This duo picked up a bronze medal last year. Huang was in the Olympic double that won silver behind the British and Pan won a silver in the LW4X in 2011 at the tender age of 15!
An interesting entry are the Austrian’s Sara Lambing and Leonie Pless. Pless has dual German-Austrian citizenship and has raced for Germany for the past 5 years finishing 4th in the LW1X last year following a bronze at the European Championships. Following the recent German championships it appears that she realised she wouldn’t make the German Olympic team and has, therefore decided to try her luck in the Austrian team. My understanding of the rules is that she cannot compete for her new nation at a world or continental championships for a period of 2 years. If this is correct then she won’t be eligible for Austria until the Olympics (rule 19 if anyone wants to check). Her partner in Bled, Sara Lambing made a similar transition a few years ago having competed for over 10 years for her native Sweden.
Another crew to highlight are the Dutch pairing of Elisabeth Woerner and Maaike Head. These two were part of the LW4X that won gold in Amsterdam and will be looking to secure the LW2X spots for Rio. The final crew to mention are the young Swiss crew of Frederique Rol and Patricia Merz, both 21 they finished 16th in their senior debuts at the World Championships following a 4th place finish at the U23’s
My picks…China for the win ahead of the Dutch with the new Austrian pair 3rd.
10 pairs. Hot favourites will be the French Olympic silver medalists, Germain Chardin and Dorian Mortelette. Having spent last year in the M8 they have moved back into their preferred boat class and will be looking to get as close to the Kiwis as they can later in the year. In Bled they will be clear favourites for the gold. Their main challengers will be the three Croatian pairs Veselin Savic and Dusan Bogicevic were the European champions last year. In Bled they have split up and are racing against each other. Savic is partnered by Nenad Bedik who was European champion himself in 2013. Bogicevic is joined by Milos Vasic. Vasic was part of the Croatian M4- that finished 9th last year. The third Croatian pair features the highly experienced Nikola Stojic. The 40 year old made his senior debut 20 years ago and won his first senior medal back in 2001 racing for Yugoslavia. Stojic is joined by Goran Jagar. Both of these guys were in the M4- last year.
The final crew to highlight are the young Turkish pairing of Onat Kazakli and Fuad Rafail. These two were 8th last year following a 4th place at the U23’s.
My picks….France gold with 2 of the Croatian boats filling the other 2 medal spots.
14 crews. No fewer than 6 Chinese boats are entered. Both the China 3 and China 6 boats were all part of the bronze medal winning W8 from last year with Xiaotong Cui and Linlin Guo racing as China 3 and Rui Ju and Dan Zhang in China 6. The China 1 boat also contains world bronze medalists, this time from the W4- with Tian Miao and Min Zhang. Leading the Challenge against this Chinese armada are the Dutch, Elisabeth Hogerwerf and Olivia van Rooijen, both of whom raced in the W4X last year winning the “B” final. The final crew to mention are the Czechs, Martina Stillerova and Katerina Kopecka, 12th in this event in Amsterdam.
My picks…possibly a China 1,2 with the Dutch spoiling the clean sweep.
6 boats. The Austrians, Dominik Sigl and Markus Lemp are the only established pairing in the event having raced together to an 11th place finish in this boat class last year. There are some exciting young combinations to watch out for including the U23 LM4- world champions from Spain Ander Zabala Artetxe and Imanol Garmendia Maiz. Both these guys are making their senior debuts in Bled. Germany have a couple of crews entered that are an interesting mix of youth and experience. In Germany 1 are Lucas Schaeffer, 4th in the U23 LM4- last year and the 24 year old Sven Kessler, gold medalist in the LM8 in Amsterdam. Germany 2 is led by 28 year old Stefan Wallat who was also in the gold medal LM8, joined by 19 year old Alexander Kevin Diedrich making his international debut.
My picks….this is quite a difficult race to call….I’m probably going to plump for Germany 1 ahead of Austria with the young Spanish in third.
8 crews. Some interesting combinations with no “stand-out” crew. The Serbians are doubling-up in the M2- and all raced together last year finishing 9th. The German’s have a new, young combination stroked by Clemens Ernsting, U23 world champion in 2012. At bow is Jakob Schneider who won silver at last year’s U23’s. The middle pairing are world silver medalist Paul Schroeder and Bjoern Birkner who raced in the M4- at last years senior worlds.
The French have made one change to the crew that finished a disappointing 13th last year with Julien Depres from the 2014 M8 swapping seats with Thibaut Verhoeven. Both the Chinese and the Belorussians have crews from their 2014 M8’s. The Chinese, Xunman Cheng, Hang Liu, Zengxin Yang and Donjian Li were 10th and the Belorussians (Vadzim Lialin, Dzianis Mihal, Mikalai Sharlap and Ihar Pashevich) were one place behind them. The Poles have three of last years crew that finished 16th with the 22 year old Karol Leszcynski replacing Damian Rosolski.
My picks….The young Germans just ahead of the Serbians with the French in 3rd.
12 crews. The Swiss look to have an exciting combination made up of last year’s LM2X and LM2-. Mario Gyr and Simon Schuerch were in the double that finished 9th having won silver the previous year. They are joined by the reigning LM2- world champions Simon Niepmann and Lucas Tramer. This could well become a combination that really challenges the established crews in this event, the Danes, the Kiwis and the British. Keep an eye on these guys.
The Czechs have also put together a new combination with Jiri Kopac and Miroslav Vrastil who were 4th in the LM2- last year joining the current U23 LM2- world champions Jan Hajek and Michael Humpolec. These two crews could give us a tasty battle. The Dutch have the same line up that finished 6th last year (Joris Pijs, Jort Van Gennep, Timothee Heijbrock and Bjorn Van Den Ende). Other countries going with consistency are the Spanish and Austrians with the same line-ups that finished 3rd and 5th respectively in the “B” final last year.
The German’s have an interesting mixture of youth and experience with the 29 year olds Lars Wichert and Jonathan Koch (who were in the crew that finished 8th last year) joined by 20 year old Lucas Schaeffer (who raced in the U23 LM4- in 2014) and the 19 year old Alexander Kevin Diedrich who is making his international debut in Bled.
My picks….Switzerland for the win ahead of the Czechs with the Dutch in 3rd.
9 crews. The Germans are doubling up in the M2X and have some interesting line-ups. In the Germany 1 boat are Karl Schulze and Philipp Wende who were in the gold medal winning boat in London and picked up a bronze medal last year. They are joined by LM1X silver medalist Lars Hartig and Stephan Krueger from the 2014 M2X. Germany 2 has the 3rd member of the Olympic quad, Lauritz Schoof with the great Marcel Hacker and Hans Gruhne from last year’s M2X and U23 bronze medalist Patrick Leineweber. The battle between the German crews will provide its own little sub-plot to the event but there are a lot of other top quality boats competing.
Perhaps the leading challenge to the Germans are the Swiss. The reigning U23 world champions are reunited in Bled after Barnabe Delarze was, perhaps surprisingly, dropped from the crew before last year’s worldd championships. This young crew is really exciting and have a good feww years of racing together. It wouldn’t surprise me if they bested the Germans.
One of the most interesting combinations is the new Croatian quad. The Croats dominated this event in 2013 but with David Sain missing the whole season through injury the Sinkovic brothers switched to the double and blew that event apart. Sain has now returned from injury and is part of a new quad combination with the experienced Mario Vekic, Vitomir Cavrlj and Vjekoslav Kolobaric. It remains to be seen if this combination can get anywhere near the speed of their illustrious predecessors.
Two other crews to mention are the Estonians who have three of last year’s 5th placed crew with the 35 year old Tonu Endrekson joining the boat this season. The Chinese have followed a similar pattern with three of the 4th placed crew from last year. The newbie is Liang Zhang who finished 11th in the M2X last year.
My picks….I reckon it’s going to be close between Germany 1 and Switzerland for the gold with Germany 2 just ahead of the Chinese.
6 crews….The only event in the regatta with the gold and silver medalists from 2014 competing. The Germans won a convincing gold in Amsterdam and have 3 of the crew returning (Annekatrin Thiele, Carina Baer and Lisa Schmidla) Marie-Catherine Arnold joins the boat replacing Julia Lier.
The Chinese are unchanged from last year (Yan Jiang, Xiaoxing Shen, Yang Liu and Xinyue Zhang). The Chinese are a young crew with an average age of just 22 and will be an exciting prospect this year and the run-up to Rio.
Behind these two it’ll be a good battle for the bronze between the Dutch and the Poles. Poland have two boats entered with Poland 1 containing 3 of last year’s 8th placed crew along with Monika Ciaciuch from the silver medal U23 quad. The other three members of the U23 quad are in the Poland 2 boat (along with the 4th member of the senior crew from last year, Sylwia Lewandowska….confused yet??)
The Dutch have a highly experienced crew with last years 7th placed W2X Nicole Beukers and Inge Janssen joined by Chantal Achterberg and Carline Bouw who were in the quad last year that also finished 7th.
My picks…Germany ahead of China with the Netherlands in 3rd.
5 crews. The Germans look to have put together two reasonably matched 8’s with last year’s crew members split across the two boats. In Germany 1 are Maximilian Planer, Malte Jakschik, Richard Schmidt Felix Drahotta and cox, Martin Sauer from the 2014 boat. They are joined by Hannes Ocik and Felix Drahotta who were in the 8 in 2013, Kristof Wilke from the gold medal Olympic boat. All-in-all a pretty strong line-up. Boat 2 has Eric Johannesen, Maximilian Reinhelt and Felix Wimberger from last year’s crew joined by M2+ bronze medalists Alexander Egler and Peter Kluge. At bow is the highly experienced Toni Siefert who has been in the M4- for the past few years and 20 year-old’s Max Korge and Johannes Weissenfeld both of whom are making their senior debuts having won silvers in the U23 M4- last year.
Poland really impressed last year taking the bronze medal and kept the same line-up at the start of this season. Bled offers them a great opportunity to take the scalp of the German’s….not something they’ve been able to do to date.
The French gave the M8 a big go last year but ultimately came up short, finishing 5th in Amsterdam. They have only kept 4 of last years crew (Sebastian Lente, Benoit Brunet, Cedric Berrest and Benjamin Lang). They are joined by Valentin Onfroy, Thibaut Verhoeven, Romain Delachaume and Laurent Cadot. There is also a change in the coxes seat with 45 year old Emmanuel Bunoz taking over from Benjamin Manceau and winning his first international vest since the Barcelona Olympics.
The last crew in the event are the Chinese. They have made two changes from the crew that finished 10th last year with Bobo Qiao coming back into the boat and 21 year old Jiankun Shen making his international debut.
My picks….I reckon the Poles could take this. They made a big step on last season and will be looking to capitalise on that this year. The German’s will probably take the silver and bronze.
So that’s it….the season has started….and it’s going to be a good one.