The World Championships – a review part 2 – The Women’s events

Yesterday I discussed the results of the men’s heavyweight Olympic events, today it’s time for the women’s events…


Coming into these championships I predicted that Kim Crow would dominate…..I must admit that wasn’t too difficult a prediction to make. No-one has come close to her this season and the Worlds were no different. She took the gold comfortably ahead of Knapkova of the Czech Republic. For the former world champion it was as good a performance as she could’ve hoped for and with Duan of China in 3rd the medalists were fairly predictable. What was interesting in this event was the fact that some “big” names appeared well down the order. The C-Final had a ridiculously talented line up:
Julia Richter Olympic silver medal and World Gold
Fie Udby-Erichsen Olympic Silver medal
Lisa Scheenaard European silver medalist
Fiona Bourke World gold medalist
Natalyia Dovgodko Olympic champion
Julia Michalska Olympic silver medallist

The net result is none of these athletes have qualified for Rio. The most interesting one of these is Fiona Bourke of New Zealand. There’s been a huge amount of discussion and debate about her selection in this boat over Emma Twigg. The debate was, if Bourke qualified the boat then there was the likelihood of having to have a race-off with Twigg for the Olympic spot. With Bourke failing to qualify the boat this is obviously disappointing for her and for the New Zealand federation. But, in some ways it make the situation easier and more straight-forward. What I expect to happen now is Twigg returns to the fray and goes straight back into the single and has the “simple” task of qualifying the boat via the European Final Olympic Qualifying Regatta (which also includes the USA, Australia, New Zealand and Canada) in the summer (as did Kim Crow in 2012).
It was a great regatta for the USA’s Gevvie Stone. Whilst she may have missed out on the medals she has proved this season that she is a consistent A-Finalist. She’s going to be a big threat in Rio. It was also a strong performance from Switzerland’s Jeannine Gmelin in 5th. Sculler’s who will be disappointed are Belorussia’s Tatsiana Kukhta and Ireland’s Sanita Puspure. Both of these two missed out on qualifying, which, after some of their performances earlier in the season comes as a bit of a surprise. With 3 spots available at the final qualifying in the summer (and you have to assume Twigg will take one of them) the competition for the remaining spots is going to be fierce.
Medals: Gold – AUS, Silver – CZE, Bronze – CHN
Olympic qualifiers: AUS, CZE, CHN, USA, SUI, CAN, SWE, LTU, AUT

The talk heading into the final was that the USA could pose a real threat to the dominance of the British. However, no-one appeared to tell the British as Helen Glover and Heather Stanning absolutely destroyed the field. They row superbly and are rated by some coaches as technically the best crew in the world right now (men or women). I’ve checked the record books and this victory means that since the start of 2011 Glover has raced the W2- 50 times and she has 49 wins and 1 2nd place (which was by 8/100th to the Kiwis in 2011). By my reckoning this gives her the longest winning streak of any British athlete. Behind the British the Americans gave it a good go but they got caught on the line by the outstanding young Kiwis, Grace Prendergast and Kerri Gowler. They might not be able to catch the British just yet but they are world champions’ in-waiting.
Medals: Gold – GBR, Silver – NZL, Bronze – USA

Gold was no surprise, the Kiwis have been outstanding so far this season and they continued that dominance in the final. The big surprise of the regatta was the performance of the Greeks. Sofia Asoumanaki has only just turned 18 and picked up a silver medal at the Junior Worlds earlier this year. Earlier in the year she posted an astonishing 6:30 2K erg…clearly she’s a major, major talent. Her partner, Aikaterini Nikolaidou is only 22 and won silver in the LW1X last year. For them to step-up to take the silver was a superb result.
The big focus heading into the regatta was the British, with 2012 Olympic champion Katherine Grainger joined by Vicky Thornley. After a disastrous Lucerne they definitely had a point to prove in Aiguebelette. I was really impressed with 90% of their race in the final. They took the challenge to the Kiwis and Greek and were looking good for a possible medal. But they just ran out of steam in the run-in to the line. But, overall it was an encouraging performance. But, and it’s a big but, there is going to be a big question over this combination with the return of Grainger’s 2012 partner, Anna Watkins. She was in Aiguebelette as part of the BBC commentary team and it must have been fascinating watching the double race. She’s been quite diplomatic in saying she’s coming back to try and win gold but she would be looking for a seat in any boat, but, in reality she’s after her old seat. If she proves herself physically then the battle to get into the double is going to be huge and just one of the many intriguing contests within the GB squad.
Relatively speaking the results from Australia, Belarus and the USA were disappointing in this event. Yes, they have qualified for Rio but they took the final 3 places. The Australian’s were silver medalists in Lucerne but could only manage 10th in Lucerne and the US were silver medalists in Varese and just managed to secure the final Olympic qualifying spot by taking 11th.

One of the biggest shocks of the regatta. The US were fantastic and handed the German’s the first defeat in this boat class for over a year. It also made history as it was the first time the US had ever won this event. It was interesting that the line-up for the Americans was only settled a few weeks before the championships when the W2- of Megan Kalmoe and Kerry Simmonds didn’t get the nod for selection in that boat. As it turns out this was a blessing in disguise as both Kalmoe and Simmonds left Aiguebelette with gold medals in their pockets.
The Dutch also had a great regatta and won the battle for bronze ahead of the Poles and Australians. It was the Kiwis who missed out on Olympic qualifying as only 5 spots were available. I wonder if Fiona Bourke will be brought into this boat for the final qualifying attempt in the summer.
The British produced some of their best performances of the season but it was not good enough to challenge for Olympic qualifying. This boat class has been a problem for the British for the last few years (and I’ve discussed this many times in the past). As they head into 2016 I would expect there to be some changes. With both Watkins and Polly Swann to return to the fray they could well strengthen this boat or move into other boats that would then move those athletes into the quad….we shall see.
Medals: Gold – USA, Silver – GER, Bronze – NED
Olympic qualifiers: USA, GER, NED, POL, AUS

If you had to bet your house on a win then I would choose the Kiwi M2- first but then I’d go for the USA W8. They haven’t been beaten for years and just dominate this event. It’s a demonstration of the strength of the women’s system in the US. The university system generates a conveyor belt of ferociously strong and technically competent athletes. I have heard that this system is worth approximately $50m per year. The US could probably boat 2 or even 3 eights and still remain unbeaten.
The interesting part in this final was the performance of the Kiwis. The Canadians were the strong favourites to push the Americans but instead it was the New Zealanders who took up the silver medal spot. This was the 2nd silver medal of the weekend for Prendergast and Gowler. For the Canadians it was a disappointment as they like to consider themselves the main challengers to the Americans. The British also looked good but in their turn will be a bit disappointed not to take a medal. But, for both the Canadians and British the key point is that Olympic qualification was secured so job done. The Russians edged out the Dutch for the final qualifying spot and the Dutch will have been bitterly disappointed. It was also a surprise to see the powerhouses of Australia, Romania, China and Germany battling it out in the B-Final. There will be just 2 spots available at the Final qualifying regatta and it’s going to be brutal.
Medals: Gold – USA, Silver – NZL, Bronze – CAN
Olympic qualifiers: USA, NZL, CAN, GBR, RUS

Next up, part 3 – the lightweights.


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