Time for the final part of my preview of the Final Olympic Qualifying Regatta – The Lightweights.
Qualifying places available: 2
This is the only event at the regatta which involves the defending champions. Rasmus Quist and Mads Rasmussen of Denmark are two of their nation’s most successful rowers, world champions in 2006 and 2007 Olympic bronze medallists in 2008 and then champions 4 years later. After London they took a break from racing together and then their return was delayed through injury. When they finally did return to competition last year their performances weren’t exactly scintillating, 18th in Varese and 21st in Lucerne. Their performance so far this season has been more encouraging, they reached the A-final in Varese. But, it will take a significant increase in their performances so far to ensure they reach their 3rd Olympic Games and try and defend their title.
The form crew of 2016 in this event are the Belgians, Tim Brys and Niels Van Zandweghe. Bronze medallists in Varese and 5th at the European Championships. Brys spent last season in the LM1X finishing 4th in Varese and winning the B-Final in Aiguebelette. 20 year old Van Zandweghe raced at the U23 World Championships last year making the A-Final in the LM4X.
The surprise of 2015 in this event was the failure of the Kiwis to achieve direct qualification. This year there is a new combination, Adam Ling and Toby Cunliffe-Steel. Ling is the reigning LM1X world champion and was in the 2014 double with Alistair Bond that didn’t do better than a C-Final. Cunliffe-Steel is making his senior debut after racing at two U23 World Championships. This is an interesting and exciting new combination but they are also an unknown quantity.
Another highly experienced double are the Portuguese, Pedro Fraga and Nuno Mendes. These two have been racing together off and on for 10 years and are attempting to qualify for their 3rd Olympics. Their performance in London was one of the highpoints of their partnership when they reached the A-Final and finished 5th. Since reforming as a double in 2015 they haven’t recaptured that sort of form. So far in 2016 they have two B-Final placings, 11th in Varese and 8th in Brandenburg.
The Spanish are another double that have a good chance of qualifying. Adria Mitjavila and Rodrigo Conde Romero raced in Varese and finished an excellent 5th. They are a very young crew, 21 year old Mitjavila finished 6th at the U23 World Championships last year and Conde Romero is just 18 and finished 6th in the JM4- in 2015. Rio may have come a couple of years too soon for the young Spaniards, but if their progress continues at this rate they could be very serious contenders for the Tokyo Olympiad.
Hungary’s Peter Galambos was one of the top Lightweight single scullers in 2012 and 2013 finishing with a silver medal in 2012 and bronze the following year. But, the challenge for him was to find a partner to form a double that could be competitive in Rio. In 2015 he formed a partnership with Daniel Matyasovszki. So far their best performance has been a 7th place at the Bled World Cup last year. At the Europeans Galambos was absent and Matyasovszki raced the single finishing 9th.
My picks….Belgium and New Zealand
Qualifying places available: 2
Germany have shown the best form in the field so far in 2016. The crew of Jonathan Koch, Lucas Schaefer, Tobias Franzmann and Lars Wichert raced at both Varese and Brandenburg. At her World Cup they finished 5th and on home water they took bronze. Qualification should be straightforward for the Germans as their current form is significantly ahead of the rest of the competition.
The fight for the 2nd qualification spot is going to be much closer. Leading the chase will most likely be the Spanish. Ander Zabler, Patricio Rojas Aznar, Marc Franquet Montfort and Imanol Garmendia finished 6th in Brandenburg and are 3 of the crew that finished 14th last year.
Also fighting for the 2nd spot will be the Poles, Jerzy Kowalski, Lukasz Siemion, Tomasz Zagorski and Pawel Cieszowski had a good performance at the first world cup finishing 8th, but at the Europeans they crashed out at the Repecharge stage.
My picks…Germany and Spain
Qualifying places available: 2
2 from 7 in this event. The form crew this season are the Dutch, Ilse Paulis and Maaike Head. They were the fastest European crew in Varese and they reinforced that position taking the win in Brandenburg. If they show the same speed in Lucerne then they should secure one of the precious spots in Rio.
The Italians, Laura Milani and Elisabetta Sancassani are an experienced duo. They were World Champions in 2013 and European Champions in 2014, in 2015 Milani became ill during the world championships and they ended up being classified 24th. So far this year they raced at Varese finishing 8th. With the experience they have they cannot be discounted as potential qualifiers.
The Australians have a new combination for 2016 with Hannah Every-Hall and Georgia Nesbitt. 38 year old Every-Hall is one of the most experienced members of the Australian squad. She won her first world championship title in 2002, she then took a break until 2010 and made the A-Final in both 2010, 2011 and 2012. Another 2 year break saw her return to competition in 2014 and a World Championship silver medal in the LW4X. Her partner, Georgia Nesbitt, is 15 years her junior, she made her senior debut in 2013 finishing 4th at the Sydney World Cup. In 2014 she won U23 bronze in the LW2X and in 2015 she was Australia’s representative in the LW1X finishing 8th. This looks a very strong combination and should qualify.
The Greeks also have a new combination of youth and experience. Anastasia Vontzou is only 16 but has already competed at U23 level finishing 6th in the W4X last year just 2 weeks after turning 16! She’s partnered by 33 year old Gerorgia Dimakou who raced in this boat class last year finishing 15th.
The Swiss, Frederique Rol and Patricia Merz, had a really strong performance in Brandenburg just missing out on the medals. They raced at Aiguebelette last year finishing 16th after a strong bronze medal at U23 level. They may struggle to break into the top 2 in Lucerne but could well be ones to watch for 2017 and beyond.
My picks: The Netherlands and Australia.
Bring on the racing