Time for a preview of the third and final Rowing World Cup. This year the final event before the Olympics is being held on the Lake Malta course in Poznan, Poland which hosts its first World Cup since 2008 (when it was also the final event before the Olympics).
A number of nations have chosen not to attend including the USA and the Dutch, but what the event might lack in numbers it more than makes up for in quality, including the long awaited first showdown in the W1X since 2014 between Emma Twigg of New Zealand and Kim Brennan of Australia.
So, without further ado let’s get on with it….
Having said numbers were slightly down versus Lucerne the M1X is the exception and sees a huge field of 30, 15 of whom will be racing in Rio.
One of the disappointments of the Lucerne World Cup was the withdrawal of Croatia’s Damir Martin, winner of the 1st World Cup and the European Championships. The showdown with Mahe Drysdale promised to be one of the races of the regatta. But, Martin is back for Poznan and hopefully this time we will get to see Europe’s best take on the reigning Olympic Champion.
Ondrej Synek of the Czech Republic has made a steady start to his 2016 campaign. The reigning World Champion took bronze in Brandenburg and silver in Lucerne, just being outsculled by Drysdale in the closing 200m of an enthralling race.
Interestingly Synek is entered as the Czech no.2 boat with Michal Plocek racing as CZE1. Plocek was in the M2X that narrowly missed out on qualification for Rio finishing 3rd at the Final Qualifying Regatta. At just 22 he may well be being lined up as the natural successor to the 33 year old Synek.
The Kiwis, like the Czechs, also have two scullers entered, Drysdale is the lead with the no.2 being John Storey, the 28 year old was part of the M4X that just missed qualification for Rio.
Norway’s Nils Jokob Hoff is another sculler who missed out on qualifying the M4X at the FOQR. But, with Tufte having qualified the M1X at Aiguebelette it looks like Hoff has been given the spot and will be heading to Rio. He’s a former M2X World Champion but this is his first international race in the single since 2009.
Another exciting young sculler is Poland’s Natan Wegrzycki-Szymczyk, he qualified for Rio by finishing 9th in Aiguebelette. He’s raced the M1X once so far this season finishing 5th in Varese. But his main focus has been as stroke of the University of California Varsity 8 which won the prestigious IRA Championships at the beginning of this month. It’ll be interesting to see how quickly he can switch back to single sculler mode.
Cuba’s Angel Fournier Rodriguez has consistently been among the medals so far this season, with silver in Varese and bronze in Lucerne making him the current leader of the World Cup series and any sort of medal in Poznan will see him take the overall World Cup title.
Great Britain have two scullers entered, Alan Campbell is slowly beginning to come back into the sort of form that saw him win bronze in London. 5th in Lucerne was a good step forward. The 2nd GB sculler is Jack Beaumont, who looks likely to be the sculling spare for the Olympic team.
Italy have Vincenzo Capelli in the single. So far this season he has been racing in the M2- and looked en route to Rio. But, when his partner, Niccolo Mornati failed a drugs test it looks like it spelt the end of Capelli’s Rio ambitions as well. Poznan is his first international race as a sculler.
My picks: Mahe over Damir with Synek in bronze
It looks like several countries are using Poznan as a final selection battle for Rio. Australia, GB, Italy and Romania all look to have two relatively equal boats racing.
For the Australians its Spencer Turrin and Alex Lloyd v James Medway & Josh Hicks. Turrin & Lloyd were 5th in Lucerne and Medway and Hicks were part of the Australian M8 that missed qualification for the Rio Games last month. For the British there’s Alan Sinclair and Stewart Innes up against Nathaniel Reilly O’Donnell and Matt Tarrant. Sinclair and Innes were initially named as the no.1 pair and raced to a silver medal at the European Championships. However they were overshadowed by the performance of the “spare” pair of O’Donnell & Tarrant who won in Varese and took bronze in Lucerne. The expected showdown in Lucerne between these 2 pairs was put on hold when illness hit the British team. It’s going to be fascinating to see these two pairs finally go head to head with the winners likely to be heading to Rio.
With the break-up of the Mornati/Capelli, Italy are looking to select their pair from half of the M8 who just missed qualification for Rio. Their pairings are Giovani Abagnale and Domenico Montrone against Filippo Mondelli and Alessandro Mansutti. The number one boat of Abagnale and Montrone are the far more experienced combination but Mansutti and Mondelli are a talented duo who were both part of the U23 World Championship winning M4+ last year.
The Romanians pairings are Vlad-Dragos Alcoboae and Toader-Andrei Gontaru as ROU1 and Cristi-Ilie Pirghie and George Palamaiu as ROU2. The no.1 boat of Alcoboae and Gontaru raced at the European Championships finishing 10th and the 2nd boat qualified the boat at last year’s Worlds when they finished 11th. I don’t think either of these boats will challenge for the medals, but the intra-country sub-plots will make this a fascinating event.
The Hungarians, Adrian Juhasz and Bela Simon Jr were, perhaps, surprise winners in Brandenburg benefitting from the favourable lane draw. Poznan will be a more interesting test for them.
I haven’t yet mentioned the Kiwis, basically it goes without saying that Murray and Bond are the overwhelming favourites. There’s a 2nd NZ boat racing as well with Axel Dickinson and Drikus Conradie. They were both part of the M4- that missed qualification for Rio so look likely to be the Olympic spares.
My picks…Murray & Bond (obviously) with Reilly-O’Donnell/Tarrant in silver and Turrin/Lloyd in bronze.
The Croatian Sinkovic’s are entered but they tweeted a week or so ago that they would be missing Poznan because of a back injury to Valent. Assuming they don’t race it’s shaping up to be a great battle for the gold between the Norwegians, Olaf Tufte and Kjetil Borch, the Kiwis, Robbie Manson and Chris Harris and the Germans, Marcel Hacker and Stephan Kreuger
The Kiwis were runners-up to the Croatians in Lucerne and were World bronze medallists last year. One of the most intriguing contests so far this year has been between two “old stagers” of World Rowing, Marcel Hacker of Germany, and Olaf Tufte of Norway. 39 year Old Hacker is heading for his 5th Olympics and Tufte (who turned 40 2 days before Hacker turned 39) is headed to his 6th. Injuries and illnesses have meant they’ve only faced eachother once so far this season, with the Germans getting the edge at the Europeans with a silver medal ahead of the Norwegians in 5th. Both are partnered by world medallists in this event. Tufte has 2013 World Champion Kjetil Borch and Hacker 2011 silver medallist Stephan Kreuger.
The British had a good regatta in Lucerne with two boats making the final. John Collins and Jonno Walton need to shake off their “nearly-men” reputation…they are consistently at the back of A-finals or the front of B-finals. Their undoubted abilities and speed in training should make them medal contenders but, so far, this has not translated into racing when it matters. A medal in Poznan would be a fantastic achievement.
Somewhat surprisingly the Poles, Artur Mikolajczewski and Milosz Jankowski have entered both heavyweight and lightweight doubles events. I can only imagine they may have some concern over making weight and will only race the M2X if they don’t make the LM2X weight limits.
Also watch out for the talented Italian double of Francesco Fossi and Romano Battisti, world silver medallists in 2014, they withdrew from Lucerne when Battisti was called upon to sub into the M4X
My picks…assuming the Croatians don’t race then I’ll go for New Zealand in gold with Norway in silver and the Germans in bronze
Both the British and Australians raced with substitutes on board in Lucerne and produced a titanic battle. The Asutralians led for the majority of the race but buckled under the pressure from the British in the final couple of strokes with Josh Dunkley-Smith catching an almighty boat-stopper of a crab just before the line. The British won’t be satisfied with the manner of their victory. They have set out to dominate this event and will have been somewhat concerned at the tough fight they got from Australia. But, with stroke man Stan Louloudis back in the boat Poznan will be the real test of their speed. For their part the Australians also have their usual stroke man, Alex Hill back in the boat. The battle between these two crews promises to be one of the highlights of the regatta. The British will want to send a clear message to the Australians that this event is theirs. They will be expecting to win but they will want an emphatic victory to leave the opposition in no doubt.
Behind these two the battle for bronze is most likely to be between the 2015 world Champions from Italy and the revamped German boat. The Italians were beaten by the USA in Varese, the only time they’ve raced so far this season. The Germans have made one change to the crew that finished 7th in Lucerne with Maximilian Korge replacing Torben Johannesen.
Belarus have 2 boats entered with the no.1 boat of Lialin, Mihal, Sharlap & Pashevich runners-up to the British at the European Championships. It remains to be seen if the no.2 boat (who are also doubling-up in the M8) are pushing them for Olympic selection.
My picks….GB by a length over Australia with Italy in 3rd
Australia were winners in Lucerne and looked very good in doing so. The World silver medallists were led by the British until the final quarter of the race before they put the hammer down and sculled through GB to run out winners by 2 seconds. For their part the British will have been encouraged by their performance. They were racing with a last minute substitute with Jack Beaumont replacing the ill Pete Lambert. Now back to full strength the British will go into Poznan confident that they can get revenge on the Australians.
Estonia were winners in Brandenburg following on from a bronze medal in Aigubelette last year. They will pose a major challenge to the Australians and British
The Swiss were bronze medallists in Lucerne but have been strengthened by the return on Barnabe Delarze reuniting the crew that finished 5th in the world last year.
The Germans are the defending World and Olympic champions and have the same line-up that won both events. But, for some reason in 2016 they have not found their form, 4th in Brandenburg and 5th in Lucerne there is clearly something wrong in the boat. If the alarm bells aren’t already ringing in the German camp, anything less than a medal in Poznan will surely set them off.
My picks…Australia to get the better of the British with the Estonians just pipping the Swiss and lots of German alarm bells to start ringing.
The British were hit by illness in Lucerne meaning they had to row with a substitute, but even considering that their performance was disappointing. Pushed off the podium for the first time since Lucerne 2013. They will be itching to put that right in Poznan. Not only are they back to full strength with Pete Reed back they have also shuffled their line-up with Reed moving to 7 and Andy Hodge taking over the stroke seat from Will Satch who moves back to the 4 seat. This could be an inspirational move by Grobler. Hodge is widely regarded as the best stroke man in the world and could provide the spark to get back on top of the Germans.
Germany will be smarting as well having been beaten by an inspired Dutch crew in Lucerne. They have made one change to their seating order with Felix Drahotta and Eric Johannesen swapping 4 and 6 seats.
New Zealand’s young 8 are on the verge of something special. The 2014 U23 World Champions they have stepped up en masse as the Oar-Blacks senior M8 and have made the A-final every time they raced. They would’ve been a little disappointed with 5th in Lucerne. I’ve a feeling Rio maybe a year too soon for this crew to really show its worth. If they stay together for the Tokyo Olympiad they could be gold medal contenders.
Poland are the perennial “nearly-men” in this event…always “there or thereabouts”. They took bronze in Varese but finished 5th in Brandenburg and didn’t race in Lucerne. They could push for a medal in Poznan on home water but it will be a battle with the Kiwis and Belarusians.
The Belarus 8 is intriguing. They gave the British and almighty shock in Brandenburg nearly beating them to the bronze medal. But they’re not qualified for Rio, nor did they enter the Final Olympic Qualifying regatta so this will be their final international outing of the season. They will be keen to go out with a bang and give one or more of the Olympic crews a proverbial “bloody nose”.
My picks….GB to get back on top ahead of the Germans with New Zealand some way back in bronze.
There’s one non-Olympic event, the M2+. Only 2 crews are competing, GB and Turkey. Oliver Cook and Callum McBrierty (coxed by Henry Fieldman) will be confident of gold. McBrierty subbed into the M4- in Lucerne and he and Cook raced in the M2- as GB2 in Varese finishing 9th. The Turks are represented by Onat Kazakli and Besim Sahinoglu (coxed by Kaan Aksu). This pair last raced together at the 2014 U23 World Championships finishing 4th. GB to win comfortably.
Now onto the men’s lightweight events:
This promises to be a really interesting contest. There have been three different winners of the 3 main International regattas so far this season. Rajko Hrvat of Slovenia won in Varese, Lukas Babac of Slovakia took gold in Brandenburg and Lukaa Radonic of Croatia won in Lucerne…an apparent Balkan stranglehold on the event. But the competition is going to be fierce, Stany Delayre of France is the defending LM2X world champion but has lost his seat for Rio. Instead he’s in the non-Olympic light single and will be looking to get something out of the season. His first race in the event was in Lucerne and he took the bronze medal. Konstantin Steinhuebel of Germany is hasn’t yet raced in the World Cup this season but did race at the European Championships picking up a silver medal. He finished 4th in the world last year and will be confident of getting among the medals in Poznan.
21 year old Matthew Dunham of New Zealand is a name to watch for the future. He took 4th in the U23 LM2X last season and was the lightweight sub for the New Zealand team in Lucerne. He was called upon to step into the LM4- and ended up winning gold. The competition may be a little too hot for him in the single in Poznan but he’s definitely one to watch for the future.
Another one to watch is the highly experienced Italian, Pietro Ruta. He’s won world championship medals in this event and raced in the light double at the London Olympics.
It’s disappointing not to see a GB entry, Jamie Kirkwood has been racing well but has moved into the LM4X for the rest of the season (although not racing in Poznan either).
My picks….Radonic to win ahead of Babac with Delayre in bronze
The British, Joel Cassells and Sam Scrimgeour have raced at Lucerne and the European Championships and are unbeaten so far this season. They look likely to be going to Rio as the lightweight spares and then onto Rotterdam for the World Championships. Their main challengers are likely to be the French, Augustin Mouterde and Alexis Guerinot, runners-up to the British in Lucerne. Also look out for the Danes, Emile Espensen and Jens Vilhelmsen, 2nd to the British in Brandenburg and 4th in Lucerne.
Another potential medal crew are the Germans, Julius Peschel and Sven Kessler. They were 5th in Lucerne and Brandenburg.
The Dutch are have a young crew, 21 year olds Frank Tijdink and Koen Van Brussel, both of whom are making their International debuts in Poznan and winners of an all Dutch LM2- at the Holland Beker earlier this month.
The Turks are another crew to watch, Mert Kaan Kartal and faith Unsal were 5th in Varese and were U23 LM2- silver medallists in 2015.
The final 2 crews to highlight are the Irish, Shane O’Driscoll and Mark O’Donovan, 4th in Brandenburg and the Swiss, Joel Schuerch and Fiorin Rueedi, silver medallists in Varese and 6th in Lucerne.
My picks…GB for gold with France in silver and Denmark bronze.
The French made the bold move to break up a World Championship winning partnership at the start of this season and bring in Pierre Houin in place of Stany delayer. There first appearance was in Lucerne and it certainly looked like the gamble paid off. They took gold ahead of the 2013 World Champions from Norway.
The Irish, Gary and Paul O’Donovan have been one of the revelations of the season. Winners in Brandenburg (Ireland’s 1st Olympic class gold since 2006). They found the competition a little tougher in Lucerne, just missing out on the medals but with the South Africans (who pipped them from bronze in Lucerne) not racing in Poznan, a medal is a real possibility.
The British, Richard Chambers and Will Fletcher, are the World Silver medallists and showed good speed in the heats at Lucerne. But in the final they were off the pace ending up 5th . But for a first race of the season and following a hand injury to Chambers it was an encouraging start. They will be expecting a much more competitive performance in Poznan and will be disappointed if they don’t get among the medals.
The young German crew, Jason Osborne and Moritz Moos, have only raced once this season, picking up a silver medal in Brandenburg. The 2104 U23 World Champions have threatened to break into the medals for the past couple of season but have been dogged by injuries, meaning we’ve yet to see their full potential. Rio may come too soon for this duo but they will be strong contenders for Tokyo.
As mentioned earlier, the Poles have entered both heavyweight and lightweight events so it remains to be seen whether the race in their preferred lightweight category. They were 4th in Brandenburg and 7th in Lucerne.
My picks….France for gold ahead of Norway in silver and GB in bronze
The Swiss world Champions were given a bit of a wakeup call in Lucerne when they were beaten by New Zealand, especially as the Kiwis were racing with a substitute on board. In Poznan the New Zealanders are back to full strength….an ominous prospect for their rivals. It’ll be interesting to see how the Swiss respond to the challenge. The loss in Lucerne was their first since losing to the Kiwis in Lucerne last year.
The Danes have made a slowish (by their standards) start to the season. They raced heavyweight in Brandenburg, as they weren’t quite ready to make weight and came a creditable 6th. In Lucerne they were back in lightweight trim and took the bronze.
The British won silver in Brandenburg and looked strong in Lucerne but were a little disappointing in the final ending up 5th. They will expect better in Poznan and will be wanting to be in the mix for the medals.
The French are also major contenders for the medals. They finished in bronze position in 2015 and so far in 2016 have raced once, finishing just out of the medals in Lucerne.
The Italians raced two crews in Varese with their no.2 boat finishing 7th and the no.1 crew 12th. But it’s the 12th placed boat that is racing in Poznan and has 3 of the 4 crew members who finished 6th in Aiguebelette. The one change to the crew is Giorgio Tuccinardi replacing Alberto Di Seyssel.
The Chinese finished 2nd in Varese and 7th in Lucerne, but in Poznan they have a completely different line-up. Their crew includes Zhongwei Li and Lei Li who last raced internationally as a LM2- at Lucerne 4 years ago, 20 year old Jie Dong who makes his international debut and Guiying Zhu who finished 4th in the LM1X at the 2015 Bled World Cup. You never know quite what to expect from the Chinese so it’ll be interesting to see how this latest crew get on.
My picks…NZL gold, Switzerland silver and GB bronze
This is the first time this season that this event has been contested so there’s not much form to go on. There’s a distinctly Scandinavian feel to the event, with Denmark, Sweden and Norway making up 3 of the 5 competitors. Most of the countries racing are using this event to “blood” some new talent, both the swedes and the Norwegians are making the step up from U23 to senior level for the first time and the Germans also have two international debutants, with just Florian Roller having any sort of senior experience having been part of the LM8 that won gold last year (and will forever remain the reigning LM8 World Champion as the event has now ceased to exist).
The Danes look to have the strongest boat with two of the crew that took bronze at last year’s World Championships, Mathias Larsen and Andrej Bendtsen, along with 2 other seasoned internationals, Steffen Jensen and Jens Nielsen.
The Dutch have 3 crew members making their senior debuts and one, Sander Van Dijk, who raced in the senior LM8 in 2014.
It’s a shame the British LM4X (winners of the Holland Beker) haven’t been entered at Poznan as they would surely have been favourites for gold, instead they are racing domestically at Marlow Regatta.
My picks….Denmark for a comfortable win with Germany 2nd and the Netherlands 3rd.
That’s it for the men’s events…now onto the women…..