Following on from the preview of the men’s events yesterday it’s now time to look at who to watch in the women’s open and lightweight events.
There may be 24 women racing in this event but it’s all about just two, the 2014 World Champion Emma Twigg of New Zealand against the 2015 World Champion from Australia, Kim Brennan. We’ve been waiting for this race for almost 2 years. Twigg was ruled out of 2015 because her studies and in her absence Brennan made hay. Now the two of them will be on the same course and the same event. This is going to be almost too close to call. Twigg had to go through the pressure of the European Olympic Qualifying Regatta which she managed without too much difficulty. Brennan was unbeaten in 2015 and started 2016 where she left off with a win in Lucerne. How will these two fare against each other in their only meeting before the Olympic Games?
Behind these two there is a wealth of talent, especially the evergreen Ekaterina Karsten on her way to her 7th Olympic Games aged 44. She won silver in Varese and successfully qualified the boat at the European Qualifying Regatta. Age may mean she has to ration her performances but she can never be discounted.
Austria’s Magdalena Lobnig has had the best season of her career so far taking her first ever gold medal at the European Championships, and her countries first Olympic class gold since the European championships in 2007.
Another sculler who’s having a great season is Ireland’s Sanita Puspure, two bronze medals at the European championships and the Varese World Cup and qualifying for the Olympics behind Twigg at the European Qualifying regatta she’s coming into form at just the right moment to do something special in Rio.
The Czech Republic’s Mirka Knapkova isn’t racing at Poznan after a season that can best be described as mediocre. Instead the Czechs are being represented by 22 year old Lucie Zabova. We’ll after wait until Rio to see Knapkova return to the fray.
Also having the best season of her career is Switzerland’s Jeannine Gmelin. She finished 2015 in 5th place and went one better in her first race in Varese. She found the going a little harder in Lucerne winning the B Final but an A final placing in Poznan will be a great end to her World Cup campaign.
My picks…will it be Twigg or Brennan? I’m going for a Kiwi victory with Australia in silver and these two well clear of Karsten in bronze.
Great Britain have dominated this event all Olympiad, they went into Lucerne as favourites to continue their run and looked very good in the heat. Unfortunately during their warm up for the final Heather Stanning felt unwell so GB ended with a DNS (better than a DNF I suppose). In their absence the USA took the gold ahead of the Kiwis. With the USA absent from Poznan the main challenge to the British will be the Kiwis. But GB have the confidence that they’ve never lost to the Kiwis so it’ll be no surprise if the British continue their gold medal progress.
German women are not renowned for their sweep rowing but in Kerstin Hartmann and Kathrin Marchand they have a very effective pairing. 4th in Varese and runners-up to the British in Brandenburg. Lucerne was a little bit more challenging as they failed to make the A Final
Romania took bronze in Brandenburg with Madalina Beres and Laura Oprea. They were both part of the Romanian W8 who won the Final Olympic Qualifying Regatta. So this means that this pair will have to double up in both the pair and the w8 if they race at all in Rio.
Doubling-up is something the New Zealanders, Genevieve Behrent and Rebecca Scown will also be doing in Rio. New Zealand have been trying different combinations in an effort to beat the British. In 2013 Scown raced with Kayla Pratt and took bronze, in 2014 she won another bronze this time with Louise Trappitt. In 2015 the pairing was Grace Prendergast and Kerri Gowler and they went one better taking the silver medal. Now Scown is back in the pair, this time with Behrent. I can’t help thinking that all this chopping and changing is playing into the British hands. Good coxless pairs take time to establish themselves otherwise they are just fighting for silver.
Another crew to mention are the Danes, Hedvig Rasmussen and Anne Andersen they just missed the medals in Aiguebelette and so far this season have a 5th in Brandenburg and another in Lucerne.
My picks…a comfortable GB victory with the Kiwis in silver and Germany in bronze
All the talk in the lead up to Poznan has been about the British. Defending Olympic champion, Katherine Grainger formed a new partnership with Vicky Thornley that has had mixed results. A disappointing 4th in Brandenburg saw the partnership disbanded and a request to trial for the W8, when that failed the recriminations started and accusations were made by Thornley’s partner, Ric Egington, of mismanagement by chief coach Paul Thompson who has “undermined her performance”. At the recent GB Olympic team announcement the W2X were conspicuous by their absence, but Performance Director Sir David Tanner said that Grainger and Thornely would be back in the double and they have, in fact now been entered for Poznan (despite not being on the original entry list. The optimist in me says that this hiatus will have so fired them up that they’ll absolutely fly whereas the pessimist in me says the disruption will only be negative and an A-final appearance would be a major achievement.
But, from those crews who are entered it’s likely to be the Australians, Sally Kehoe and Genevieve Horton who lead the way. They led for most of the race in Lucerne before being caught on the line in a stunning sprint by the Lithuanians.
New Zealand, Eve Macfarlane and Zoe Stevenson are the defending World Champions but they’ve had a distinctly rocky start to their 2016 campaign. They finished 6th in Lucerne and also lost to Belorussia at the Holland Beker. This could just be down to acclimatising to the European timezone, but it’s definitely not part of the plan.
The Belarusians, Yuliya Bichyk and Tatsiana Kukhta won the European championships but missed the A-Final in Lucerne, as mentioned above they took the win at the Holland Beker and will be heading into Poznan in great confidence.
The Germans are also strong medal contenders, Marieke Adams and Marie-Catherine Arnold were bronze medallists in Aiguebelette and started this season with a silver medal in Brandenburg and 4th place in Lucerne.
The final crew to mention are the Poles, Magdalena Fularczyk and Natalia Madaj, winners in their only race so far this season in Varese.
My picks… Australia for the win ahead of Belarus and the British (the optimistic “me” has won)
Belarus have 7 of their women’s 8 doubling up in the 4-‘s. Germany have half of their W8 that missed out on qualifying for Rio. Italy have a young crew all of whom are U23.
My picks…Belarus in gold and silver with Germany in bronze.
A small but very competitive field. Poland have two golds and a silver so far this season with wins in Varese and Lucerne and a silver behind the Germans in Brandenburg. Germany have dominated this event this Olympiad winning 11 out of 14 Regattas. But this dominance has started to slip a little in the run in to Rio. They suffered a surprising defeat to the USA in Aiguebelette and then in 2016 losing to the Poles. The question is, is this just a wobble or are the Germans in trouble?
The Netherlands were bronze medallists last year, equalling the best ever performance by a dutch Women’s quad at a World Championships (equalling the bronze won at Tampere all the way back in 1995) and in 2016 they have a silver from Varese, a 4th place in Brandenburg and a bronze in Lucerne. Can this crew make history and become the first Dutch women’s quad to win an Olympic medal?
Australia have a good pedigree in this event and have kept the same line up that finished 5th in the world last year. So far this season they have raced one at Lucerne where they also took 5th. In a very strong field they may just miss out on the medals.
The final crew racing are the Belarussians, they are a young crew and have three of the line up that finished last at the European championships. I think they will find the pace a little too hot in Poznan.
My picks…Germany to get the better of the Poles with the Dutch in 3rd.
In the absence of the all-conquering USA crew (who have only lost twice since 2009) it’s a chance for the British to step up and reinforce their credentials as the main challengers for the Americans. The British won gold in Brandenburg (their first since the 1st World cup in 2010) and then took silver behind the US in Lucerne. But since then they’ve gone through the disruption of trialing Thornley and Grainger for seats in the boat. Now that’s out of the way they can focus on preparations for Rio. One of the hallmarks of this crew is just how tight a unit they have become. They will also take confidence in the knowledge that they’ve beaten the other three crews racing in Poznan already this season. They will go into Poznan with a point to prove to the coaching team that they are the strongest unit that GB could put together.
The fight for the silver and bronze will be between the Dutch and New Zealand boats. The Dutch were winners in Varese (the first time the Dutch had won both the men’s and women’s 8’s) and runners-up to the British in Brandenburg. The race against the British in Brandenburg was a bit of an epic with GB clawing their way back into the race in the final 500m and only passing the Dutch in the final 2 strokes. Seeing these two go head to head again is going to be fun.
The Kiwis will be a little bit disappointed with the start to their 2016 campaign. They won silver at the 2015 world Championships but in Lucerne they were a little off the pace finishing over a length behind the British. They have a couple of athletes doubling up in the W2- and I can’t help thinking that in going for 2 medals they are sacrificing the chance of gold in one. I expect them to be more on the pace in Poznan than they were in Lucerne but still not quite enough to catch the Dutch and British.
Belarus are the 4th crew, they were 6th in Brandenburg and are also doubling up in the W4- I’ve a feeling they will find the pace a little too hot to handle in the w8
My picks….GB for gold, NED in silver and NZ in bronze
New Zealand’s Zoe McBride has made quite an impact on the world stage since her international debut as a junior in 2012. She took JW4X bronze in her first season and followed that with a 5th place in 2013. In 2014 she stepped up to U23 level and won gold in the LW2X. 2015 saw her make her senior debut and she was unbeaten for the whole season culminating in another U23 LW2X gold and then the senior LW1X gold medal (setting a new Worlds Best Time in the process – not bad for a 19 year old!) At the start of 2016 it looked she was picking up where she’d left off cruising through to the LW1x final in Lucerne. However she came unstuck in the final ending up with “just” the bronze behind Anja Noske of Germany and Runge Holmegaard of Denmark. This could, perhaps, be attributed to jet lag but it will have come as a bit of a shock to the Kiwi nonetheless, she’s not used to losing!
Noske isn’t racing in Poznan but Lucerne silver medallist Holmegaard is. The Dane has had a good season taking silver behind Noske at both Lucerne and the European Championships. She’s was also part of the talented Danish light quad that won the World championships last year. With Noske away she’ll be hoping to move up to the top of the podium.
Fabiana Beltrame of Brazil is one of the icons of World Rowing. It’s a huge shame that we won’t have a chance of seeing her competing at a home Olympics. The 34 year old had a good 2015 winning medals at the first 2 world cups and just missing the medals in Aiguebelette. She’s made a slower start to 2016 with a 7th place in Lucerne but if she’s up to speed she will be a definite medal contender.
A really exciting young sculler is the Netherland’s No.2 boat of Marieke Keijser. The 19 year old is the reigning junior world single scull champion and made quite an impact on her senior international debut winning gold in Varese. She is World Rowing’s “rising star” for March and it’s interesting to read that she discovered rowing whilst studying ballet at the Royal Dutch Conservatorium – I’ve always said that I thought ballet dancers would make good rowers (I even wrote a blog on the subject). It’s going to be interesting to see the two young scullers Keijser and McBride going head to head for the first time.
Denise Walsh of Ireland has made a good start to 2016. 14th in 2015 she won the B Final in Varese and followed that up with an excellent 4th place finish at the European Championships.
Another sculler to mention is the Dutch no.1 boat of Elisabeth Woerner, winner of the bronze medal at the European’s – she may find herself overshadowed by her young compatriot.
The final sculler to call out is Italy’s Giulia Pollini – she finished 5th in Amsterdam and has raced once so far this season finishing 10th in Varese.
As with the LM1x it’s disappointing not to see a GB entry – Imogen Walsh is the World silver medallist and would surely have been a medal contender in Poznan. However it appears that after a slightly disappointing European championships where she finished 6th she’s not going to get another race before the Rotterdam World Championships.
My picks: McBride in gold with Keijser in silver and Holmegaard in bronze
There have been three different winners at the three international regattas this season. In Varese the Chinese dominated taking a 1,2. In Brandenburg at the European championships it was the Dutch who took gold and in Lucerne it was the turn of the Canadians to top the podium. Of those three winners only the Dutch, Ilse Paulis and Maaike Head who are racing in Poznan.
Last year’s World Champions from New Zealand, Sophie Mackenzie and Julia Edward have, like a number of their compatriots, made a steady start to their 2016 campaign. They raced in Lucerne but were off the pace, lying 5th at halfway and only a determined sprint in the 2nd half saw them take bronze half a second ahead of the Chinese. They will undoubtedly be quicker having had a couple more weeks in Europe to acclimatise.
The British have also made a distinctly ropey start to their 2016 campaign, Olympic champion Kat Copeland and partner Charlie Taylor raced at the European Championships and looked strong in their heat. But, inexplicably they stuttered in the semi finals and missed the A-Final leaving them totally distraught. They decided not to race in Lucerne and instead remain training in Caversham. No doubt they will be fired-up to right the wrongs of Brandenburg and get their Rio campaign back on track and show the world they still have the speed that took them to the World’s Best Time in Aiguebelette and a silver medal.
The Germans have also had a mixed start to their Rio campaign, a silver medal in Brandenburg was followed by a disappointing 11th in Lucerne.
The Poles, Joanna Dorociak and Weronika Deresz were bronze medallists in Brandenburg. In Lucerne Dorociak raced in the LW1X finishing 8th and Deresz raced the double with Martyna Mikolajczak finishing 8th. Whether this was a form of seat racing is uncertain but it looks like the combination for Rio is now set.
The final crew to mention are the Danes, Anne Lolk Thomsen and Julianne Rasmussen, they are beginning to make a habit of finishing 5th having finished there in 2015 and again at both Brandenburg and Lucerne.
My picks: New Zealand back to winning ways with the British chasing them hard in silver and the Dutch in bronze.
The racing will be fast and furious and is the last chance for crews to get some racing before it all gets serious in Rio (or Rotterdam for the non-Olympic events).