The Rio Olympic Games Women’s Double Sculls preview

time for the next installment of my event by event preview at the Rio Olympic Games – The Women’s Double Sculls.

 

 

Australia

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Genevieve Horton 21 & Sally Kehoe 29

Olympic record

Horton: 2016 Olympic debut

Kehoe: 6th W8 Beijing, 6th W8 London

World Championship record

Horton: 13th W2- 2015

Kehoe: 3rd W2X 2005, 2nd W4X 2006, 4th W8 2007, 4th w2X 2009, 4th W4X 2010, 4th W4X 2011, 3rd W2x 2014, 10th W2X 2015

2016 record: 2nd W2X Lucerne World Cup, 6th W2X Poznan World Cup

Australia have a mix of youth and experience, with Sally Kehoe they have one of their most experienced women athletes. Rio will be her 3rd Olympics having raced in the W8 at both the Beijing and London Games. She made her senior debut over 10 years ago and has only failed to make the A-Final twice. She’s partnered by Genevieve Horton who is just starting out on her international career. She made her senior debut at the age of 18 in the W8 that won the Sydney World Cup in 2013, she also raced at the Junior and U23 World Championships that year as well, winning junior gold. She made her first appearance at a senior World Championships last year in the W2- finishing 13th. This season she and Kehoe have formed an effective partnership taking silver in Lucerne and also making the A-Final in Poznan. I reckon they have an outside chance of a medal.

 

Belarus

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Yuliya Bichyk 33 & Tatsiana Kukhta 26

Olympic record

Bichyk: 4th W8 Sydney, 3rd W2- Athens, 3rd W2- Beijing

Kukhta: Missed qualifying in 2012

World Championship record

Bichyk: 5th W8 1998, 7th W8 1999, 1st W4- 1999, 5th W8 2001, 2nd W2- 2002, 2nd W4X 2003, 2nd W2- 2003, 7th W8 2005, 5th W2- 2005, 6th W2X 2006, 1st W2- 2007, 11th W2- 2011, 3rd W2X 2013, 10th W4X 2014, 9th W2X 2015

Kukhta: 8th W4X 2009, 17th W2X 2011, 10th W4X 2013, 10th W4X 2014, 10th W1X 2015

2016 record

Bichyk: 1st W2X European Championships, 7th W2X Lucerne World Cup, 4th W2X Poznan World Cup

Kukhta: 5th W1X Varese World Cup, 1st W2X European Championships, 7th Lucerne World Cup, 4th W2X Poznan World Cup.

Belarus have been playing with their line-ups in the past 12 months. Initially the line-up was Bichyk and Karsten – two of the most experienced rowers in the while rowing world. But, Karsten has never really been happy in crew sculling boats. With Karsten moving back to her preferred boat the line-up for rio has settled on Bichyk and Tatsiana Kukhta. Yuliya Bichyk is one of the most experienced athletes on the circuit. She made her senior debut all the way back in 1998 – 6 weeks after her 15th birthday, and she has the unusual record of having become a senior word champion (W4- in 1999) before becoming junior World Champion (JW2- in 2000). She’s been a regular member of the Belarus squad racing at three Olympic Games and winning two bronze medals. She’s joined by Tatsiana Kukhta. The 26 year old missed qualifying for the London Olympics. In 2015 she was the selected single sculler for Belarus winning bronze at the European Championships but ending up with a disappointing World Championships where she finished 10th. She continued in the single at the start of 2016, finishing 5th at Varese (crucially 3 spots behind Karsten). She then moved into the double and a 7th place in Lucerne was followed by 4th in Poznan. An A-Final finish will be a good result for this double.

 

China

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At the time of writing the Chinese double has not been named, however the crew that raced at the Poznan World Cup was Jingjing Li and Mengchan Wu. This was the international debut for both of these athletes and they finished 11th of 11 more than 30 seconds behind 10th place.

 

Czech Republic

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Lenka Antosova 24 & Kristyna Fleissnerova 23

Olympic record

Antosova: 7th W2X London

Fleissnerova: 2016 Olympic debut

World championship debut

Antosova: 5th W2X 2009, 4th W2X 2010, 6th W2X 2011, 13th W2X 2014, 12th W2X 2015

Fleissnerova: 12th W2X 2015

2016 record: 3rd W2X European Championships, 1st W2X FOQR, 9th W2X Poznan World Cup

Lenka Antosova made her senior international debut in 2009 and has spent almost her entire senior career in the W2X. For the first three years of that senior career she raced with her elder sister, Jitka. There best results were medals at the 2009 European Championships and also at a couple of World Cups. They qualified for the London Olympics and won the B-Final. 2014 saw her partnered by Lucie Zabova and then in 2015 she formed a partnership with Kristyna Fleissnerova. The 23 year old made her senior debut in 2015 and they ended the season in 12th. 2016 saw the duo deliver their first international medal with a bronze at the Europeans Championships. This was followed by a win at the Final Olympic Qualifying Regatta. Their final race of the pre-Olympic season was at the third World Cup in Poznan where they finished a somewhat disappointing 9th of 11 crews. An A-final finish would be a very strong result for the young Czechs.

 

Denmark

Denmark Flag magnet

Lisbet Jakobsen 29 & Nina Hollensen 24

Olympic record

Jakobsen: Missed qualifying for London

Hollensen: 2016 Olympic debut

World championship Record

Jakobsen: 3rd W4- 2008, 9th W2X 2010, 14th W2X 2011, 6th W2X 2013, 12th W4X 2014, 13th W2X 2015

Hollensen: 8th U23 W2X 2014

2016 record: 3rd W2X Varese World Cup, 2nd W2X FOQR, 8th W2X Poznan World Cup.

Jackobsen and Hollensen have made history by qualifying the W2X for the Olympics in Rio, the first time Denmark have every qualified for this event. For Jakobsen it’s particularly pleasing as she narrowly missed out on qualifying for London 2012. She’s been predominantly competing in the W2X for the last 6 years. Her best performance was a silver medal with Mette Petersen at the Eton World Cup in 2013. This duo had a disappointing 2015 ending up 13th. In 2016 she formed a new partnership with Nina Hollensen. For her part, Hollensen is making her senior debut this year and won a medal in her first senior race, the Varese World Cup. This is still a very new partnership and its potential has yet to be fully realised. I would expect them to be near the top of the B-Final

 

France

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Helene Lefebvre 25 & Elodie Ravera-Scaramozzino 20

Olympic record

Lefebvre: Missed qualifying for London

Ravera: 2016 Olympic debut

World Championship record

Lefebvre: 9th W8 2014, 4th W4- 2014, 8th W2X 2015

Ravera: 8th W2X 2015

2016 record: 5th W2X Lucerne World Cup, 3rd W2X Poznan World Cup

Helene Lefebvre has been part of the French senior squad since 2011 and in that time has raced in just about every boat class with the exception of the W2-. Her first senior appearance was in the W4X in 2011. She missed out on qualifying for London in 2012 in the W4X and in 2014 she raced for both the sweep and sculling squads finishing 6th in the W8 at the European Championships and 11th in the W1X at the Aiguebelette World Cup. At the 2014 Worlds she raced in both the W8 and W4- finishing 9th and 4th respectively. In 2015 she formed a partnership in the double with the teenager Elodie Ravera-Scaramozzino. Ravera-Scaramozzino is a former junior world medallist and made her senior debut in 2014. Since forming the double with Lefebvre they have been steadily improving their performances, after an 8th place finish at the World Championships in 2015 they have made a great start to 2016, finishing 5th in Lucerne and picking up a bronze medal in Poznan – their first medal as a crew. The question is can the build on this progress in Rio and get into the A-Final and then perhaps be an outside bet for a medal.

 

Great Britain

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Katherine Grainger 40 & Vicky Thornley 29

Olympic record

Grainger: silver W4X Sydney, W2- Athens, W4X Beijing, Gold W2X London

Thornley: 5th W8 London

World Championship record

Grainger: Gold – W2- 2003, W4X 2005, 2006, 2007. Silver – W1X 2009, Bronze – W8 1997. 7th W4X 1999, 6th W8 2001, 5th W8 2001, 5th W4X 2002

Thornley: 4th W8 2010, 3rd W8 2011, 7th W1X 2013, 8th W1X 2014, 6th W2X 2015

2016 record: 4th W2X European Championships, 5th W2X Poznan World Cup

Great Britain are the defending Olympic Champions and it was one of the defining moments of the London Olympics, seeing Katherine Grainger finally winning a gold medal after three successive silvers. After an extended break from training she returned in 2015 to try and repeat the feat. But, things haven’t exactly gone smoothly. She formed a partnership with Vicky Thornley, the UK’s no.1 female sculler in what looked on paper to be a fearsome combination. But the speed and results didn’t come. There were rumours of a clash of personalities within the boat and a 6th place finish at the World Championships didn’t help matters. Further oil was poured on the fire by the announcement of Grainger’s Olympic gold medal partner, Anna Watkins that she was returning to training. Although the talk was all about Watkins needing to prove herself, the implication was clear, the 2012 Double was being prepped for a return. Needless to say this didn’t sit too well with Thornley who, as trials winner, was in theory the senior partner. Tensions further mounted when allegations of mismanagement and bullying by Coach Paul Thompson emerged. It looked like the double was history and both women trialled unsuccessfully for seats in the W8. In the end with a certain amount of “clearing of the air” the double was reformed and named as part of the Olympic team. A 5th place in Poznan was by no means a disaster but it’s going to be a remarkable turnaround for the British to get among the medals let alone challenge for gold. If they do it’ll be a remarkable story, if they don’t medal it will be a sad end to a fantastic career for Grainger and also a major disappointment for Thornley. But, knowing the quality of these two athletes, if anyone can do it its Katherine Grainger and Vicky Thornley.

 

Germany

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Marieke Adams 26 & Marie-Catherine Arnold 25

Olympic record: 2016 Olympic debut

World Championship record

Adams: 5th W2X 2013, 8th W2X 2014, 3rd W2X 2015

Arnold: 2nd W4X 2015

2016 record: 2nd W2X European Championships, 4th W2X Lucerne World Cup, 7th W2X Poznan World Cup

Germany always have an incredibly strong tradition in women’s sculling and in this event they were the champions in 1992 and 2000 and runners-up in 2004 and 2008. The 2016 challengers are Mareike Adams and Marie- Catherine Arnold. Neither have raced at the Olympics before and Adams is definitely the more experienced of the two. She was a two-time junior world champion and a two-time U23 world champion before making her senior debut in 2013. Her senior career has almost exclusively been in the W2X (the only exception was the 2014 European Championships where she won a silver medal in the W4X). During that first senior season she raced with three different partners, Lisa Schmidla, Britta Oppelt and Julia Lier. In 2014 she had yet another partner, Julia Richter before being re-joined by Lier again in 2015. The 2015 Worlds delivered their best result with a bronze medal. The 2016 season saw the Lier/Adams combination continue taking silver at the Europeans and 4th in Lucerne. But, at Poznan, the last race before the Olympics the combination changed with Lier moving into the quad and Marie-Catherine Arnold moving to the double. She is another two-time junior world champion and a three-time U23 medallist.  She made her senior debut in 2014 and raced predominantly in the W4X, winning silver at the 2015 World Championships. At the start of the 2016 season she was also in the quad, winning gold at the European championships and silver at Lucerne. The switch with Lier is a bit of a surprise and the W2X is definitely being sacrificed for the sake of the W4X. The only race Adams and Arnold have had was at Poznan where they finished a disappointing 7th. Given how late this combination has been put together I will be very surprised if they feature in the A-Final.

 

Greece

Greece

Sofia Asoumanaki 19 & Aikaterini Nikolaidou 23

Olympic record: 2016 Olympic debut

World Championship record

Asoumanaki: 2nd W2X 2015

Nikolaidou: semi W2X 2011, 2nd LW1X 2013, 2nd LW2X 2014, 2nd W2X 2015

2016 record: 7th W2X European Championships, 3rd W2X Lucerne World Cup

Sofia Asoumanaki is one of the most outstanding young scullers in the world right now. She raced at both the junior and U23 World Championships in 2014 and made her senior debut in 2015. She made her name by breaking records on the erg, setting a new junior record in March 2015 by an astonishing 13 seconds and then breaking it again in December by another 2 seconds. On the water she and partner Nikolaidou made the world sit up and take notice when they took silver at the 2015 World Championships. For her part, Nikolaidou is a former lightweight international and was European LW1X champion in 2013 and 2014. She made her senior debut at the European Championships in 2010 at the age of 17. The partnership she’s formed with Asoumanaki has masses of potential but they are a bit “hit-and-miss” on their day they can challenge for the major medals but if not then they could be back in the B-Final.

 

 

Lithuania

Lithuanis

Milda Valciukaite 22 & Donata Vistartaite 27

Olympic record

Valciukaite: 2016 Olympic debut

Vistartaite: 8th W1X London

World championship record

Valciukaite: 1st W2X 2013, 4th W2X 2014, 5th W2X 2015

Vistartaite: 9th W1X 2011, 1st W2X 2013, 4th W2X 2014, 5th W2X 2015

2016 record: 5th W2X European Championships, 1st W2X Lucerne World Cup

Milda Valciukaite is one of the rising stars of world Rowing. The daughter of two former rowers she made her international debut in 2010 aged 16 racing in the JW1X at the Junior World championships. She won two Junior world titles in 2011 and 2012 before moving to the senior ranks in 2013 forming a partnership with Donata Vistartaite. The duo made a stunning start to their partnership going unbeaten throughout to the 2013 season, culminating in a World Championship title. In 2014 they took silver at the Europeans and Valciukaite added the U23 1X World Title to her collection as well. 4th place in Amsterdam was the first time this pairing had missed a medal and this was followed in 2015 by slipping one place further back at Aiguebelette. The question was, was this a blip, or were the rest of the world overtaking them? So far in 2016 they’ve had a mixed bag, a relatively disappointing European Championships was followed by a stunning victory at Lucerne where they looked to be back to their very best. Can they follow this up with a medal in Rio? I think it’s a strong possibility, I will pick them to take silver.

 

New Zealand

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Eve MacFarlane 23 & Zoe Stevenson 25

Olympic record

MacFarlane: 7th W4X London

Stevenson: 2016 Olympic debut

World Championship record

MacFarlane: 3rd W4X 2011, 7th W8 2013, 1st W2X 2015

Stevenson: 4th W4- 2010, 2nd W2X 2013, 1st W2X 2014, 1st W2X 2015

2016 record: 6th W2X Lucerne World Cup, 2nd W2X Poznan World Cup

New Zealand have an incredible record in this event having dominated much of the noughties with the Evers-Swindell twins, winners of both the Athens and Beijing Olympics. For the Rio Olympiad they looked to have found worthy successor with the combination of Zoe Stevenson and Fiona Bourke, runners up in 2013 and winners in 2014. In 2015 Bourke was somewhat controversially replaced by Eve MacFarlane but the new pairing delivered the goods and won another world title. Stevenson was the spare for New Zealand at London 2012 and finally gets the chance to be at the Games in her own right at Rio. She’s from a strong rowing background with her father, Herb, having rowed in the NZ M8 at the LA Olympics. Her partner, Eve MacFarlane was the youngest member of the New Zealand rowing team at the London games aged just 19. She started rowing at 16 and instantly took to the sport, taking a world junior medal in her very first season. Having rowed in the senior W4X throughout the London Olympiad she made the switch to sweep in 2013 finishing 7th in the W8 at the World Championships. Everything looked rosy for the new double combination, world champions and heading into the 2016 season as favourites. However the season has certainly not gone to plan. Comprehensively beaten by Belarus on both days of the Holland Beker, they were 6th in Lucerne. Whether this was due to illness or extended jet-lag is uncertain (I don’t think the crew or their coaches really know either). In Poznan things look to be getting a bit more on track as they took silver behind Poland. But, was there early season form a blip or something more fundamental? We’ll only know that once racing starts in Rio, but they will still be heading into the Games as one of the favourites for the title, indeed I’m picking them for gold.

 

Poland

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Magdalena Fularczyk 29 & Natalia Madaj 28

Olympic record

Fularczyk: Bronze W2x London

Madaj: 8th W4x London

World Championship record

Fularczyk: 1st W2x 2009, 3rd W2x 2010, 5th W2X 2011, 3rd W4X 2013, 2nd W2X 2014, 4th W2X 2015

Madaj: 8th W4X 2011, 3rd W4X 2013, 2nd W2X 2014, 4th W2X 2015

Madaj and Fularczyk are the in-form crew of 2016. They’ve raced twice and won twice, taking the gold in Varese and Poznan. If one was to be picky you could argue that by missing the Lucerne World cup they missed the most competitive of the three world cups. But, they are still the ones to beat this season and will be heading into Rio brimming with confidence. Fularczyk has huge experience in this boat class having won bronze at the London Olympics and was part of the crew that won Poland’s first ever women’s Olympic class world championship gold medal back in 2009. She and Madaj have rowed together off and on since winning bronze in the U23 W2x in 2008.  The silver medal in 2014 show’s they have the speed to challenge for the title and their performances so far in 2016 show they will definitely be up their challenging for the top honours. Ultimately I think they will just fall short of the top prize but are my pick for the bronze.

 

The USA

USA flag

Meghan O’Leary 31 & Ellen Tomek 32

Olympic record

O’Leary: 2016 Olympic debut

Tomek: 5th W2X Beijing

World Championship record

O’Leary: 7th W2X 2013, 6th W2X 2014, 11th W2X 2015

Tomek: 6th W4X 2007, 6th W2X 2009, 7th W2X 2013, 6th W2X 2014, 11th W2X 2015

2016 record: none

The USA are renowned for the strength of their women’s sweep programme, they have dominated the W8 for years, but the sculling programme has sometimes been seen as the poor relation. But over the past few years the US women scullers have quietly been making a name for themselves in their own right, a bronze medal in the W4X in London and a first ever world title last year, Gevvie Stone becoming a serious challenger in the W1X shows that the US are no longer just about the eight.  O’Leary and Tomek have been racing together in the W2X for the last 3 seasons. Their first race together also delivered them their first medal together, a bronze at the 2013 Lucerne World Cup. They won a 2nd World Cup medal in 2014 and another in 2015. Their best performance at a World Championships together was 6th in 2014. They’ve yet to make an international appearance this season but they are an experienced duo and can be expected to race well in Rio, although I think a medal is a bit beyond them.

 

So those are the “runners & riders” in the W2X. A lot of attention will be on the British but there are also some very exciting young crews out there, especially the Greeks and Lithuanians. I expect the medals to be shared amongst the Kiwis, Poles and Lithuanians, with the British and Australians outside bets to get among the medals.

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2 thoughts on “The Rio Olympic Games Women’s Double Sculls preview

  1. Pingback: The Double Sculls Olympic events • Rowperfect UK

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