The Rio Olympic Games Men’s Coxless Pairs preview

Time now to look at the Men’s Coxless pair….

Australia

Australia

Spencer Turrin 24 & Alex Lloyd 25

Olympic record: 2016 Olympic debut

World Championship record

Turrin: 2nd M4- 2013, 3rd M4- 2014, 2nd M4- 2015

Lloyd: 2nd M4- 2013, 3rd M4- 2014

2016 record: 5th M2- Lucerne World Cup, 2nd M2- Poznan World Cup

Australia have a very strong tradition in this boat class, winners in both Athens and Beijing and medallists in Sydney and Atlanta. The class of 2016 look to be following that tradition of medal standard boats. Neither Spencer Turrin nor his pairs partner Alex Lloyd have raced at the Olympics before, but they are an experienced duo and already have a hatful of medals to their names. They also have the advantage of having rowed together as a pair for a number of years. There first appearance was in 2012 when they raced for Sydney Rowing Club, winning the Australian National Championships. They both made their senior international debuts at the Sydney World Cup in 2013 finishing 2nd in the M4- (behind another Aussie M4-). Later that season they win gold at the Eton World Cup and finished up taking silver at the World Championships. They stayed in the M4- throughout the 2014 and 2015 season taking bronze in 2014 and silver in 2015 (although Lloyd missed the 2015 world championships due to injury). The 2016 season sees them dropped from the no.1 Aussie boat and into the M2-. They’ve had a reasonable start to the season placing 5th in their first outing in Lucerne and then taking silver in Poznan. They are definitely a medal potential crew and I think they will be one of a number of crews battling for the bronze, ultimately I think they will just miss out.

 

Czech Republic

Czech

Jakub Podrazil 24 & Lukas Helesic 20

Olympic record

Podrazil: repecharge M4- London

Helesic: 2016 Olympic debut

World Championship record

Podrazil: 9th M8 2011, 6th M4- 2013, 14th M4- 2014

Helesic: 25th M2- 2015

2016 record: 4th M2- European Championships, 1st Final Olympic qualifying regatta

Jakub Podrazil and Lukas Helesic are both exciting young prospects. Podrazil was part of a very talented U23 M8 that took silver in 2011 and at the age of 20 he was part of the M4- that qualified for the London Olympics. He switched to the M2- in 2015 with Lukas Helesic taking a strong 4th at the European Championships a position they repeated in 2016. They secured their place at the Games by winning the Final Olympic Qualifying Regatta. Helesic is a former junior world champion and also has a silver medal from the 2014 Youth Olympic Games. Two years later he gets to race at the senior version. An A-Final finish would be a major achievement for this young crew.

 

France

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Germain Chardin 33 & Dorian Mortelette 32

Olympic record

Chardin: 3rd M4- Beijing, silver M2- London

Mortelette: 3rd M4- Beijing, silver M2- London

World Championship record

Chardin: 4th M8 2003, 12th M2- 2005, 6th M4- 2006, 6th M4- 2007, 4th M2- 2009, 1st M4- 2010, 13th M4- 2011, 2nd M2- 2013, 5th M8 2014, 8th M2- 2015

Mortelette: 6th M4- 2006, 6th M4- 2007, 4th M2- 2009, 1st M4- 2010, 13th M4- 2011, 2nd M2- 2013, 5th M8 2014, 8th M2- 2015

2016 record: 12th M2- European Championships, 7th M2- Lucerne World Cup

Cardin and Mortelette are, without doubt, the best two rowers in the French team, they are certainly the most decorated, two Olympic medals and a World Championship gold medal to their credits.  Chardin started winning medals way back in 2000 when he was part of the JM4+ gold medal crew, he followed that up with a 2nd junior gold in 2001. He made his senior debut at the age of 20. In 2004 he took U23 M2- gold (with Benjamin Rondeau who he won JM2- gold with in 2001). In 2006 he moved into the M4- along with Mortelette with their highlight being the bronze medal in Beijing and then the World title in 2010. But, 13th the following year saw the end of the M4- and a new partnership with Mortelette in the pair. Mortelette is also a former junior world champion, part of a great French junior team that took 3 golds in 2001. As a pair they were perhaps the surprise package in London taking silver behind the Kiwis. They followed this up with silver in 2013. The French then decided to try an “all-star” M8 and put all their top guys in the big boat. Sadly this didn’t fire and in 2015 they moved back to their preferred pair boat. Unfortunately the results since the move back have been a bit inconsistent, silver at the 2015 Europeans was followed by 8th at the World Championships an so far in 2016 they missed the A-final at bith events they’ve raced at. Based on this 2016 form it looks unlikely that they will repeat the heroics of 2012. I’ll be surprised if they reach the top final.

 

Great Britain

union Jack

Stewart Innes 25 & Alan Sinclair 30

Olympic record: 2016 Olympic debut

World Championship record

Innes: 3rd M4- 2015

Sinclair: 5th M4- 2013, 3rd M4- 2015

2016 record: 2nd M2- European Championships, 3rd M2- Poznan World Cup

 

Great Britain are another nation with a strong tradition in this boat class, with Steve Redgrave, Andy Holmes and Matt Pinsent dominating the field with wins in 88,92 and 96. In more recent years the pairing of Will Satch and George Nash produced a fine performance to take the bronze in London. The British crew for Rio are Stewart Innes and Alan Sinclair, they’ve had quite a battle just to get to the start line. The battle started when GB’s no.1 pair of James Foad and Matt Langridge (world silver medallists for the last 2 years) was disbanded following a potentially career-ending back injury to Foad. Langridge moved into the M8 meaning GB had to put together a brand new pairing for Rio. 2 crews emerged as the most likely contenders, Nathanial Reilly-O’Donnell and Matt Tarrant in one and Sinclair and Innes in the other. Noddy and Tarrant won at the Varese World Cup with Sinclair & Innes taking bronze at the Europeans. The intended showdown between the two crews at Lucerne failed to materialise due to illness so it wasn’t until the 3rd World Cup in Poznan that the two crews got to race each other publically, the winner goes to Rio the losers become the spare pair. In the end it was a great race with Sinclair/Innes going off much quicker than Noddy/Tarrant, but they came back very strongly in the final sprint but in the end Sinclair & Innes held them off by 3/10th second. Although the Brits “only” won bronze in Poznan the fact that they were so focussed on racing their countrymen probably cost them the silver. When it comes to Rio the British are my favourites to lead the charge against the Kiwis. GB for silver

 

Hungary

Hungary

Bela Simon 27 & Adrian Juhasz 26

Olympic record

Simon: Repecharge M2- London

Juhasz: 2016 Olympic debut

World Championship record: 11th M2- 2011, 12th M2- 2103, 13th M2- 2014, 20th M2- 2015

2016 record: 1st m2- European Championships, 2nd M2- Final Olympic Qualifying, 12th M2- Poznan World Cup

Bela Simon and Adrian Juhasz are fairly unique among international rowers as, apart from two races in 2014, they’ve spent their entire senior career in the same boat class. They first raced together at the Munich World Cup in 2009 finishing 5th, they went on to win silver at the U23 World Championships that year. Their first senior world Championships were in 2011 where they took 11th. Juhasz missed the Olympic season and Simon was partnered by Domonkos Szell. Juhasz returned to the boat in the 2013 season and the pair have been consistent mid-B Ffinal or C-final contenders. Their big breakthrough was at this year’s European Championships where they made the most of a favourable lane draw in atrocious conditions to snatch victory, their first senior win. They followed this up by taking 2nd at the FOQR to book their spot in Rio. The race at Poznan was probably more typical of the expected performance, finishing 12th. I would expect them to be mid B-Final in Rio.

 

Italy

Italy.jpg

Giovanni Abagnale 21 & Domenico Montrone 30

Olympic record: 2016 Olympic debut

World Championship record

Abagnale: 9th M8 2014, 6th M8 2015

Montrone: 4th M4X 2006, 17th M2X 2011, 7th M4X 2013, 9th M8 2014, 6th M8 2015

2016 record: 2nd M8 Varese World Cup, 3rd M8 FOQR, 6th M2- Poznan World Cup

The Italian pair lining up in Rio is not the pairing that the Italians planned, but unlike GB this isn’t due to injury but to the rather more sordid fact of a doping violation. The original pair was meant to be Niccolo Mornati and Vincenzo Capelli. But, Mornati has been suspended for a doping violation and rather than try and form a new partnership with Capelli, the Italians have gone for a completely new line up.  Giovanni Abagnale and Domenico Montrone were both in the Italian M8 that just missed qualifying for Rio. Instead the pair have been handed an Olympic lifeline of the pairs slot. Mind you, it’s still possible that the Italian men’s 8 could race at Rio depending on what FISA decide to do about the Russian M8. If there is any concern about doping in the Russian crew and FISA ban them from Rio then the Italians theoretically are the next in line to take the spot. We will know more in the next few hours. Whatever happens with the M8 the Italians will be there in the M2-. Montrone has been part of the national team for the last 10 years and raced at his first world Championships in 2006. He then raced at World Cups during the 2007, 2008 & 2010 seasons but did not return to the world Championships until 2011. His best result at that level was in his first race when finishing 4th in the M4X. Abagnale made his international debut in 2011 winning the JM8 World title which Italy retained in 2012. His senior debut came 2 years later with a bronze in the M4- at the European Championships, he also won u23 gold that year and raced at his first senior world Championships as well. Definitely one of the rising stars of Italian rowing. It’s probably too much to ask of this new pair to make the Olympic final but a solid B-final finish would be a positive for them.

 

The Netherlands

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Roel Braas 29 & Mitchel Steenman 32

Olympic record

Braas: 5th M8 London

Steenman: 4th M8 Beijing, 5th M8 London

World Championship record

Braas: 13th M1X 2010, 6th M8 2011, 5th M1X 2013, 9th M1X 2014, 4th M2- 2015

Steenman: 8th M8 2005, 14th M2- 2006, 10th M8 2007, 3rd M8 2009, 11th M4- 2010, 3rd M2- 2013, 10th M4- 2014, 4th M2- 2015

2016 record: 2nd M2- Varese World Cup, 3rd M2- European Championships, 2nd M2- Lucerne World Cup

The Dutch head to Rio as one of the favourites for a medal. Steenman is World Rowing’s Athlete of the month for July and started his senior career in 2005 racing in the M8 during the World Cup season and at the World Championships. He also took gold at the U23 World Championships that year in the M2-. He raced at his first Olympics in the M8 in Beijing, just missing out on the medals. He also raced in the eight at London taking 5th before moving into the pair for the Rio Olympiad. He formed an effective partnership with Rogier Blink taking bronze at the 2013 World Championships and silver at the 2014 Europeans. But, in 2015 following injury to Blink, Steenman formed a new partnership with Roel Braas. For his part Braas started his senior career in the M1X taking silver at the U23 World Championships as well as racing at the World Cups. After a 13th place in 2010 he moved into the M8 for the London Olympics. Another stint in the single followed without much success, but now in the pair with Steenman they’ve got a real chance of a good medal in Rio. I reckon it’ll be between the Dutch and the British for the silver medal.

 

New Zealand

NZ flag

Hamish Bond 30 & Eric Murray 34

Olympic record

Bond: 7th M4- Beijing, gold M2- London

Murray:  5th M4- Athens, 7th M4- Beijing, gold M2- London

World Championship record

Bond: Gold M4- 2007, M2- 2009, 2010, 2011, 2013, 2014, 2015, 9th M4- 2006

Murray: Gold M4- 2007, M2- 2009, 2010, 2011, 2013, 2014, 2015, 5th M4+ 2003, 6th M4- 2005, 9th M4- 2006

2016 record: 1st M2- Lucerne World Cup, 1st M2- Poznan World Cup

What else can one say about Murray and Bond, without doubt the finest men’s crew in rowing history. The stats are remarkable….68 consecutive race wins in 8 years, one of the longest winning streaks in sports history and certainly the most of any crew in the history of rowing.  They hold the Olympic and World Best time (a remarkable 6:08.5), they are the only rowers ever to hold the World Best time in two boat classes (the M2- and M2+). They dominate this event to such an extent that the talk is about who will come 2nd and how close can they get to the Kiwis, not, can they be beaten. The reaction of the rest of the world to the Kiwis is interesting as well, most of the “big” rowing nations (GB, AUS, NED, ITA & USA) have deprioritised the pair so as not to “waste” their top guys against the Kiwis. This has the effect of making the competition slightly less fierce than it could have been. That’s not to say that any of those nations best athletes could beat the Kiwis, but the fact they are avoiding the pair does make Murray & Bond’s job a little easier than it could be. Anything other than a gold medal for New Zealand would be the biggest upset in sporting history.

 

Romania

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George Palamariu 25 & Cristi Illie Prighie 24

Olympic record: 12th M4- London

World Championship record: 16th M4- 2011, 10th M4- 2013, 11th M4- 2014, 11th M2- 2015

2016 record: 11th M2- Poznan World Cup

George Palamariu & Cristi Illie Prighie have been rowing together for the last 5 years. They started as U23’s and finished 4th in 2011. They were both in the M4- that qualified for the Olympics and ended up 12th. In 2013 three of the Olympic crew raced at the U23 World Championships and won gold. After an 11th place finish in 2014 they switched back to the M2- finishing 9th at the European Championships and 11th at the Worlds. They’ve had one race in 2016 finishing 11th in Poznan. A place in the B-Final will be a solid achievement for this crew in Rio.

 

Serbia

Serbia.jpg

Nenad Bedik 27 & Milos Vasic 25

Olympic record: 12th M2- London

World Championship record

Bedik: 9th M2- 2013, 3rd M2- 2015

Vasic: 11th M4- 2013, 9th M4- 2014, 3rd M2- 2015

2016 record: 7th M2- Varese World Cup, 5th M2- European Championships, 5th M2- Poznan World Cup

Nenad Bedik made his senior debut at the European Championships in 2009 in the M4-, but it was in 2012 that he made his mark on the international scene, forming a very effective pairs partnership with Nikola Stojic. The made the A-Final at both the 1st and 3rd World Cups and then raced at the London Olympics. This partnership continued through to the end of 2014 when Stojic decided to hang up his oars. Bedik then formed a new partnership with Milos Vasic and they have shown a significant improvement in speed, taking medals at the 2015 European Championships and the Lucerne World Cup before securing their berth at Rio with a superb bronze medal at the World Championships, Serbia’s first ever medal in this boat class at a World Championships. Their form in 2016 hasn’t quite matched that stellar performance with a 7th place in Varese followed by 5th at the European’s and another 5th at Poznan. On their day they could be a serious contender for a medal, but the competition is going to be very fierce and I reckon they will just miss out.

 

South Africa

South-African-Flag

Lawrence Brittain 25 & Shaun Keeling 29

Olympic record

Brittain: missed qualifying for London

Keeling: 5th M2- Beijing, missed qualifying for London

World Championship record

Brittain: 8th M2- 2013, 5th M2+ 2014, 13th M4- 2015

Keeling: 6th M2- 2009, 15th M4- 2011, 8th M2- 2013, 3rd M2- 2014, 7th M2- 2015

2016 record: 3rd M2- Varese World Cup, 4th M2- Lucerne World Cup

 

South Africa are another nation with a proud tradition in the men’s coxless pair, bronze medallists in Athens and A-finalists in Sydney and Beijing. This year’s crew includes a member of that Beijing boat, Shaun Keeling. Keeling made his senior debut in 2008 and has spent almost his entire career racing in the M2- (the only exception being a spell in the M4- in 2011). He partnered Ramon Di Clemente after his regular partner and fellow Olympic bronze medallist Donovan Cech. Keeling raced with a variety of pairs partners over the past few years partnering Brittain to 8th in 2013 and then taking bronze with Vincent Breet in 2014. In 2015 his partner was David Hunt. Now, in 2016 he’s back with Lawrence Brittain and they’ve made a fairly good start to the season with a bronze in 4th in Lucerne.  Selection for the South African pair has been a curious beast, with no pairing staying the same from one year to the next. This inconsistency in selection can’t be a positive in terms of boat speed, all the great pairs have been together for a number of years so to keep chopping and changing their line up seems counter-productive. An A-final will probably be a good placing for them

 

Spain

Spain.jpg

Alex Sigurbjonsson 27 & Pau Vela Maggi 30

Olympic record: Both missed qualifying for London

World championship record: 8th M4- 2009, 8th M2- 2010, 14th M4- 2011, 4th M2- 2013, 4th M2- 2014, 10th M2- 2015.

2016 record: 6th M2- Varese World Cup, 8th M2- European Championships, 6th M2- Lucerne World Cup

Sigurbjonsson and Vela Maggi have been rowing together as a coxless pair since the first World Cup in 2010 and are one of the best crews to come out of Spain for a number of years.  In their first season together they took 8th at the World Championships, as with the South Africans they spent 2011 in the M4- before returning to the pair in 2012. They narrowly missed qualification for the London Olympics but had the consolation of taking the silver medal at the European Championships. In 2013 and again in 2014 they just missed out on medals at the World Championships. In 2015 they slipped back to a B-final placing but have shown good speed so far this season making the A-Final at both the Varese and Lucerne World Cups. Another A-Final placing in Rio would be the best finish for a Spanish M2- since Fernando Climent Huerta and Luis Maria Lasurtegi Berridi won silver at the Los Angeles Olympics 32 years ago.

 

The USA

USA flag

Nareg Guregian 27 & Anders Weiss 23

Olympic record: 2016 Olympic debut

World Championship record

Guregian: 4th M2+ 2010, 8th M8 2011, 3rd M8 2013, 4th M8 2014

Weiss: 2nd U23 M8 2013

2016 record: Winners of the US Olympic trials

The US have a very simple selection procedure for their small boats…win the trials and the place is yours. So with their victory Cal grad, Nareg Guregian and Brown’s Anders Weiss earn their place on the start line in Rio. Guergian has been on the US senior team since 2010 taking 4th (out of 4) in the M2+ and silver in the U23 M8. He spent 2011 and 2013 in the M8 with the best result of taking bronze in 2013. In 2015 he raced at the Pan Ams taking another bronze medal. For Anders Weiss the heat in Rio will mark his senior international debut, not bad for an athlete who missed team selection for both the M8 and M4- and nearly didn’t finish the Olympic trials as he started blacking out in the final 250m. But he held on, and in doing so became the 11th US boat to qualify for the Olympics. Given the length of time they’ve had together, and the fierceness of the competition I think it would be a step too far to expect an A-Final finish.

 

So that’s the pairs, it’ll be a major shock if the Kiwis don’t make it a nice round 70 consecutive race wins, but behind them it’s going to be an epic battle. The fight for silver and bronze is going to be between the Aussies, British and Dutch and I reckon the British will edge it ahead of the Dutch.

KiwiM2-

Will Murray and Bond make in gold no.2 in Rio?

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