The Rio Olympic Games Women’s Coxless Pairs preview

Hot on the heels of the M2- preview is the W2-




Alena Furman 25 & Ina Nikulina 21

Olympic record

Furman: Missed qualification for London

Nikulina: 2016 Olympic debut

World Championship record

Furman: 14th LW2X 2011, 3rd LW1X 2012, 6th LW1X 2013, 17th LW2X 2014, 11th W2- 2015

Nikulina: 11th W8 2014, 11th W2- 2015

2016 record: 8th W2- European Championships, 14th W2- Lucerne World Cup, 10th W2- Poznan World Cup

Furman is one of the top lightweight scullers in Belarus, U23 LW1X World Champion in 2010 and 2012 and silver medallist in 2011 and 2013, she won bronze at the senior Worlds in 2012 as well. She also won gold in the LW2X at the 2013 Universiade, the first time Belarus have won a gold medal in a lightweight women’s Olympic boat class. The challenge she has faced is finding a suitable partner for the LW2X, in 2014 she raced the double and finished 17th. 2015 saw a change of direction with the switch to openweight sweep. She formed a pair with Ina Nikulina and took 11th in their first season together. Their record so far in 2016 is reasonable, with B-Finals at both the Europeans and the Poznan World Cup with a C-Final finish in Lucerne. A B-Final finish in Rio will be a strong result for this young crew.



Canada flag.jpg

Nicole Hare 22 & Jennifer Martins 28

Olympic record: 2016 Olympic debut

World Championship record

Hare: 5th U23 W8 2013, 3rd U23 W4- 2014, 2nd U23 W4- 2015

Martins: 3rd W8 2013, 10th W2- 2014, 5th W4- 2014, 3rd W8 2015, 6th W2- 2015

2016 record

Hare: 12th W2- Lucerne World Cup

Martins: 7th W2- Varese World Cup, 10th W2- Lucerne World Cup

Canada have made the somewhat bold decision to boat an entirely new combination for Rio. Jennifer Martins has competed in the W2- for a number of years, most successfully with Cristy Nurse, finishing 6th in 2015. In Varese she raced with Caileigh Filmer finishing 7th and this pairing raced again as Canada 1 in Lucerne finishing 10th. But Filmer has moved into the W8 (as has Nurse) so the pair for Rio is now Martins and 22 year old Nicole Hare. The Washington State student made her senior debut at the Lucerne World Cup this year, racing as Canada 2 in the W2- finishing 12th. This debut comes after three successful years in the Canadian U23 squad which saw her win bronze in 2014 and silver in 2015.It’s clear that Canada are prioritising the W8 for Rio so this will be a largely scratch pair and as such will probably feature towards the tail end of the B-final.




Min Zhang 23 & Tian Miao 23

Olympic record: 2016 Olympic debut

World Championship record

Zhang: 7th W4X 2010, 3rd W8 2014, 3rd W4- 2014, 9th W8 2015

Miao: 3rd W4- 2014, 9th W8 2015

2016 record

Zhang: 2nd W2- & 4th W8 Final Olympic Qualifying Regatta, 11th W2- Lucerne World Cup

Miao: 2nd W2- Final Olympic Qualifying Regatta, 11th W2- Lucerne World Cup

China are another nation who have put together a pair relatively late.  Zhang and Miao came together at the start of the season and raced at the final Olympic Qualifying regatta, securing their place by taking 2nd spot. Of the two Zhang has more international experience, she made her senior debut in 2009 at the Munich World Cup racing in the W8, she then switched to the quad finishing 7th. In 2014 she doubled up in both the W4- and W8 taking bronze in both. She continued in the W8 in 2015 finishing 9th and missing out on qualification for Rio. Tian started her senior career in 2011 in the World Cup. She first raced with Zhang at the 2014 Sydney World Cup winning silver and they were both in the W4- that won bronze in 2014. Tian was also in the W8 in 2015 before moving back into the pair for the Final Qualifying Regatta and securing the spot in Rio. Their other appearance so far this year saw them finish 11th in Lucerne.  I would expect a similar result for them in Rio



Denmark Flag magnet

Anne Andersen 23 & Hedvig Rasmussen 22

Olympic record

Andersen: Missed qualifying for London

Rasmussen: 2016 Olympic debut

World Championship record

Andersen: 12th W2X 2014, 4th W2- 2015

Rasmussen: 4th W2- 2015

2016 record: 5th W2- European Championships, 5th W2- Lucerne World Cup, 4th Poznan World Cup

Andersen started her senior career as part of the Danish sculling squad and just missed out on qualifying for the London Olympics in the W2X. In 2013 she formed a double partnership with Hedvig Rasmussen and together they took silver at the U23 World Championships. In 2014 Andersen raced with Lisbet Jakobsen in the W2X at the World Championships finishing 12th. Rasmussen made her senior debut at the European championships in 2013 and spent 2014 racing in the quad although they didn’t race at the World Championships. In 2015 she moved into the pair with Andersen. This pairing definitely looks to be getting the best from both athletes. They’ve reached the A-final every time they’ve raced with a best result of 3rd at the Lucerne World cup in 2015. I wouldn’t be surprised to see them take another A-Final finish in Rio and are outside bets for a medal.




Aina Cid I 21 & Anna Boada Peiro 23

Olympic record: 2016 Olympic debut

World Championship record

Cid I 11th BW2- 2013, 10th BW2- 2014

Peiro 17th W2X 2014 20th W2- 2015

2016 record: 3rd W2- Varese World Cup, 1st W2- Final Olympic Qualifying Regatta

These two first raced together at the 2014 U23 World Championships finishing 10th. Piero then raced at the senior World Championships in the W2X with Nuria Dominguez Asensio finishing 17th. She reformed the W2- with Aina Cid I in 2015 and produced a best performance of 8th at the European championships. At the World Championships they finished 20th of the 21 entries. 2016 has seen a significant step up in performance with their first senior medal, a bronze, at the Varese World Cup. They then won their place in Rio by finishing first at the Final Olympic Qualifying Regatta. So far 2016 has been an exceptional season for this young partnership, quite a remarkable improvement. Whether they can continue this through the Olympics remains to be seen, but the Spanish have certainly found an exciting combination.  I reckon they’ll just miss out on an A-Final but will be ones to watch for Tokyo.




Noemie Kober 22 & Marie Le Nepvou 31

Olympic record: Both missed qualifying for London

World Championship record

Kober: 9th W8 2014, 4th W4- 2014, 10th W2- 2015

Le Nepvou: 1st W4- 2004, 8th W2- 2005, 10th W8 2006, 7th W2- 2009, 9th W8 2014, 4th W4- 2014, 10th W2- 2015

2016 record: 6th W2- European Championships, 8th W2- Lucerne World Cup, 9th W2- Poznan World Cup

Noemie Kober made her senior debut at the 2011 European Championships at the age of 17. This follows a successful junior international career which culminated in gold in the JW2X in 2010 and a bronze in the JW1X at the Youth Olympic Games. She spent her early career in the sculling squad, and just missed qualifying for the London Olympics. In 2014 she moved to the sweep squad racing in both the W8 and W4- at the 2014 World Championships. In 2015 she formed a pairs partnership with Marie Le Nepvou finishing 11th at the World Championships. Le Nepvou started her senior career way back in 2004 and took gold in the W4- at the Banyoles World Championships. In 2005 she switched to the W2- with Celia Foulon and then returned to this boat class in 2009 with Stephanie Dechand. In 2012 she just missed out on qualifying for the London Olympics in the W4X. In 2014 she joined Kober as part of the W4- and W8 at the World Championships. In 2016 Nepvou and Kober finished 6th at the European Championships, 8th at the Lucerne World Cup and then 9th in Poznan. A B-final placing will be a likely finish in Rio.




Kerstin Hartmann 28 & Kathrin Marchand 25

Olympic record

Hartmann: 6th W2- London

Marchand: repecharge W8 London

World Championship record

Hartmann: 4th W2- 2009, 6th W2- 2010, 10th W2- 2011, 8th W2- 2013, 7th W8 2014, 8th W2- 2015

Marchand: 4th W4- 2013, 7th W8 2014, 8th W2- 2015

2016 record: 6th W2- European Championships, 8th Lucerne World Cup, 9th Poznan World Cup

Kerstin Hartmann is another athlete who has spent almost all her entire career in one boat class, the W2-. She started by taking silver in the JW2- in 2005 with Katrin Reinert. This duo also took silver at the U23’s in 2006 and gold at the Juniors in the same year. 2007 saw one of her few forays into a bigger boat taking silver in the U23 W8 before moving back to the W2- for her first senior World Cup in Munich in 2009. At her first senior World Championships she raced with Marlene Sinnig and just missed out on a medal. In 2012 this duo finished 6th at the London Olympics and then 8th in 2013. 2014 saw another foray into the W8 before getting back into the pair with Kathrin Marchand for the 2015 World Championships, finishing 8th and qualifying for London.  For her part, Marchand won U23 W4- gold in 2011 and then rowed in the 7 seat of the W8 at the London Olympics, finishing 7th. She continued to race in the W8 at the World Cup series throughout 2014 before joining Hartmann in the pair in 2015. So far in 2016 they’ve not yet made an A-Final and it would be a great result for them to make the final in Rio.


Great Britain

union Jack

Heather Stanning 31 & Helen Glover 30

Olympic record: Gold W2- London

World Championship record

Stanning: 2nd W2- 2010, 2011, Gold 2014, 2015

Glover: 2nd W2- 2010, 2011, Gold 2013, 2014, 2015

2016 record: 1st W2- European Championships, DNS Lucerne World Cup, 1st W2- Poznan World Cup

The British dominate the W2- in nearly the same way as Murray and Bond dominate the M2-. They are national heroines in Britain having kicked started the gold medal rush at the London Olympics and in doing so became the first British women rowers to win an Olympic Gold medal. After London Heather Stanning spent 2013 on a tour of duty in Afghanistan as Captain in the Royal Engineers. In her absence Glover continued her winning ways taking gold in the W2- with Polly Swann. When Stanning returned in 2014 they picked up where they left off. So far Glover is unbeaten in 47 races (for Stanning its 36) – the only small blemish on their record was in Lucerne this year when Stanning became ill during their warm-up for the final meaning they withdrew getting a DNS and officially 6th place. The development of this crew has been a testament to the British talent identification programme. Stanning was recruited as part of the World Class Start programme whilst studying at Bath University. Glover came to the attention of the GB Rowing Team in 2008 as part of the “Sporting Giants” programme. Under the coaching of Robin Williams they have become the best women’s crew in the world. Great Britain expects this duo to deliver another gold and, so long as they stay healthy, it’ll be a major surprise if they don’t.




Alessandra Patelli 24 & Sara Bertolasi 28

Olympic record

Patelli: Missed qualifying for London

Bertolasi: 10th W2- London

World Championship record

Patelli: 5th W4- 2011, 11th W2X 2013, 12th W4X 2014, 14th W2- 2015

Bertolasi: 4th W4- 2008, 7th W2- 2011, 12th W4X 2014, 14th W2- 2015

2016 record

Patelli: 2nd W2- Varese World Cup, 3rd W2- Final Olympic Qualifying Regatta

Alessandra Patelli started her senior international career in 2011 aged 18 finishing 14th in the W2X at the Munich World Cup. Later that year she raced at the u23 world Championships winning silver in the quad. She continued in the W4X throughout 2012 but missed out on qualifying for London. Following a year in the W2X she returned to the quad in 2014 finishing 12th of the 12 entries. In 2015 she formed a pair with Gaia Palma for the World Cup series but at the World Championships she raced with Sara Bertolasi. Bertolasi is one of the most experienced members of the Italian women’s sweep squad. She made her debut in 2008 taking 4th place in the W4- at the World Championships in her very first international regatta. In 2011 she switched to the W2- with Claudia Wurzel finishing 7th at the World Championships and qualifying for the London Olympics. At Dorney they finished in 10th place. After taking a break in 2013 she returned for 2014 and spent the year in the quad and then in 2015 she raced the World Cup series in the double before racing in the pair with Patelli at the World Championships. A 14th place meant they had to race at the Final Olympic Qualifying regatta. 3rd place at Lucerne secured their place in Rio. Bertolasi finished 10th in London and I would expect a similar result in Rio.


The Netherlands


Aletta Jorritsma 27 & Karien Robbers 22

Olympic record: 2016 Olympic debut

World Championship record

Jorritsma: 6th W8 2013, 7th W8 2014, 6th W8 2015

Robbers: 3rd U23 W8 2012, 6th U23 W8 2013, 5th BW8 2015

2016 record

Jorritsma: 10th W2- European Championships, 15th W2- Lucerne World Cup, 3rd W8 Poznan World Cup

Robbers: 12th W1X European Championships, rep W2X FOQR, 15th W2- Lucerne World Cup, 11th W2- Poznan World Cup

The Dutch have made a bold move with the selection of their W2-. Aletta Jorritsma and Karien Robbers are a relatively new combination with only one regatta under their belts. The boat was qualified by Elisabeth Hogerwerf and Olivia Van Rooijen, but both of these two athletes have been moved to the W8. Of the new W2- Jorritsma has the greater international experience. She started her international career in 2013 racing in the W8 that finished 6th at the World Championships. She carried on in the W8 in 2014 and 2015. In 2016 she moved to the W2- with Heleen Boers and raced at the first World Cup and the European Championships. In Lucerne she switched to pairing with Robbers when they finished 15th. In Poznan Robbers raced with Boers and Jorritsma was in the W8. But it looks as though the selection battles have been settled with Jorritsma and Robbers ending up in the pair. I don’t have too high expectations for this crew, so a B-Final would be a strong result.


New Zealand

NZ flag

Rebecca Scown 32 & Genevieve Behrent 25

Olympic record

Scown: Bronze W2- London

Behrent: 2016 Olympic debut

World Championship record

Scown: 7th W8 2004, 3rd W2- 2009, 1st W2- 2010, 1st W2- 2011, 3rd W2- 2013, 3rd W2- 2014, 2nd W8 2015

Behrent: 4th W4- 2010, 7th W8 2013, 2nd W8 2015

2016 record: 3rd W8 Lucerne World Cup, 2nd Lucerne World Cup, 1st W8 Poznan World Cup, 2nd W2- Poznan World Cup

New Zealand are the last crew to have beaten the British W2- and Rebecca Scown was part of that crew back in 2011. She’s one of the most experienced of all the New Zealand women rowers with 2 gold, 1 silver and 3 World Championship bronze medals to her name. She’s been on the New Zealand senior team for 10 years and spent the 2006-8 seasons as part of the New Zealand W8. In 2009 she formed a pairs partnership with Emma-Jane Feathery winning gold first time out at the Munich World Cup and following that up with another gold in Lucerne and ended the season with bronze at the World Championships. In 2010 she changed partners and teamed up with Juliette Haigh only being beaten once throughout the 2010 and 2011 seasons (beaten by the British at the Lucerne World Cup). Since 2011 however the Kiwis have only won once, at the Sydney World Cup in 2014 (when Glover and Stanning didn’t race).  In 2015 Scown missed out on selection for the pair to Grace Prendergast and Kerri Gowler, instead she focussed on racing in the W8 and won another silver medal. In 2016 she’s back in the pair and has formed a new partnership with Genevieve Behrent and both will double up in the W8. Behrent started her senior career in 2010 finishing 4th in the W4- at the World Championships. A silver medal in the U23 W8 followed a year later and a 2nd U23 medal (this time in the W4X) a year after that. In 2013 she raced throughout the season in the W8 finishing 7th at the World Championships. In 2015 she continued in the W8 and won silver. Now in the pair with Scown they have two silvers behind the British and will be one of the main threats to the British retaining their Olympic title. New Zealand for the bronze.




Maria Wierzbowska 21 & Anna Wierzbowska 25

Olympic Record: 2016 Olympic debut

World Championship record: 12th W2- 2015

2016 Record: 8th W2- Varese World Cup, 7th W2- European Championships, 4th Final Olympic Qualifying, 7th W2- Poznan World Cup.

The Wierzbowska sister made their senior debuts at the 2015 Bled International regatta, finishing 7th. Their best results in 2015 was 6th at the European Championships and a 6th at the Lucerne World Cup. At the Aiguebelette World Championships they finished 12th meaning they had to race at the Final Olympic Qualifying Regatta to win a spot at Rio. At the Lucerne FOQR they grabbed the 4th and final qualifying place beating Russia by 2 seconds. After the FOQR they raced at the Poznan World Cup taking 7th . Elder sister, Anna, studied at the University of Southern California and helped them take a bronze medal at the PAC-10 championships in 2011. Rio will be a great first experience of the Olympics for the Poles, but I would anticipate a C-Final placing for this young crew.




Elena-Lavinia Tarlea 23 & Laura Oprea 23

Olympic record: 2016 Olympic debut

World Championship record

Tarlea: 5th U23 W4- 2012, 7th U23 W4- 2013, 4th U23 W2- 2014, 7th U23 W4- 2015

Oprea: 4th W8 2014, 4th W2- 2014, 7th W2- 2015

2016 record

Tarlea: None

Oprea: 3rd W2- European Championships, 1st W8 Final Olympic Qualifying Regatta, 3rd W2- Poznan World Cup.

Romania have won this event more than any other nation, taking gold in 1984, 1988, 2000, 2004 and 2008. In more recent years the dominance of the Romanian women has started to wane, surpassed by the Americans in the W8 and the British and New Zealanders in the W2-, indeed the Romanians have not won a medal in the W2- at a World Championships since taking silver in Chungju in 2013. The crew following on from these greats in 2016 are a new combination that will make their competitive debut in Rio. For 23 year old Elena-Lavinia Tarlea the Rio Olympics marks her senior international debut following four years racing at U23 level. Her partner, Laura Oprea, has a bit more international experience under her belt. She made her senior debut in 2013 as part of the W4X that finished 8th at the European Championships, U23 gold in the W2X followed the same year and in 2014 she won silver at the European Championships with Cristina Grigoras. At the World Championships she doubled up in the W2- and W8 placing 4th in both events and in 2015 this pairing finished 7th, thus qualifying the boat for Rio. In 2016 Oprea swapped partners and Madalina Beres joined her, winning bronze at the Europeans. This pair then moved into the W8 and successfully qualified that boat as well at the FOQR, meaning Oprea will double up in both boats. At the final World Cup Oprea and Beres won bronze, but with this partnership being split up and the inexperienced Tarlea being brought in, the chances of medalling in Rio are looking remote.


South Africa


Lee-Ann Persse 27 & Kate Christowitz 25

Olympic record

Persse: 8th W2- London

Christowitz: 2016 Olympic debut

World Championship record

Persse: 6th W2- 2011, 6th W2- 2013, 6th W2- 2014, 5th W2- 2015

Christowitz: 4th U23 W2- 2010, 5th U23 W2- 2011

2016 record: 1st W2- Varese World Cup, 4th W2- Lucerne World Cup

Given the size of the South African women’s rowing squad, it’s perhaps no surprise that Persee has spent her entire international career racing in the W2-, making her debut at the Munich World Cup in 2010 partnering Hayley-Jo Arthur. In 2011 Arthur was swapped with Naydene Smith and they finished 6th at the Bled World Championships. This pair raced together for the next 4 years finishing 6th at each of the next 3 World Championships and 8th at the London Olympics. In 2015 they finally broke their “6th place hoodoo” and went one better, finishing 5th at the Aiguebelette World Championships. In 2016 a new partnership was formed with Christowitz with immediate results, winning gold at the Varese World Cup, South Africa’s 1st ever gold medal in this event and their first medal since the 2nd World Cup in 2011. For a new partnership that’s not a bad way to start and for Christowitz, making her senior International debut it was pretty impressive. At Lucerne they just missed out on the medals but their form this season has shown that they cannot be discounted for a medal although I think they may find the going tough against the British, Kiwis and Americans.



USA flag

Felice Mueller 26 & Grace Luczak 27

Olympic record: 2016 Olympic debut

World Championship record

Mueller: 1st W4- 2013, 3rd W4X 2014, 3rd W2- 2015

Luczak: 3rd W4- 2010, 1st W8 2013, 1st W8 2014, 1st W4- 2015

2016 record: 1st W8 Lucerne World Cup, 1st W2- Lucerne World Cup

The USA probably pose the biggest challenge to Great Britain’s chances of retaining their Olympic title in Rio. The selected boat of Mueller and Luczak may be Olympic novices but they have a wealth of international experience. Mueller, a University of Michigan graduate, won her first World title at the 2010 U23 World Championships and followed that up by retaining the title in 2011. She won her first senior world title at her first attempt when she was a part of the W4- that won in 2013. In 2014 she switched to sculling and won bronze in the quad at Amsterdam. 2015 saw her in the pair with Ellie Logan and took another medal, a bronze, at Aiguebelette. Hers is a remarkable career, she’s never failed to make an A-Final and only once (at the Varese World Cup in 2015) has she failed to win a medal. Joining Mueller is Grace Luczak, a graduate of Stanford, can match Mueller’s record as she, also, has never failed to reach an A-Final in a career stretching back to her first appearance as a junior in 2007. She won her first title as part of the U23 W8 in 2010 and also won her first senior medal that year when she took bronze in the W4-. The 2013 World Championships saw her take her first senior World Championship gold as part of the W8, 2014 saw her take a 2nd world title in the W8. In 2015 she missed out on a seat in the W8 but still won her third World Championship title when she won gold in the W4-. For 2016 she again missed selection for the W8 but with Mueller they won the US Olympic W2- trial and earned the right to represent the US in Rio.  In 2016 they won the W2- in Lucerne when GB withdrew due to illness, and they topped off a very successful regatta by doubling up and taking gold in the W8 as well. As mentioned above, they will be the biggest challengers to GB but in the end I think they will just come up short, the USA for the silver.

So, the British are expecting this to be a “banker” for gold to get their Rio campaign underway. But, the Americans present a real challenge, for the first time this Olympiad the US aren’t doubling up in the eight as well, the fresh legs of Mueller and Luczak could be the first time that Glover and Stanning have been really tested. You can’t rule out the New Zealanders either, although they are doubling up. The medals will come from these three boats.

Glover & Stanning

Helen Glover and Heather Stanning of Great Britain – favourites to retain their Olympic W2- title



3 thoughts on “The Rio Olympic Games Women’s Coxless Pairs preview

  1. Jo

    Remember the schedule’s changed for Rio – the men’s quad is the first final now on 10 August. The women’s pairs are on 12 August, in the same session as the men’s four and both light doubles.

  2. Pingback: Olympic Preview - Rowing pairs • Rowperfect UK

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