Having received a lot of “feedback” about the fact I haven’t done a preview for the Lightweight events, I thought I better write something…even if it’s not in as much detail as the other events.
Canada: Brendan Hodge, Nicolas Pratt, Eric Woelfl, Maxwell Lattimer
Canada tool the final direct qualifying spot for Rio by finishing 11th at the Aiguebelette World Championships in 2015. They quite a good history in this event. Silver in Atlanta and bronze in Beijing. But, since Beijing Canada haven’t made the A-Final in any World Cup or World championships. So far this season they’ve raced at Varese and Lucerne finishing 13th and 9th respectively. A B-final is the likely finish for the Cannucks.
China: Chenggang Yu, Wei Jin, Tiexin Wang, Jingbin Zhao
The Chinese have half of the crew that raced in London, Changgang Yu & Tiexin Wang. They finished 8th in Aiguebelette but made a strong strart to their 2016 campaign taking a silver medal in Varese and 7th in Lucerne. China have a mixed record in this event, World Champions 10 years ago, bronze was their last World Championship medal in Karapiro in 2010. They won’t be challenging for the medals but an A-final finish would be a great result for them.
Czech Republic: Jan Vetesnik, Miroslav Vrastil Jr, Ondrej Vetesnik, Jiri Kopac
The Czechs have never won a medal at a World Cup or World Championships, but they have had more success at the European championships, with their best result being a silver in 2013. This year’s crew are highly experienced and includes the 32 year old twins Jan and Ondrej Vetesnik. They finished 10th last year and so far this season they made the A-Final in Varese and the European Championships but slipped back to 8th in Lucerne. My expectations for Rio will be the top end of the B Final.
Denmark: Morten Joergensen, Jacob Barsoe, Jacob Larsen, Kasper Joergensen
Denmark are regarded as the “Golden Four”..They have won more medals in this event than any other nation, including an unbeaten run from the Atlanta Olympics through to the 1999 world Championships – 13 wins at Olympic, World and World Cup level. Overall the Danes have won the world Championships 5 times since 1990 and 3 gold and 2 bronzes at the Olympics. So far this season the Danes raced in the heavyweight division at the Europeans, finishing 6th and then won bronze and silver in their “proper” event at Lucerne and Poznan. I love watching the Danes race, they go off hard and rate high and they never seem to settle….it’s just a sprint from start to finish with them. They will be one of the favourites for a medal, and with their pedigree anything less than a medal will be a big disappointment. That said the competition in incredibly fierce and open and they may just miss out.
France: Thomas Baroukh, Franck Solforosi, Guillaume Raineau, Thibault Colard
In Aiguebelette the French won bronze, their first World Championship medal since 2007. In London the French crew just missed out on an A-Final finish and ended up winning the B-Final. So far this season they’ve taken two 4th places at Lucerne and Poznan. In Rio they will be an outside bet for a medal but I expect they will be towards the back of the A-Final
Great Britain: Mark Aldred, Jono Clegg, Chris Bartley, Pete Chambers
By their own standards, 9th at last year’s World Championships was a big disappointment for the British. It was the first time since 2009 that GB had missed the podium at the World Championships. In London they had a fantastic race just being overtaken by South Africa in the final stages. This season they have shown signs of a return to form with silver in Brandenburg and bronze in Poznan. Expectations are high for this crew to take another Olympic medal, a bronze is the likely result.
Germany: Lars Wichert, Jonathan Koch, Lucas Schaeffer, Tobias Franzmann
Lightweight sweep rowing is a bit of the “poor relation” in German men’s rowing. At Olympic level their best result is 5th in 1996. They’ve had more success at the World Championships with gold in 1990 and 2009, but that was the last time they took a medal and since 2009 they’ve only made one World Championship A-Final (finishing 4th in Karapiro in 2010). In 2015 they finished out of the direct qualifying spots in 13th meaning they had to race at the Final Qualifying Regatta. 2nd place secured their place in Rio (although this was bumped up to 1st when Russia were disqualified). Also this season they have a bronze medal from Brandenburg and 5th in Poznan. A top 6 finish would be a great result, but I think a B-final is more likely.
Greece: Panagiotis Magdanis, Stefanos Ntouskas, ioannis Petrou, Spyridion Giannaros
Greece are the main beneficiaries from the turmoil surrounding the Russian rowing team. The Russians finished 1st at the Final Olympic Qualifying Regatta but have subsequently been disqualified for not meeting the eligibility criteria laid down in the LcLaren report. This means that Greece, who had crossed the line 3rd in Lucerne get their slot and will be on the start line in Rio. The question will be, can they make the most of their opportunity. 16th in the World last year would suggest they will struggle. A C-final is the most likely result, but given that the Greeks didn’t even know they’d be racing at the Olympics until a week ago they’ll probably take whatever they can get.
Italy: Pietro Ruta, Livio La Padula, Martino Goretti, Stefano Oppo
The Italians love their lightweight rowing, they’ve had a lot of success in the LM8 and also the lightweight small boats. In the LM4- they won bronze in Athens and were World Champions way back in 1995. Their most recent medal came in 2013. They’ve tweaked the line-up from the crew that finished 6th last year, with the experienced Pietro Ruta coming in in place of Alberto di Seyssel. This season they had a disappointing row in Varese, finishing 12th (beaten by their 2nd LM4-) and in Poznan they finished last of the 6 entries. Despite bringing Ruta in to strengthen the crew I think the Azzuri will struggle and a mid to low B-Final finish looks the most likely.
The Netherlands: Jort Van Gennep, Timothee Heijbrock, Bjorn Van den Ende, Joris Pijs
The Netherlands qualified for Rio by finishing 5th at the 2015 World Championships. They last won a World Championship medal in 2003 and their 5th place last year equalled their best Worlds performance since that silver medal in Milan. They’ve had some good results this season, with 4th places in Varese and Brandenburg and a 6th in Lucerne. If they make the top 6 in Rio it will equal their performance at both London and Beijing.
New Zealand: Peter Taylor, James Lassche, James Hunter, Alistair Bond
The Kiwis are the form nation of this Olympiad, they’ve won 9 of the 11 World Cups, although they were pipped to gold at the Worlds in both 2013 and 2014. The crew includes double Olympian Peter Taylor. This season, despite having to race with a sub, they won both the Lucerne and Poznan World Cups. They are my picks to win their first Olympic LM4- medal, and I reckon it’ll be gold.
Switzerland: Simon Neipmann, Mario Gyr, Simon Schuerch, Lucas Tramer
The Swiss are an outstanding crew, European and World champions in 2015, they started 2016 as they left off with wins in Varese and retaining their European title. At the 2nd World Cup they renewed their rivalry with the New Zealanders. Throughout 2015 the Kiwis and Swiss shared wins. Heading into Rio the likely battle for gold is going to be a fight between the Kiwis and the Swiss. I think the Oar-Blacks will just pip the Swiss, but it promises to be exciting!
The USA: Edward King, Tyler Nase, Robin Prendes, Anthony Fahden
7th at last year’s World Championships secured their participation in Rio. The USA don’t have a particularly strong recent history in this boat class. They last won a world title back in 1993 and last won an Olympic medal when they took bronze in Atlanta. They’ve competed at one World Cup this season and won bronze, their first World Cup medal since 2003. Whilst I’m not sure they’ll get among the medals in Rio, they’ve certainly brought US lightweight sweep back to the sharp end of the competition.
So that’s a whistle-stop look at the crews, my picks are New Zealand for what could be the last ever Olympic LM4- gold ahead of the Swiss in silver and the British just getting the better of the Danes to take bronze.