Now onto the women’s events….
Jeannine Gmelin of Switzerland was the run-away winner in Belgrade, the first ever World Cup gold medal in the W1X for Switzerland (and Gmelin’s 2nd ever medal having taken the silver at the European’s in 2015). Perhaps her performance in Belgrade shouldn’t have been too much of a surprise following her 5th place finish in Rio. She’s emerging as one of the major players in world sculling and will probably start as favourite in Racice.
But, she will have some fierce competition. Leading the charge will be Germany’s Annekatrin Thiele. She won gold in the W4X in Rio (a boat class in which she’s never finished lower than 3rd since 2005). She last raced the W1X internationally in 2014 when she finished 6th at the European Championships. It remains to be seen if she remains in the single for this season or moves back to a crew boat.
Denmark’s Fie Udby Erichsen won silver at the London Olympics, after taking a year out she returned in 2014 but has yet to recapture her medal-winning form of 2012. She finished 9th in Rio but with her pedigree she will always be a threat.
Vicky Thornley of Great Britain made a great start to her 2017 campaign taking silver in Belgrade. The Olympic W2X silver medallist has an opportunity to make a real mark on the world of the W1X and I’ve said before that if she is given the support and time to really focus on the single she could become a major medal contender. A medal in Racice will be a great step on from Belgrade.
Magdalena Lobnig of Austria is the defending European Champion having coped with the atrocious conditions in Brandenburg far better than her rivals. She finished the season in 6th at Rio and started her 2017 campaign with a 3rd place in Belgrade. She’s one of the most consistent scullers in the field having only missed an A-Final twice in her entire single sculling career.
4th in Belgrade was the legendary Ekaterina Karsten of Belarus. She turns 45 shortly after the regatta and is now in her 26th season as a senior international. Astonishing longevity, and the fact she’s still up there with the best in the world is amazing.
Ireland’s Sanita Puspure won bronze at last year’s Europeans following bronze at the 1st World Cup. She started her 2017 season racing in Belgrade where she took 5th a solid, if unspectacular performance. She’ll be hoping for a similar result in a stronger field in Racice and certainly has the form to be in with a shout of a medal.
Edit: Puspure has withdrawn just prior to the draw due to illness
Elza Gulbe of Latvia is making her 2017 debut at Racice. At last year’s Europeans she had her best ever result taking silver behind Lobnig. Her only other race last season was 6th at the Final Olympic Qualifying Regatta, so after a break from racing of exactly a year it’ll be interesting to see what speed she has in 2017.
Roos De Jong of the Netherlands was in one of three Dutch W2X at Belgrade, finishing 6th in the final (and 3rd of the 3 Dutch crews). The U23 BW2X bronze medallist switches to the single for Racice. She last raced in this boat class at the U23 World championships in 2014 finishing 7th. Given the strength of the field in Racice a similar finishing position will be a good performance.
Another sculler to watch for is Aikaterini Nikolaidou of Greece. The former lightweight raced in the W2X throughout 2015 and 2016 culminating in a 4th place at the Rio Olympics. As a lightweight she was European Champion in the LW1X in 2014 and went on to win silver at the World Championships that year.
Other scullers to watch are Eeva Karppinen of Finland (daughter of the legendary Pertti Karpinnen and 3rd in the W2X at last year’s Final Olympic Qualifying Regatta) and Sweden’s Lovisa Claesson, silver medallist at last year’s U23 World Championships.
My picks…it’s going to be close, but if Gmelin carries forward the form she showed in Belgrade she’ll be tough to beat. I’m picking her for gold with Thiele in silver and Thornley in bronze.
Another small field (although considerably better than the pitiful three boats that raced in Belgrade).
Great Britain have dominated this boat class over the last few years, but Heather Stanning has retired and Helen Glover is taking a break. In their place the new line-up of Olympic silver medallist Karen Bennett and 2016 World Champion Holly Norton, have picked up the mantle laid down by their former team mates. They beat two quality Dutch boats in Belgrade and will be full of confidence heading into Racice.
However, the British will find some stiff competition. Leading the charge are likely to be the Romanians. They have the experienced Laura Oprea at stroke. She took bronze in the W8 in Rio and doubled up in the W2- finishing 9th. She’s joined by Beatrice-Madalina Parfenie. The 21 year old was junior World Champion in 2014 and followed that up with an 8th place in the U23 BW4X in 2015. Racice marks her senior international debut.
Also challenging for a medal are likely to be the Danes, Hedvig Rasmussen and Christina Johansen. Rasmussen took bronze in this boat class in Rio with partner Anne Andersen. For the Europeans Rasmussen has a new partner, Christina Johansen. Johansen is making her first international appearance since the third World Cup of 2014 where she raced in the W4X that finished 14th. As with the Romanians this looks to be a boat in development with one experienced and one inexperienced athlete.
Italy have a young crew both of whom are making their senior debuts, Giorgia Pelacchi took bronze in the JW8 last year and Ludovica Serafina won silver at the U23 World Championships.
France also have a young crew with the pairing of Lea Duret and Claire Chanut who finished 4th in the U23 BW2- in 2015.
My picks…The British do look to be the form crew in the event, the Danes and Romanians look to have good boats for the future but the British look the strongest. GB for gold with Romania in silver and Denmark in bronze.
The winners of the Belgrade World Cup, Sophie Souwer and Inge Janssen of the Netherlands, have moved into the W4X for the European Championships. In their place are Lisa Scheenaard and Marloes Oldenburg. They also raced in the W2X in Belgrade, finishing 2nd to their compatriots. They will start as marginal favourites in Racice with the Czechs, Kristyna Fleissnerova and Lenka Antosova (bronze in Belgrade and 10th in Rio) as their main rivals.
Poland won the European title in 2014 and 2015. For 2017 they have a new young combination of Olga Michalkiewicz and Marta Wielczko. This duo were part of the U23 BW4X that won gold in 2015 and 2016.
4th in Belgrade were the Swiss, Pascale Walker and Andrea Fuerholz. Walker raced in the U23 BW1X last year finishing 9th at the World Championships (following a bronze medal in the same event in 2015). 19 year old Fuerholz made her senior debut in Belgrade after racing in the U23 BW2- in 2016.
Another young crew are the Germans, Carlotta Nwajide and Julia Leiding. Nwajide won bronze in the BW1X at the U23 World Championships last year, her third year on the U23 team. Leiding raced on the U23 team between 2013 – 2016 with a best performance of 4th in the BW1X in 2015.
The Italians, Kiri Tontodonati and Stefania Gobbi are making their senior debuts. They were part of the U23 BW4X that took 4th at the 2016 World Championships.
The British have a new line-up for 2017, Georgia Francis and Emily Carmichael. Carmichael of Leander Club only started rowing in 2014 following a successful career as a Dressage rider. She’s following in the footsteps of her father, Michael, who rowed for Great Britain at the 1980 Olympics. Francis makes her senior debut following three years on the U23 team winning a silver medal in the BW8 in 2014.
Other crews to mention are the French, Flavie Bahuaud and Julie Voirin, both making their senior debuts having raced at the U23’s. Norway have Thea Helseth and Marianne Madsen, Madsen won silver in the U23 BW2X in 2014 and Helseth who finished 8th in the BW1X in 2015.
My picks…there are a lot of new young combinations but the favourites for gold will be the Dutch with the Czech’s in silver and the young Polish crew in bronze.
At the Belgrade World Cup it was a great race between Poland and the Netherlands. The Poles have made one change to the crew that took gold. They now have three of the boat that won bronze in Rio along with U23 World Champion Katarzyna Zillmann. The Dutch now have a crew full of Olympians. Inge Janssen and Nicole Buekers won silver in the Quad in Rio and Olivia Van Rooijen and Sophie Souwer were part of the W8 that finished 6th. These two boats look set to head to head all season.
The German women consider the quad “their” boat. They’ve won the European Championships in 3 of the last 4 years (losing to Belarus in 2014). For 2017 they have a brand combination which is a mixture of youth and experience. Daniela Schultze raced in the W8 at the London Olympics having won gold in the BW2X at the 2011 World Championships. She spent the Rio Olympiad in the W8 but failed to qualify for the Games. Charlotte Reinhardt also raced in the W8 during the Rio Olympiad, and after that crew disbanded she raced in the W4- at the World Championships winning a bronze medal. The other half of the crew, Frauke Hundeling and Frieda Haemmerling are both making their senior debuts having raced in the U23’s. Hundeling won silver in the BW4x and Haemmerling finished 5th in the W2X having won gold in the JW2X the year before. It remains to be seen if this combination will remain long term or whether it’s strengthened by the likes of Annekatrin Thiele.
The Ukrainians make their 2017 debut in Racice. Their boat contains 3 of the crew that finished 4th in Rio, Olena Buryak, Daryna Verkhogliad and Ievgeniia Nimchenko are joined by Diana Serebrianska. She raced in the BW1X at the 2016 U23 World Championships finishing 12th.
The British quad is a hugely frustrating boat to watch. They are a talented quartet, Jess Leyden and Mathilda Hodgkins-Byrne are the reigning U23 BW2X World Champions, Holly Nixon is a reigning senior World Champion and Beth Bryan is an U23 medallist as well. But, and it’s a big but, no matter what combination the British have tried over the last 4-5 years they’ve failed to fire and be a medal-competitive boat. They took a bronze medal in Belgrade but that was a bitter-sweet medal given there were only three boats racing. The last time GB won a medal was at the final World Cup all the way back in 2012. The competition in Racice is fierce and a medal is unlikely, but they need to produce a positive and above all a competitive performance to demonstrate progress.
The French have two returners from the crew that finished 5th in Rio, Helene Lefebvre and Elodie Ravera-Scaramozzino are joined by fellow Olympians Marie Le Nepvou and Noemie Kober. This duo raced in the W2- in Rio coming 12th. This is a very strong combination and could well be the first French W4X to win a medal.
Other boats to mention are the Romanian’s with three of their 5th place U23 BW4X from 2016 and the Belarussians which includes Tatsiana Kukhta who finished 8th in the W2X in Rio.
My picks…It’s going to be close between the Polish and the Dutch but I think the Poles will just pip them for the gold. Bronze will be a little more uncertain but the Ukrainians will be my picks to take it.
Racice sees the first appearance this season of the reigning Olympic champions from the Netherlands. But, only Ilse Paulis from the gold medal crew remains. Paulis is not only the Olympic Champion but also the holder of the World Best time, 6:47.69 set at the final World Cup last year. In the absence of her Olympic partner, Maaike Head, she’s joined by Marieke Keijser, World Rowing’s “Rising Star” for March 2016 Keijser is a prodigious talent. Junior World champion in the single in 2015 she took gold on her senior debut at the first World Cup last year and followed that up with silver at the 3rd World Cup and her year culminated in gold in the BLW1X at the U23 World Championships. The combination with Paulis looks very exciting and may just pick up where the Paulis/Head combination left off.
Poland took the win in Belgrade, Weronika Deresz and Martyna Mikolajczak stalked the British throughout the first 1800m of the final before turning on the gas and blowing past the British to take the gold. The Polish are the same line up as at Rio where they won the B-Final to finish 7th overall.
The British are a frustrating crew. The crew was due to be Kat Copeland and Charlie Taylor but Emily Craig is a late replacement for Taylor. At the 1st World Cup the Copeland/Taylor combination led to the final few hundred metres before the Polish blew past them like they were standing still covering the final 500m 3 seconds faster than the British. But from a positive perspective the medal in Belgrade was the first for a GB LW2X since silver at the World Championships in 2015. Emily Craig raced in the 2nd GB LW2X in Belgrade taking bronze. In 2016 she was a member of the LW4X that won gold at the World Championships. It’s a great opportunity to make a good impression in the top lightweight boat but the British will be up against it in a very strong field.
Another crew to mention are the Germans, Fini Sturm and Leonie Pless. Sturm raced in this boat class in Rio finishing 11th and is a silver medallist from last year’s European Championships. She’s joined by Pless who took bronze in the LW1X at the 2014 Europeans and followed that with a 4th place at the World Championships. In 2015 she switched allegiance to Austria and raced at the Final Olympic Qualification Regatta in the W2X. After failing in her attempt to race at the Olympics she raced the LW1X to a 10th place at the World Championships. For 2017 she returns to German colours and is back in an Olympic class boat.
Italy have selected the U23 BLW2X bronze medallists, Valentina Rodini and Frederica Cesarini. Rodini also raced at the Rio Olympics finishing 13th . In 2015 she raced the U23 BLW4X that won gold. Her partner, Cesarini coxed the W8 that won silver at the European Championships in 2012 whilst still a junior and before becoming an international rower in her own right a year later racing the JW2- at the Junior World Championships. Her best performance was bronze in the LW1X at the Varese World Cup in 2016 and then the U23 bronze with Rodini.
A couple of other crews to mention are the Romanians, Ionela-Livia Lehaci and Gianina-Elena Beleaga (8th in Rio) and the Swiss, Frederique Rol and Pauline Delacroix.
My picks….Like the heavyweight quad this is shaping up to be a Poland v Netherlands battle. I really like the look of the new Dutch combination, the question is do they have the speed this early in their time together to match the established Polish duo? I think the Poles will have the edge although this may change as the season progresses. Poland in gold with the Netherlands in silver and the bronze being a battle between the young Italians, British and Germans, hopefully the British will have the edge.
In Belgrade for the first World Cup the Swiss scullers had an excellent regatta, among the medal winners was Patricia Merz who took gold by a convincing 5 seconds over Ireland’s Denise Walsh. Both of these scullers are in action again in Racice. But, the level of competition has definitely stepped up a notch. Joining the party is multiple world Championship medal winner Leonie Pieper of Germany. She won the World Championships in the LW4X in 2015 and followed that up with a silver medal in 2016. Racice will be the first time she’s raced the LW1X internationally but she will be a major threat to the medals.
Another strong challenger will be U23 World Champion Amber Kraak of the Netherlands. She took with U23 BLW2X last year with Anne Marie Schonk, but like Pieper Racice will be the first time she’s raced the single on the international stage.
3rd in Belgrade was Poland’s Joanna Dorociak. She raced in the LW2X at last year’s European Championships taking the bronze medal.
An exciting prospect, making her senior international debut in Racice is Clara Guerra of Italy. The 18 year old won the JW1X gold at the Junior World Championships last year and it’s going to be interesting to see how she fares in her first senior competition.
Sweden’s Emma Fredh makes her 2017 debut following a mixed season in 2016. She and partner Cecilia Lilja just missed out on qualifying for the Rio Olympics, finishing 4th at the Final Olympic Qualifying Regatta. Fredh then switched to the single and took a superb silver at the Rotterdam World Championships.
The final sculler to mention is Denmark’s Aja Runge Holmgaard, 8th at last year’s World Championships she’s the reigning European silver medallist and will definitely be in the mix in Racice.
My picks…it should be a good battle between Merz and Pieper for gold with Walsh in bronze. Sui gold, Ger silver, IRL bronze.
Another small field, perhaps not helped by the fact this was listed as an “exhibition” event, although it is now a full championship event. That may have put off a few countries from entering. But, one thing’s for certain, with the W4- now likely to be part of the Olympic programme in Tokyo this event is going to become quite a battleground, potentially the most competitive of all of the women’s sweep events.
Poland are the only crew which raced in Belgrade taking a silver medal. They will be clear favourites to go one better in Racice. The crew includes the Wierzbowska sisters, Anna and Maria, who took 10th in the w2- in Rio and Monika Ciaciuch who won Olympic bronze in the W4X.
In contrast to the experienced Poles, the other three crews are all very young. Both the Italians and the Romanians have athletes who are making their senior debuts. The Italians have the reigning Junior World Champion JW2- on board, 19 year old Caterina Di Fonzo and 18 year old Aisha Rocek. They are joined by last season’s 7th place U23 BW2- Veronica Calabrese and Ilaria Broggini.
The Romanians have also have a junior world Championship winning JW2- in the crew with Beatrice-Madalina Parfenie and Roxana Paracanu who won the title in 2014 (Parascanu also won the JW8 title in 2015). They are joined by Alina Ligia Pop, an U23 silver medallist in this boat class last season and Cristina-Georgiana Popescu who finished 10th in the U23 BW2- last season.
The final boat in the event are the Ntherlands. They have half the crew that raced at last year’s World Championships in this boat class, Willeke Vossen and Annemarie Bernhard. Marleen Verburgh last raced internationally in 2014 when she was part of the W8 that finished 8th at the World Championships. The final member of the crew is 24 year old Lisanne Brandsma who makes her first international appearance.
My picks..The Poles look by far the strongest crew and should win gold. The Netherlands have the better senior international pedigree but the Italians look an exciting young crew and could give them a surprise. The young Romanians will also be challenging for the minor medals. The Poles clear in front for the gold with Italy just pipping the Dutch for silver.
With no W8 event in Belgrade this is the first time we have a chance to see the big boats race.
The Romanians will start as strong favourites to take the title. They have six of the crew that took bronze at the Olympics, along with U23 BW2X bronze medallists Ioana Vrinceanu and Viviana-Iuliana.
The Netherlands also have a number of returners from their Olympic boat (Lies Rustenburg, Monica Lanz and cox Ae-Ri Noort). They are joined by fellow Rio Olympian Aletta Jorritsma. Jorritsma raced in the W2- and W4- in Belgrade winning bronze and gold respectively. Her partner in the pair was JW1X World Champion Karolien Florijn who also joins her in the W8. The crew also contains two of the U23 BW4- that won bronze last year; Ymke Clevering and Veronique Meester.
The British have a completely new line-up from that which took an historic silver medal in Rio. Described very much as a development boat it’s a good mix of experienced and new athletes. Among the more experienced members of the crew are Fi Gammond, World Champion in the W4- last year and Rebecca Chin who won silver in the W4- in 2015. Also in the crew are U23 medallists Annie Withers and Joe Wratten. It’s an exciting line-up with lots of potential and a medal in Racice would be a great performance.
The Belarussians all raced in Belgrade in the W4- finishing 3rd and 4th out of 4. They have one Olympian on board with Ina Nikulina in the stroke seat. Nikulina raced in the W2- in Rio finishing 15th. The rest of the crew all raced either the senior or U23 W4- last season. The senior version finished 4th and the U23’s 6th.
The final crew in this event are the Russians. They have a young crew built around their bronze medal U23 BW8 from last year. The boat is stroked by Julia Kalinovskaya who was in the W8 that won bronze at last year’s Europeans.
My picks…Difficult to see anyone getting the better of the Romanians and it should be a good scrap between the Dutch and the British. Romania for a comfortably gold with the Netherlands in silver and the British in bronze.
Time for the racing to begin and the first champions of a new Olympiad to be crowned.