Now time to look at the open-weight women…(the men are heavyweight but the women “open-weight”…go figure)
Great Britain’s Vicky Thornley has been the “breakthrough” sculler so far this season. She’s raced the single a bit in previous years but focussed on the double for Rio, winning a silver medal. For 2017 she’s targeting the single and has made an impressive start, winning silver at the 1st World Cup and gold at the Europeans. A close race at the 2nd World Cup with Magdalena Lobnig of Austria ended up with the Brit winning another silver. This is already the best ever season for a British woman single sculler. There was disappointment at Henley when she lost the final to Germany’s Annekatrin Thiele, although it was clear that there was a problem with Thornley’s boat as she looked distinctly uncomfortable and was having to constantly correct the steering. She’ll be hoping for a problem-free regatta in Lucerne and will be one of the favourites to take gold.
As mentioned above, Magdalena Lobnig defeated Thornley in Poznan. The Austrian is one of the most consistent scullers on the circuit, but Poznan was only the 2nd time in her senior career that she’s stood on the top step of the podium (alright I know World Rowing don’t use podiums but you know what I mean!) the only other time she’s won gold was at the European Championships in 2016.
Annekatrin Thiele of Germany is enjoying her racing in the single scull. The Olympic W4X champion won bronze at the European Championships and just missed the medals in Poznan. At Henley she had a good win against the Netherland’s Inge Janssen in the semi-final and then got the better of Thornley in the final. She’ll be looking to repeat that win in Lucerne.
Canada are making their first appearance of the season and Carling Zeeman is one of their best hopes for a medal. She won the 1st world Cup last season and followed that up with a 5th place at the 2nd World Cup and then finished 10th in Rio.
Belarus’s Ekatarina Karsten is one of the legends of the sport and she’s still winning medals at the age of 45 taking silver behind Thornley at the European Championships. She also has a 4th place this season from the 1st World Cup. She’s an amazing athlete and has been winning senior medals before a lot of her competitors were even born (or out of nappies). It remains to be seen how long she can keep going, Tokyo isn’t out of the question if she remains competitive. If she makes it, it will be her 7th Olympics.
Another “old-stager” racing in Lucerne is Russia’s Julia Levina, the 44 year old made her senior debut at the Lucerne world Cup 20 years ago in the single scull. She’s not raced so far this season so it remains to be seen if this race is anything more than an “anniversary” row.
Switzerland’s Jeannine Gmelin followed up a 5th place at the Rio Olympics with a great start to the 2017 season winning her 1st gold medal. Since Belgrade she’s had problems with injury and didn’t race at either the European Championships or the 2nd World Cup.
4th at the European Championships was Fie Udby Erichsen of Denmark. The London Olympic silver medallist hasn’t quite recaptured her medal-winning form since returning to competition in 2014. She was 9th in Rio but her race at this year’s Europeans marked her best result since the London Olympics.
Other scullers to watch are New Zealand’s Hannah Osborne (5th at Poznan), Ireland’s Sanita Puspure (5th in Belgrade and 7TH in Poznan) and the two American scullers, Felice Mueller(4th in the W2- in Rio) and Lauren Schmetterling (Rio W8 gold medallist and 11th in the W1X in Poznan). Also watch out for the young Lithuanians Milda Valciukaite and Ieva Adomaviciute. They are doubling up in the W2X so it remains to be seen if they wil race the singles as well. Valciukaite won bronze in the W2x in Rio and Adomaviciute is a two-time U23 world Champion.
My picks….I think Thornley will return to winning ways with Gmelin in silver and Thiele in bronze.
This event is rapidly becoming all about the Kiwis – Grace Prendergast and Kerri Gowler. They seem to have the Midas touch in this boat at the moment. They announced their intentions by winning their first race of the season in Poznan in a new world best time of 6:49.08. They then raced at Henley and were equally dominant beating their team mates in the semi-final (as an aside I believe this was the first time two siblings have faced each other at Henley) and then defeated the Americans comfortably in the final. It was a nice touch that the medals were awarded by Helen Glover and Heather Stanning, the Olympic champions and previous holders of the world Best Time.
Runners-up at Henley and at the 2nd World Cup were the Americans, Megan Kalmoe and Tracy Eisser. This pairing raced in the W4X in 2015 winning the world championships and then placed 5th at the Rio Olympics. The pair is their preferred boat class and they will be looking to establish themselves as the leading challengers to the New Zealanders.
The US have a 2nd pair racing in Lucerne with Vicky Opitz and Emily Regan. Regan was a member of the W8 that won gold in Rio and raced in the W8 and W4- in Poznan taking a bronze in the W8. Opitz was also in the Poznan W8 and w4-, her first appearance for the US since winning gold in the W8 in 2015.
The British, Karen Bennett and Holly Norton started 2017 with a bang, taking the gold medal in Belgrade. They followed this up with bronze at the European Championships. Illness meant they missed racing in Poznan and they didn’t race at Henley, so Lucerne will be the first time they’ve come up against the New Zealanders. An A-Final finish is the absolute minimum this crew will expect and they will be looking to make the podium.
The Danes, Hedvig Rasmussen and Christina Johansen, are the European silver medallists. Rasmussen rowed in this boat class at the Rio Olympics with Anne Andersen winning the bronze medal. For Johansen 2017 is her first international appearance since 2014 and the silver medal her and Rasmussen won in Racice was the first in her career.
Poland have a new combination for Lucerne, Anna Wierzbowska and Olga Michalkiewicz. Wiezbowska is no stranger to this boat class having raced it at the Rio Olympics with her sister Maria. So far this season she has been racing in the W4- and collected medals at both the World Cups and the European Championships. Her partner, Michliewicz won gold at the U23 World Championships last year in the BW2x and raced in the W2X at the European Championships finishing 5th.
The Netherlands, Monica Lanz & Lies Rustenburg are doubling up in the W4- in Lucerne. They raced the W4- in Belgrade winning gold and were in the W8 that won silver at the European Championships. They made their debut as a pair at the Holland Beker taking bronze on the Saturday and gold on the Sunday. They then raced at Henley making the semi-final before being comprehensively beaten by the Americans.
Katrina Werry and Lucy Stephan of Australia are also doubling up in the W4-. They opened their 2017 campaign racing in the W4- in Poznan and winning the gold. Stephan was a member of the Aussie women’s 8 that raced at the Olympics whereas 2017 marks Werry’s senior debut after winning bronze in the U23 BW2- in 2015.
My picks, based on current form no-one will get close to the no.1 Kiwi pair. The battle for the minor medals however will be fierce. I’m going for the US to take silver with the British in bronze.
This looks to be an incredibly competitive field. Once again a Kiwi crew will start as favourites.
Brooke Donoghue and Olivia Loe were winners at the 2nd World Cup in Poznan and followed that up with a comfortable win over the Dutch at Henley. But the field in Lucerne is much stronger than in Poznan so they will have their work cut out to take another victory.
Leading the charge against the Kiwis will be the Australians, Olympia Aldersey and Maddy Edmunds. This pairing were bronze medallists at the Poznan World Cup and both have Olympic experience – Alsersey from the W8 and Edmunds the W4X.
The Lithuanians have an exciting young combination racing, Ieva Adomaviciute and Milda Valciukaite as mentioned above are also entered in the W1X. Adomaviciute makes her senior debut after winning gold in the U23 BW1x in 2015 and 2016. Valciukaite is a former World Champion in this event and an Olympic bronze medallist. This has the makings of a very fast combination.
Kristyna Fleissnerova and Lenka Antosova of the Czech Republic finished 10th in Rio but have made a good start to their 2017 campaign. Bronze medallists in Belgrade, they followed this up with a gold at the European Championships and then a 4th place in Poznan. They will be strong contenders for the podium this weekend.
The US crew of Meghan O’Leary and Ellen Tomek are making their first appearance of 2017. They have been racing together as a double since 2013 and have a number of World Cup medals and World Championship A-Final appearances to their credit. Their last race was at the Rio Olympics finishing 6th.
Another exciting young double are the Greeks, Anneta Kyridou and Aikaterini Nikolaidou. 18 year old Kyridou won silver at the 2016 Junior World Championships, and her partner Nikolaidou finished 4th in this event at the Rio Olympics. Not too much will be expected of them for their first race together in Lucerne but they are definitely ones to watch for the future.
The French double of Helene LeFebvre and Elodie Ravera-Scaramozzino raced in the W4X at the European Championships finishing 5th, but for Lucerne they return to their favoured W2X event. They raced in this boat class at the Rio Olympics finishing 5th. An A-Final finish in Lucerne will be their target.
The French have a 2nd double racing, Noemie Kober and Marie Le Nepvou. They also raced in the quad at the Europeans. They were the Olympic W2- finishing 12th.
Germany also have two doubles racing. GER1 is Carlotta Nwajide and Julia Leiding, 4th at the European Championships. Racing as GER2 are the highly experienced Julia Richter and Marie-Catherine Arnold. Richter won silver in the quad in London and spent 2015 and 2016 racing the single. Arnold raced in the W2X in Rio finishing 9th and raced the W1X at the Poznan World Cup this season finishing 10th.
Other crews to watch are the Italian European bronze medallists Kiri Tontodonati and Stefania Gobbi, and the Dutch, Marloes Oldenburg and Roos de Jong.
My picks….New Zealand to carry on their winning ways with Australia in silver and the US in bronze.
Since this event got the nod from the IOC to join the Olympic programme it’s been steadily increasing in entries and standard. Whilst still not a particularly big field in Lucerne it is beginning to show the shoots of countries developing boats to build towards Tokyo.
The Netherlands were winners at the 1st World Cup but moved that crew into the W8 for the European Championships which won a silver medal. For Lucerne they are doubling-up, as mentioned above, Monica Lanz and Lies Rustenburg are racing in the W2- and their crewmates, Aletta Jorritsma and Jose Van Veen are in the W8. All four of these athletes raced at the Rio Olympics with Jorritsma in the W2- and the other three in the W8. This is a high quality line-up and it remains to be seen if the Dutch continue to double-up or if they settle on this W4- line-up.
With the Dutch not racing in Poznan it was Australia who took the gold. They are also doubling up with Lucy Stephan and Katrina Werry in the W2-. The rest of the crew are Sarah Hawe and Molly Goodman. 2017 marks the senior debut for Hawe and she won gold in the W4- and bronze in the W2- at the Poznan World Cup. Molly Goodman partnered Hawe in the W2- at Poznan and was a member of the W8 that raced in Rio.
The W4- is the sole women’s sweep entry from Canada. Their crew is a blend of youth and experience. Susanne Grainger and Christine Roper were both members of the w8 that finished 5th in Rio. They are joined by two talented former U23 internationals Hillary Janssens and Nicole Hare. These two were U23 World Champions in the BW2- last season.
Great Britain are making their first appearance in this boat class for 2017 (there is a rumour they were planning on entering the European but were told it wasn’t a championship event so didn’t only to find out later it was!) The crew is made up of a talented group of athletes, all of whom have won medals at U23 level. Holly Hill and Melissa Wilson were in the U23 BW4- that won bronze in 2015 with Hill going on to win silver in the BW8 last year. Harriet Taylor and Rowan Mckellar were both members of the BW4- that finished 4th last year but were medallists in 2015. This is very much a development boat for the British but its long term prospects look very good.
Poland raced at the European Championships taking silver behind the Romanians (who aren’t racing in this boat class in Lucerne). They also raced in Poznan finishing 3rd behind the Australians and the top American crew.
Russia have decided not to race the W8 in Lucerne and instead are racing the W4-. They have taken half of the eight that finished 3rd at the European Championships and put them into this 4-
France are the final crew racing, like the Canadians their crew is a blend of youth and experience with Pauline Bugnard and Alice Mayne who raced in the w4X at the 2015 World Championships along with Flavie Bahuaud who finished 9th in the W2X at the European Championships and 19 year old Adele Brosse who raced in the JW2- at last year’s World Junior Championships in Rotterdam.
My picks..I think it’ll be a good battle between the Australians and the Netherlands for gold and silver with the Dutch taking it. Canada and Poland will be battling for the bronze with the Canucks winning that particular fight.
Germany have been a dominant force in this event for years and they took the gold medal in Rio. For 2017 they have a completely different line-up (and indeed they’ve been experimenting with different line-ups throughout the season). For Lucerne they have Daniela Schultze and Frieda Haemmerling who were in the boat that won the European Championships and Charlotte Reinhardt and Frauke Hundeling who were in the quad that finished a disappointing 4th in Poznan. Whether this remains the final line-up for the Sarasota World Championships remains to be seen. Expectations are always very high for the German W4X and nothing short of gold is acceptable.
Poland have also had a mixed season so far. The Olympic bronze medallists were a disappointing 4th at the European Championships, but followed that up with a commanding 3 second victory in Poznan. They will be starting in Lucerne as marginal favourites for the title.
The Netherlands will also be a strong contender for the gold in Lucerne. They finished 2nd at the 1st world Cup and also at the European Championships and have brought in Lisa Scheenaard to the bow seat (who won silver in the W2X in Poznan). Stroking the boat is Nicole Beukers who won silver in this boat class in Rio and behind her are Olinia van Rooijen and Sophie Souwer both of whom were in the Olympic W8. This quartet raced at Henley comfortably beating the GB U23 crew and breaking the course record.
Australia finished 2nd in their 1st race of the season in Poznan. The crew is led by Olympian Genevieve Horton and she’s backed up by three former U23 internationals. Leah Saunders (silver in the BW4X in 2015) and Rowena Meredith and Caitlin Cronin (6th in the BW4x in 2016). The entry in Poznan wasn’t the best, with just 4 boats racing and the Australians, although they took silver, finished over 3 seconds behind the Dutch. With a bigger field in Lucerne a medal will be much harder to come by. The Australians have also entered a 2nd W4X made up of their LW4X (who are also racing in that 3 boat final). A lack of entries in Poznan resulted in this crew racing in two LW2X with Alice Arch and Georgia Miansarow finishing 6th and Georgia Nesbitt and Amy James finishing 8th.
Great Britain haven’t had the best of times in this boat class in the past few years and failing to qualify for the Olympics was a major blow. A revised line-up for 2017 has made progress and a bronze medal at the European Championships was a definite step forward for the crew. However they’ve been hit by illness and injury recently which saw them withdraw from the 2nd world Cup and from Henley. For Lucerne Jess Leyden has still not recovered so her spot is taken by Alice Baatz who made her international debut racing as GBR2 in the W1X at the Poznan World Cup (just 9 months after graduating from the GB world Class Start programme). In a strong field GB will be looking to ensure they are “in the mix” for the medals although I think a podium finish will be very tricky.
The final crew racing are China. This is a young crew all of whom are making their international debuts in Lucerne. It’s always difficult to tell what sort of form these Chinese crews have – we’ll just have to wait and see!
My picks….Poland or the Netherlands for gold? I’m going to go for a Dutch win with Poland in silver and Germany in bronze.
Yet another small entry. So far this season there were 0 entries at the 1st World Cup, 5 at the 2nd and 5 at the European Championships. It will surely be concerning to FISA the lack of entries in this event – although given the complexities of putting together an 8, and the fact this is the first year of an Olympiad means it’s perhaps not too surprising.
The US aren’t racing in Lucerne – their one appearance so far this season resulted in a shock 3rd place in Poznan. In their absence the favourites are likely to be Romania. They won the European Championships in Racice and have six of the crew that won a bronze medal in Rio. The Romanians used to dominate the women’s 8 before that mantle was handed to the Americans. With such a strong crew the Romanians could become the main challengers to the US dominance.
New Zealand have a very strong crew, which row a very similar style to the Americans with a good old heave at the finish – very powerful and incredibly strong. They took the gold in Poznan and raced the Remenham Challenge Cup at Henley defeating the British by 2/3 of a length.
For their part Great Britain are in a rebuilding phase. They crew is completely different to that which won an historic silver in Rio. 4th place at the Europeans was a little disappointing but this was followed by a much better result in Poznan where they finished 1 second behind the Kiwis (and ahead of the Americans for the first time).
The Netherlands are another crew in the rebuilding phase. They did race at the European Championships finishing 2nd, but there are only 4 of that crew racing in Lucerne (including cox Ae-Ri Noort). Aletta Jorritsma and Jose Van Veen are doubling up in the W4- and are the most experienced members of the crew having both raced in Rio. The crew also includes three of the crew that won bronze in the w4- at the Europeans, marleen Verburgh, Lisanne Brandsma and Willeke Vossen.
My picks. It’s hard to see anyone beating the Romanians, they are the most experienced of all of the crews. But, the battle for the silver and bronze is going to be really tight. The Kiwis have the edge, having beaten the British in Poznan and Henley, but the margins are getting closer. I think the Kiwis will just pip the British for the bronze.