Next up are the coxless fours…
China, Germany, Hungary, Italy, Russia, USA
Oh how the mighty have fallen….with FISA and the IOC agreeing to drop this event from the Olympic programme it’s rapidly gone from one of the most eagerly contested events to one in its death-throws, indeed FISA have recently proposed that the LM4- is removed from the World Championship programme as well. At least it means it has a quick death rather than a lingering one of dwindling entries and quality.
What this does mean is that whoever wins in Sarasota has the chance of becoming the reigning World Champions in perpetuity!
The medals look to be a clear three-way battle between the Chinese, Italians and Russians.
The light four has been raced twice so far this season, first at the European Championships and then at Lucerne. Russia took the honours at the Europeans with their crew of Maksim Telitcyn, Aleksander Bogdashin, Alexander Chaukin and Aleksey Vikulin pushing the Italians into 2nd. But in Lucerne Italy made three changes to their line-up with just Piero Sfiligoi remaining from the Europeans, in came Federico Duchich, Leone Barbaro and Lorenzo Tedesco and they overturned the defeat in Racice.
China have three of the crew that raced in Rio last season finishing 8th – Jingbin Zhoa, Chenggang Yu and Tiexin Wang. They are joined by Xiaoxiong Li who raced in the heavyweight M8 in 2015. They’ve not raced so far this season, but with their Olympic experience so will be serious contenders for the win.
Behind these three crews the German’s will most likely be the strongest, the crew of Patrik Stoecker, Sven Kessler, Jonathan Koch and Julius Peschel finished third in Lucerne. Koch raced in the LM4- at the Olympics and Kessler and Peschel finished 8th in the LM2- at last year’s World championships. Stoecker was world champion in the LM4X last year.
The Hungarians, Balazs Fiala, Bence Tamas, Peter Csiszar and Peter Krpesics raced as a LM4X in Lucerne finishing 10th.
The USA have two of the crew that won bronze in the LM8 in 2015 Nicholas Dawe and David Smith, they are joined by Andrew Neils from Virginia who raced in the LM4X in 2014 and former Yale oarsman Tom Foster.
My picks…Italy for gold with China in silver and the Russians bronze.
Australia, Canada, China, France, Great Britain, Italy, The Netherlands, New Zealand, Poland, Romania, Russia, USA.
The LM4- loss is the W4- gain, with the event now being added to the Olympic programme for Tokyo 2020 it suddenly takes on a much more intriguing aspect. Some countries are doubling up their senior athletes in the W8 and others are using it as a means of bringing on new talent or raising the profile of those existing senior athletes who hadn’t previously been part of an Olympic class boat.
Australia will start as favourites in Sarasota, the crew of Lucy Stephan, Katrina Werry, Sarah Hawe and Molly Goodman are unbeaten so far this season with wins at both the 2nd and 3rd World Cups. Stephan and Goodman were both members of the W8 that raced at the Rio Olympics. Hawe and Goodman doubled up in the W2- at Poznan taking the bronze medal.
Canada are one of the nation’s doubling up in the W8. Three of the crew (Susanne Grainiger, Christine Roper and Nicole Hare) raced at Lucerne finishing 3rd. For the World Championships the 4th member of the Lucerne crew, Hillary Janssens, is replaced by Lisa Roman. This change measn there are now three of the W8 that finished 5th at the Rio Olympics. Hare is an outstanding young talent with a gold medal from the U23 World Championships last year. So long as they’re not too fatigued from racing in the W8 they could be serious contenders for the gold medal.
Great Britain have made wholesale changes to the crew that finished 6th in Lucerne with only U23 silver medallist Rowan McKellar remaining in the boat. She’s joined by Caragh McMurtry, who raced in the W8 at Poznan, and fellow U23 medallist Samantha Courty and 2017 debutant Becca Girling. This is a boat with a lot of potential, but will probably need another season together to be challenging for the medals.
Romania are the reigning European champions and last month won silver at the U23 World Championships. With an average age of just 21, the crew of Cristina-Georgina Popescu, Alina Ligia Pop, Beatrice-Madalina Parfenie and Roxana Parascanu are a very exciting proposition and could be serious contenders throughout the Olympiad. They have a good chance of getting close to the medals this year.
Russia finished runners-up to the Australians in Lucerne, Elena Oriabinskaia, Anastasia Tikhanova, Ekatarina Potapova and Alevtina Savkina all raced in the W8 at the European Championships winning a bronze medal. Potapova was 4th in the W2- in 2016 and Tikhanova was European Champion in the W8 in 2015. They will be another crew that are serious contenders for a medal in Florida.
Poland will be in the mix as well, European silver medallists, they took silver in Belgrade and bronze in Poznan ending with 5th in Lucerne. However their preparations for Sarasota were dealt a serious blow when Anna Wierzbowska suffered a serious leg injury after being hit by a truck whilst training on her bike. Her place in the crew is taken by 2016 U23 World Champion Olga Michaliewicz. She joins Anna’s sister Maria, and Rio bronze medallist Monika Ciaciuch with the final seat filled by Joanna Dittmann. It remains to be seen how well the crew (especially Maria) cope following the loss of Anna.
The USA raced two crews at the Poznan World Cup finishing 2nd and 5th. In the end one each from those two boats were selected for the Worlds, Erin Reelick and Molly Bruggeman. They join Chase Kendall and Kristine O’brien who raced in the W8 in Poznan. Bruggeman and O’Brien were silver medallists last year and Kendall was U23 World Champion in the W8 in 2016 (a title that Reelick won in 2015). This is another strong boat and will be in the mix in what will be an incredibly competitive event.
Keep an eye-out for two young crews from Italy (average age 20) and New Zealand (with three athletes under 21 on-board). The final crew to mention are the Chinese, with Rio Olympian Min Zhang on-board.
My picks…this promises to be a really tight event. Australia have the form so far this season, but the Dutch, Canadians, Romanians, Russians, Americans & possibly the Brits and Poles all being in with a shout of a medal. In the end I’m going for a 1,2,3 of Australia, Canada, USA.
Argentina, Australia, Austria, Canada, Denmark, Spain, France, Great Britain, Germany, Italy, Lithuania, The Netherlands, New Zealand, Romania, South Africa, USA
If the German men consider the M8 to be “their” boat then for the British it’s the M4-. Coached by the legendary Jurgen Grobler the Union Jack has been raised above the top step of the podium at 9 of the last 15 World Championships (and the last 5 Olympic Games). It’s the no.1 mem’s boat in Britain and this year’s iteration is no different. They didn’t have the best start to the season, with original crewman Stewart Innes ruled out for the entire season through injury. In his place came 2016 M2+ World Champion Callum McBrierty. Their campaign opened with a win in Belgrade but then suffered the humiliation of 5th at the European Championships. For Poznan McBrierty was replaced by Matt Rossiter. In their first race together they took silver behind the Australians in Poznan and then ended the World Cup season with gold in Lucerne. With Rio gold medallists Will Satch and Mo Sbihi (possibly the best sweep oarsman in the world at the moment) and 2015 M2+ World Champion Matt Tarrant they are worthy successors to their illustrious predecessors.
Australia used to consider the M4- as their domain, back in the 90’s with the “Oarsome Foursome”. Since the rise of the British Four’s they and the Aussies have been slugging it out like a pair of heavyweight prize fighters. They’ve finished runners-up to the British at the last 3 Olympics. The “Green and Gold” haven’t won the world title for 26 years and they will be desperate to get the title, especially if it means getting one over on the top GB boat. This year’s crew includes Spencer Turrin who finished 2nd in the M4- in Rio along with fellow Olympian Alexander Hill along with Josh Hicks and Jack Hargreaves. In their first race of the season they beat the Brits in Poznan and then moved into the M8 for Lucerne taking the silver behind Germany. It struck me as an odd decision to move into the M8 for what would, in effect, be a one-off race, but perhaps they were looking for a test against the Germans, or playing mind-games with the British and not giving them a chance to get revenge for the defeat in Poznan?
But, this event is not just a two-horse race. There are plenty of other crews that will pounce if the Brits and Aussies spend too long focussing on each other. Principal among these crews are the Italians and South Africans. The Italians are the reigning World Champions in this boat class and have half of that crew back to defend their title – Marco Di Costanzo and Matteo Castaldo. They are joined by Giovanni Abagnale and Domineco Montrone. All four of these guys raced at the Rio Olympics and came home with medals; Di Costanzo and Abagnale in the M2- and Castaldo and Montrone in the 4-. They opened their account this season with victory at the European Championships and then finished runners-up to the British in Lucerne.
South Africa could well be the dark horses for this event. The crew all have Olympic experience, Jake Green and David Hunt finished 4th in the M4- in Rio and Lawrence Brittain won silver behind the Kiwis in the M2-. The 4th member of the crew is former lightweight John Smith. Smith finished just out of the medals in the LM2X having won gold in the LM4- four years earlier. The original plan for the South Africans was to find a fast pair, but word is that the 4 was going so well that they decided to stick to the bigger boat. In their first outing of the year they came 4th in Lucerne just 3/10th of a second behind the Italians in silver.
Another crew that will be looking to get amongst the medals are the Dutch. Men’s sweep rowing in the Netherlands is on a real high at the moment, the Nereus 8 winning in Belgrade and the top M8 being the main threat to German dominance. The four have also tasted success so far this season. The crew of Harold Langen, Jasper Tissen, Vincent Van der Want and Govert Viergever took silver in Belgrade and bronze in Lucerne. Like the British they had a bit of a blip at the European Championships finishing 6th. 3 of the boat raced at the Rio Olympics with Tissen replacing Peter Van Schie. The medals in Sarasota will come from these 5 crews.
Amongst the other crews, the Spanish are having an excellent season, 3rd at the 1st World Cup (their first medal in the M4- since the 2009 European Championships) they made the A-Final in a very competitive field in Lucerne. Argentina also have a strong boat with three of the crew making the A-Final in Poznan (the 4th member of the crew, Ariel Suarez, is racing internationally in a sweep boat for the first time in a career that stretches back to 2001).
Austria have a young crew, including the Querfeld brothers. As a unit they raced at the U23 World Championships this year winning a bronze medal. They may find the competition a bit too hot this year, but are a talented outfit and could well be contenders for the A-final in the coming years.
Romania are doubling-up in the M8 which may give be a race too far for them given the strength of the field in the M4-.
Also racing are the Canadians (including Rio Olympian Kai Langerfeld), Denmark (not often we see a heavyweight M4- at the World Championships), France (6th in Lucerne and 4th at the Europeans), Germany (bronze medallists in Poznan), Lithuania (11th at the Europeans), New Zealand (with Alex Kennedy from the Rio Olympic M8) and the USA with Cambridge Blue Ben Ruble.
My picks…Gotta go for the Brits for the win and I think the South Africans may well get the jump on the Aussies for silver with the Italians, Dutch in 4th and 5th.