Next up are the double sculls…
Canada, China, Denmark, France, Great Britain, Germany, Greece, Guatemala, Italy, Mexico, Nigeria, New Zealand, Peru, Poland, Romania, Russia, Switzerland, Sweden, USA, Venezuela.
This has the makings of a three-way battle for the gold between China, New Zealand and Poland. The Chinese, Fang Chen and Dandan pan are doubling up in the lW4x which may not play to their advantage, but they are an outstanding combination (if not too pleasant to watch technically!)
As a double this duo raced in Poznan finishing nearly 2 seconds up on Poland. Pan was 5th in the LW4X in 2015 and was bronze medallist in the LW2X with Wenyi Huang in 2014. Despite only being 21 she has a wealth of international experience having won her first senior medal back in 2011 when she won bronze in the LW4X at the Bled World Championships aged just 15! Her partner in Florida, Fang Chen has a far shorter international history having made her debut in Poznan this season, but it’s always great to start your senior international career with a win!
New Zealand will probably start as the favourites in Sarasota. Zoe McBride and Jackie Kiddle were winners in comfortable winners in Lucerne, taking the gold by over 4 seconds ahead of Poland. Mcbride is the reigning LW1X World Champion (after successfully defending her title in Rotterdam) and is also the current holder of the World’s Best Time in the LW1X. Since moving into the Olympic class boat she’s formed an extremely fast combination with Jackie Kiddle. Kiddle won gold in the U23 BLW2X in 2015 and followed that up with a silver in 2016. She also has a gold medal in the LW1X from this year’s Poznan World Cup. With the pedigree and potential that this crew has they could well dominate the event all the way to Tokyo and beyond.
Poland started the season well, winning in Belgrade and then taking the European title in Racice. However they had to play 2nd fiddle at the 2nd and 3rD World Cups, first to the Chinese and then to the Kiwis. In response to this they’ve made a change to the line-up, out goes Martyna Mikolajczak and in comes Joanna Dorociak to join Weronika Deresz. Deresz finished last season with a win in the B-Final at the Olympic Games. Dorociak has spent this season racing in the LW1X taking bronze in Belgrade and silver in Poznan. She and Deresz have raced together in the LW2X a number of times over the past few years finishing 7th in both 2014 and 2015.
Great Britain will be hoping to make this a four-horse race for the medals rather than just a three-horse one. Since winning the Olympic title in 2012 they have had a fairly torrid time trying to find a combination that can consistently deliver medal winning performances. Olympic champion Kat Copeland has been the one consistent member of the crew but the GB coaches have tried a number of different partners including Imogen Walsh and Charlotte Booth before settling on Emily Craig. This new combination came together in the middle of the season taking bronze at the European Championships and then 4th in Poznan (although disappointingly they were beaten by 2 Chinese boats). In a tougher field in Lucerne they reached the A-Final but finished 3 seconds off a medal. The Brits undoubtedly have the potential, and this new combination definitely seems to be a better “fit” than previously. It’s going to be very much a case of if they can get it right on the day they can be in the mix for a medal.
Other contenders for the A-Final (if not the medals) include the Russians, Anastasiia Ianina and Anastasia Lebedeva. They are a new combination and took the bronze medal in their first race together in Lucerne. Ianina finished 6th in the LW1X last year following a 10th place in the LW2X in 2015. Lebedeva has been racing in the LW1X this season with a best performance of 4th at the European Championships. It remains to be seen if their performance in Lucerne was a true indicator of their speed or just a “one hit wonder”.
The Romanians, Ionela-Livia Lehaci and Gianina-Elena Beleaga are also one’s to watch, they are a young crew and won the U23 BLW2X world title last month. They were just outside of the medals at the Europeans at raced at the Rio Olympics finishing 9th. They may not be among the medals in Sarasota but are undoubtedly ones to watch in the coming years.
Also keep an eye on the crew from Switzerland, Pauline Delacroix and Freerique Rol. They were 4th in Lucerne and 9th at the Europeans, an A-Final placing in Sarasota would be the minimum they are after.
A number of nations have young, development crews racing including the Greeks and Italians. Thomais Emmanouilidou and Maria Pergouli of Greece were 8th at the Europeans and also in Lucerne. They raced at the U23 World Championships last month taking the bronze medal behind the Romanians. The Italians also have a crew of 2017 U23 medallists racing with Allegra Francalacci who took silver in the BLw2X and Valentina Rodini who won gold in the BLW4X.
The final two crews to mention are the Germans and Americans. Germany have Fini Sturm who finished 11th in Rio and Leonie Pless. This season they have a best finish of 5th at the Poznan World Cup. The USA, Michelle Sechser and Emily Schmeig are racing the LW2X for the first time, Schmeig finished 5th in the LW4X at last year’s world Championships and Sechser was 11th in the LW2X in 2015.
It’s also great to see so many entries from smaller rowing nations like Guatemala, Peru, Nigeria, and Venezuela.
My picks…hard to see anyone beating the Kiwis with the Chinese in silver and bronze going to Poland.
Argentina, Belgium, Canada, China, The Czech Republic, Denmark, Egypt, Spain, France, Great Britain, Germany, Guatemala, Italy, Japan, Peru, Poland, South Africa, Russia, Uganda, Ukraine, Uruguay, The USA, Uzbekistan, Venezuela.
There have been a number of events over the years where the question hasn’t been “who will win gold” but “who will win silver” such is the dominance of one crew. In the M2- it was Murray and Bond of New Zealand, in the W8 it was (although may no longer be) the Americans and in the M2X it was martin and Valent Sinkovic of Croatia. Another crew to add to that list are Pierre Houin and Jeremie Azou of France in the LM2X. They are unbeaten in the LM2X since forming their partnership in the middle of 2016. Indeed Azou has only been beaten once in the LM2X since finishing 4th at the London Olympics when he and previous partner Stany Delayre were defeated by 1/10th second by the South Africans at the 2014 world Championships. For his part Houin has an equally impressive record, he’s not lost a race since finishing 3rd in the U23 BLW2X in 2014. Their task of retaining their World Title was made slightly less challenging by the withdrawal of one of their main rivals from Ireland.
So, to answer my own question…who will win the silver? The Italians will be the favourites for this, runners-up (by 3 seconds) to the French at Lucerne and bronze medallists at the Europeans. Both Stefano Oppo and Pietro Ruta have made the switch from the LM4- to the LM2X this season. They were part of the LM4- that just missed the medals in Rio. Ruta is no stranger to the LM2X having raced the event at the London Olympics and been an A-Finalist in 2013, 2014 and 2015. They are probably the stand-out crew after the French.
Belgium will also be in with a shout of a medal, Tim Brys and Niels Van Zandweghe were 4th in their sole outing this season in Lucerne. They were desperately unlucky not to race at the Olympics having won the Final Olympic Qualifying Regatta but foregoing their place due to the Olympic quota system (BEL had to choose between sending the M1X or LM2X and they chose the former).
The Czech Republic, Jiri Simanek and Miroslav Vrastil made the A-Final in Lucerne and will be looking to repeat that in Sarasota. They were silver medallists in Belgrade and just missed the A Final at the Europeans.
Strong contenders for the minor medals will be the Germans, Jason Osborne and Lucas Schaeffer. Both have Olympic experience with Osborne having raced in the LM2X and schaeffer the LM4-. So far this season they have a 5th place at the Europeans and another from Poznan.
Also looking for a solid A-final performance are the new British pairing of Sam Mottram and Jamie Copus. This duo were part of the U23 LM4X that won silver at the World Championships in 2015. So far this season they were part of the LM4X that raced in the open-weight division in Poznan and then as a LM2X they won the B-Final in Lucerne.
Poland had a disappointing race in Lucerne finishing at the back of the B-final, Jerzy Kowalski and Milosz Jankowski had performed strongly throughout the World Cup season taking bronze at both Belgrade and Poznan and just missing the medals at the Europeans in Racice. They will be looking to return to that medal-winning form in Florida and if they can they will be in the mix for the minor medals.
Another crew that could be in the mix are the Chinese, Man Sun and Junjie Fan. 4th in Poznan, Man raced in this boat class in Rio finishing 11th and Fan was a member of the heavyweight M8 that came 12th at the 2015 World Championships.
Denmark have a great record in this event with Rasmussen and Quist winning the gold at the London Olympics. This year’s crew of Emil Espensen and Mathias Larsen have a best finish of 9th this season from the European Championships. Both were members of the LM4X that won bronze in 2015.
Of the rest it’s just worth giving a mention to the Spanish, with Jesus Gonzalez Alvarez and Patricio Rojas Aznar. 6th in Belgrade, Gonzalez Alvarez is, at 43, the oldest man in the field (and is the oldest man racing at the championships) with a senior career that stretches back to 1991.
My picks….if anyone gets within a length of the French it’ll be a surprise. The Italians look good for the silver with the Poles to regain their mojo and grab bronze.
Australia, China, Czech Republic, Denmark, France, Great Britain, Germany, Italy, Lithuania, the Netherlands, Norway, New Zealand, Sweden, USA.
This is another event where the Kiwis will start as strong favourites. The defending World Champions have a completely new line-up for 2017 with Brooke Donoghue and Olivia Loe, but that hasn’t changed the result – they’ve won gold at both the 2nd and 3rd World Cups and won the inaugural Women’s Double Sculls at Henley Royal Regatta – not bad in your first full season together as seniors.
Behind the Kiwis it’s shaping up to be a tight battle between the French, Australians and Lithuanians.
France finished runners-up to the New Zealanders in Lucerne, Helene Lefebvre and Elodie Ravera-Scaramozzino raced as at the Rio Olympics finishing 5th and so far this season they raced in the W4X at the Europeans finishing 5th before moving back to the double for Lucerne.. Ravera-Scaramozzino then went to the U23 World Championships where she finished 4th in the BW1X.
Australia will be keen to spoil their neighbour’s party, Olympia Aldersey and Maddy Edmunds both raced at the Olympics (Aldersey in the W8 and Edmunds in the W4X). They had a successful European campaign taking bronze in Poznan and then 4th in Lucerne.
Lithuania were World Champions in this event in 2013 with a crew that included a 19 year old Milda Valciukaite. She went on to win bronze in Rio with partner Donata Vistartaite. For 2017 she’s partnered by two-time U23 BW1X World Champion Ieva Adomaviciute. Their one and only race together this season ended with a 5th place in Lucerne. It may take this combination a little time to gel but they will be strong contenders as the Olympiad progresses.
The Czech Republic, Kristyna Fleissnerova and Lenka Antosova, are a well-established partnership having raced together for the last couple of seasons. They have a bronze medal from the 2016 Europeans and followed that with 10th in Rio. So far this season they’ve had some strong performances, winning gold at the European Championships and a bronze at the 1st World Cup. Lucerne was a bit of a disappointment when they finished 9th, but will be looking for an improvement in Sarasota and an A-Final at the very least.
The USA have the highly experienced duo of Meghan O’Leary and Ellen Tomek. They have raced as a W2X at the last 3 World Championships with a best performance of 6th in 2014. They finished last season with another A-Final finish at the Rio Olympics. They may not quite match the Kiwis but will be in the mix for the medals.
Other crews to mention include the Chinese, Fei Wang and Yang Lyu. They’ve not raced together in the W2X on the international stage, but they were both in the W4X that finished 3rd in Poznan (Wang’s only other international appearance was the Sydney World Cup in 2013). Lyu has far more international experience than her partner with a World Championship silver medal in the W4X in 2014 and an 11th place in the W2X at the Rio Olympics. Time will tell how quick this new combination will be.
The Dutch, Roos De Jong and Marloes Oldenburg were silver medallists in Belgrade but struggled in Lucerne only managing 11th place.
Also worth a mention are the Germans, Carlotta Nwajde and Julia Leiding, 4th at the Euroeans and Poznan World Cup, and the Italians, Kiri Tontodonati and Stefania Gobbi, 3rd at the Europeans (and Gobbi won silver at the U23 Worlds).
My picks….New Zealand for the win with the Czechs in silver and the Australians in bronze.
Argentina, Australia, Belarus, Bulgaria, Canada, China, Cuba, Estonia, France, Great Britain, Germany, Italy, Lithuania, Mexico, The Netherlands, Norway, New Zealand, Poland, Romania, Switzerland, USA
This is shaping up to be one of the most competitive events at the whole championships. With the Croatian Sinkovic brothers swapping two oars for one with their switch to the coxless pair, this event has been blown wide open.
The leading crew of the season so far are the Kiwis, John Storey and Chris Harris. Both raced at the Rio Olympics with Storey finishing 9th in the M4X and Harris 11th in the M2X. Since forming their new partnership at the start of the season they’ve made an impressive start, winners in Poznan by 4 seconds they followed this up with a tighter victory in Lucerne. They were also winners at Henley Royal Regatta (handing Azou and Hoiun a rare defeat). The New Zealander’s just seem to have this amazing ability to develop outstanding small boats and to take athletes who have been “there or thereabouts” in bigger boats or combinations and put them together in combinations that just seem to gel and take their performances to another level. We’ve seen this with the LW2X and also the M2- (more on them later), and now the M2X. They will be very, very difficult to beat in Sarasota.
One crew who could upset the Kiwi party are the Norwegians with the legendary Olaf Tufte joined by 2013 World Champion Kjetil Borch. This duo have a wealth of Olympic experience, they have 8 Olympic appearances between them. Bronze medallists from Rio they took silver in Poznan before suffering illness in Lucerne which meant they missed out on the A-Final and didn’t race the B-Final giving them an official placing of 12th. With the racing experience these two have they will be serious challengers to yet another New Zealand victory.
Also threatening the medals will be the Poles, Miroslaw Zietarski and Mateusz Biksup. They just missed out on the medals in the M4X at the Rio Olympics finishing 4th. So far this season they’ve been switching between the M4X and M2X. In the M4X they placed 2nd in Belgrade and 5th in Poznan. As a double they won silver medal at the European Championships and followed that up with silver in Lucerne.
Silver medallists in Rio were the Lithuanians, Mindaugus Griskonis and Saulius Ritter. They started this season back in the M2x and took gold in Belgrade. Their performance at the European Championships was a little disappointing when they missed the A-Final ending up 7th. For Lucerne Griskonis raced in the M1X finishing 8th with Ritter subbing in to the M4X and taking the gold. If they show the sort of speed they had in Rio it could be a titanic battle at the front of the field.
Italy will be another very strong young crew, Filippo Mondelli and Luca Rambaldi were both medallists at the 2016 U23 World Championships. Since forming their doubles partnership they’ve shown really good speed, especially at the European Championships where they ended the week as champions. They didn’t race in Poznan but put in a great performance in Lucerne taking the bronze behind the Kiwis and Poles.
Another A-Final contender are the young Swiss crew, Barnabe Delarze and Roman Roeoesli. 7th in the M4X at the Rio Olympics they’ve won medals at both the 1st World Cup and the European Championships and then finished 4th in Lucerne (albeit 5 seconds off bronze).
A crew I’m really looking forward to seeing are the new British combination of Angus Groom and Graeme Thomas. Both of these guys have been out of action all season through injury but have recovered just in time to get selection as a double. Groom raced in the M4X in Rio (replacing Thomas who was injured). Thomas had been an integral part of the success of the GB M4X during the Rio Olympiad that included a World Championship silver medal in 2014. Coached by Hamish Burrell they are a crew with a massive amount of potential and could well develop into the best British M2X since Baillieu and Hart. It’s probably too much to expect a medal-winning performance this year but the Kiwis, Poles, Norwegians et al better watch out in 2018!
Other crews to mention include the French – Matthieu Androdias and Hugo Boucheron – 6th in Rio, Australia – with Olympian David Watts and U23 World Champion Luke Letcher and Belarus with Dzianis Mihal and Pilip Pavukou – finalists at both the 1st and 3rd World Cups and the European Championships.
My picks….could be really, really close but you have to go with a Kiwi victory with Lithuania in silver and Poland in 3rd.