World Rowing Cup 1 2019 – A preview

Plovdiv

The purpose built regatta course in Plovdiv – site of the 2018 World Championships and the 1st World Rowing Cup of 2019

The 2019 World Rowing season kicks off where it left off in 2018…at Plovdiv in Bulgaria. The 2018 World Championships venue plays host to the first World Cup of the season, a pivotal season which will see countries attempt to qualify boats for the Olympics at the World Championships in Linz, Austria at the end of August.

The first World Cup is always a bit of a strange beast, it seldom attracts a big entry, but FISA will be particularly concerned as this year entries are particularly low (157 from 24 countries compared with 266 from 41 at the 1stWorld Cup last year). It’s also a concern that, with a few notable exceptions, the quality of the entries isn’t particularly high either. Part of the problem is the relative proximity of the European Championships in Lucerne at the end of the month. Most of the big European rowing nations (GB, Germany, Italy, France) are focusing on the Europeans to open their season rather than the World Cup.

 

But, enough moaning, let’s have a look at who is racing.

 

M1X

16 scullers

 

Plovdiv sees the return of Rio silver medallist, Damir Martin of Croatia. Martin missed most of the 2018 season through injury. His last race of 2018 was a disappointing 16that the European Championships. He’s made a positive start to 2019 with a win at the Croatia Open last month. Martin probably couldn’t have wished for a gentler return to World Cup competition as the next highest ranked single sculler (based on 2018 performance) is Pierre de Loof of Belgium. De Loof finished 14thin Plovdiv last season. The 23-year-old made his senior debut last year racing in both the single and double. His best results was a 12thplace in the single at the Lucerne World Cup.

Damir Martin

Damir Martin of Croatia. Photo: World Rowing

An athlete who has struggled over the last few years is Aleksander Aleksandrov of Azerbaijan. World Rowing’s “Rising Star” of 2013, his career hasn’t progressed as many (me included) predicted. He made his senior debut aged just 17 finishing 12that the 2007 World Championships. He’s won junior and U123 World titles and finished 5that the London Olympics. He moved in the M2X for the Rio Olympiad but finished at the back of the B Final. For the Tokyo Olympiad he’s moved back into the single but has only made the A-Final once (at the 2017 European’s) the rest of 2017 and 2018 were a bit of a disaster culminating in a 21stplace at the World’s last year. However, Aleksandrov has the talent to challenge the best in the world, if he can recapture the form he showed at the 2012 Olympics.

One athlete who has shown good form this season is Aleksandar Filipovic of Serbia. The 26-year old from Smederevo has spent most of his career racing in the M2X with a best performance of silver at the first World Cup in 2015. As a single sculler he finished 5that the U23 World Championships in 2014 and 16that the Belgrade World Cup last year. At the 2018 World Championships he switched to the M4- finishing 11th. However, last month he opened his season racing at the Memorial Paolod’Aloja in Piediluco, Italy where he won the A-Final in the M1X defeating some good quality scullers. It’ll be interesting to see if he can bring that form to Plovdiv and challenge Martin.

Another sculler who raced at Piediluco, finishing 5th, was Robert Ven of Finland. Ven has been Finland’s representative in the single scull since 2011 and his best ever performance at a World Cup was 4thin Varese in 2016. At last year’s World Championships he finished 15th.

Finland also have two other scullers racing in this event with Olli-Pekka Karppinen and Joel Naukkarinen who raced together in the M2X at the final World Cup last season finishing14th.

Mexico’s Juan Carlos Cabrera made his sculling debut in 2012 and has been hovering around the back end of B-Finals, top end of C-Finals since. His best ever performance came at the Rio Olympics where he finished an outstanding 8th(the best ever performance by a Mexican M1X at the Olympic Games). He’s not yet been able to recapture that sort of form since the Olympics, with a 20thplace at the Worlds in 2017 and 27that the first World Cup last year.

Olympic hosts Japan have two scullers racing, Ryuata Arakawa and Tatsuya Sakurama. Arakawa finished 18that the 2017 World Championships and Sakurama makes his senior debut in Plovdiv having raced at the U23 World Championships last season finishing 11thin the BM2X.

Kristian Vasilev of Bulgaria could well be challenging for the minor medals. He’s more known for racing in the M2x and finished 9thin this event at the Rio Olympics. As a single sculler he has a best performance of 8that the European Championships last year.

Also racing in this event are Dusan Slavnic (racing as Serbia 2), Mihail Derevvianco of Moldova, Privel Hinkati of Benin, Pilip Pavukou of Belarus and Mihal Chiruta of Romania.

 

Verdict: This should be a comfortable win for Damir Martin with the rest of the field trailing in his wake. Filipovic in silver with de Loof in bronze.

Edit: Since writing this there have been two withdrawals, Mihal Chiruta of Romania and Aleksandar Filipovic of Serbia. So De Loof in silver and Vasilev in bronze

W1X

8 scullers

 

The smallest entry for a World Cup since 2005, however there is quality among this small field. Ekatarina Karsten of Belarus is the most outstanding athlete in World Rowing. 2019 sees the 47-year old start her 29th international season. Her record is incredible….5 Olympic medals (including 2 gold), 16 World championship medals – 6 of them gold. She’s raced at seven Olympics and is aiming to qualify for her 8th. She always seems happiest when she’s in the single and her 8thplace in Rio show’s she still has the speed to mix it with the best. She raced in the quad last year finishing 8that the World Championships, but it remains to be seen if she’ll be left to race the single this season and at Tokyo (if she qualifies).

Karsten

Ekaterina Karsten

Not too far behind Karsten in the age stakes at the age of 38 is the Czech Republic’s Mirka Topinkova Knapkova. She’s the London 2012 Olympic Champion and also has 6 World Championship medals to her credit – including gold in 2011. She made her debut in 2001 and is looking to qualify for her 5thOlympic Games. She took a year off after Rio and having spent her entire career racing in the W1X she made the somewhat surprising decision to race in the quad for 2018. A disappointing 14thplace at the World Championships sees her move back into her preferred boat for 2019.

Behind these two the next athlete to highlight is China’s Yan Jiang. She was a member of the W4X that finished 6thin Rio and has been racing in crew sculling boats since her international debut in 2010. Her best result was a silver medal in the W4X at the 2014 World Championships. She carried on racing in the Quad after Rio finishing 7thin 2017 before moving to the W2X half way through the 2018 season culminating in a 9thplace at the 2018 Worlds. As a single sculler she’s a bit of an unknown quantity but has a strong pedigree so will certainly be challenging for the medals.

Bulgaria’s Desislava Georgieva is still only 21 but already has 7 years of international experience. She made her debut as a junior back in 2012 and then her senior debut 3 years later. Last season she raced at the Belgrade World Cup, finishing 16th, before going on to win a bronze medal at the U23 World Championships. Clearer a name to watch for the future.

Bulgaria have 2 sculler racing with the no.2 being Madlen Markova, she more than half the age of Karsten and Knapkova and Plovdiv sees her make her senior international debut following three years on the Bulgarian junior team. Racing against such quality opposition will be great experience for the youngster.

Another experienced athlete is Jovana Arsic of Serbia. She’s spent the last few seasons racing in the W2- with a best result of 9that the 2018 European Championships. Prior to 2016 she raced in the single placing 23rdin 2015. She’s made a good start to her 2019 campaign, taking the silver medal at the Memorial Paolo D’Aloja Regatta in Piediluco.

Another young athlete racing is Romanian Larisa Elena Rosu. The 19-year-old was junior World Champion in 2017. She made her senior debut last year racing in the W2X that finished 18that the World Championships.

The eighth sculler racing is Tatiana Contevicenco of Moldova. She made her senior debut aged 18 at the Bled World Cup in 2015 and raced at the U23 World Championships in 2015, 2017 and 2018.

 

Verdict: a battle between the old guard….Topinkova Knapkova to take the gold ahead of Karsten with Jiang in bronze.

Edit: since writing this Larisa Elena Rosu has withdrawn and Lisa Schenaard and Kirsten Wielaard of The Netherlands have been added.

 

M2X

15 crews

 

This event has the makings of being quite competitive, there is no standout crew. Perhaps marginal favourites will be the Romanians, Ioan Prundeanu and Marian-Florian Enache. They have been racing as a double for a couple of years and made the A-Final of the World Championships last year and also won silver at the European Championships. This season they have already notched up a win in Piediluco.

Image result for Ioan Prundeanu and Marian-Florian Enache.

Ioan Prundeanu and Marian-Florian Enache of Romania. Photo: Zimbio

The main challengers to the Romanians are likely to be the Belarussians, Stanislau Shcharbachenia and Dzianis Mihal. Shcharbachenia made his senior debut whilst still a junior in 2002 and is looking to try and qualify for his 5thOlympic Games. Mihal made his senior debut in 2004 and is aiming to qualify for his 4thGames. This duo raced together as a double at the Beijing Olympics finishing 7th. In Rio Mihal rowed in the M4- that came 9thwhereas Shcharbachenia moved into the 1X and took an excellent 5th. Now reunited, it’ll be interesting to see if this duo has the same sort of speed they showed in 2008.

Poland have two strong doubles racing in Plovdiv. Racing as Poland 1 are Dominik Czaja and Adam Wicenciak. They were both members of the M4X that finished 5thin 2017. Wicenciak then moved into the single racing at the 2ndWorld Cup in 2018. Czaja remained in the M4X winning bronze at the Europeans and then finishing 6that the World Championships. Poland 2 is Maciej Zawoiski and Szymon Posnik. They also rowed in the quad last year that won bronze at the Europeans and finished 6that Worlds.

Hungary also have two crews racing, Hungary 1 is Bendeguz Petevari-Molnar and Adrian Juhasz. Petevari-Molnar was Hungary’s representative in the M1X at the Rio Olympics where he finished 14th. Juhasz made his senior debut in 2007 and since 2009 has raced almost exclusively in a pair with Bela Simon including. 9thplace at the Rio Olympics and gold in the M2+ at the 2017 World Championships. However, 12thplace in the M2- last year was a disappointment so it’ll be interesting to see what sort of speed this new combination has.

The 2ndHungarian crew is Kristof Acs and Mate Backsai both of whom are making their senior debuts having raced in the U23 BM4X last year that finished 4th.

China have three crews racing, China 1 is Zhiyu Liu and Liang Zhang, both of whom were in the M4X that came 13thin 2017, China 2 also includes a member of that 2017 crew, Xudi Yi and he’s joined by Ha Zang who missed out on qualification for the Rio Games in the M2X at the Final Olympic Qualifying Regatta. China 3 contains the 4thmember of the 2017 quad, Quan Zhang along withDang Liu who raced in the quad back in 2015.

Also racing are two Bulgarian crews, Rangel Katsarski and Stanmir Haladzhov who raced the M2- last season finishing 23rd and international debutants Nikolay Georgiev and Georgi Chavdarski.

Romania also have a 2nd crew racing, Julian Nestian and Gheorghe-Robert Dedu. Nestian is making his senior debut having raced at the Junior Worlds last year. Dedu is a junior and U23 World medallist and made his senior debut at the 2016 World Cup in Varese.

The other crews racing are Japan (Tomokazu Kuribara and Keita Yamao) 14that the 3rdWorld Cup last year, Spain (Ruben Padilla and Jordi Jofre Senciales) and the Zimbabweans Stephen Cox and Peter Purcell-Gilpin (20th in the World last year).

 

Verdict: Romania 1 in gold, followed by Belarus in silver and Poland 1 in bronze.

Edit: Both Romanian crews have withdrawn, so Belarus in gold, Poland 1 in silver and Poland 2 in bronze

 

 

W2X

9 crews

 

This has the makings of a three-way battle between the Dutch, Belarussians and Romanians. The Dutch, Roos De Jong & Lisa Scheenaard were 5that last year’s World Championships and also took silver at the Europeans last year. In 2017 Scheenaard raced in the W1X finishing 5th. De Jong raced in the double with Marloes Oldenburg in 2017 finishing 8th. Belarus have Krystsina Staraselets and Tatsiana Klimovich. This duo were U23 World Champions in the BW2X in 2017 and then finished 6that the 1stWorld Cup in 2018. They both then moved into the quad for the World Championships taking 8th. The Romanians have a pair of 20-year-old’s with Nicoleta-Ancuta Bodnar and Simona Geanina Radis. They were 8that the U23 World Championships last year and followed that up with 18that the senior Worlds. They’ve made a strong start to this season with a win in Piediluco which included beating the reigning World Champions from Lithuania.

Poland will also be challenging for the medals with the same line-up that finished 8that last year’s World Championships, Krstyna Lemanczyk-Dobrzelak and Martyna Radosz. Radosz is a former lightweight (when she raced under her maiden name Mikolajczak). She finished 7thin the LW2X at the Rio Games and then won gold at the European championships in 2017. She switched to openweight in 2018 where she and Lemanczyk-Dobrzelak finshed 6that the Europeans and then 8that Worlds. For her part, Lemanczyk-Dobrzelak is a two-time U23 World Champion and made her senior debut in 2018.

China have two doubles racing with China 1 Shiyu Lu and Yuwei Wang and China 2 Hairong Zhang and Qinyue Hou. Lu finished 10thin the BW1X at last year’s U23 World Championships. She joins the very experienced Wang who was 4thin the W4X last year and bronze medallist the year before. She was also in the quad that finished 6that the Rio Olympics. 18-year-old Zhang in China 2 is making her international debut with Hou who makes her senior debut having finished 6thin the JW2- in 2017. Also racing are the Japanese (Haruna Sakakibara and Shiho Yonekawa), Cuba (Aimee Hernandez Delgado and Yariulvis Cobas Garcia) and Hungary (Zoltana Gadanyi and Vivien Preil).

 

Verdict: This should be a good contest, but I’m going for a Dutch win with the young Romanians in silver and Belarus in bronze.

Edit: Both The Netherlands and Romania have withdrawn, so Belarus up to gold with Poland in silver and China 1 in bronze.

 

M2-

17 pairs

Sinkovic M2-

The Sinkovic brothers from Croatia

This should be another good contest and is the only event at the regatta with the reigning World Championship gold and silver medallists facing each other. Martin and Valent Sinkovic of Croatia won gold last year, but they were pushed hard by the Romanians Marius Vasile Cozmuic and Ciprian Tudosa. The Romanians also won in Piediluco last month (beating the 2017 World Champions from Italy in the process). The Sinkovic’s are probably the most famous crew in World Rowing at the moment, having dominated in the double Scull during the Rio Olympiad, they are now looking for the same dominance in the pair. After a slightly stuttering start in 2017 they established their dominance in 2018 winning both the European and World titles. For the Romanians Cozmuic is the more experienced having raced at both the London and Rio Olympics, but it’s since forming the pair with Tudosa that they have emerged as genuine medal contenders.

These two boats will be significantly ahead of the rest of the field. The chasing pack will most likely be led by the Spanish, Jaime Canalejo Pazos and Javier Garcia Ordonez. They raced together in the M4- 2017 finishing 7th, but since forming a pair in 2018 they’ve established themselves as regular A-Finalists finishing 4that the Lucerne World Cup and 6that the World Championships.

The 2ndRomanian crew, Dumitru-Alexandru Ciobica and Florin-Sorin Lehaci are an exciting young crew with Lehaci just turned 20 and Ciobica still 19. They were silver medallists at the U23 World Championships last year and for Ciobica Plovdiv sees his senior international debut. Lehaci raced in the M8 at the 1stWorld Cup last year winning a bronze medal. They will be an exciting combination to watch in the future.

Another established combination are the Belorussians Dzmitry Furman and Siarhei Valadzko. They finished 11that the World Championships last year and one place better than that in 2017.

Serbia have three pairs racing with the no.1 crew of Martin Mackovic and Milos Vasic. Mackovic made his senior debut in 2014 whilst still 18 and became a senior world medallist taking bronze in the M2+ in 2015 and then U23 World champion the year after. Vasic has raced at both the London and Rio Olympics finishing 10thin the pair in 2016 with Nenad Bedik and then finished 9thlast year. Serbia 2 are the Bedik brothers, Nenad and Aleksandar. As mentioned above, Nenad partnered Vasic last year and at the Rio Olympics. The younger Bedik, Aleksandar, made his senior debut in 2017 and raced in the M2X in 2018 finishing 12th(out of 12) at the World Championships. Serbia 3 are Igor Djeric and Viktor Pivac. Pivac is a multiple U23 and Senior World medallist with a bronze in the M2+ in 2015 and U23 gold in 2016. Djeric raced at the European Championships last season, finishing 12thin the M2X.

Another nation with three boats racing is Poland. Their number 1 boat is Piotr Juszcak and Dariusz Radosz.Juszcak has spent most of his senior career rowing in the Polish 8, and was in that crew at both the London and Rio Olympics. Last season saw him move to the pair for the World Championships and finish 14th. Radosz has spent almost all of his senior career as a part of the Polish sculling squad finishing 4thin the quad at the Rio Olympics and then 5that the 2017 World Championships. He didn’t compete in 2018 and in Plovdiv makes his first international appearance in a sweep boat for 12 years. It remains to be seen if either of these athletes remain in the pair for the rest of the season. Racing as Poland 2 are Mateusz Wilangowski and Marcin Brzezinski. This is another pair of highly experienced athletes with both of them having rowed in the Polish M8 at the Rio Olympics and Brzezinski also having rowed in that boat at the London Games. Brzezinski partnered Juszcak in the M2- at last year’s Worlds and Wilangowski finished 7thin the M4-. Poland 3 is Lucasz Posylajka and Bartosz Modrzynski. This pair were the Polish U23 crew last season that finished 9that the U23 World Championships and then went on to finish 13that the European Championships. Also racing are two Hungarian pairs with HUN1 Marton Szabo and Gergely Pap and HUN2 Kalman Furko and Bence Szabo and also pairs from China (Xuman Cheng and Pengpeng Cai) and Japan (Yoshihiro Otsuka and Yuta Takano)

 

Verdict: It’ll be a surprise if Croatia don’t take the win, but they will be pushed hard by both the Romanian pairs and the Spanish. I’ll go with Romania taking both the silver and bronze.

Edit: 7 crews have withdrawn since writing, Hungary 1, Poland 2 & 3, Serbia 2, Japan, Romania 1 & 2. So Spain to take silver and Poland in bronze.

W2-

15 pairs

 

This has the making of a USA clean sweep, they have no fewer than four pairs racing with all 8 athletes having won world or Olympic gold. Racing as USA1 are Madeleine Wanamaker and Erin Reelick. Both of these athletes were in the W4- that won gold at the World Championships last season. Wanamaker, from Princeton, New Jersey and a graduate of the University of Wisconsin, made her senior debut in 2018 having won silver in the U23 W8 in 2017. Reelick, a Princeton graduate, was U23 World Champion in 2015 and raced in the W4- at both the 2017 and 2018 World Championships.

USA2 are Felice Mueller and Emily Regan. They were both members of the gold medal W8 at last year’s World Championships. Mueller was in this boat at the Rio Olympics finishing 4thand is also a world gold medallist in the W4- in 2013 and has world bronze medals from 2014 and 2015 in the W4X and W2-. Regan won gold in the W8 at the Rio Olympics and also has World Championship golds form 2011 (W4-), 2013 and 2015 (W8). USA3 is Meghan Musnicki and Brooke Mooney. Musnicki is a two-time Olympic champion having won golds in the W8 at both the London and Rio Games. She’s making her first international appearance since the Rio final. The 36-year-old is one of the most experienced athletes on the US team, and she’s paired with the least experienced, Brooke Mooney makes her international debut in Plovdiv. The 23-year-old graduated from the University of Washington last year, and was a member of their outstanding Varsity 8 that won the PAC-12 Championships last year. The 4thand final US boat comprises Olivia Coffey and Emily Huelskamp. Coffey is another member of the World Championship winning W8 from 2018. She also has a World Championship gold from the W4X in 2015. Huelskamp was World champion in the W4- back in 2013 and won silver in the same boat class in 2016. For 2017 and 2018 she raced in the W4X reaching the A-Final on both occasions.

Outside of the US crews the leading contenders may well be the Romanian no.1 crew, Adriana Ailincai and Maria Tivodariu. They are a young pairing and were junior World Champions in 2017. They raced in the senior W8 last season that won the European Championships and then finished 5that the World Championships. They are one of three Romanian pairs racing. Romania 2 is Roxana-Iuliana Anghel and Maria-Magdalena Rusu. They are another young pair, both of whom are making their senior debuts having raced in the U23 BW8 last season. Romania 3 is Alina Ligia Pop and Iuliana Buhus. Pop has won a number of junior and U23 World medals and won her first senior medal by taking silver in the W4- at the 2017 European Championships. In 2018 she was a member of the W8 that finished 5that the Worlds. Buhus was another member of the silver medal W4- at the 2017 Europeans and went on to row in that boat class at last year’s World’s finishing 11th.

At the 2018 World Championships Spain produced a superb performance to win a bronze medal in the W2-. It looked as though that crew, Aina Cid and Anna Boada Peiro had had a breakout season and could become serious contenders for Tokyo. However, last year Boada Peiro announced her immediate retirement from the sport at the age of 26 due to depression. This left the Spanish coaches needing to find a new partner for Cid. They have turned to Virginia Diaz Rivas. She has spent the majority of her senior career as Spain’s single sculler (although she did double up in the W1X and W2- at the 2015 Worlds). At the 2018 Worlds she finished 2ndin the C final to take 14thoverall.

The Netherlands have two strong boats racing. The number 1 crew is Aletta Jorritsma and Jose Van Veen. They were both members of the W8 that finished 4thlast year and both also have Olympic experience. Jorritsma raced in this boat class, finishing 13thand Van Veen was in the Olympic W8 that came 6th. Netherlands 2 is Lies Rustenburg and Monica Lanz. They were both members of the Olympic W8 with Lanz also being in the W8 last season and Rustenburg racing in the W4-.

China also have two crew racing with the stronger boat looking to be China 2 with Xinyu Lin and Rui Ju. This pairing raced at the 2018 World Championships reaching the A-Final and finishing 5thoverall. The No.1 China boat contains Miaomiao Qin and Linlin Guo. Qin raced in the w8 that finished 8thlast year with Guo competing in the W4- that finished 6th.

Also racing are the Hungarians, Dora Polivka and Eszter Kremer, 12thin the World last year, the Poles, Anna Wierzbowska and Monika Sobieszek who finished one place behind the Hungarians and a pair from Japan, Yui Nishida and Akiho Takano, both of whom are making their senior debuts.

 

Verdict: it’s going to be tough for any nation other than the US to take a medal. I’m going for USA2 (Mueller/Regan) to win gold ahead of team mates USA4 (Coffey/Huelskamp) in silver with the Netherlands 1 (Jorritsma/Van Veen) spoiling the clean sweep.

Image result for felice mueller

Felice Mueller of the USA

Edit: Three pairs have withdrawn prior to the draw, Romania 1 & 2 and The Netherlands 2

 

M4X

6 crews

 

Poland look to be the dominant crew in this event. They have three of the crew that finished 4that the Rio Olympics (Mateusz Biksup, Wiktor Chabel & Miroslow Zietarski). Buksup and Zietarski were silver medallists in the M2X in 2017 and 8thlast year. The fourth member of the crew is Fabian Baranski. The 19-year-old is making his senior debut having won bronze in the BM2X at last year’s U23 World Championships.

The Poles should be a long way ahead of the rest of the field, which is made up primarily of U23 or lightweight quads.

Austria look like they have their LM4X bumped up to heavyweight. The boat includes the Seiber brothers, Paul and Bernhard who were the Austrian LM2X at the Rio Olympics, along with Sebastian Kabas who was 4thin the LM4X last year and Philipp Kelner who makes his senior debut having finished 12thin the BM4X at the U23 World’s last year.

Both the Romanian andMoldovan quads are made up of U23 athletes with the Moldovan quad containing 3 of the crew that finished 8that last year’s U23’s.

Mexico have entered a M4X for the first time at a World Cup since 2001. Their crew includes Hugo Carpio Garcia – 8thin the LM4X last year, Jordy Guiterrez – making his senior debut after finishing 6thin the JM2- in 2017, Diego Sanchez Sanchez – 18thin the M2X in 2017 and Miguel Carballo Nieto – making his senior debut after last competing internationally as an U23 in 2013.

The final crew racing is China. Their crew is Xudi Yi, who raced in the M8 at the Lucerne World Cup last year and was in the M4X that finished 13thin 2017. Ha Zang – who last raced internationally at the 2016 Final Olympic Qualifying Regatta when his M2X was eliminated at the repecharge stage. Dang Liu – who last raced internationally at the 2015 World Championships finishing 15thin the M4X and Quan Zhang – who was also in the M4X that finished 13thlast year.

 

Verdict – If Poland don’t win this by an ocean of clear water then I’ll be very surprised. Behind them I’d probably pick Romania in silver and China in bronze.

Edit: China withdrew before the draw. So Austria in bronze.

 

W4X

3 crews

 

As is often the case at the first World Cup the entry for the W4X is very small, the last time there were more than 6 entries (i.e. anything other than a straight final) was in 2012. But, unlike the M4X entries, all three entries for the W4X look to be of decent quality. Favourites for the gold will be The Netherlands.They have the same crew that won gold in 2017 with Olivia Janssen returning to international competition for the first time since 2017. She and Nicole Beukers were in the quad that took silver at the Rio Olympics. Their team mates, Inge Van Roojien and Sophie Souwer were in the Dutch W8 that finished 6thin Rio. Beukers, Van Roojien and Souwer were in the quad that finished 3rdin the World last year.

 

One place behind the Dutch at last year’s World Championships was China. They have three of that crew returning (Ling Zhang, Yang Lyu and Xiaotong Cui) the fourth member of the crew is Yunxia Chen who raced in the W2X last season finishing 9th.

 

The third crew in the event is Romania.They are a young crew with three of the boat that finished 5that the European Championships and 10that the Worlds (Elena Logofatu, Georgiana Vasile and Nicoleta Pascanu). The final member of the crew is Tabita Maftei, she’s had an outstanding junior career winning gold in the JW4X in 2017 and the JW1X in 2018. She also picked up a bronze medal in the JW2- at the Youth Olympic Games.

 

Verdict – This should be a win for the Dutch, but behind them it should be a good battle between the Chinese and Romanians for the lesser medals. China in silver and Romania bronze.

Edit: Romania withdrew prior to the draw making this a 2 boat race between China and The Netherlands.

M4-

9 crews

 

Three Romanian and two Polish crews along with Spain, Austria, Croatia and China.

Austria have kept the same line-up that finished 16that the 2018 World Championships (Florian Walk, Max Kohlmayr, Rudolph Querfeld & Gabriel Hohensasser). China have a young crew (average age of 20), three of whom are making their international debuts (Wenlei Wu, Zhenfeng Goa and Mingyong Wang) they are joined by Songhu Zhang who raced in the M8 at the Lucerne World Cup last year. Spain have also kept faith with the same line-up that raced at last year’s World Championships, finishing 15th(Ismael Carazo Tobar, Jon Montes, Jaime Lara Pacheco & Marco Sardelli Gill). But, the medals are likely to be fought out between the Romanians and the Poles. Poland have a number of athletes who are doubling-up in the M2- with the number one Polish boat containing Marcin Brzezinski and Mateusz Wilangowski doubling up along with Mikolaj Burda and Michal Szpakowski. All four of this crew were in the M8 at the Rio Olympics with Brzezinski, Burda and Szpawowski all having raced in the M8 at the London Olympics as well. Last year Wilangowski, Burda and Szpawowski raced in the M4- that finished 7that the World Championships, with Brzezinski racing in the M2-.

Poland 2 are all doubling up in the M2- with a crew of Dariusz Radosz, Bartosz Modrzynski, Lucasz Posylajka and Piotr Juszczak.

The three Romanian crews are all young, each with an average age of just 20. The leading crew are Romania 1 with Mihaita-Vasile Tiganescu, Cosmin Pescari, Stefan-Constantin Berariu & Ciprian Huc. This quartet were U23 World Champions and Senior European Champions last year. They went on to race at the Senior Worlds finishing 5th. Romania 2 are George Catruna, Marian Ciresa, Florin Ceobanu and Nic-Iulian Chelaru. All four are making their senior debuts. Romania 3 are Andrei-Alexandru Tanasa, Mugurel Vasile Semciuc, Alexandru Chioseaua and Alexandru-Laurentiu Danciu. Semciuc and Chioseaua were both members of the U23 BM8 that won bronze last year. Danciu is a Junior World Chaampion from the JM2- last year.

 

Verdict: It should be a good contest between the top Polish and Romanian boats. I’ll go for Romania 1 in gold with Poland 1 in silver and Poland 2 in bronze.

Edit: Romania 1 and Poland 2 have withdrawn. So Poland in gold, Croatia in silver and Spain in bronze.

 

W4-

10 crews

 

Whilst there are ten crews entered these come from just four countries – The USA,China, The Netherlands and Romania.

This has the makings of a shut-out by the USA (many of whom are doubling-up in the W2-)

Only one athlete across the three boats is not World or Olympic champions (Brooke Mooney who makes her international debut in Plovdiv) I think it’s not a case of will the US win, but which US crew wins the gold, which the silver and which the bronze. Racing as USA 1 are Victoria Opitz, Gia Doonan, Kristine O’Brien and Molly Bruggeman. All but Bruggeman were in the gold medal W8 last season, and Bruuggeman herself won gold in the W4-.

USA2 contains Brooke Mooney along with three Olympic or World Champions Meghan Musnicki, Emily Regan and Felice Mueller. USA3 has Olivia Coffey, Megan Kalmoe, Tracy Eisser and Emily Huelskamp. Coffey and Eisser were World Champions in the W8 last season, Kalmoe from the W4X in 2015 and Huelskamp in this boat class back in 2013.

The Netherlands have two crews entered. Their no.1 crew is based around the 2017 U23 BW4- (Karolijn Florijn, Ymkje Clevering and Veronique Meester), the fourth member of the crew is Ellen Hogerwerf – she raced in the W8 at the Rio Olympics and last season was in the W8 (with Clevering) that finished 4th. Florijn has moved across from the Quad in which she won a bronze medal last year.

The Netherlands 2nd boat has half the crew that finished 8th in this boat class last year (Lisanne Brandsma and Laila Youssifou), they are joined by Hermijntje Drenth who was 14thin the W2- last year, and Mieke Wilms – who makes her senior debut after winning a silver medal in the U23 BW4X.

The number 1 Romanian crew has three of the crew that shocked the rowing world by defeating the USA W8 in 2017 (Ioana Vrinceanu, Viviana-Iuliana Bejinariu and Denisa Tilvescu). The fourth member of the crew is Amalia Beres who makes her senior debut having won silver in the U23 BW4- last season. The 2ndRomanian boat is a young crew with Madalina Heghes from the silver medal BW4-, Ioana-Madalina Morosan and Andrea-Ioana Budenau from the 7thplaced U23 BW8 and former junior international Dumitrita Juncanariu.

China also have 2 boats racing with their no.1 crew containing half the crew that finished 6thlast year (Min Zhang and Fei Wang), joining them are Xingye Xu from the 6thplaced W8 in 2018 and Zifeng Wang who won bronze in the U23 BW4- last year. China 2 has Yanwei Zhong and Kaifeng Huang from the 2018 W8 that finished 6thalong with Liqin Li from the 6thplaced W4- and international debutant Keke Xia.

 

Verdict: Whilst the Romanians and Dutch will do their best to avoid a clean sweep for the Americans, I don’t think they will be successful. I’ll go for USA1, USA2 and USA3 for the medals in that order.

Edit: 2 crews have withdrawn prior to the draw, Romania 1 and The Netherlands 2.

 

M8

4 crews

4 boats but from only 2 countries. It’s Romania v Poland.

Poland are traditionally very strong in the M8, however their top athletes look to be racing in smaller boats in Plovdiv. Their M8 entry is based around their U23 BM8 from last year, with four members of the crew which finished 5th(Jakub Aleksandrowicz, Bartosz Leszcynski, Jakub Jankowski and Patryk Przekopski) plus another U23 athlete, Filip Leszczynski.  They do have a couple of athletes with senior experience, with Robert Fuchs (who rowed in the M8 at the Rio Olympics) and Adrian Pawlowski (who raced at the 1stWorld Cup last year). The rest of the crew are all making their international debuts (Adam Wozniak and Tomasz Skurzynski).

The number 1 Romanian crew is the virtually the same line-up to the crew that finished 6that last year’s World Championships (with just 2 changes). The 2ndRomanian boat are all making their senior debuts having rowed in either the U23 or Junior teams (the one exception is their cox, Stefan Florin, who, at 50, is old enough to be the father for the whole crew and last raced internationally 7 years ago). Romania 3 has two of the crew that raced at the senior Worlds last year (Cristi-Illie Prighie and Adrian Damii) the rest of the crew, like the no.2 boat, is made up of junior and U23 athletes.

 

Verdict: unfortunately, this is one of the weakest entries for a M8 at a World Cup for many years with the majority of the crews being U23. The one exception is the No.1 Romanian crew who should win this comfortably. I’ll pick Romania 3 in silver and Poland in bronze.

Edit: a weak entry has become even weaker with the withdrawal of Romania 1 and 3

W8

4 crews

2 boats from Romania (the organisers must be thankful the Romanians brought so many crews!) and one each from The Netherlands and China.But, despite the small number of entries it promises to be a good race between the Dutch and the Romanians (both of whom are doubling up in other events). The Dutch crew is Lies Rustenburg, Hermijntje Drenth, Monica Lanz, Mieke Wilms, Marloes Oldenburg, Lisanne Brandsma, Elsbeth Beeres, Laila Youssifou and Ae-Ri Noort. This crew has a wealth of experience including racing at the Olympics and have won medals at the European Championships. The number 1 Romanian crew includes two athletes who won the World title in 2017 (Daniela Druncea and Iuliana Popa) the crew also contains three of the crew that won the W4- at the 2018 European Championships (Madalina Heghes, Madalina-Gabriela Casu and Roxana Parascanu). The 2nd Romanian boat is predominantly made up of their 2018 bronze medal JW8 along with 3 members of their 7th place U23 BW8. The Chinese are also doubling-up, and the core of their crew are four members of the W8 that finished 8thin the world last year (Yingying Li, Yanwei Zhong, Fei Xu and Kaifeng Huang).

The Romanian 2nd crew look like they will be outclassed by the rest of the field, but it should be a good race between the Dutch, Romania 1 and Chinese boats. I’ll go for a Dutch win with Romania 1 in 2nd and China in 3rd.

Edit: Romania 1 have withdrawn, so the Dutch for the win with China 2nd and Romania 2 in bronze.

LM2X

10 crews

This promises to be an interesting contest between the Belgians and the Chinese. Belgium have Tim Brys and Niels Van Zandweghe. They won bronze in this event at the 2018 World Championships and were 5thin the world in 2017. China have three boats entered, but it’s their No.1 crew who look to be the best bet for a medal, Man Sun and Junjie Fan raced together in 2017 winning a bronze medal at the World Championships. Man raced in the LM1X at the 2018 World championships where he finished 5th. Fan raced in the LM2X at the 2ndWorld Cup with Sensen Chen, but could only manage 14th.  Chen is racing in the China 2 boat along with Tao Zeng, who last raced internationally at the Lucerne World cup in 2016 where he came 9thin the LM2-. China 3 has Fanqu Lyu and Zhiyuan Zhang. Lyu was 8thin the LM4X in 2017 and Zhang partnered Sensen Chen at the World Championships finishing 22nd.

Image result for Tim Brys and Niels Van Zandweghe

Tim Brys and Niels Van Zandweghe of Belgium. Photo: Team Belgium

Another strong contender for the medals are Poland, their crew of Jerzy Kowalski and Milosz Jankowski have been racing together for the past few seasons, they finished 4thin 2017 and 8th last season. Spain could also get among the medals with their crew of Manel Balastegui and Rodrigo Conde Romero. This duo were U23 World Champions in 2017 and Conde Romero raced in this boat class last year with Patricio Rojas Anzar finishing 6th.

Also racing are the Austrians (Matthias Taborsky and Julian Schoerbel), two crews from Japan (Kakeru Sato and Masahiro Takedain JPN1 and Mitsuo Nishimura and Yuki Ikeda in JPN2) and the final crew entered are the Portugeuse with the evergreen Pedro Fraga (now in his 19th season) joined by Afonso Costa.

 

My picks….Belgium in gold with China 1 in 2ndand Spain in 3rd.

 

LW2X

13 entries

It looks like the Lightweight women may provide the best racing of the whole regatta. This event pits the reigning World Champions from Romania against the Dutch who include one of the reigning Olympic Champions, throw into the mix the Chinese, who have two of the World Champion gold medal LW4X racing and it promises to be quite a contest.

The Romanians will start as favourites, Ionela-Livia Cozmuic and Gianina-Elena Beleaga, were 8thin Rio when they were both still only 21. Since then they have won the World Championships in both 2017 and 2018 and are one of the outstanding crews in World Rowing at the moment.

The Netherlands are the reigning Olympic champions, but only have half of that crew racing in Plovdiv, Ilse Paulis. In 2018 she partnered Marieke Keijser and together they won the European Championships and took bronze at the World Champs. This season she’s partnered by 22-year-old Martine Veldhuis. She made her senior debut last season racing in the LW1X at the World Championships last season finishing 7th. She also has silver medals from the U23 World Championships from both 2017 and 2018. This is an exciting new combination and should be a good test for the Romanians.

China have three boats racing, but it’s the no.1 crew of Dandan Pan and Fang Chen who look the fastest. They were both in this boat class in 2017 and finished 10th. Last season they moved to the LW4X and won gold at the World Championships. Pan has multiple world medals to her credit, winning her first at the age of 16 when she took silver in the LW4X in 2011. She followed that up with bronze in the LW2X in 2014.

Poland are another nation who have tweaked their line-up from last year. Joanna Dorociak finished a disappointing 11thlast year with (Weronika Deresz) having won silver at the European Championships and gold at the Lucerne World Cup. This season she has a new partner, Katazyna Welna– she raced in the LW1X last season finishing 8that the World championships.

Other crews to watch out for are the Japanese no.1. crew of Chiaki Tomita and Ayami Oishi (12that the Rio Olympics), Austria – Louisa Altenhuber and Laura Arndorfer (14that the World Championships in 2018) and the Spanish – Rocio Lao Sanchez and Natalia Miguel Gomez (16th last year). Also racing are two more Chinese crews, a 2nd Japanese crew and Portugal.

 

Verdict: the Romanians will be tough to beat, especially by new combinations. Romania for gold with the Netherlands in silver and Poland in bronze.

Edit: Romania 1 have withdrawn so gold for The Netherlands, Poland in bronze and China 2 in bronze.

 

LM1X

11 scullers

There are some well known names in the field for this event. Slovenian Rajko Hrvat,Hungarian Peter Galambos and Croatian Luka Radonic have been racing each other in this event for the last 5-6 seasons. All three have a host of World Cup, European and World Championship medals. Hrvat has the dubious honour of having capsized whilst leading the quarterfinal at the 2017 World Championships resulting in him being relegated to the C Final. But, it’s not just about these three, there are two Polish scullers who will be looking to muscle in on the medals, Artur Mikolaiczewski and Milosz Jankowski represented Poland in the LM2X at the Rio Olympics finishing 6th. Also racing are Lazar Penev of Bulgaria (19thin the World last year), Yuta Arai of Japan (8thin the U23 BLM4X in 2018), Vadim Bezdetnyy of Moldova (20that the European Junior Championships), Patricio Rojas Aznar of Spain (6thin the LM2X in 2018), Bence Tamas racing as Hungary 2 (9thin the LM4X) and Dinis Costa of Portugal (12thin this boat class at the European Championships last year).

 

Verdict: Galambos in gold with Hrvat silver and Radonic bronze.

Edit: Mikolaiczewski of Poland has withdrawn

LW1X

7 scullers

Belarus’s Alena Furmanwill probably be the marginal favourite in this event. She made her senior debut in 2010 finishing 5thin the LW2X at the European Championships, that same year she won gold in the U23 BLW1X and repeated that win two years later. Her first senior medal was LW1X bronze at the 2012 World Championships. In 2015 she switched to openweight (why is it “Openweight” for women, but “Heavyweight” for men??) racing in the W2- at the World Championships, she went on to race in that boat class at the Rio Olympics before switching back to lightweight for 2018. She won gold at the European Championships and finished 6that the Worlds.

The main challenger to Furman will be China’s Wenyi Huang.Plovdiv is her first international regatta since winning bronze in the LW2X at the Rio Olympics. She made her debut in 2010 and won her first medal at the Munich World Cup that year (silver in the LW2X). At the London Olympics she won silver in the LW2X and followed that up with a World Championship bronze medal in 2014.

These two are likely to be well ahead of the rest of the field, which is likely going to be led by Mexico’s Kenia Lechuga Alanis(7thin the LW1X in 2017) and Austria’s Anja Manoutscheri(13thlast year). Also racing are Moldova’s Yulia Narivonchik(who last raced as a junior in 2014), Bulgaria’s Antoaneta Karaivanova(who makes her international debut in Plovdiv) and Xiaoyu Yuan(who makes her senior debut after racing in the U23’s in 2016).

 

Verdict: Huang of China has the pedigree, but she’s not raced in nearly 3 years…I’m going for Furman in gold with Huang in silver with Lechunga Alanis of Mexico in bronze.

Edit: Xiaoyu Yuan of China has withdrawn

So those are the crews racing in Plovdiv. Next up will be the European Championships in Lucerne at the end of the month, an event were we will see the full squads from Germany, Great Britain, France and Italy make their season’s debuts.

 

 

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