Time now to look at the men’s and women’s pairs….
Olympic qualifying places: 11
2018 champions: Martin Sinkovic & Valent Sinkovic (Croatia)
After dominating the M2X event throughout the Rio Olympiad, the Croatian Sinkovic brothers turned their attention to the coxless pair, with the stated aim of dominating that boat class in the same way as they had in the double. Things haven’t gone as smoothly as they would’ve wished. Beaten into silver by the Italians at their first World Championships as a pair in 2017, they’ve also been dogged by injuries (especially to Martin’s back) meaning they’ve missed a lot of competition. However they showed their potential in winning both the European and World titles in 2018. They started 2019 reasonably well, finishing 2ndat the 1stWorld Cup and then retaining their European title. They started well in Rotterdam, winning their heat, but a flare-up of Martin’s back injury saw them withdraw. On form they can beat anyone in the world, the question is, are they fully race fit?
The Italians have reunited the pairing that won the world title in 2017; Matteo Lodo and Guisepe Vicino. This duo were members of the M4- that won bronze in Rio and then moved to the pair winning the European and World titles in 2017. The pair was split up in 2018, with Lodo racing with Domenico Montrone in the pair at the European Championships and then moving into the M4- that finished 2ndat the World Championships. Vicino missed the 2018 season through injury, but returned this year and partnered Giovanni Abagnale to a 4thplace at the European Championships and 6thin Poznan. Now reunited with Lodo, they are one of the most exciting and dynamic partnerships in world rowing.
Canada have selected Kai Langerfeld and Conlin McCabe, two of their most experienced athletes. McCabe won a silver medal as part of the M8 back in 2012 and Langerfeld won bronze in the M2+ that year as well. But, since 2012 the Canadians have been trying (and for the most part failing) to find a medal-winning combination in smaller boats. This pair spent the Rio Olympiad in the M4- making the A-Final at the Olympics but not threatening the medals. So far in the Tokyo Olympiad the Canadian team have tried McCabe in the M2X (which finished 16thin 2017) and Langerfeld in the M4- (8thin 2017) before finally moving them back into the M8 for 2018. Unfortunately that M8 also failed to fire and ended 8that the World Championships. So, now the Canadians have moved their two most experienced rowers into the pair to see if that will work. Well, the signs are encouraging, in their first appearance as a pair at the Poznan World Cup they won a bronze medal. Could it be that the Canadians have finally found a combination that can win medals at worlds?
Winners of the first World Cup this season were the Serbians, Martin Mackovic and Milos Vasic. Their win over the Croatians was a bit of a surprise. They only came together as a pair this season. Mackovic won bronze in the M2+ at the 2015 World Championships and then became U23 World Champion in the BM2- in 2016. Vasic is far more experienced, having raced at both the London and Rio Olympics. He, and partner Nenad Bedik, won medals throughout the 2017 season and made the A-Final at the World Championships. 2018 was less successful and their best performance was 4that the European Championships. With Bedik moving to the M4- Vasic formed a new partnership with Mackovic, as well as winning the 1stWorld Cup they made the A-Final at the European Championships and then 4that the 2ndWorld Cup. A medal will probably be beyond them in Linz, but an A-Final finish shouldn’t be.
2ndat the 2018 World Championships were the Romanians, Marius-Vasile Cozmiuc and Ciprian Tudosa. Cozmiuc, the elder of the two by 5 years, raced in the M4- at the Rio Olympics. 22-year-old Tudosa made his senior debut whilst still a teenager in 2016 and won a silver medal in the M4- at the 2017 European Championships. Cozmiuc was also a member of the M4- and in 2018 they formed a pair, taking bronze at the European Championships and then silver at the Worlds. So far this season they won silver at the Europeans and then finished 5thin Rotterdam.
One of the most experienced pairs racing in Linz are the Czech’s Lukas Helesic and Jakub Podrazil. They have been racing together as a pair since 2015. They finished 4that the 2016 Europeans and then went on to win the B-Final at the Rio Olympics. In 2017 and 2018 they regularly won medals on the World Cup circuit but couldn’t quite make the A-Final at the World Championships. They will be heading into this year’s World Championships on a high having won silver at the final World Cup in Rotterdam.
Bronze medallists last year were the French brothers Theophile and Valentin Onfroy. They were members of the M4- that finished 11that the Rio Olympics. In 2017 they moved into the pair finishing 4that the World Championships. 2018 was a great year for them, winning medals at both the European and World Championships. 2019 has been led successful so far, with 8thplaces at both the 2ndand 3rdWorld Cups. They will need to improve and get back to their 2018 speed if they want to secure a comfortable qualification for Tokyo.
One crew who have stepped up this season are the Spanish, Jaime Canalejo Pazos and Javier Garcia Ordonez. After making the A-Final at the World Championships last season, they have made the podium twice so far in 2019, winning bronze at the 1stWorld Cup and the European Championships. An A-Final finish will be a very realistic target.
New Zealand dominated the M2- event throughout the London and Rio Olympiads, the task of filling those very big shoes has fallen to Thomas Murray and Michael Brake. They were members of the M8 that finished 6thin Rio and then with Eric Murray and Hamish Bond relinquishing the M2- seats Thomas Murray moved to the pair with James Hunter. They won bronze in 2017 with Brake staying in the M8 that finished 6th. In 2018 Brake and Murray came together in the pair finishing 5that the World Championships. 2019 has seen them take medals at both the 2ndand 3rdWorld Cups. Another medal in Linz is a real possibility.
Great Britain are another nation with a strong tradition in this boat class, the battles between Pete Reed and Andy Hodge against the Kiwis were great to watch. This year’s crew is new, with Morgan Bolding joining Tom Jeffery. Bolding was a member of the outstanding Oxford Brookes crew that won the Ladies Plate at Henley in 2018. He made his senior debut this season racing as GBR2 M2- in Poznan and again in Rotterdam. Tom Jeffrey has been a member of the GB squad since 2017. He raced in the M2- with Tom George finishing 5that the 2017 World Championships. They came together as a pair for the Rotterdam World Cup where they finished 6th. But, what’s interesting is that they were beaten by their team mates, Harry Glenister and George Rossiter. Internal testing resulted in Bolding and Jeffery getting the nod with Glenister and Rossiter being relegated to the position of spares. If they make the A-Final it’ll be a great result, but if they miss out they should still take an Olympic qualifying spot.
Australia, like Great Britain, have a long and proud history in this event, but they’ve not won a World Championship medal since Drew Ginn and Duncan Free won gold in 2007. This year Australia have selected a new pairing that mixes youth with experience. The experience comes in the form of Josh Hicks, a member of the world champion M4- in 2017 and 2018. He moved into the M8 for the 2019 Poznan World Cup and then the pair for Rotterdam. The youth in this pairing comes from Sam Hardy. The 24-year-old made his senior debut this season after three years on the U23 team. They raced as the Australian 2ndpair in Rotterdam winning the B-Final (with their team mates, Spencer Turrin and Alex Hill, winning gold). This pair looks like it has potential but for them the target will be to make the A-Final if possible or top end of the B-Final as a minimum.
South Africa have two of the most experienced athletes in the field, John Smith and Lawrence Brittain. Smith won gold in the LM4- at the London Olympics and just missed ut on a medal in the LM2X in Rio. With the demise of the LM4- as an Olympic event he’s stepped up to the heavyweight division. Brittain narrowly missed qualification for the London Olympics, but he and partner Shaun Keeling went on to win a fantastic silver medal at the Rio Games. Post Rio both Brittain and Smith were members of a M4- that had a lot of potential, but a mixture of illness and underperformance meant they could only manage 13that the 2017 World Championships. In 2018 Brittain moved back to the pair partnered by Jake Green ending up 10th, Smith remained in the M4- and also finished 10th. They didn’t race at any of the World Cup regatta’s so their form is difficult to gauge, but they are a pair with a huge amount of potential.
Other former lightweights stepping up to the heavyweights are the Irish, Mark O’Donovan and Shane O’Driscoll. They were world champions in the LM2- in 2017 but moved to the heavyweight division to try and qualify for the Olympics. In 2018 they could only manage a 16th place and have not yet raced in 2019, so must be considered outside bets to claim a top 11 place. But, Irish rowing is on a roll at the moment and it would be a fantastic achievement if they do manage to get in the top 11.
Greece and Lithuania both have young pairs who raced at this year’s U23 World Championships. The Lithuanians, Povilas Stankunas and Mantas Juskevicius took the silver and the Greeks, Ioannis Kalandaridis and Athanasios Palaiopanos, won the bronze. A top 11 finish for either of these pairs will be a great achievement.
The USA haven’t won a medal in this event since Adam Holland and Ed Murphy won bronze at Aiguebelette in 1997. This year the US have, like the Australians, selected a pair mixing youth with experience. Anders Weiss raced in this boat class at the Rio Olympics, finishing 11thpartnered by Nareg Guregian. In 2017 and 2018 he partnered Michael Colella finishing 11thand 15threspectively. This season he’s joined by Ezra Carlson. Carlson was a member of the outstanding University of Washington crew that won gold at the IRA Championships in 2015, he represented the USA at the U23 World Championships in 2016 and makes his senior debut this year. They have also not raced on the World Cup circuit, they will be an outside bet for Olympic qualification.
Of the remaining crews the ones to watch include Chile; Ignacio Abraham and Christopher Kalleg Andrate – winners at the Pan-am Games, the Netherlands; Freek Robbers and Michiel Mantel and the Argentinians; Augustin Diaz and Axel Haack (winners of the Silver Goblets at Henley).
My picks…Italy in gold with Croatia in silver and New Zealand in bronze.
Predicted Olympic qualifiers: ITA, CRO, NZL, ROU, SRB, GBR, CAN, AUS, RSA, ESP, CZE
Olympic qualifying places: 11
2018 Champions: Cailegh Filmer and Hilary Janssens (Canada)
Since the retirement of the outstanding British duo of Helen Glover and Heather Stanning, the W2- has become one of the most unpredictable events on the programme. Just when you think one crew is beginning to dominate, another pops up and beats them. Immediately after Rio it looked as though the Kiwis would dominate throughout the Olympiad. Kerri Gowler and Grace Prendergast finished 4thin the W8 at the Rio Olympics but moved to the pair for 2017 and went unbeaten throughout 2017 winning the world title in Florida. They picked up where they left off in 2018 winning both the 2ndand 3rdWorld Cups. But, when it came to the world championships they were beaten into silver by the Canadians. So far in 2019 they took gold at the Poznan World Cup, but were surprisingly beaten into silver in Rotterdam by Australia (their first defeat in the W2- at a World Cup). What’s interesting is that the Kiwis (and the Canadians and Australians) are also doubling-up in the W8. With such large entries in both the pair and the 8’s this is going to result in an awful lot of racing. Despite this the Kiwis will still go into Linz as the favourites to win their 2ndWorld title.
The reigning champions from Canada, Caleigh Filmer and Hilary Janssens, are back to defend their title. This isn’t as straightforward as it sounds. Rumours abound that the pair split up after the 2018 World Championships following a serious falling-out between the two athletes. Nothing official has been said about this, but Janssens raced with a different partner, Sydney Payne, at the Poznan World Cup where they finished 4th. She then moved into the W4- for Rotterdam (with Payne, Lisa Roman and Nicole Hare) taking another 4thplace. Filmer hasn’t raced at all so far this season. But, whatever the truth of the alleged disagreement between Filmer and Janssens, they’ve clearly made up, or at least put their differences to one side, and have returned to the boat together and will be a major threat to the Kiwis. As mentioned above, both Filmer and Janssens are also racing in the W8 which will be an added challenge.
Winners of the final World Cup in Rotterdam were the Australian pairing of Jessica Morrison and Annabelle McIntyre. They’ve been doubling-up in the W8 all season and in Poznan took silver in the pair and gold in the eight with those positions being reversed in Rotterdam. McIntyre made her senior debut in 2018 as part of the W8 that finished 3rdat the World Championships. Morrison was a member of the Aussie W8 that were a last minute addition to the Rio Olympics. She stepped away from the sport after the Olympics but returned for 2019. She and McIntyre have quickly formed a very effective partnership and have a gold and silver so far this year to prove it. They are also doubling-up in the eight in Linz, so the top three pairs in this event will all contain athletes who’ll be involved in a hell of a lot of racing. They’ll all have to be careful that they don’t get jumped by pairs who are just focussing on a single event!
One pair who could capitalise on the extra racing that the Kiwis, Canadians and Australians are having to do are the Americans. They’ve selected the highly experienced duo of Megan Kalmoe and Tracey Eisser. Kalmoe is bidding to qualify for her 4thOlympics (although Tokyo will be her first in a sweep event). She was a member of the W4X that won bronze in London and then took the world title in 2015. She’s no stranger to the W2- though, having won a silver medal at the World Championships in 2014 partnered by Kerry Simmonds. Eisser was also a member of the World championship winning W4X in 2015 and she and Kalmoe raced together in the quad at the Rio Olympics. They then raced together as a W2- in 2017 winning the silver medal behind the Kiwis. Kalmoe missed the 2018 season whilst Eisser stepped into the W8 winning the World title. Now for 2019 they are back together in the pair and made a strong start to their campaign with a bronze medal at the Poznan World Cup. With no doubling-up to worry about, they could well spring a surprise on the favourites.
Romania are normally the ones who double-up in the W2- and W8, but surprisingly this year they are one of the few top crews who aren’t. Cristina-Georgiana Popescu and Amalia Beres are a young pairing and were both members of the W8 that won the European Championships this season. 22-year-old Beres, made her senior debut at the Linz World Cup last season, finishing 7thin the W2-. She went on to win silver in the U23 BW4- that year. After winning gold in the W8 at the 2019 European’s she moved into the pair with Popsecu, finishing 4that the Rotterdam World Cup. 23-year-old Popescu won gold in the W4- at the 2017 European’s and also went on to win silver at the u23 Worlds. This is an exciting young duo and could well deliver Romania’s first medal in this event since 2013.
Spanish rowing is on something of a high at the moment. After finishing 6that the Rio Olympics (the best ever performance by a Spanish women’s crew) the pairing of Aina Cid and Anna Boada Peiro went from strength to strength culminating in a superb bronze medal at the 2018 World Championships (Spain’s first World Championship medal since 1991). But at the start of the 2019 season Boada Piero surprisingly announced her immediate retirement from the sport. Under the guidance of former British coach, Robin Williams (who guided Glover and Stanning to two Olympic gold medals), the Spanish moved Virginia Diaz Rivas into the pair with Cid. She had previously represented Spain in the W1X finishing 11thin 2017 and 14thin 2018. This new duo made an immediate impact by reaching the A-Final in their first regatta at the Plovdiv World Cup and then went on to win the 2019 European Championships. They raced in Rotterdam, reaching the A-Final and placing 5thoverall.
Greece have a young pairing of Maria Kyridou and Christina Bourmpou. Both are still 18-years-old, but have already made a big impact on the rowing scene. Winners of the JW2- at both the Junior World Championships and the Youth Olympics in 2018, they made their senior debuts at the European Championships this season were they finished a strong 5th. Last month they raced at the U23 World Championships taking the gold medal. They are clearly a very talented pair and will be ones to watch in the coming few years. A qualification spot for Tokyo will be a great return from their debut senior season.
The South African’s have also selected a young crew, with 22-year-old Tayla-May Bentley and 19-year-old Jessica Schoonbee. They are both making their senior debuts in Linz, but earlier this season they took silver behind the Greeks at the U23 World Championships, they will be another crew to watch in the future. Olympic qualification will be a major achievement for this pair.
Rounding-off a trio of young medallists from the U23’s are the Russians, Elena Daniluik and Ekaterina Glazkova. They took bronze at the U23’s this year and earlier finished at the back of the B-Final at the European Championships.
Bronze medallists from this year’s European Championships are the Italians, Kiri Tontodonati and Aisha Rocek. Tonodonati raced in the W1X at the 2018 Europeans finishing 4thand went on to race the W2X at the World Championship finishing in the B-Final. Rocek also made the B-Final at last year’s Worlds as a member of the W4-. Following their medal-winning performance at this year’s European’s they raced at the Poznan world Cup, finishing 5th. Given the strength of the field in Linz they will do well to make the A-Final, but will definitely be in contention for a top 11 spot.
Great Britain are another nation for whom Linz is all about making the top 11 rather than an expectation to get among the medals. Their crew of Sam Courty and Annie Withers were 6that the European’s this year before moving into the W4- at the Poznan World Cup (finishing 7th) and then back to the pair for the final World Cup where they placed 8th. An Olympic qualifying spot should be achievable for this pairing, but it will be a battle.
Chile have an outstanding young crew, 2 of the Abraham quadruplets (all of whom are on the Chilean national rowing team), Melita and Antonia. This dup raced in the LW2X at the Rio Olympics whilst still teenagers. They reached their first Senior A-Final at the Poznan World Cup in 2017 where they finished 4thin the W2- and went on to win the U23 World Championships that year. 2018 saw them take bronze at the U23’s and then they raced the W2X at the Senior World Championships. So far in 2019 they have a 9thplace at the Poznan World Cup and also took gold at the Pan American Games. It would be a fantastic achievement for this pair to qualify for the Olympics.
China finished 5thin the World last year and they have the same pair, Xinyu Lin and Rui Ju, back for 2019. Now under the guidance of former British Chief Women’s Coach, Paul Thompson, the Chinese as a team are becoming medal contenders across the women’s boat classes. Lin and Ju raced at both the first and 2ndWorld Cups this season, taking 4thin Plovdiv and 9thin Poznan. As with a number of crews in Linz, their focus will be on getting in the top 11 rather than among the medals.
Other crews to mention are the Irish (Aileen Crowley and Monika Dukarska) who were 6thin Rotterdam, and the Ukraine (Oksana Golub and Olena Buryak) who were 7that the European Championships.
My picks……New Zealand in gold, the USA in silver and Australia in bronze.
Predicted Olympic qualifiers: NZL, USA, AUS, CAN, ESP, ROU, GRE, CHN, ITA, GBR, CHI
Coming up in part 3….the M2X and W2X