Olympic Qualifying places: 8
2018 Champion: Australia
Australia won this event in 2017 and 2018 and will be odds on favourites to make it a hat-trick of titles in Linz. Alex Hill and Jack Hargreaves are the only survivors from the World Championship gold medal crew. For 2019 they have been mixing up the crew throughout the season. Jack Hargreaves and Alex Hill were in the gold medal crew in 2017 and 18, but Hill has been racing in the M2- this season, winning gold at both the 2ndand 3rdWorld Cups. Hargreaves has been in the four and was joined at the start of the season by Joseph O’Brien and Nick Purnell. O’Brien was in the M2- last season that finished 13thand Purnell rowed in the M8 in 2018 that won the silver medal. The changes from 2018 haven’t had much of an impact on their speed, they’ve raced at the 2ndand 3rdWorld Cups and won gold both times. The addition of Hill for Linz (replacing Tim Masters) can only make them quicker. The question for Linz is who will win silver and bronze and how far behind the Aussies will the rest of the world be.
Great Britain have a huge pedigree in this event and their battles with the Australians over the years have been epic. They have a new crew for this year with Matt Rossiter, Ollie Cook, Rory Gibbs and Sholto Carnegie. They came into 2019 with relatively low expectations, Carnegie and Gibbs were coming out of the U23 team, and Cook and Rossiter missed election for the M8. But, they have formed a very fast crew right from the off. Their first race together was at the European Championships where they won gold. They followed this up with a 4thplace in Poznan, a win at Henley and then an excellent silver behind the Australians in Rotterdam. For a new crew this is an outstanding start to their time together. At the start of the season the expectations on this crew was Olympic qualification, now the expectations are for a medal, and a good one at that. They may not beat the Australians, but I fully expect the Brits to be at the head of the chasing pack.
Runners-up to the Australians at the 2018 World Championships were Italy. Their crew is built around three Rio Olympic medallists, Matteo Castaldo was in the M4- that finished 3rdbehind the British and Australians. Also in the crew are the Olympic bronze medal pair of Marco di Castanzo and Giovanni Abagnale. The fourth member of the crew is Bruno Rosetti. He was in the M8 that won bronze in 2017, he was also in the four with di Costanzo and castaldo that won silver last year. So far in 2019 they started relatively slowly with a 5thplace at the European Championships, but followed that up with a much stronger performance in Poznan where they took silver behind the Australians. The battle for silver and bronze is going to come down to a fight between the Brits and Italians.
Another strong crew are Germany. Felix Wimberger and Max Planer were both in the M4- that finished 12thin Rio. They both moved into the M8 for 2017 and 2018, winning gold before losing their places in the top boat for 2019. They are joined by Felix Brummel and Nico Megret who were part of the M4- last season that came 6th. This season they’ve had some mixed results, a bronze medal at the European’s was followed by a B-Final placing in Poznan. Rotterdam saw them return to the podium taking bronze behind the Aussies and Brits.
Romania have a young crew with three of the U23 World Champion crew from 2018 (Mihaita-Vasile Tiganescu, Stefan-Constantin Berariu and Cosmin Pascari). As well as winning the U23 Worlds this crew also won gold a the senior European Championships last year. The fourth member of the crew is U23 bronze medallist Mugurel-Vasile Semciuc, he was in the BM8 in 2018. The four of them came together for the senior World Championships making the A-Final. So far this season the crew finished a disappointing 9that the Europeans, but followed that with a much better performance in Rotterdam where they finished 5th. As a young crew they are definitely ones to watch for the future, but they will do well to make the A-Final this year.
Winners of the 1stWorld Cup of the 2019 season were Poland. Their crew were all members of the M8 that finished 5that the Rio Olympics. At last year’s World Championships this finished at the front of the B-Final to take 7thoverall. In 2019, as well as gold from Plovdiv, they also have medals from the European Championships and the 2ndWorld Cup in Poznan. At the final World Cup they made the A-Final and will be one of the main contenders to repeat that achievement in Linz.
South Africa will be another strong contender to get Olympic qualification. Their crew includes Jake Green and David Hunt who were in the M4- that just missed out on a medal in Rio. They are joined by Kyle Schoonbee and Sandro Torrente. 10thplace in 2018 was a bit of a disappointment for a crew of this quality. So far in 2019 they had a great result at the Piediluco Regatta, winning the M4- event and pushing the top Italian boat into 2nd. They also raced at the Poznan World Cup reaching the A-Final.
The USA have put together a really interesting new crew. Stroking the boat is Clark Dean, the Harvard sophomore is a two-time junior World Champion in the single scull and was a key member of the Harvard varsity 8 during his Freshman year. But it’s a massive step up as a 19-year-old to be stroking one of the top US sweep boats trying for Olympic qualification. Dean is backed-up by three highly experienced athletes, all of whom were members of the US M8 that finished 4thlast year. At bow is Tom Peszek who represented the US in the M2- at the London Olympics, and won medals in the M8 in 2013 and 2017. In the 2 seat is Tom Dethlefs, he was also member of the US M8 in 2013,2014, 2015 and 2018. Sitting at 3 is Andrew Reed who was a member of the silver medal M8 in 2017. They are an untested combination, but US M4-‘s are always quick and this looks a very exciting combination. They could well spring a surprise on more established crews.
New Zealand have selected a very young crew, three of whom won silver at this year’s U23 World Championships (Ben Taylor, Tom Mackintosh and Tom Russel), they are joined by Ian Seymour, 10 years their senior, who made a return to international competition this season following a break of 7 years. He raced as a 2ndNZL M2- at the 2ndand 3rdWorld Cups finishing 20thin Poznan and 10thin Rotterdam. Olympic qualification would be a major achievement for this crew.
The final two other crews to mention who have an outside chance of qualification for Tokyo are Belarus and the Netherlands. Belarus have three of the crew that finished 8that the World Championships last season, so far this year they placed 6that the Europeans and 8thin Poznan. The Netherlands have put together a new crew for Linz, two of whom raced at the Rio Olympics (Vincent Van der Want and Boudewijn Roell). These two, along with Jan van Der Bij, were in the M8 that won bronze at the European Championships this year. They entered two fours at Rotterdam, with van Der Want and Roell finishing 10thin one crew and van Der Bij, and the fourth member of the Linz crew, Nelson Ritsma, taking 7th. It remains to be seen with the new line-up will have the pace for a top 8 finish.
My picks…Australia in gold, Great Britain in silver and the USA pipping Italy for the bronze
Predicted Olympic qualifiers: AUS, GBR, USA, ITA, GER, POL, ROU, RSA.
Olympic qualifying places: 8
2018 Champion: USA
Time for this event to get serious, Tokyo see the return of the W4- to Olympic competition after a break of 28 years. As with the M4- there are 8 qualifying spots up for grabs (as well as world championship medals0 and the competition is going to be fierce.
The USA are the defending champions and they have two of that crew back, Maddy Wannamaker and Molly Bruggeman. At bow in this crew is Vicky Opitz, a four-time World Champion from the W8, this year is her first in the smaller boat. The final member of the crew, occupying the 3 seat is the legendary Caryn Davies. A three-time Olympic medallist (including two golds), she retired from international competition after the London Olympics. She spent a year at Oxford University and stroked the Dark Blues to an historic win in the first Boat Race to be raced on the same course and the same day as the men’s Boat Race. The lure of a possible 4thOlympics, 8 years after her last, was too great a chance to pass up (just like Greg Searle returning to the GB squad for London 2012 after “retiring” in 2000). This crew has yet to race this season, although they did race (without Davies) at the Poznan World Cup and finished 4th(although they raced the final with a sub after Maddy Wannamaker fell ill). As a full strength unit they will be a match for any crew in the event.
Canada are the reigning Olympic champions in this event and have a crew taken from their silver medal winning W8 from 2018. All four of the crew have won world titles at U23 level and will fancy their chances of a medal this year. Three of the crew, Madison Mailey, Stephanie Grauer, & Jennifer Martins raced in the W8 in Rotterdam picking up a bronze medal. The fourth member of the crew, Sydney Payne raced in the four finishing 4th.
Australia were World Champions in 2017 and runners-up to the USA in 2018. They have three of that crew back for 2019, Katrina Werry, Sarah Hawe and Lucy Stephan. The fourth member of the crew is Olympia Aldersey, a world bronze medallist in the W2X from both 2014 and 2017. As a foursome they raced at both the 2ndand 3rdWorld Cups, placing 3rdin Poznan and winning in Rotterdam. Their showdown with the US will be a great battle.
One of the surprises of the season so far has been the strength of the crew from Denmark. They have three of the crew that finished 4thlast year (Ida Jacobsen, Frida Sangaard Nielsen and Hedvig Rasmussen). The fourth member of the crew is Rasmussen’s pairs partner from the bronze medal winning pair of 2017, Christina Johansen. This line-up also raced at the 2ndand 3rdWorld Cups, winning in Poznan and finishing runners-up to the Australians in Rotterdam. They will be strong contenders for a medal.
Another strong contender for a medal are China. Min Zhang and Fei Wang finished 6thin this event last season and for 2019 they are joined by U23 bronze medallist Zifeng Wang, and Xingye Xu who raced in the W8 last season. They’ve been among the medals both time they raced this season winning bronze in Plovdiv and silver in Poznan. They also made the final of the Town Challenge Cup at Henley.
Victors over the Chinese at Henley were The Netherlands. They have two of the w8 that finished 4thlast year, Ellen Hogerwerf and Ymkje Clevering along with 2018 W4X bronze medallist Karolien Florijn. The fourth member of the crew is Veronique Meester who was in the W8 in 2017. As well as winning at Henley, this crew won the European Championships and the 1stWorld Cup. On home water at the final World Cup in Rotterdam that placed 5th. They will definitely be in the mix for a medal,
Great Britain were World Champions in this event back in 2016, but since its inclusion in the Olympic programme they’ve struggled somewhat to find a truly competitive crew. Their latest iteration however, looks really promising. The crew is anchored by 2013 World Champion, and Rio silver medallist, Polly Swann. Joining her is Holly Hill, with whom she won bronze in the W2- at the Rotterdam World Cup this season. Sitting at bow is Sara Parfett, who, along with stroke Emily Ford, has raced in the four all season, placing 6that the European Championships and Poznan World Cup, and then 7thin Rotterdam. This is undoubtedly a faster combination than has raced all season and an A-final finish will be the minimum they are looking for.
Another crew that has an outside chance of a medal are Romania. All four of the crew (Viviana-Iuliana Bejinariu, Ioana Vrinceneau, Madalina Beres and Denisa Tilvescu) raced in the W8 throughout the 2017 and 2018 seasons, winning both the European and World titles in 2017 and finishing 5thin the world last year. Since moving to the four at the start of the 2019 season they’ve won silver at the Europeans and bronze in Poznan. Given the strength of the field in Linz a medal may just be beyond them, but they won’t be far off.
With the majority of countries playing around with their line-ups trying to find the best combinations, it’s refreshing to see a crew that has remained as a unit for a number of years. Poland is such a crew. Their line-up of Joanna Dittmann, Olga Michalkiewicz, Monika Chabel and Maria Wierzbowska have been racing as a four since 2017. During that time they’ve won silver medals at both the 2017 European and World Championships and another European bronze medal in 2018. So far this season they’ve taken another bronze at the Euros but then struggled somewhat at the World Cups, taking 10thin Poznan and 8thin Rotterdam. They will need to recapture their 2017 and 2018 speed if they hope to grab one of the Olympic spots.
New Zealand’s crew includes Rio Olympian, Eve Macfarlane. She was 12thin the W2X at the Olympics. Joining her in the W4- are Kelsi Waters (bronze medallist from the 2017 W8), former U23 international Davina Waddy and Phoebe Spoors who raced to a 9thplace in this event last year. They’ve raced at both the 2ndand 3rdWorld Cups, with a 9thin Poznan and a 6thin Rotterdam. They will have their work cut-out to get that top 8 finish.
The final crew to mention are the young crew from Ireland. This crew contains three of the crew that won a silver medal at this year’s U23 World Championships, Eimar Lambe, Tara Hanlon and Emily Hegarty. They are joined at bow by Aifric Keogh who finished 5thin this event in 2015 and 6thin the w2- at last year’s World Championships. Olympic qualification may just be beyond their reach this year, but they could be in contention for an Olympic spot at next year’s final qualifying regatta and will definitely be names to watch for the future.
My picks…..USA to retain their title with the Aussies in silver and Denmark in bronze.
Predicted Olympic qualifiers: USA, AUS,DEN, NED, CHN, ROU, CAN, GBR
Next up, the men’s and women’s quads