The 1st Rowing World Cup preview part 2 – The Women’s events

Time for part 2 of my World Cup preview – the women’s events…



20 scullers

This could well be the most competitive of all the events in Belgrade with 10 of the top 12 scullers from the Sarasota World Championships competing, including the top four – Jeanine Gmelin of Switzerland, Vicky Thornley of Great Britain, Magdalena Lobnig of Austria and Sanita Puspure of Ireland.

Switzerland’s Jeanine Gmelin, World Rowing’s female rower of the year for 2017, made her senior debut in 2014 and has remained in the single scull throughout her senior career. A strong 2016 season culminated in an A-Final finish at the Rio Olympics. But, it was 2017 where she really came to the fore, winning every event she entered including the World Championships.


World Champion Jeanine Gmelin of Switzerland

Runner-up to Gmelin at the World Championships was Great Britain’s Vicky Thornley.  The 30 year old was also runner-up to her Swiss nemesis at both the 1st and 2nd World Cups, but took the European title in Racice (where Gmelin didn’t race). Thornley is GB’s sole representative in the women’s open-weight sculling events, but will be very disappointed if she doesn’t come away with a medal. Speaking at the GB Team announcement she said she feels stronger than last season and after a hard winter’s training has “definitely improved the engine”.

Bronze medallist in Sarasota was Magdalena Lobnig of Austria. Lobnig is one of the most consistent scullers on the circuit having only failed to reach the A-Final twice in 21 regattas. 2017 was her most successful year reaching the podium at all three World Cups (including gold in Poznan) and the World Championships. The 27 year old has emerged from an “A-Final contender” to a genuine “medal contender”

Just outside of the medals in Sarasota was Ireland’s Sanita Puspure. After a strong 2016 which saw her take at the 1st World Cup and the European Championships her eventual 13th place in Rio was a little disappointing. 2017 was almost the opposite of 2016 with solid, if unspectacular performances in the World Cup series trumped by 4th in Sarasota.

Another A-finalist in Sarasota was Canada’s Carling Zeeman. The two-time U23 single sculls medallist produced a solid performance in Rio finishing 4th in the B-Final (10th overall). Her 2017 season was strong, taking silver in Lucerne and then reaching the A-Final at Worlds.

Another sculler to watch is Denmark’s Fie-Udby Erichsen. The 2012 W1X silver medallist has yet to really capture the speed she showed in winning an Olympic medal. In Rio she finished 9th, but a strong 4th at the 2017 Europeans showed she’s still a force to be reckoned with. She ended the season with a solid, if unspectacular, 9th place at the World Championships.

Germany have no fewer than four entries in this event, with the lead boat being sculled by Annekatrin Thiele. The Rio W4X gold medallist switched to the single in 2017 taking a bronze medal at the Europeans and 4th in Poznan. At Henley she defeated Thornley to win the Princess Royal Challenge Cup before heading to Lucerne where she finished 6th. A strong A-Final placing was probably her expectation in Sarasota but in the end she struggled throughout the regatta and ended up in 10th.

Racing as Germany 2 is Marie-Catherine Arnold. She raced in the W2X at Rio, just missing out on a A-Final placing. She raced only once in 2017 taking 10th in the W1X in Poznan.

Germany 3 is two-time U23 medallist Michalea Staelberg and GER 4 Constanze Duell, making her 1st international appearance since 2015.

Greece have two boats racing with the no.1 boat of Aikaterina Nikolaidou. She raced in the W2X at the Rio Olympics finishing 4th. In 2017 she continued in the double but swapped partners, with her Olympic partner Sofia Asoumanaki heading off to study at the University of Washington, she raced with Anneta Kyridou finishing 12th Kyridou is also racing in Belgrade at the 2nd Greek W1X.

The USA have a small team of 5 boats in Belgrade, 2 of them in this event. Racing as USA1 is Kara Kohler. She won the recent US trials and is an Olympic bronze medallist from the London Olympics. She’s only raced sporadically on the international circuit in the last few years at the Sydney World Cup in 2015, Lucerne in 2016 before taking 5th place in the W4X at the 2017 World Championships.

USA2 is Felice Mueller. She was world champion in the W4- back in 2013 and followed that up with bronze in the W4X in 2014 and another bronze in the W2- in 2015. For the Olympic season she stayed in the W2- and just missed out on a medal at the Games. In 2017 she switched to the single scull taking 4th in Lucerne and 7th in Sarasota.

My picks….It’ll be another Anglo-Swiss battle and I’ve a sneaking feeling that the Brit will finally get the better of the Swiss. GB for gold, Switzerland in silver with Thiele in bronze.



14 pairs

Another very open event. The most likely favourites based on the form book will be the Danes, Christina Johansen and Hedvig Rasmussen medalled every time they raced in 2017, with a silver medal at the Europeans followed by bronze in Lucerne and another at the World Championships. Rasmussen rowed in this event in Rio and took a superb bronze with partner Anne Andersen.

Another strong contender will be the Spanish. Aina Cid and Anna Boada Peiro. They were 6th at the Rio Olympics, and didn’t race the World Cup series in 2017, but turned up at the Worlds and stormed to a 5th place finish.

ESP W2-.jpg

Aina Cid and Anna Boada Peiro of Spain. Photo: Vancouver Sun

Great Britain have two boats entered, the lead boat is Anastasia Chitty and Rebecca Girling (who are also the bow pair of the W8). The pair raced together at the 1st World Cup last year finishing 6th. The 2nd crew are both making their senior international debuts, Emily Ford and Emily Ashford. Ford was a member of the U23 BW8 that won silver in 2016 and Ashford makes her first international appearance.

Canada could well be one of the main threats for a medal. Hillary Janssens won gold in the U23 BW2- in 2016 and was the 4 seat in the Canadian W8 that won silver last year. Her partner is Caileigh Filmer. She was in the W8 that finished 5th in Rio and she then switched to the U23 BW8 and won gold (setting a new World Best Time in the process).

China have three boats racing with the pick of the trio being CHN1 crew of Jie Wang and Xingye Xu. Wang won bronze in the W4X at the Poznan World Cup and Xu was World Junior Champion in 2016.

The Irish have made a change to the crew that finished 8th in Sarasota with Aifric Keogh now being partnered by 19 year old Emily Hegarty making her senior international debut.

The final crew to mention are the Wierzbowska sister from Poland. They finished 11th in Rio and then switched to the W4- for the 2017 season. They were one of the favourites for gold in Sarasota until a serious accident in training meant that Anna had to miss the World Championships. In the end the crew raced with a substitute on board and secured silver. It’s great to see both Wierzbowska sisters back on the water and healthy. They are an extremely talented pairing and could do a lot of damage to the field in this boat class.

My picks…..Denmark for gold with Canada in silver and Spain in bronze.



14 doubles.

Hot favorites for this event must be the Lithuanians, Milda Valciukaite and Ieve Adomaviciute finished 4th at the World Championships, and as such are the top ranked double in Belgrade. Valciukaite, who’s still only 24, made her senior debut 5 years ago winning both the World and European Championships in 2013. She followed that up with bronze in Rio with long-time partner Donata Vistartaite. In 2017 she formed a new partnership with Adomaviciute, the 2016 BW1X World Champion. This young pairing haven’t yet quite found their full speed, but when they do they could be world beaters.

The Netherlands have made one change to the crew that finished 8th last year, with the highly experienced Lisa Scheenaard replacing Marloes Oldenburg. To partner Roos De Jong. Scheenaard finished 5th in the W1X last year and had also partnered Oldenburg to a silver medal at the European Championships. De Jong finished 7th I the W1X at the European Championships last year and in 2015 won a bronze medal at the U23 World Championships.

Belarusia have Ekaterina Karsten and Tatsiana Kukhta. Karsten is a true legend of the sport, she celebrates her 46th birthday during the World Cup and is one of World Rowing’s most outstanding athletes…7 Olympic appearances, two-time Olympic champion, six World single scull titles and 16 World Championship medals from a career that stretches back to the days of the Soviet Union. 2017 saw her take yet another medal when she was runner-up to Thornley at the European Championships and also take 4th at the 1st World Cup. She ended the season with an 11th place in Sarasota. At the Rio Olympics Kukhta partnered Yulia Bichyk in the W2X that finished 8th. This is the first time these two have been in a double together so it remains to be seen how they get on, Karsten never seems to perform at her best in crew boats and looks happier in the single.


seven-time Olympian Ekaterina Karsten of Belarus

The 2nd Belarusian crew are Krystina Staraselets and Tatsiana Klimovich. This duo won the U23 World Championships last season and the battle against their vastly more experienced team mates is going to be one of the fascinating “side-shows” in Belgrade. The battle for selection here is very much the “old guard” v the “young pretenders”.

France are another nation to make a change to their 2017 line up. Helene Lefebvre is now partnered by Marie Jacquet. With her previous partner (Elodie Ravera-Scaramozzino) Lefebvre made the A-Final at both the Rio Olympics and the 2017 World Championships. Her new partner, Jacquet, is a three-time U23 medallist and made her senior debut whilst still a teenager at the 2013 European Championships.

China finished 1 place behind the French in Sarasota and have one member of that crew returning, Yang Lyu. She is joined by Yuwei Wang. Both of these scullers raced at the Rio Olympics, with Wang finishing 6th in the W4X and Lyu 11th in the W2X. This has the potential to be a fast combination. But, like the Belarusians, the Chinese have two boats entered for Belgrade. Racing as CHN2 are Jingjing Li and Shiyu Lu. Lu is making her senior debut, whilst Li raced at the 2nd World Cup last year finishing 7th.

Germany race with Carlotta Nwajide and Franziska Kampmann. Nwadjide was U23 BW1X bronze medallist in 2016 and followed that up with 4th in the W2X at the 2017 European Championships. Kampmann makes her senior international debut having been a two-time junior world medallist in 2014-15 and U23 bronze medallist in 2017. This is another exciting young combination that will take time to bed-in.

The final crew to mention are the Swiss, Pascale Walker and Valerie Rosset. Walker won silver in the BW1X at last year’s U23 World Championships and also has a bronze medal in the BW1X from the 2015 U23 Worlds. 26 year old Rosset makes her senior international debut, and her first international appearance since the U23 World Championships in 2013.

My picks…difficult to see anyone beating the Lithuanians, China 1 in silver and Belarus 2 in bronze.



9 crews

It feels like this event is still trying to find its feet now that it has become an Olympic event. A lot of countries are still working out their combinations and many are doubling up their rowers in the W8.

Favourites for the title in Belgrade will be the Polish. They have three of the crew that won silver at last year’s World Championships (Joanna Dittmann, Olga Michalkiewicz and Monika Chabel). The final member of the crew is Monika Sobieszek who makes her senior international debut following two years on the Polish U23 team.

One place behind the Poles in Florida were the Russians. They too have three members of their medal winning crew in the boat, Ekaterina Potapova, Anastasia Tikhanova and Elena Oriabinskaia. The final member of the crew is Ekaterina Sevostianova who raced in the W8 last season that won the B Final at Worlds.

Great Britain have two boats racing in Belgrade, The GB 2nd boat (Fi Gammond, Holly Norton, Karen Bennett and Rebecca Shorten) are all doubling-up in the W8. This quartet were all in the W8 that finished 5th last year and Gammond and Norton raced in this boat class in 2016 winning the gold medal at the World Championships. Bennett is the sole remaining member of the GB Olympic sweep team from Rio (where she won a silver medal in the W8).

Racing as GBR1 is Caragh McMurtry, Rebecca Chin, Joe Wratten and Sara Parfett. Chin and Wratten were in the W8 that finished 5th last year. Parfett raced in the W8 at the 2017 Europeans and also at the Poznan and Lucerne World Cups. McMurtry rowed in the GB W8 in 2014 and then returned to international competition for the 2017 season racing in the W8 at the Europeans and Poznan before moving to the W2- for Lucerne and then the W4- for Sarasota where they finished 7th.

The Netherlands have a flotilla of three boats entered for this event. The top two boats are doubling-up in the W8. The top 2 boats look fairly evenly matched with the no.1 boat of Elsabeth Hogerwerf, Marloes Oldenburg, Aletta Jorritsma and Veronique Meester. Hogerwerf and Jorritsma both competed in Rio with Hogerwerf racing in the 6th placed W8 and Jorritsma 13th in the W2-.

NED2 have three of the Rio W8 on board, Lies Rustenburg, Jose Van Veen and Monica Lanz. The 4th member of the crew is Ymkje Clevering, she raced in the w8 last year that finished 6th and also race in the U23 BW4- that won gold.

The 3rd Netherlands crew have two of the boat that won bronze at the European Championships (albeit in a 4 boat straight final), Marleen Verburgh and Lisanne Brandsma. They are joined by Rosa Bas, who raced in the W8 in 2013, and 2016 U23 bronze medallist Hermijnte Drenth.

The final crew to mention are the Danes (Anne Larsen, Frida Sangaard Neilsen, Marta Kenmpf and Trine Dahl Pedersen).  They are a young crew with only Larsen having senior international race experience. Sangaard Neilsen and Dahl Pedersen both raced at the U23’s last year and Kempf is making her first appearance since racing at the Junior Worlds in 2016.

My picks…could be some close racing, but I’m going for Poland in gold with NED2 in silver and GBR2 in bronze.



7 crews

Last year saw a titanic battle between the Polish and Dutch quads with the Dutch just edging out the Poles by 1/100th second. Both crews are back for more and are virtually unchanged. The Dutch have made one change and have brought in Karolien Florijn to replace Inge Janssen, she raced in the W8 last season and also won gold in the U23 BW4-.

Poland are unchanged from last year’s silver medal winning crew with Katarzyna Zillmann, Maria Springwald, Agnieszka Kobus and Marta Wieliczko. The next installment of the Poland v the Netherlands is going to be fun to watch!

Germany used to dominate the W4x event, but it’s been a while since they held that position. Last year they finished 4th and have two of that crew back for 2017, Frauke Hunderling and Frieda Haemmerling. These two were the stern pair of the quad that won the European title which was the highpoint of their 2017 season. Joining them in the quad are Michaela Staelberg and Constanze Duell who are both doubling up in the W1X.

France could well be the dark horses for a medal, they have brought in Rio Olympians Elodie Ravera-Scaramozzino and Naomie Kober. Kober finished 12th in the w2- and Ravera-Scaramozzino 5th in the W2X. They are joined by two young scullers, Camille Juliet and Anne-Sophie Marzin. Both of these scullers were in the U23 BW4X last season that won the B Final at the world Championships in Plovdiv.

Also racing are the Chinese, with a crew containing Rio Olympians Yan Jiang and Ling Zhang. They are joined by Xiaotong Cui who was 3rd in the W8 in 2014 and international debutante Yunxia Chen.

My picks…I’m going for Poland to gain revenge on the Dutch and reverse the result from the World Championships with France in 3rd.



3 crews

As often happens at the 1st World Cup, the entry for the W8 is very small. The withdrawal of one of the two Chinese boats originally entered has reduced it from a 4 to a 3 boat race.

Despite there only being 3 boats (and none of the medallists from Sarasota) it should be a good contest between the Dutch and the British. Both crews are doubling up (in the W4- and, in the case of the British, the W2-). The British have 6 of the crew that finished 5th in Sarasota (Anastasia Chitty, Fi Gammond, Holly Norton, Karen Bennett, Rebecca Shorten and cox Matilda Horn), they are joined by Rebecca Girling and Rowan McKellar from the W4- that won the B-Final last year and Harriet Taylor who raced in the W4- at the Lucerne World Cup and was an U23 medallist in 2015.

The Dutch finished just 7/10th of a second behind the British in Sarasota and they also have 6 returners from that crew (Lies Rustenburg, Jose Van Veen, Ymkje Clevering, Monica Lanz, Aletta Jorritsma and Veronique Meester). They are joined by Elisabeth Hogerwerf from the Rio W8 and Marloes Oldenburg who makes her international sweep rowing debut in Belgrade having previously only competed as part of the sculling squad. The crew are coxed by Dieuwke Fetter who steered the boat to a gold medal at this regatta last year.

The third boat racing are the Chinese. The stern three of the crew (Linlin Guo, Min Zhang & Rui Ju) finished 6th in the W4- last year along with Fei Wang from the 2017 W2X and Tian Miao from the W2-. The final two rowers are debutante Miaomiao Qin and former U23 international Kaifeng Huang. They are coxed by Xiaowen Zhang who also makes her international debut.

My picks…it should be a good race between the British and the Dutch….I’ve got to go for a British win just ahead of the Dutch with the Chinese some way back in third.



16 scullers

A relatively inexperienced field for Budapest with only one of the athletes that raced in the A-Final in Sarasota taking part. That athlete was Emma Fredh of Sweden. The 2017 European Champion and 2016 World silver medallist will be the strong favourite in Belgrade. She’s performed strongly since moving to the LW1X at the 3rd World Cup in 2016 and has made the A-Final each time she raced.

emma fredh

Emma Fredh of Sweden

The main challenger to Fredh is Belgium’s Eveline Peleman. The 25 year old was world champion in this event in 2014 but hasn’t quite recaptured that form since, she moved to the open-weight division in 2015 without much success before moving back to lightweight in 2016. She didn’t race in 2017 so it’ll be interesting to see what sort of form she brings to the competition.

Another strong contender will be Germany’s Fini Sturm. She was 11th in the LW2X at the Olympics and followed that up with a 9th place in Sarasota. Sturm is racing as GER2 in Belgrade, the GER1 boat is raced by Ladina Meier who makes her debut for Germany having previously raced for Switzerland. Her best result was a 7th at the 2016 European Championships.

Great Britain’s Imogen Grant makes her senior debut in Belgrade. The Cambridge Blue finished an impressive 3rd at the GB trials and raced in the U23 squad last season finishing 5th in the BLW4X.

A strong contender for a medal is Mexico’s Kenia Lechuga Alanis. She made her senior debut at the 2015 World Championships and finished 12th, she then went on to race in the open weight W1X at the Rio Olympics finishing a credible 12th and then took bronze at the U23 World Championships. In 2017 she produced another excellent performance to win the B-Final and claim 7th place overall. A medal for Mexico at a World Cup would be a great achievement.

Belarus have entered Alena Furman, she raced as an open weight for the 2015-17 seasons finishing 15th in the W2- at the Rio Olympics and 4th in the W4- at the 2016 World Championships. In 2017 she raced in the W4X that finished 6th at the European Championships. In Belgrade she races as a lightweight for the first time since finishing 17th in the LW2X at the 2014 World championships.

Other scullers to mention are China’s Fang Chen, 3rd in the LW4X in 2017, Canada’s Ellen Gleadow (who finished 1 place behind Chen in the LW4X) and Russia’s Anastasia Lebedeva (4th at the European Championships.

My picks…Fredh for gold with Mexico’s Lechuga Alanis in silver and Peleman in bronze.



17 doubles

Another really competitive event for a 1st World Cup. Favourites will probably be the Dutch. Ilse Paulis won gold in Rio and she and her then partner, Maaike Head, are holders of the World Best Time. In 2017 she formed a new partnership with Marieke Keijser, winning silver behind the Polish at the European Championships. Injury meant that this duo couldn’t race in Sarasota, but Keijser raced in the LW1X event and won silver. She also raced at the U23 World Championships and won gold. This looks to be a combination that will be strong contenders to defend their Olympic title in Tokyo.


The Netherlands Ilse Paulis and Marieke Keijser. Photo: ANP/Sander Koning

One of the main challengers to the Dutch will be the Polish. Weronika Deresz and Joanna Dorociak. This duo were 4th in Sarasota and Deresz beat the Dutch to win the European title whilst partnered by Martyna Mikolajczak.

Another strong challenger for a medal are the Americans. They have two boats racing with USA1 containing the experienced Emily Schmieg and Mary Jones. Schmieg won bronze in this event in Sarasota partnered my Michelle Sechser. Jones also won world bronze last year competing in the LW1X event, the University of Tennessee graduate was 4th in the LW1X in 2016 and Pan American Games champion in 2015. This looks to be a strong and powerful combination.

USA2 is Hillary Saeger and Christine Cavallo. Saeger is making her first international appearance since finishing 6th in the LW4X in 2015. Cavallo, from Florida, makes her senior international debut following 2 years on the US U23 team.

Great Britain also have two boats racing.  In the no.1 LW2X are Ellie Piggott and Emily Craig. Both of these scullers became world champions in the LW4X in 2016 and Piggott followed that up with a 4th place in the same event last year. Craig partnered Kat Copeland to win silver at the 2017 European Championships and a 5th place at the World Championships. The 2nd LW2X boat is Elisha Lewis and Fran Rawlins. Lewis is an U23 bronze medallist and was the lightweight spare for last year’s World Championships. Rawlins makes her senior international debut in Belgrade after a strong performance at trials saw her take 5th place.

South Africa also have a strong crew racing in Belgrade with Kirsten McCann and Nicole Van Wyk. McCann raced in the LW2X with Ursula Grobler at the Rio Olympics, finishing 5th. In 2017 she switched to the LW1X becoming World Champion in Florida. For 2018 she’s moved back into the double and is joined by Ncole Van Wyk. Van Wyk is an exciting talent and makes her senior debut in Belgrade, she already has age group world championship medals to her name with a bronze in the BLW1X in 2017 and a silver in 2016.

Canada have a new combination racing in Belgrade with Jill Moffatt and Jennifer Casson, both of whom were in the LW4X that finished 4th last year.

Other crews to watch out for are the French, Lara Tarantola and Claire Boves who were 7th last year, and the Germans, Katrin Thoma and Leonie Pless. Thoma already has three World Championship medals gained in the LW4X (including gold in 2015) but Belgrade sees her first opportunity to race in the Olympic class boat. Pless finished 9th last year.

The final crew to mention are the Irish, Denise Walsh and Margaret Cremen. This is an interesting blend of youth and experience. Walsh finished 6th in the LW1x last year and also won silver at the European Championships. 19 year old Cremen makes her senior debut in Belgrade following a 7th place in the JW2X last year. This is another exciting combination, but will perhaps need a little longer to develop their potential.

My picks….The Netherlands for the win with USA1 in 2nd and Poland in 3rd.


So that’s it…time for the racing!