The 1st Rowing World Cup preview – The men’s events

World Rowing


The 2018 season kicks off in Serbia with the 1st Rowing World Cup on the Sava Lake in Belgrade. The first World Cup is always exciting as it’s the first chance to see some new combinations and perhaps seeing some new names emerging. In the past the 1st World Cup has sometimes struggled with low entries, however this year there is a bumper entry in most events, indeed the M1X field is the largest at an opening World Cup since 2008.

Sava Lake.jpg

Sava Lake Belgrade

So, as always, here is my preview of who to watch in each event…



37 scullers

As mentioned above, this is the largest field at a 1st World Cup for 10 years.  Belgrade has the top two scullers from the 2017 World Championships. Leading the field is five-time World M1X champion Ondrej Synek, the 35 year old starts his 18th senior season and had said he’s making one more bod to win that elusive Olympic Gold medal in Tokyo. 2nd in Sarasota was the mercurial Cuban, Angel Fournier Rodriguez. It remains to be seen if the Cuban does race in Belgrade, he has entered the 1st World Cup in the past and not actually made an appearance. If he does race he’s always in the mix.

6th in Sarasota was Germany’s 2016 U23 World Champion, Tim Ole Naske. He’s assumed the mantel of Germany’s no.1 sculler from the great Marcel Hacker and his results so far indicate that he could surpass Hacker in his results – Junior World Champion, Youth Olympic Champion, two-time U23 Champion and since starting as the senior M1X he’s made the A final every time he’s raced. It will surely be just a matter of time before he steps up from A-final to podium. Germany have a 2nd M1X entered, Oliver Zeidler is making his international debut, the former swimmer took up rowing 18 months ago and last year won the World Indoor Rowing Championships posting a 5:42 2K. It’ll be interesting to see how his rowing career develops.


Tim-Ole Naske of Germany

Another sculler to watch out for is Belgium’s Hannes Obreno. The 27 year old has raced since finishing 4th at the Rio Olympics so it’s difficult to assess what sort of speed he has.

Finishing once place behind Obreno in Rio was Belorussian Stanislau Shcharbarchenia. The 33 year old had a mixed season in 2017, winning bronze at the Europeans and in Lucerne. But in Sarasota he struggled in the quarter final and ended up finishing 2nd in the C final (14th overall).  But, given his form through the majority of the season last year I would expect him to be up in the A Final again this season. But, Shcharbachenia is racing as the BLR2 boat. Racing as BLR1 is Mihal Dzanis who finished 14th in the M2X in Sarasota.

Great Britain’s Tom Barras was third in Sarasota but coach Jurgen Grobler has moved him into the M4X. In his place comes Harry Leask. The 22 year old made his senior debut at this regatta last year finishing 4th in the 2nd GB M4X. He’s got a number of Henley wins to his credit and made a big step forward earlier in the season when he finished 2nd to Barras at the Senior GB Trials.

The home nation has no fewer than four scullers entered in this event with Marko Marjanovic taking the lead boat. The University of California, Berkeley graduate finished 8th in the world last year. Racing as SRB2 and SRB4 are the M2- from the Rio Olympics, Milos Vasic and Nenad Bedik. It’s interesting to see them switch from sweep to sculling and are also doubling up in the M2X (doing the reverse of the Croatian Sinkovic brothers). SRB3 is Aleksandar Filipovic who races his first World Cup since 2015.

Mindaugus Griskonis of Lithuania won silver in the M2x in Rio and followed that up with a 4th place in Sarasota, but for the start of 2018 he returns to the single (he was European bronze medallist in 2016 and world bronze medallist in 2015).

Another sculler to mention is Norway’s Kjetil Borch. He partnered Olaf Tufte throughout the 2016 and 2017 season winning a bronze medal in Rio.

The final two scullers to mention are the Swiss duo of Nico Stahlberg and Roman Roeoesli. Both were members of the M4X that finished 7th in Rio and Stahlberg raced to an 8th place in the M1X in Sarasota and Roeoesli 8th in the M2X.

My pick….Synek for the win ahead of Obreno and Fournier Rodriguez.



22 pairs

Only one of the pairs from the World Championships A-Final are racing in Belgrade and they are the silver medallists from Croatia, Martin and Valent Sinkovic. The Rio M2X champions have made good progress in their switch to sweep just missing out on the gold in Sarasota when they were caught on the line by the Italians.

Sinkovic M2-.jpg

The Sinkovic brothers of Croatia (photo: Croatia Week)

The only other 2 crews who raced in Sarasota are the Czech’s, Lukas Helesic and Jakub Podrazil and the Belarussians Siarhei Valadzko and Dzimitry Furman, who finished 8th and 10th respectively.

The main challengers to the Croatians will probably come from one of the new combinations. Germany have two boats racing with the 2017 M2+ bronze medallists, Malte Grossmann and Finn Schroeder racing as GER2 and Paul Schroeter and Laurits Follert racing as GER1. Follerts was a member of the M4- that finished 6th last year, Schroeter makes his first international appearance since the Lucerne World Cup of 2015.

GB have a young crew with George Rossiter and Harry Glenister. Rossiter makes his senior debut following 4 years on the U23 team from 2011 to 2014. Glenister made his senior debut in 2017 racing in a 2nd M4X at the 1st World Cup.

An interesting pair to watch will be the Irish, Mark O’Donovan and Shane O’Driscoll. This pair where unbeaten in the LM2- in 2017, culminating in a gold medal at the World Championships. With the demise of the LM4- as an Olympic event, the Irish have taken the decision to step up to the heavyweight event in an attempt to qualify for Tokyo.

The Hungarians, Adrian Juhasz and Bela Simon Jr are an established pair and took gold in the M2+ in a fantastic sprint finish at the World Championships last season. As a coxless pair they took 9th in Rio and were the 2016 European champions.

Another crew to watch out for are the Russians, Alexandr Stradaev and Grigorii Shchulepov were members of the M4- that finished 3rd at the European championships last year. As a coxless pair they raced at the 2015 World Championships finishing 14th.

The Netherlands have 2 boats racing, with sander De Graaf and Vincent Klassens racing as NED1 and Bas Thijssen and Jacob Van Der Kerkhof racing as NED2. De Graaf finished 7th in the U23 BM2- last season and Klassens raced in the M2X at 2of the World Cups last season with a best finish of 11th in Poznan. Thijsse, from U.S.R Triton is making his international debut and Der Kerkhof raced in the U23 BM4- last season.

My picks…should be a comfortable win for the Croatians but it’s going to be a good race for the minor medals…I’m going to go for the Irish in silver with GB in bronze.



24 doubles

This promises to be a really open event with only 1 crew remaining unchanged from the 2017 World Championships (the Romanians Marian-Florian Enache and Ioan Prundeneau who finished 10th).  But, despite this there are some really interesting new combinations racing in Belgrade.

One of these new combinations is actually an old combination, GB’s Jack Beaumont and Angus Groom raced together as Juniors, U23 and seniors including the quad at the Rio Olympics and a bronze medal in the BM2X at the U23 World Championships in 2014.


Angus Groom and Jack Beaumont of Great Britain (Photo: British Rowing)

Lithuania have two boats racing with Saulius Ritter and Dovydas Nemeravicius racing as LTU1. Ritter won silver in this event in Rio and Nemeravicius was in the M4X that won the World Championships last year. The 2nd Lithuanian crew is Martynas Dziaugys and Aurimas Adamavicius. Both of these athletes were in the quad that won gold last year.

Both the Norwegian and Irish Lightweight doubles have entered the heavyweight event as well (perhaps as an insurance policy against not making weight at this part of the season). The Irish O’Donovan brothers are, perhaps, the biggest characters in world rowing at the moment and are building quite a celebrity status with Red Bull. The Norwegians (Kristoffer Brun and Are Strandli) are racing together for the first time since taking bronze at the Rio Olympics.

The Dutch have two boats racing, with Dirk Uittenbogaard and Stefan Broenink in boat 1 and Michiel Oyen and Nikki Van Sprang in boat 2. Uittenbogaard has spent the last 3 seasons in sweep boats winning bronze in the M8 in Rio and finishing 5th in the M2- last year. However he spent the first 6 years of his international career in sculling boats, winning a World Cup gold in the M1X back at the Sydney World Cup in 2014. Broenink on the other hand has done it the other way round, he started in sweep, winning a silver medal in the M8 at the 2014 Sydney World Cup, before moving to sculling in 2015. He raced the M1x at Sarasota finishing 11th.  Michiel Oyen races in the sweep events for the 1st time having already won two U23 gold medals as part of the Dutch BM8 in 2016 and 2017. Van Sprang, a graduate of Cal Berkeley, competed in the M2X with Bram Schwarz at last year’s Worlds finishing 12th.

The Serbians have 3 boats racing in this event, as mentioned above Nenad Bedik and Milos Vasic (SRB2) are also entered in the M1X and have made the switch from the M2-. Of the 6 athletes racing in this event for Serbia, only one, Vukasin Pivac, has any international sculling experience (racing at the junior world championships in 2016 and 2017).

Poland are another nation that look to be using the 1st World Cup to help selection as they have 2 boats racing. The first boat is Adam Wicenciak from the 2017 5th placed M4X, and Szymon Posnik making his senior debut after 2 years in the U23 team. The 2nd boat is Dariusz Radosz who was also in the 2017 M4X and Maciej Zawoski who finished 14th in the M2X in 2015.

My picks…the Lithuanians look very strong, but the British will also be well up there. I reckon Lithuania 1 will take the gold, with the British in silver and the 2nd Lithuanian crew in bronze.


20 crews

The Dutch look as though they are using the 1st World Cup to test some different combinations in this event, they have no fewer than four crews entered. In the NED1 crew are Jasper Tissen, Bjoen Van Den Ende, Tone Wieten & Robert Luecken. Bow man Tissen was in the M4- last year that finished 4th with the other three having raced in the M8 in Sarasota that also finished 4th. The NED2 crew also have three that have come out of last year’s M8 (Kaj Hendriks, Mechiel Versluis & Ruben Knab) the 4th member of the crew is Roudewijn Roell who makes his return to international racing for the first time since winning a bronze medal in the M8 in Rio. NED3 are the 3 remaining members of last year’s M4- (Vincent Van der Want, Harold Langen & Govert Viergever) they are joined by Mitchel Steenman who raced in the M2- at the Rio games. The final Dutch boat is a young crew, with the 13th placed M2- from last year, Bo Wullings and Lex Van Den Herik joined by 2016 U23 gold medallist Nelson Ritsema and international debutant Jan Van der Bij from the A.A.S.R. Skøll club.

Great Britain have also entered multiple crews for Belgrade as they seek to find their best combination, but they are limiting their choices to two boats. In the 1st crew are 2016 M2+ World Champion, Callum McBrierty along with Olympic champion Tom Ransley and Harvard graduate Ross Jarvis, who won silver at the U23 World Championships in 2015, and University of California graduate Morgan Hellen. Belgrade sees Hellen finally make his senior international debut having missed the 2017 season through injury. On paper this looks a very exciting combination. McBrierty has said it has taken them some time to “get going, but now we’re going good”. The 2nd GB coxless four is James Johnston, Adam Neill, Jacob Dawson and Tom Ford. Johnston, a Harvard graduate, raced for the GB U23 team winning silver medals in 205 and 2016. Adam Neill made his senior debut in 2017 racing in the M8 last year that finished 7th at the World Championships. Jacob Dawson is another US educated athlete having raced for the very strong University of Washington Varsity crew that won back-to-back IRA titles. He won gold in the M2- at the 1st World Cup last year and then rowed in the M8 at Worlds. The final member of the crew is Newcastle graduate Tom Ford, after starting the 2017 season in the M8 he moved to the M2+ for the World Championships where he finished 4th.

Canada look to be focussing on the M4- again this year. They have yet to find a combination that has really been competitive. They have three of the crew returning from 2017 which finished 8th, Mackenzie Copp, Kai Langerfield and David De Groot. The fourth member of the crew is the highly experienced Conlin McCabe. He won silver back at the London Olympics and was in the M4- that finished 6th in Rio. He spent 2017 in the M2X with Matt Buie finishing a disappointing 16th in Sarasota. Now back in a sweep boat it’ll be interesting to see if Canada can finally get a boat that can challenge for the medals.

One of the surprises from last season was the Danes. More famous for the lightweight fours than their heavyweight ones, they nonetheless produced an excellent boat last year that finished 5th at the World Championships (the best result by a Danish M4- since 2005). They have three of that crew returning, Tobias Kempf, Steffen Jensen and Toger Rasmussen. Replacing Joachim Sutton from the 2017 crew is Lars Garvey, who is making his international debut.

Another crew to watch are the Spanish. Their four won the B Final at last year’s world championships and they have half of that crew back with Jon Carazo Tobar and Ismael Montes now joined by Pau Vela Maggi and Alexander Sigurbjonsson who raced in the M2- last year finishing a strong 7th.

The final crew to mention are the Belarussians, the crew includes two members of the M8 that finished 9th in Rio, Vadzim Lialin and Ihar Pashevich. They are joined by Mikalai Sharlap and Dzmitry Vybarenets who raced in the M8 at the European Championships.

My picks…this has the makings of a Netherlands v Great Britain battle, with the Canadians and Danes looking to get in on the act. I’m going to plump for NED3 for gold with GBR1 in silver with NED2 in bronze.

Edit: at the time of writing GB have just announced that Adam Neill is ill and is unable to race. Callum McBrierty replaces him with Ross Jarvis and Tom Ransley racing as a 2nd GB M2-. Morgan Hellen travels as the spare. Consequently I will change my picks to a NED 1,2 with GB taking the bronze.



8 crews

This looks to be a really competitive event with the silver, bronze and 4th place crews from 2017 all racing and in very similar line-ups. Favourites must be Great Britain. They’ve made two changes to the crew that entered Sarasota (but only 1 change from the crew that won silver!). Tom Barras comes in in place of Jack Beaumont. Barras was one of the finds of the season last year in the M1X where he went from 13th in Lucerne to 3rd at the World Championships. The 2nd change is Graeme Thomas replacing Pete Lambert. These two were in the boat together throughout the Rio Olympiad until the eve of the Games when illness meant he missed out. He spent most of 2017 recovering from hip surgery, but returned in time to race in the M2X with Angus Groom in Sarasota finishing 7th before dramatically jumping back into the quad on the start line and stroking the crew to a spectacular silver medal.  He joins the highly experienced John Collins and Jonny Walton who raced the M2X throughout the Rio Olympiad and then moved to the quad for 2017.

Finishing one place behind the British in Sarasota were Estonia. They’ve made one change to the 2017 crew, with Andrei Jamsa returning to international competition for the first time since the Rio Olympics. This means that the bronze medal winning quad from Rio is now reunited, with Jamsa joining Kaur Kuslap, Allar Raja and Tonu Endrekson (who celebrates his 39th birthday the week after the World Cup). This is one of the most experienced boats in the field and has been largely unchanged since the 2012 Olympics. Estonia have always produced strong quads, but haven’t appeared on the top step of the podium at a World Cup since 2005.

The Dutch were 4th in Sarasota and are the only crew that are completely unchanged with Amos Keijser, Koen Metesmakers, Abe Wiersma and Freek Robbers. Wiersma and Keijser raced together in the U23 M2X in 2016 coming away with a bronze medal. Metesmakers made his international debut at the Poznan World Cup where he raced in the M2X finishing 9th. Robbers started the 2017 with a win in the M8 at the Belgrade World Cup before moving into the quad.

Poland have made two changes to the crew that finished 5th in Sarasota, with Dominik Czaja and Wiktor Chaba returning and being joined by the world championship silver medallist M2X of Mateusz Biksup and Miroslaw Zietarski.

Norway finished 6th at the World Championships last year, and have three of that crew returning; Jan Helvig, Martin Helseth and Erik Solbakken. Replacing Nils Jakob Hoff as the stroke of the crew is the legendary Olaf Tufte. The 42 year old starts his 22nd senior season and is setting his sights on an incredible 7th Olympic Games.

The final crew to mention are the Germans. They have two athletes making their return to international competition following the Rio Olympics. These include Olympic M4X champion Hans Gruhne and Stephan Kreuger from the M2X that finished 8th. They join 2016 U23 BM1X World Champion Philipp Syring and Ruben Steinhardt. Syring raced in the quad last year that finished 8th, and Steinhardt in the M2X that finished 9th.

My picks….this could be really, really good. The form book says that GB should be favourites but they will be pushed really hard by the Estonians, Poles and Germans. I’m going for a GB gold with Germany in silver and Estonia in bronze.



7 crews

All eyes are going to be on the showdown between Germany and Great Britain. GB were stung last season delivering their worst performance at a World Championships since 1998. In response to this head coach Jurgen Grobler has moved last year’s bronze medal winning M4- into the stern of the new M8. Willl Satch, Matt Tarrant, Al Sinclair and Mo Sbihi are joined by Ollie Wynne-Griffith (who subbed into the M4- at the last minute for the World Championships semi-final). Also in the boat is Josh Bugajski, putting the disappointment of being dropped from the Oxford Blue Boat by winning his first senior international vest. The final two members of the crew are former international Triathlete, Tom Jeffrey, and Newcastle University’s James Rudkin. The boat is coxed by Henry Fieldman.

Germany dominated the 2017 season, winning every event they entered. They are unchanged from the World Championships winning crew, with Richard Schmidt, Hannes Ocik, Jakob Schneider, Felix Wimberger, Johannes Weissenfeld, Malte Jakschik, Torben Johannesen, Max Planer and cox Martin Sauer. They will be relishing a chance to go up against the top GB crew – having lost the British at the three World Championships of the Rio Olympiad. GB v Germany could well be the race of the regatta.


The Deutschlandachter (photo:

But, it’s not just about GB and Germany, if these two focus too much on each other they could get caught out by a very strong Dutch crew. One thing the Dutch will have to contend with is doubling up in the M4- event – they face a lot of racing over the three day regatta.

Poland have made one change to the crew that finished 10th last year, with Michal Szpakowski coming in in place of Krystian Aranowski. The Poles are a very inconsistent crew, at their best they can be in the hunt for the medals, the majority of this crew raced in Rio and finished 5th, but then they can also be off the pace at the back of the B final. We’ll have to wait and see which crew turns up in Belgrade.

China will be generating a bit more interest than usual following the surprise announcement that Sir Steve Redgrave has been appointed as High Performance Director. He’ll be in Belgrade, ostensibly working for the BBC, but will be casting a very close eye on his new charges. The young crew includes three members of the boat that finished 12th last year.

Romania have made three changes to the crew that finished 5th last year, bringing in a number of talented young oarsmen, these include Alexandru-Cosmin Macovei and Alexandru Matinca from the 2017 U23 silver medal 8 and junior silver medallist Florin-Sorin Lehaci.

My picks…I think the Germans will just have the edge on the British – they have the advantage of being a long-established crew, but there won’t be much in it (rumours coming out of the GB training base at Caversham are that the British 8 are going very, very fast). Behind these two it should be a comfortable bronze medal for the Dutch.



25 scullers

Another big field, but also one that looks very open. The probable favourite will be Switzerland’s Michael Schmid, European Champion and silver medallist at both the 1st and 3rd World Cups. He ended the season with a 4th place at the World Championships. In Belgrade he races as SUI2 with the SUI1 position being held by 21 year old Matthias Fernandez. Fernandez raced in the BLM4X at last year’s World Championships, coming away with a gold medal and followed that up with a 6th place in the same boat at the senior World Championships.

China have a strong contender for a medal in this event, with Junjie Fan who won a bronze medal in the LM2X at the World Championships although this will be the first time he’s competed internationally in the LM1X event.

Croatia’s Luka Radonic has been competing in this boat class since 2014 and has medals from two World Cups in 2016. 2017 was a difficult season with a best performance of 6th at the 1st World Cup. He ended the season with a 9th place in Sarasota.

GB look to be continuing their tradition of not selecting the winner of their finalTrials into an Olympic class boat! Jamie Copus, who produced a superb race to win trials, has been selected to race the LM1X. Copus, a two-time U23 medallist, raced in the LM2X at the World Championships last season finishing 10th. Speaking to Copus after his selection was announced he stressed how excited he was to test himself in the LM1X, especially going up against the big names in the field like Peter Galambos, Rajko Hrvat and Michael Schmid.

Germany have two scullers entered, Jason Osborne and Jonathan Rommelmann. Osborne won silver in the LM2X at the 2016 European Championships and followed that up with a slightly disappointing 9th finish at the Rio Olympics partnering Mortiz Moos. In 2017 he continued in the LM2X, this time partnering Lucas Schaefer, and finished 6th. Rommelmann won U23 silver in 2016 and raced once in the 2017 season taking 13th at the Poznan World Cup.

Greece also have two boats entered, both from the 2017 bronze medal LM4X, Spyridion Giannaros and Ninos Nikolaidis. Giannaros rowed in the LM4- at the Rio Olympics making the A-Final, and 20 year old Nikolaidis won back-to-back junior world championship golds and followed that with a 6th place at the U23 Worlds in 2017 and bronze at the seniors.

Hungary’s Peter Galambos is another highly experienced competitor in this event, 2018 marks his 12th season in the senior ranks. He’s got three World Championship medals to his credit, and took two medals during the World Cup series last season. He finished 2017 with a disappointing 11th in Sarasota.

One sculler who will have been glad to have seen the back of 2017 is Slovenia’s Rajko Hrvat. The 2015 silver medallist was one of the favourites in 2017 and looked to be cruising through the rounds until he clipped a buoy whilst leading his quarter-final and capsizing. He was allowed to race in the C-Final and ended the year 13th. He’ll be desperate to make amends for the disaster in Sarasota.


Rajko Hrvat of Slovenia. (photo: shutterstock)

My picks…Schmid for the win with Hrvat in silver and Copus in bronze.



25 crews

Overwhelming favourites for this event will be the Irish, Gary and Paul O’Donovan. The Olympic silver medallists have been playing 2nd fiddle  to the outstanding French double for the past few years, however, the double of Azou & Houin have disbanded and their new combination (whatever that may be) are not racing in Belgrade, so it really should be the Skibereen men’s to lose.

O'Donovan LM2X

Ireland’s O’Donovan brothers

But, they will have their work cut-out. Leading the chase are the Norwegians, Are Strandli and Kristoffer Brun – reunited for the first time since finishing just 1/10th of a second behind the Irish in Rio. The pairing have a remarkable record, making the podium every time they raced since the London Olympics, including winning gold in 2013. If anyone can beat the Irish it’ll be the Norwegians.

Another strong contender for the medals are the Belgians, Tim Brys and Niels Van Zandweghe. This pairing were European bronze medallists in 2017 and ended the season with a solid 5th in Sarasota.

GB have chosen two LM2X, with the lead boat being Zak Lee-Green and Sam Mottram. Mottram raced with Copus in the LM2X last year finishing 10th, and Lee-Green took silver in the LM4X. In the 2nd GB boat are James Temple and Gavin Horsburgh. Temple makes his senior debut following a 4th place in the U23 LM4X last year and Horsburgh was in the senior LM4X that won silver last year.

Germany have selected a new LM2X with Konstantin Steinhubel making his first international appearance since the 2016 World Championships (where he finished 6th in the LM1X). He’s partnered by Lars Wichert who raced in the LM4- in Rio and then was the LM1X representative for Germany in 2017 finishing with a season’s best performance of 5th at the World Championships.

Poland are another serious contender for the medals, their crew of Milosz Janowski and Jerzy Kowalski raced together throughout the 2017 season winning bronze at the 1st and 2nd World Cups and then finishing just outside of the medals in Sarasota (in a race where 2nd to 4th were covered by just 8/10th of a second)

Another couple of crews to mention are the two Swiss boats, three of whom have come out of the U23 BLM4X World Championship winning crew. It’s also just worth a quick mention of the Portuguese with their crew which includes Pedro Fraga competing in his 16th senior international season.

The final crew to look out for are the Czechs, Miroslav Vrastil Jr and Jiri Simanek. This duo took silver at this regatta last season and also made the A-Final in Lucerne before just missing out on a similar placing in Sarasota ending up winning the B-Final to finish 7th overall.

My picks….It’s going to be a great tussle between the Irish and Norwegians, but I think the O’Donovan’s will just edge it. Poland to take the bronze.


2 crews

Just the two boats entered, the Czech Republic and Hungary. Both crews are also doubling up in other events. The Czechs have Miroslav Vrastil Jr and Jiri Simanek (racing in the LM2X) joined by Jan Cincibuch and Milan Viktoria. For the Hungarians Tamas Bence and David Forrai are also racing in the LM2X and they are partnered by Balazs Fiala and Peter Csiszar. All except Forrai raced in both the LM4- and LM4X at last year’s World Championships finishing 5th (of 6) in the former and 11th in the latter.

Czech Republic to take the gold.


Next up is the women’s events…