Slovenia’s biggest sporting event for 2011 and rowing’s most important regatta of the year, the World Rowing Championships is just around the corner. Racing begins on 28 August and the best rowers from throughout the world are currently in the throes of their final preparation phase.

WRCH Bled promo photo 2

Bled, Slovenia last hosted the World Rowing Championships in 1989. At that time Bled was part of Yugoslavia and a record entry of 38 nations competed at the championships. 20,000 spectators came to watch the finals and Lake Bled was declared a gem of nature perfectly suited to the rower’s needs. The event was historic for FISA as it was the last closing ceremony to be performed by FISA’s former president of 31 years, Thomas Keller.

In 1989 the Abbagnale brothers from Italy ruled the men’s coxed pair. Steve Redgrave (Great Britain) already had two Olympic golds, but in Bled, with partner Simon Berrisford, Redgrave had his monopoly on the men’s pair broken by Thomas Jung and Uwe Kellner (East Germany).  East Germany’s Thomas Lange again won the men’s single sculls with Vaclav Chalupa of Czechoslovakia coming in second. One of the oldest competitors at the event was 41-year-old Alf Hansen of Norway. Hansen finished sixth in the men’s quadruple sculls.

The women’s open events were dominated by East Germany with Romania the only other country capable of taking gold. Among the lightweight women, Kris Karlson of the United States took two gold medals, one in the lightweight women’s single scull and one in the lightweight double, with partner CB Sands. A new star was born in the lightweight men’s single when Frans Goebel of the Netherlands won.

A lot has changed in the 22 years since. This year teams from at least 67 countries are expected to compete, Bled is now part of Slovenia, the president of FISA is Denis Oswald and the event will double as the main Olympic Qualification Regatta. There will also be adaptive rowers racing over 1000m of the 2000m course.

The men’s coxed pair is no longer an Olympic event but is still raced at the World Championships, while the men’s pair is now monopolised by a New Zealand duo; Eric Murray and Hamish Bond. The men’s single will see Germany and the Czech Republic compete (Marcel Hacker and Ondrej Synek respectively), but it is likely that the Czech (who is the reigning World Champion) will have the upper hand over Germany this time.

The women’s events are no longer dominated by Germany and Romania. Great Britain has gone from barely making it into a final to being medal certainties in the women’s double sculls, the quadruple sculls and the pair. The United States now holds on firmly to the top spot in the women’s eight whereas in 1989 the Americans finished last.

There will be plenty of activities going on around the rowing event. At the Deva Puri Gallery in Bled, an exhibition of Slovenian impressionists will be showing. Some of art works will be on display for the first time ever. For the later days of the regatta there will be music performances in the afternoon and evening.

All entries for the regatta must be submitted by 15 August and crews will start arriving in Bled in that week.