In 2014, New Zealand won World Championship gold. Stevenson was in the boat with a different partner at the time, Fiona Bourke, who this year competed in the single.

The Kiwi’s winning race strategy was to start at the back of the field, building up speed and often waiting until the final stretch to overtake their rivals with overwhelming power.

Eve Macfarlane (b), Zoe Stevenson (s), Ne_ © FISA Igor Meijer

It is not that long ago that New Zealand’s twin sisters Caroline and Georgina Evers-Swindell were the stars on the double’s scene, earning multiple World Championship medals, including three titles, and two Olympic gold medals, the first in Athens and the second in Beijing. The Evers-Swindells also set a World Best Time that held for twelve years. With two consecutive world titles in 2014 and 2015, New Zealand has once again established itself as the leaders in this event.

But in 2012, it was the British duo of Katherine Grainger and Anna Watkins that were crowned Olympic Champions. The British had remained unbeaten in the three years leading up to the Games. After a post-London break of two years, Grainger, Great Britain’s most medalled female rower, returned to the double in 2015, and is now paired up with Victoria Thornley. Together they won bronze at the European Rowing Championships and again at World Rowing Cup II in Varese. Missing out on the A-Final in Lucerne, they made it back into the top six at the World Championships.

Greece impressed the world of rowing with the powerful new combination of Aikaterini Nikolaidou and Sofia Asoumanaki. Asoumanaki, just 18 years old, set two world records on the indoor rowing machine in 2015 in the 17-18 age category. In Rio de Janeiro this year, she won silver at the World Rowing Junior Championships in the women’s single sculls before flying back to Europe to compete in the double at the senior World Rowing Championships. She and Nikolaidou took silver behind New Zealand.

Aikaterini Nikolaidou (b), Sofia Asoumana_ © Balint Czucz

Finishing with bronze at the World Rowing Championships was Germany. Julia Lier and Mareike Adams took silver at World Rowing Cup I, finished sixth at World Rowing Cup II and then fourth at World Rowing Cup III in Lucerne. In Aiguebelette, they were determined to get it right. After leading for the first half of the A-Final, they gradually fell back but successfully fought on to stay in the medals.

Poland and Lithuania have both been regular medallists in this event. Poland became World Champions in 2009 and took Olympic bronze in 2012. Magdalena Fularczyk remained in the boat and is now teamed up with Natalia Madaj. Together they won silver at the World Championships last year. Fularczyk and Madaj won this year’s European Rowing Championships and finished fourth at the in Aiguebelette.

Lithuania’s Donata Vistartaite and Milda Valciukaite were the 2013 World Champions, they finished fourth at the world champs in 2014 and this year finished fifth. Although they did not compete in the World Rowing Cup series this year, they did line up at the European Rowing Championships and took silver.

Eleven Olympic qualification spots were up for grabs at the World Rowing Championships. In total thirteen boats will compete in Rio, with the last two qualification spots attributed at the Final Olympic Qualification Regatta in Lucerne next May.

Among other boats qualified in Aiguebelette are Belarus, including the legendary Ekaterina Karsten who is aiming to compete at her sixth Olympic Games at the age of 44. The Belarussians won bronze at World Rowing Cup III in Lucerne.

The World Best Time holders and 2014 world bronze medallists from Australia, Olympia Aldersey and Sally Kehoe, won silver at the World Rowing Cup in Lucerne this year and, after finishing tenth in Aiguebelette will aim to find renewed form in time for Rio.

The United States’ Ellen Tomek and Meghan O’Leary were the World Cup silver medallists in Varese, and last year they finished sixth in the A-final. Together they claimed the final qualification spot in Aiguebelette.

Boats qualified so far:

1.       NZL

2.       GRE

3.       GER

4.       POL

5.       LTU

6.       GBR

7.       CHN

8.       FRA

9.       BLR

10.   AUS

11.   USA