Olympic dreams reborn: what to expect from the women’s four
It has been anything but usual this Olympiad. With the expected wrap up of the Olympic cycle not taking place due to the postponement of the Olympic Games, the race to the Olympics runs on for one more year. World Rowing continues to look back at the last four years and forward to what we can expect from the women’s four in 2021.
Recap of last four years: Since being added onto the Olympic programme following the Rio 2016 Games, the women’s four has become one of rowing’s must-watch events. These results show Australia as the definite favourite heading into the Tokyo Games:
• 2019 World Championships: AUS, NED, DEN, POL, ROU, USA
• 2018 World Championships: USA, AUS, RUS, DEN, POL, CHN
• 2017 World Championships: AUS, POL, RUS, USA, NED, CHN
Must watch: Coming back into the Olympic programme meant that the World Championships in 2017 was a spectacular glimpse of an Olympic-calibre race. It was a nail-biter of a contest as Australia, top time from the heats and hot off a win at the World Rowing Cup III, found themselves in last place in the starting stretch of the year's biggest final. Fifth place at the half-way mark … third place with 500m to go, the Aussies muscled their way into a podium position. With the finish line fast-approaching, a battle raged as Poland, Russia and a late-charging United States vied to overtake a faltering Dutch crew that had led from the start. The Australians surged past them all to clinch the win in 6:33.58 with Poland (6:34.25) and Russia (6:34.67) rounding out the podium just ahead of the Americans (6:35.46). Check out the action from that race here.
Closest medal race: The 2017 World Cup III was the closest podium finish when Russia and Canada took it to the line to decide silver and bronze separated by a razor-thin 0.09 seconds. Watch the race here.
World Best Time: 6:14.36 (NZL). The New Zealand crew of Grace Prendergast, Kayla Pratt, Kerri Gowler and Kelsey Bevan set the current top time at the 2014 World Rowing Championships. That result shattered the previous time of 6:25.47 that had stood since 1991.
Performance of the Olympiad: Australia has won almost every race they entered in the Women’s Four this quadrennial and have consistently been the ones to beat.
Olympic qualifiers to date: AUS, NED, DEN, POL, ROU, USA, GBR, CAN (8 of 10 spots)
The ramification of an ‘extra year’: It is difficult to say what the extra year will mean, but 2020 has brought difficulties for Australia’s training starting with wildfires that forced the temporary relocation of their training site. They then, like all nations, had to deal with the impact of the global pandemic. The extra year, however, could be an ideal chance to regroup and prepare for a 2021 Olympics in a way that the pre-pandemic timeline would not have allowed.
Olympic prediction: While Australia can claim frontrunner status heading into Tokyo 2021 thanks to their consistent performances, the margin of victory has always been close. They have also been beaten on occasion and there’s been solid racing from Denmark, Poland, Romania and China through 2019. The Netherlands must also not be discounted after a strong 2019 season and taking gold at the 2020 European Rowing Championships this October.
Fun fact: The women’s four (a coxed event at the time) was on the original slate of events when women’s rowing made its Olympic debut at the Montreal 1976 Games. East Germany won that first race and, with the exception of a Romanian victory in 1984, claimed gold in every Games from 1976 to 1988. The event changed to a coxless crew for the Barcelona 1992 Games, where Canada took gold. It was then removed from the Olympic programme until its recent reinstatement.