They’re loud, they’re fast and they are one of the climaxes of any regatta. The 2019 season saw the intensity heat up as the small number of Olympic qualification spots became the focus. The world’s top eights were under pressure. The question was, would any of them crack?

World Rowing continues its series of looking back on the 2019 rowing season with all of its drama and excitement. We also look towards the 2020 Olympic season and make some bold predictions.

Men’s Eight

Best performance: There is no doubt about it, the German men’s eight lived up to expectations. When they cross the finish line, their only definition of success is to be first. In 2019, they managed to fulfill that goal when it most mattered, at the World Rowing Championships.   

Fastest Time: At the World Rowing Championships, the Germans finished in 5:19.41 made them just a second away from beating their own World Best Time set back in 2017. That is 99.8 per cent of the best time, making it the Olympic boat class that came closest to beating the record this year.

Remember that oh-so-close finish: The World Rowing Championships when the Germans beat the Dutch by just 0.55 seconds and the British beat the Australians for the bronze medal by just 0.53 seconds.

The winning streak: The Germans won 11 straight World Rowing Cup, European Rowing Championship and World Rowing Championship final races until the second World Rowing Cup this year when they were beaten by the British. Since the 2016 Olympics, their only other second place finishes were in the heat and the repechage of the 2018 World Rowing Championships, where they still managed to pull off the win.

Must watch:  The final of the World Championships really is the one to watch. It is spectacular racing with an incredibly tight finish.

Quote of the year: “It’s great to be on the podium! It’s been a long time since the eight has been. The race was good but we just couldn’t hold onto Germany and Great Britain. I think they really showed their class in that middle part of the race.” - Hamish Bond, New Zealand, World Rowing Cup III, Rotterdam, Netherlands, Bronze

The Olympic qualifiers: Germany, Netherlands, Great Britain, Australia, United States.

The Olympic prediction: Germany. But they will have to be careful. Back in 2016, the British timed their four-year cycle perfectly to peak at the Olympic Games. Could Germany be upset from their three-year winning streak? Watch out too for the Dutch who have been building and definitely have the power to pull off an Olympic medal. A challenge is being mounted in the United States, but they have been coy about it and we might not see their true colours until Tokyo.

Sunday Podiums at the 2019 World Rowing Cup III in Rotterdam, Netherlands © FISA Igor Meijer


Women’s Eight

Best performance: New Zealand. After finishing fourth at the second World Rowing Cup, the Kiwis went back to work. They came out strong at the third World Rowing Cup and managed to grab the gold medal. Their win at the third World Rowing Cup carried them into the World Championships where they not only won, but became the first New Zealand women’s eight to win the World Championships.

Remember that oh-so-close finish: Romania and Great Britain at the European Rowing Championships with just 0.06 seconds determining the gold medal win for Romania.

Biggest Surprise: Romania got pushed out of Tokyo Olympic qualification by the British. This will come as a big blow to the European Champions who were hoping that this Olympic cycle would bring back their success of the past. After winning the 2017 World Rowing Championships, the Romanians have struggled to find consistent speed. They will need to go through the Final Olympic Qualification Regatta next year.

Must watch:  Have a look at the second World Rowing Cup and the beautiful rowing from the Australian crew:

The best comeback:  Canada. The Canadians had an up-and-down season. After finishing sixth at the second World Rowing Cup, they fought their way back to a third-place finish at the third World Rowing Cup. At the World Championships, they finished fourth in their heat, then turned it around by finishing first in the repechage to make it to the final. While they did not manage to medal, their fourth-place finish earns them a spot at next year’s Olympics.

The Olympic qualifiers: New Zealand, Australia, United States, Canada, Great Britain.

The Olympic prediction: It may be a toss-up between New Zealand and Australia. Both are relatively young crews and have come bursting onto the scene over the last two years. Historically, the United States, Canada and Romania have been dominant in this category. But with the loss of American domination from 2017, the top of the podium has been up for grabs. The Oceanic crews have taken full advantage and are likely to profit from it come Tokyo.