What could be better than four rowers in a boat? It’s just the right number to go fast, but not too big that you sometimes wonder if the bow-person is still there. A four feels great when it’s balanced and gliding through the water and for the first time at the Tokyo Olympic Games, the women’s four will be raced. This addition to the Olympic programme has seen the intensity of competition step up to a new level for the women of the four.

Women’s four

Best performance:  It’s a toss-up between the Dutch and the Australians. The Aussies came late to the 2019 scene. They finished in third at the second World Rowing Cup, then climbed their way through the ranks to win at the World Rowing Championships. The Dutch started the season with a bang, winning at the first World Rowing Cup. They then became European Champions, but were not able to get the upper-hand on the Australians in the final of the World Championships.

Saturday Podiums at the 2019 World Rowing Championships in Linz Ottensheim © FISA Igor Meijer

 

Biggest Surprise:  The Chinese not qualifying for the Olympics. China finished in the medals at the first two World Rowing Cups, but had a disappointing semifinal at the World Rowing Championships to land a place in the B-final. The third-place finish in the B-final just pushed them outside a qualification spot for Tokyo. 

That oh-so-close finish: At the second World Rowing Cup, the Australians had a mad dash to the finish line, crawling all of the way from sixth back to third. The Americans tried to go with them, but it wasn’t enough. The Aussies got the Americans by just 0.43 of a second.

Fastest time: 6.22.78. The Dutch in the semifinal of the World Championships. That is 97.8 per cent of the World Best Time.

Must watch: The final of the European Rowing Championships in Lucerne. It is a feast of beautiful rowing and, as always, a sprint to the finish. Here. 

The Olympic qualifiers: AUS, NED, DEN, POL, ROU, USA, GBR, CAN (8 of 10 spots)

The Olympic predictions: Australia is definitely the crew to beat going into the Olympic year. They’ve had consistently good performances, which some of the other crews have struggled to do. But the Netherlands and Denmark are certainly going to put up a big fight. The question mark will be the United States and Romania. Both have had solid performances, but have been inconsistent over the last few seasons.

Men’s four

This has been a boat of classic rivalry and as it developed in this Olympic cycle, it did not disappoint.

Best performance: Poland. The Polish four got the early jump on the season, winning at the first World Cup. But first-World-Cup wins are not always indicative of late-season speed. The Polish, though, managed to pull it off. They not only finished second at the European Rowing Championships, but they reached top performance when it really counted. Marcin Brzezinski, Mikolaj Burda, Mateusz Wilangowski and Michal Szpakowski became World Champions. 

Biggest Surprise: Australia came into the season as reigning World Champions but ended 2019 in sixth at the World Rowing Championships. This came after dominating the World Cup series, finishing on top of the podium at both the second and third World Rowing Cups. They faced line-up changes throughout the season and the line-up chosen for the World Rowing Championships did not live up to expectations.

Must watch:  The B-final of the World Championships determined the final two places for Tokyo 2020 Olympic qualification. It was quite a surprise who managed to snag the final spots. Here. 

Fastest time: 5:47.70. Romania in the semifinal of the World Rowing Championships. This is 97.1 per cent of the World Best Time.

Quote of the year: “We simply wanted to win and we weren’t really expecting it. Throughout the race we were sticking to our race plan and it worked. We made a great comeback.” - Michal Szpakowski, Poland, Gold, World Rowing Championships

The Olympic qualifiers: POL, ROU, GBR, ITA, USA, AUS, NED, SUI (8 of 10 spots)

The Olympic prediction: While Poland and Romania had stellar performances in 2019, the question is, will they be able to maintain their momentum during the Olympic year? Australia and Great Britain have an extensive history in the men’s four and must be considered.  All four of these countries are likely to find themselves in the final, with an eye on Italy’s comeback as well.