The men’s and women’s pair starts this series as one of the most watched boat classes. The athletes have kept us on the edge of our seats for the last few seasons and 2019 was no different.

Men’s pair

Best performance: The Sinkovic brothers, Valent and Martin, have earned this title again. They persevered through another season with injury and illness, but timed their best performances at the European and World Championships, claiming the titles yet again.

Remember that oh-so-close finish: The semifinals at the World Rowing Championships. In the second semifinal, New Zealand, Australia, France and Romania finished within one second of each other. France’s Onfroy twins finished third with a 0.06 margin ahead of Romania. This knocked the European silver medallists, Romania’s Cozmiuc and Tudosa out of the final.

Biggest Surprise: Serbia’s win at the first World Rowing Cup. Martin Mackovic and Milos Vasic of Serbia started the season with a bang with this win – their only medal this season.

Must watch: The B-final of the men’s pair at the World Rowing Championships. Six boats raced for five 2020 Olympic Games qualifying spots and the fight was intense. The crew that missed out was a shock, here. 

The best comeback:  After a season full of boat line up changes in the Australian squad, hats off to the five rowers who earned two gold and one bronze medal between them. Alexander Hill and Joshua Booth took gold at the second World Rowing Cup, before Hill did it again together with Spencer Turrin at the third World Rowing Cup. Fast forward to the World Rowing Championships when yet another combination of Sam Hardy and Joshua Hicks pulled home bronze at the World Championships.

The Olympic qualifiers: CRO, NZL, AUS, ITA, ESP, FRA, SRB, CAN, RSA, ROU, BLR (11 of 13 spots filled)

Racing gets underway at the 2019 World Rowing Cup III in Rotterdam © FISA Igor Meijer


The Olympic prediction: It would be hard to look past the Sinkovic brothers at the head of the field. The Olympic Champions from the double committed themselves to racing the pair following the Rio Olympics and, barring injury, when they set a goal, they follow through. Australia and New Zealand won’t make it easy for the Croatian pair. But the question is what line up will Australia put together. Italy also is a known factor. 

Women’s pair

Best performance: With many outstanding performances in the women’s pair, this one is a hard call. New Zealand, however, tips the scale with their gold medal win at the World Rowing Championships. Grace Prendergast and Kerri Gowler have been consistent medal-winners this Olympic cycle and they managed to prove they had it when it counted most: The World Championships.

Biggest Surprise: The new Australian combination of Annabelle McIntyre and Jessica Morrison. The duo has only been rowing internationally for an average of 3.5 years between them and they only took to the pair together in 2019. Not only did they win silver at the World Championships, they also helped the women’s eight to its silver medal finish.

That oh-so-close finish: The B-final at the World Championships, when qualification spots were up for grabs, Romania finished first with the remaining crews all overlapping on the line. Chile missed qualifying by just 0.13 of a second.

Must watch: The A-final at the World Championships – rowing at its best here

Notable Outcome: Hats off to the Canadian pair of Hilary Janssens and Caleigh Filmer. The young Canadians blasted onto the scene last year, taking the 2018 World Championship title. But they had to overcome injury and illness in 2019. They came back fighting at the World Championships and finished with an impressive bronze medal.

The Olympic qualifiers: NZL, AUS, CAN, USA, ESP, ITA, ROU, IRL, CHN, GBR, GRE (11 of 13 spots)

The Olympic predictions: New Zealand may be the World Champions but there is little doubt that Canada, Australia and the United States will be doing all that they can to be in the gold medal spot. These nations are consistently strong in the pair. Could it be Spain’s turn to shine? Spain has never won an Olympic medal in the women’s pair and the duo of Aina Cid and Virginia Diaz Rivas could be the ones to do it.