The Year that was….. women’s double sculls
This year marked an historic year in the women’s double sculls. Magdalena Fularczyk-Kozlowska and Natalia Madaj won Poland’s first ever Olympic gold in rowing for women. Great Britain’s Katherine Grainger won her fifth Olympic medal and became the most medalled, living British woman Olympian. Lithuania’s Donata Vistartaite and Milda Valciukaite won the first women's Olympic rowing medal for their nation since 2000.
The year also reflected the ever rising competitive level of racing in the women’s double with medals spread across 11 countries throughout the 2016 World Rowing season. Then at the Rio Olympics none of the 2015 World Championship medallists made it onto the podium.
Comeback of the Year: Katherine Grainger was one of the most closely watched comebacks of the year after Grainger took time off after winning gold at the London Olympics in this boat class. Returning to the sport in 2015 gave Grainger a relatively short time to get back into the boat and it was not without difficulty as Grainger and new partner, Victoria Thornley had a rough ride to the Rio start line. They finished sixth at the 2015 World Rowing Championships and then a fourth-place finish at the 2016 European Championships made British selectors reconsider the crew. In the end winning Olympic silver was a triumph over their critics.
Surprise: The 2015 World Champions, New Zealand’s Eve McFarlane and Zoe Stevenson missing the A-final at Rio and finishing 12th.
“There are many days nobody would have thought we would come away with anything. To be honest this partnership has kept me going. Everyone on the team has made it worthwhile. You do it for yourself, for each other, for the country. That is the most incredible job we get to do.” - Katherine Grainger (GBR)
2016 Season in review
If last year’s World Championship results as well as the 2016 World Rowing Cup series were anything to go by, they only showed that anything can happen in an Olympic year. The top three from 2015 all finished outside the medals with instead, places fourth to sixth taking all of the medals in Rio.
Poland’s 2012 Olympic bronze medallist Fularczyk-Kozlowska had now teamed up with Madaj and they showed great form from early in the season winning two World Rowing Cup gold medals. The duo went on to write history by winning Poland’s third Olympic medal and the first gold in women’s rowing.
The Poles chose not to race at World Rowing Cup II and in their absence Vistartaite and Valciukaite, the 2013 World Champions, took gold. Silver went to last year’s World silver medallists from Greece Aikaterini Nikolaidou and 19-year-old Sofia Asoumanaki. They ended the season with a fourth at the Olympic Games. World Best Time holders, Australia won silver at World Rowing Cup II, but they did not make the final in Rio.
Other World Cup medallists this season included New Zealand, France and the Netherlands. The latter missed out on qualifying for the Games, while New Zealand’s Stevenson and MacFarlane had a rough season with only one World Cup silver medal to their name and then finishing 12 overall at the Olympics.
This year’s European Rowing Championships medallists were all found in the Rio’s Olympic B-final with reigning European Champions from Belarus Yuliya Bichyk and Tatsiana Kukhta finishing second. Germany’s 2015 World Championships bronze and 2016 European silver medallist Mareike Adams won the B-final at the Olympics with partner Marie-Catherine Arnold. European Champs bronze medallists, Czech Republic's Kristyna Fleissnerova and Lenka Antosova, who is a well-known name from her junior days, were the winners of the Olympic qualification regatta in Lucerne and finished the Olympic season in tenth position.