The Germans have mounted the podium at every World Championships and Olympic Games in the history of this event: 24 out of 24 World Championships, winning a total of 16 gold (five as East Germany), four silver and four bronze medals; Seven out of seven Olympic Games, winning five gold (one as East Germany), one silver and one bronze.

No other nation can even come close to this accomplishment and a near perfect season in 2015 for the German crew of Lisa Schmidla, Marie-Catherine Arnold, Carina Baer and Annekatrin Thiele. Thiele and Baer were part of the German crew that took silver at the London 2012 Olympic Games and in 2014 with Schmidla and Julia Lier, they won the World Rowing Championships setting a World Best Time of 6:06.84.

In 2015, however, the United States upset the German stronghold.  The crew of Adrienne Martelli, Amanda Elmore, Tracy Eisser and Grace Latz captured bronze in their first appearance of the year at the second stage of the World Rowing Cup in Varese, Italy [Watch here!]. Then a line-up change saw Olivia Coffey come into stroke and Olympic bronze medallist Megan Kalmoe into three-seat. This seemed to give the Americans the super-charge they needed to win at the 2015 World Rowing Championships in Aiguebelette, France. The Germans surged to a signature early lead, but the American’s were unstoppable and by half way had moved into first, holding onto that position to deliver the German’s only defeat of 2015. It also was the first time the US has ever scored a World Championship title in this boat class [Watch here!].

Annekatrin Thiele (b), Carina Baer, Marie_ © Balint Czucz

Meanwhile, another battle for a foothold on the podium played out in 2015 between Poland and the Netherlands. Both nations have proved to be very much in medal contention.

The Polish flexed their muscles early in the season by taking a fast start at the first stage of the World Rowing Cup in Bled, Slovenia. But they gave way to a resurgent Germany by the halfway point. At the 1000m mark, the Polish crew of Monika Ciaciuh, Maria Springwald, Joanna Leszczynska and Agnieszka Kobus were in second place and defended their silver position against an unsuccessful charge from the Dutch in the final 500m stretch.

The 2015 European Rowing Championships saw the Dutch crew of Carline Bouw, Inge Janssen, Chantal Achterberg and Nicole Beukers again showed a big sprint in the final quarter of the race. This time it worked and they jumped from fourth into silver position leaving Poland and Great Britain unexpectedly in a fight for bronze. The Polish, who led the first half of the race gave way first to the Germans in the third 500m and then to the crew from the Netherlands, settling for bronze [Watch here!].

Despite those early podium performances, Poland ended the third stage of the World Rowing Cup in Lucerne, Switzerland in 5th place and concluded the 2015 season in 4th at the World Rowing Championships, just shy of bronze.

Australia’s Madeleine Edmunds, Kerry Hore, Jennifer Cleary and Jessica Hall  are another crew to watch out for in 2016. They finished fifth at World Rowing Cup II, then took a bronze at World Cup III, The Australians then entered the World Rowing Championships with high hopes for a medal. Sitting just ahead of the Netherlands, within striking distance of bronze position for the middle 1000m of the race, the Aussies fell victim to the Dutch finishing sprint and finished in 5th, just 0.02 seconds behind Poland.

The United States, Germany, the Netherlands, Poland and Australia all qualified for the Rio Olympics through the 2015 World Rowing Championships. Two spots remain to be decided at the Final Olympic Qualification Regatta this May in Lucerne, Switzerland. New Zealand finished sixth at the 2015 World Rowing Championships and will be training hard towards that second chance, but they’ll face some stiff competition from China, who won silver at the 2014 World Rowing Championships, and were seventh overall in Aiguebelette.

Boats qualified so far for Rio:

1. United States
2. Germany
3. The Netherlands
4. Poland
5. Australia