Who to Watch: 2013 Samsung World Rowing Cup I

20/03/2013 - 10:28:00

The 2013 international rowing season has an earlier than usual start to the year as the first Samsung World Rowing Cup of the season heads to the Southern Hemisphere. For the first time the World Rowing Cup will be in Sydney, Australia. Rowers will get to take advantage of the Sydney International Regatta Centre in Penrith where the 2000 Olympic Games rowing regatta was staged.

Racing begins on 22 March and goes through until 24 March, 2013. Read on about the athletes to look out for as they come out of off-season training. 

Women’s Pair (W2-)

There are some big names amongst the entries in this event. The United States has put together a pair of two of their Olympic Champions from the eight – Meghan Musnicki and Caroline Lind. Also entered is another pair with Taylor Ritzel from the Olympic Champion eight and Sara Hendershot who rowed in the pair at the London Olympics. As these rowers train and trial in pairs, both crews will be quick.

The American competition is bound to give London Olympic Champion in the pair, Helen Glover of Great Britain, something to think about. As Glover’s Olympic partner is taking a year off from rowing, Glover is teamed up with Polly Swann. Swann last competed two years ago on the British team but there is no telling what she will do when paired with the best in the world.

Adding strength to this event is Great Britain’s second crew of Katie Greves and Jessica Eddie. Both of these rowers have the experience of two Olympic cycles behind them and in London they raced together in the women’s eight that competed in the Olympic A-final.

Keep an eye out too for China. The two youthful crews include three members of last year’s winning women’s four from the World Rowing Junior Championships.

Men’s Pair (M2-)

The level of depth in this field is not huge which means the odds are on that London Olympic silver medallists Germain Chardin and Dorian Mortelette of France may have an easy ride. The post-Olympic year, however, is always an interesting time with up-and-coming athletes being revealed. There is also the factor of Olympic athletes taking a break. If Chardin and Mortelette are up to fitness they will certainly be a strong force.

The French have also paired up Julien Despres and Benjamin Lang as a competitive combination. Despres won an Olympic bronze medal in the four at the 2008 Beijing Olympics while Lang finished second last year at the World Rowing Championships in the men’s coxed pair.

Representing Australia, David Watts and Matthew Cochran are bronze medallists from 2012 at world under-23 level in the men’s eight. The duo also competed together in the men’s pair at the 2010 Youth Olympic Games where they won bronze. They have the experience of familiarity but will be up against their country’s number one crew of Bryn Coudraye and James McRae. McRae was part of the London Olympic men’s quadruple sculls that medalled in third while Coudraye raced in London in the men’s eight.

Women’s Double Sculls (W2x)

For the first time in the last three years on the international rowing stage, this event is like a clean slate with brand new combinations racing. To add to the puzzle, or perhaps surprise element, the athletes entered come to the double from a variety of boat classes.

The three-year dominating double of Katherine Grainger and Anna Watkins (GBR) are out of the picture – at least for now – so coaches must be eyeing up the potential for colourful medals in this event.

China’s entries include their best single sculler Xiuyun Zhang teamed up with international newcomer Fei Wang. But they are entered as crew number three with Liang Tian and Yangyang Zhang the number one crew. Tian and Zhang both raced at the London Olympics in the women’s quadruple sculls that finished fifth, while Zhang has an Olympic Champions title in the quad from Beijing.

Great Britain has entered two crews, both with London Olympians from the women’s eight and women’s quadruple sculls. The number two crew includes four-time Olympian and two-time Olympic silver medallist Frances Houghton.

When looking for top medal contenders, however, the United States duo of Megan Kalmoe and Esther Lofgren are a good choice. Kalmoe, a London Olympic medallist from the quad, has regularly spent time racing in the double throughout her rowing career while Lofgren has the power and fight that comes from being a London Olympic Champion in the eight.

Men’s Double Sculls (M2x)

New Zealand rowers have completed their summer season and come to Sydney following recent comprehensive national team trials. Out of these trials Michael Arms and Robert Manson were selected for the men’s double. Barring misfortune they will remain in the double through to the 2013 World Rowing Championships.

Knowing this means that there is little doubt that Arms and Manson are considered world class and currently racing fit. The duo started training late last year after racing together at the London Olympic Games in the men’s quadruple sculls.

Also coming to the double from the London Olympic men’s quad event are Allar Raja and Kaspar Taimsoo. This classy Estonian duo finished fourth in London and also competed at the 2008 Games in the quad. Estonia may have a small elite rowing contingent, but they race strong and they race to win.

Men’s Four (M4-)

Australians see this event as one of their favourites. After the ‘Oarsome Foursome’ won at both the 1992 and 1996 Olympic Games, the nation’s love affair with the four was cemented. At the London Olympics the four finished a close second. For Sydney, two boats have been entered and a clean bill of health has been granted to the boat that includes three of the four London silver medallists – William Lockwood, James Chapman and Joshua Dunkley-Smith
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The other crew is made up of 2012 under-23 representatives who finished second in the men’s eight at the World Rowing Under 23 Championships.

Australia’s nemesis in this event is Great Britain. The British have taken gold at the last four Olympic Games and it is regularly their flagship men’s boat. For Sydney a new crew has been put together made up of athletes that have come through from the national under-23 team over the last couple of years.

Into this mix is New Zealand’s crew that includes one member of their London Olympic four. Jade Uru, in bow, is the most experienced member of this crew with one of his teammates coming from the 2012 under-23 squad and the remaining two having been part of New Zealand’s men’s eight that just missed out on qualifying for the London Olympics.

Lightweight Women’s Double Sculls (LW2x)

Asian crews feature strongly in this event with entries from Vietnam, Hong Kong, Korea and Indonesia as well as China. Of the Asian entries China has the most experience with both athletes having international experience. Miao Wang competed last year in the lightweight women’s single sculls while her partner, Xiujuan Song represented China back in 2004.

This is one of the biggest events in terms of entries and the top contenders may well be New Zealand’s Julia Edward and Lucy Strack. Edward competed in the lightweight double at the London Olympics and at the 2012 Samsung World Rowing Cup in Lucerne she also helped set the new World Best Time in this event with then partner Louise Ayling. Strack missed out on the Olympic boat but still went on to row in the lightweight single at the 2012 World Rowing Championships. She finished sixth.

There is likely to be strong competition for New Zealand from Great Britain. The British have a very competitive lightweight women’s squad and although neither of the duo entered in Sydney (Kathryn Twyman and Imogen Walsh) made the London Olympic boat, they trained like Olympians competing in other events during 2012.

Australia’s Alice McNamara is bringing with her the experience of competing in the lightweight double in three World Championship A-finals during the previous Olympic cycle. This experience will be combined with the freshness of Maia Simmonds, who began competing internationally in 2011.

The Canadian entry is an interesting combination. Both athletes competed at the 2012 World Rowing Championships in the lightweight women’s quadruple sculls, but for different countries. Lindsay Sferrazza finished eighth for Canada while Jaclyn Halko was first for Poland. Now back in Canada, Halko will add a lot to the Canadian boat.

Lightweight Men’s Double Sculls (LM2x)

It will be hard to look past the Portuguese duo of Pedro Fraga and Nuno Mendes. As Portugal’s best rowers, Fraga and Mendes have been together in the double since 2004 and now have two Olympic Games under their belts. Both rowers have committed to continuing through to Rio 2016 and this Sydney regatta will be the beginning of their four-year journey. Neither athlete has been idle since the London Olympics with Fraga putting himself forward as a regular competitor at winter indoor rowing competitions.

The main competition for Portugal may come from Great Britain’s Richard Chambers and Adam Freeman-Pask. Both of these rowers are new to the lightweight double this season but both have very solid credentials. Chambers won Olympic silver in London and two World Championship titles in the lightweight men’s four while Freeman-Pask has procured wins at the World Cup level in the lightweight men’s single and pair.

Keep an eye out too for China. Their two crews entered have experience at the international level.

Lightweight Men’s Four (LM4-)

When there are two London Olympic silver medallists in the boat, odds are that the crew will do the business. That is the case for Great Britain’s entry which includes Olympians Chris Bartley and Peter Chambers. The two remaining members, Chris Boddy and Jonathan Clegg both had success at last year’s European Rowing Championships. This is surely the crew to watch.

Lining up against the British will be a very determined New Zealand boat. Two of the members, James Lassche and Curtis Rapley just missed out on London at the Final Olympic Qualification Regatta last year and now have their sights set on getting to Rio. Lassche and Rapley have been joined by London Olympic bronze medallist from the lightweight men’s double sculls Peter Taylor and the young up-and-coming James Hunter. Hunter, 20, raced on the under-23 team last year and has stepped up to this senior level in a very short space of time.

Watch out too for Australia who have used three members of their 2012 lightweight men’s eight to build this crew.

Women’s Quadruple Sculls (W4x)

Taking three members of the United States Olympic Champion women’s eight and putting them in the women’s quadruple sculls is an interesting strategy. Esther Lofgren, Susan Francia and Eleanor Logan add another oar to their hands to compete in this event. They are joined by 2012 Olympic bronze medallist from the quad Megan Kalmoe to complete a boat that could surprise. All four members are also racing in other events.

China’s two entries have members that are doubling up to race in the women’s double sculls as well. China’s number one crew is made up of members from the London Olympic Chinese quad that finished fifth with one member, Yangyang Zhang an Olympic Champion in this event from the 2008 Beijing Olympics.

Zhang’s crew could give the Americans a run for their money.

The Australians have grabbed three members of their under-23 World Champion quad (Jessica Hall, Madeleine Edmunds and Olympia Aldersey) and added former under-23 team member Sarah Perkins. How well will this crew step up to the senior level? If their racing at last year’s World Rowing Under 23 Championships is anything to go by, Australia will be tough competition.

There is also plenty of potential in the British boat. This crew is made up of national team squad members who have recently been on the edge of breaking into the top boats. Stroking the boat is Olivia Carnegie-Brown who raced at the European Rowing Championships in 2012 and won medals in both the women’s pair and eight.

Men’s Quadruple Sculls (M4x)

Leading up to the New Zealand’s national team trials earlier this month, 2012 Olympic Champion from the men’s double sculls Nathan Cohen stated that he wanted to be in the quad this season. His wishes were granted with the bonus of younger brother Hayden also making the crew. This crew could make waves especially as Hayden and Nathan Flannery come to the senior team having won the 2012 under-23 men’s double.

But the British are sending some big guns. In the boat are three London Olympians including the men’s double of Bill Lucas and Sam Townsend and Charles Cousins who raced in the London quadruple sculls. All of them raced in the Olympic A-final.

There will be stiff competition coming from the Australian’s too. The boat has been built around Christopher Morgan who won bronze at the London Olympics in this event. Morgan is joined by two members of the Olympic eight (Nicholas Purnell and Thomas Swann) and up-and-coming rower Shane Jackson.

Women’s Eight (W8+)

The gold and silver medallists from the London Olympics – the United States and Canada – will be lining up in Sydney. These two countries have been battling it out at the head of the field for the last couple of years with the USA consistently holding the edge.

For the Sydney regatta, the United States has retained three members of their Olympic Champion crew with the remainder made up of those hovering on the edge of breaking into the eight. The Canadian crew will line up with four members the same as in London, including the unstoppable coxswain Lesley Thompson-Willie.

There is little doubt that these two North American crews will be battling it out at the front of the field.

But, in this very well-represented field, there may be some surprises. Great Britain finished fifth at the London Olympics in the eight and they have retained three of those athletes with the added boost of Olympic Champion from the pair, Helen Glover. Australia has also retained a bunch (five to be exact) from their London Olympic crew.

Men’s Single Sculls (M1x)

It will be a chance for some new faces to be on the medals podium in this event as all of the top men’s single scullers are not in attendance. Such is the post-Olympic year that many athletes are taking an extended break before getting back into intense full-time training.

This could be a chance for Bulgaria’s Georgi Bozhilov to step up. Bozhilov was third at last year’s European Rowing Championships and showed very good boat speed. It could also be a chance for German lightweight rower Jost Schoemann-Finck to show the bigger guys how to race. Schoemann-Finck was unlucky not to make his country’s Olympic team in 2012, so he decided to have an extended training stint in Sydney. This means that Germany’s sole representative at this regatta is very well acclimatised to local conditions.

Watch out too for Great Britain (Jonathan Walton) and Australia (Kieran Kobelke). They have both been on their respective national teams and must have impressed selectors.

Women’s Single Sculls (W1x)

The eyes of Australia will be on this race as their hero from the London Olympic Games, Kim Crow is racing. Crow was the only rower in London to race in two events – not only that, she medalled twice – bronze in the women’s single sculls and silver in the women’s double sculls.

Crow was one of the first on the Australian team to announce her intentions of aiming for Rio and also one of the first to get back into training following the 2012 Games. On home waters in front of a home crowd this will be a chance for Crow to make an impression.

The very experienced Xiuyun Zhang of China may be Crow’s toughest competition. Zhang is a three-time Olympian with her biggest success coming at the 1996 Atlanta Olympics when she took silver in the women’s double sculls. In London, she was sixth in the women’s single. Zhang will also be competing in Sydney in the women’s double.

Keep an eye out for two Olympic Champions normally seen in an eight – Americans Susan Francia and Eleanor Logan who will also be doubling up in the women’s quad.

Men’s Eight (M8+)

It will be extremely hard to look past the big names in the men’s eight from Great Britain. Three of the Olympic Champion men’s four have crowded into the front half of the boat with Andrew Triggs Hodge in stroke seat. Three members of the bronze medal Olympic eight, including coxswain Phelan Hill, are in there as well.

The only crew that may have a chance of getting close to the British are the United States. In London the US were fourth and three of those crew members are back for Sydney. There are also two members of the 2011 World Champion under-23 eight including stroke-man Michael Gennaro.

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