Who to Watch in Munich
With Munich just hours away, here is your Who to Watch Guide for the first 2011 Samsung Rowing World Cup this season. World Rowing tells you which crews are gunning for gold, where the mighty battles lie, and the crews you should never underestimate.
Women’s Pair (W2-)
Never underestimate the benefit of home turf: Kerstin Hartmann and Marlene Sinnig of Germany will be hoping to make full use of this advantage. They were sixth at the 2010 World Rowing Championships and will be hoping to step up this year. Camelia Lupascu and Nicoleta Albu (Romania) finished a disappointing seventh last year in this boat class that has seen many Romanian combinations dominate. This year, they come into the event as the number two boat from their country, so a stiff challenge may confront them in the form of fellow Romanian rowers Roxana Cogianu and Ionelia Zaharia.
Of the boats entered, the highest pollers have to be Helen Glover and Heather Stanning of Great Britain. Glover and Stanning came through their internal British selection process with flying colours and with a 2010 World Championship silver medal already in their possession.
Keep an eye out also for the United States. They are regularly strong in the pair and have mixed up their former World Champions, Susan Francia and Erin Cafaro, into competing boats.
Men’s Pair (M2-)
Last year this event turned into a two-boat head-to-head race between New Zealand and Great Britain. The Kiwis and the Brits managed to outclass the rest of their competitors with the New Zealanders holding the upper hand. But at Munich, New Zealand’s Eric Murray and Hamish Bond are absent, leaving the way clear for Andrew Triggs Hodge and Peter Reed. Hodge and Reed remain the top two sweep rowers in Great Britain and their coach, Juergen Grobler, has kept them in the pair with expectations of winning this season.
After Greece’s Tziallas and Christou finished third at the 2010 World Rowing Championships, they highlighted the growing strength of Greek rowing. Christou, however, is now paired up with Nikolaos Gkountoulas leaving a bit more to guesswork. They could be the most likely ones to challenge the Hodge-Reed duo.
Women’s Double Sculls (W2x)
Finishing 2010 unbeaten and earning the World Rowing Female Crew of the Year is quite a pedigree to take into this season. This pedigree is owned by Katherine Grainger and Anna Watkins of Great Britain, but Watkins is fighting an injury and will be replaced by Melanie Wilson at Munich.
This could leave the door wide open for legitimate challenges from the likes of the very experienced Yuliya Bichyk of Belarus who has teamed up at Munich with Tatsiana Kukhta to go after the medals. Have a look too at the United States, Romania and China. When they get it right, their crews can pull off some notable results, with China boating former World Champion in the lightweight double, Shimin Yan.
Men’s Double Sculls (M2x)
There is no doubt that Great Britain’s Marcus Bateman and Matthew Wells were disappointed to finish with silver at the 2010 World Rowing Championships last year. In the absence of the 2010 World Champions, New Zealand, Bateman and Wells will definitely have their sights set firmly on gold.
Italy has entered three boats to utilise this regatta as a form of seat racing. Perhaps their most experienced duo is Luca Agamennoni and Rossano Galtarossa. Estonia has held Allar Raja and Kaspar Taimsoo together for another year. Although last season was not the best for Raja and Taimsoo, the duo has medals from the 2009 World Rowing Championships and their talent is recognised.
Also with prior success, 2009 World Champions Erik Knittel and Stephan Krueger of Germany are together again. They will be chased hard by Mathias Rocher and Hans Gruhne who make up Germany’s number two boat in this event. Watch out too for Switzerland. Andre Vonarburg and Florian Stofer appear to be in it together for the long haul despite mixed results in the past.
Slovenia’s top rower Iztok Cop paired up with 24-year-old Gasper Fistravec. Back on the international scene after a break, Cop must be eager to race on home turf at the 2011 World Rowing Championships.
Men’s Four (M4-)
Winter training results will be revealed at Munich with current World Champions, France (Macquet, Chardin,Despres and Mortelette) back in the same line-up and hoping to remain at the top. But Great Britain dearly want to change their 2010 fourth place result and they will be pushing hard to get into the medals,especially with the return of 2008 Olympic Champion, Tom James.
Greece, who were the world silver medallists in 2010, are back with one change to the boat. Georgios Tziallas has come into three seat. Greece knows how to sprint and other crews will need to hold on in the last quarter of the race if they want to keep the Greeks behind.
Keep an eye out too for Germany. They are trying to rebuild a medal-winning four, and coach Hartmut Buschbacher will be hoping that he has nailed the right combination.
Lightweight Women’s Double Sculls (LW2x)
This event is anyone’s guess. A whole new list of combinations will be racing at Munich as coaches test out different crews in their lead up to the all-important World Rowing Championships in August. But keeping with the same line-up is Hester Goodsell and Sophie Hosking of Great Britain. Goodsell and Hosking finished outside of the medals at last year’s World Rowing Championships, but their time in the boat as a partnership must play in their favour at Munich.
A strong challenge is likely to come from under-23 champions Christina Giazitzidou and Triantafyllia Kalampoka of Greece.
In the category of new combinations, check out two top single scullers, Michaela Taupe-Traer and Sara Karlsson. The duo are rowing for Austria. The United States often surprise with new crews that go fast early in the season, so Kristin Hedstrom and Julie Nichols are worth noting. Belgium, China, Germany and Poland could also be medal contenders.
Lightweight Men’s Double Sculls (LM2x)
This event is huge. Thirty-five entries are lining up to make it the biggest event at Munich, and amongst them are the world gold and silver medallists from 2010. World and Olympic Champions Zac Purchase and Mark Hunter of Great Britain will be the crew to beat with Italy’s Lorenzo Bertini and Elia Luini aiming to remain in the medals. This leaves a difficult fight for a lesser medal.
All eyes will be on the return to the double of Denmark’s Mads Rasmussen and Rasmus Quist. The duo won bronze at the Olympic Games in Beijing but only now have they returned to this event.
Also pushing to get into the better side of the final will be two crews that have remained the same from last year. Both Portugal (Fraga and Mendes) and Germany (Hartig and Lichtschlag) had international success in 2010 and they will be hoping to expand on this.
Lightweight Men’s Four (LM4-)
Is that Eskild Ebbesen sitting in the stroke seat of the Danish boat? If anyone can be called the king of the lightweight four then it is Ebbesen. He is a three-time Olympic Champion in this event, including Bejing.But in the last year the Danish boat has been suffering. Perhaps this has brought Ebbesen, who last raced at the 2008 Olympics, back into the fold. Does Ebbesen, who is just shy of 39 years old, have what it takes to bring the Danes back to the top of the lightweight four pile?
The Danes will be up against current World Champions Great Britain who have maintained their 2010 lineup.They will also face last year’s world bronze medallists, China.
Do not overlook Germany and Poland. The Germans finished fourth last year and with Lars Wichert now in the boat, the crew will be looking to take the lead and hold on to it. Poland missed last year’s World Rowing Championships but they did finish second at the European Rowing Championships and they are now back to put the heat on the leading crews.
Women’s Quadruple Sculls (W4x)
Great Britain has retained the crew that took World Champion gold in 2010. The crew includes Olympic medallists Debbie Flood and Frances Houghton who both took a break after Beijing. Flood and Houghton now have a full winter’s training behind them so this crew is likely to be even faster than last year.
But Germany, who were third at the worlds in 2010, will be doing all they can to overturn any kind of British domination. The Germans have entered two boats, spreading their bronze medallists evenly between the two.
Ukraine is also aiming solely for one position – first. The 2010 European Champions could not hide their disappointment in finishing second in Karapiro and this must surely have been motivation for them as they trained through the long winter months.
Keep an eye out too for Poland. They have put 2009 World Champion from the women’s double, Julia Michalska, in the middle of the boat. This could indicate a new priority boat for Poland.
Men’s Quadruple Sculls (M4x)
Let the showdown continue. Olympic and former World Champions Poland meet current World Champions Croatia again at Munich. The two crews last raced at the 2010 European Rowing Championships with Poland (Wasielewski, Kolbowicz, Jelinski and Korol) outwitting Croatia (Sain, Martin and the Sinkovic brothers). In the absence of Poland, Croatia won at the World Rowing Championships in Karapiro and the young crew have no qualms in showing up against their more experienced Polish counterparts. Munich will indicate who has had a more fruitful winter training period.
Any other crew that manages to get in on the Polish – Croatia battle will consider themselves lucky. The Italians, Germans and Great Britain have the best chance. Italy was second behind Croatia in 2010 and they have retained three of their silver medal crew. Germany is doing a bit of mixing and matching while Great Britain’s quad is nearly identical to their 2010 fifth-place finishers: Tom Solesbury has come in for Charles Cousins.
Women’s Eight (W8+)
In the absence of the United States and Canada, this race looks like it could be a battle between the old guard of the women’s eights world, Romania and the newly revamped and revved up programme of the British. Romania finished third in 2010 with Great Britain two seconds back in fourth. The British have made two changes for their 2011 crew while Romania has altered three athletes in their boat.
Also returning with a substantial number of their 2010 crew are the Dutch. In eights rowing the Netherlands have always been near the front of the pack and their fifth-place finish in 2010 was less than their usual results. In 2011 Annemiek de Haan returns to the eight after a short spell in the quad. The experience behind de Haan indicates that the Netherlands will be expecting to make an impression in this event.
Women’s Single Sculls (W1x)
After Sweden’s Frida Svensson knocked perennial world number one Ekaterina Karsten of Belarus off her perch at last year’s World Rowing Championships, the status quo of singles domination by Karsten looks to have changed.
Earlier this month Mirka Knapkova of the Czech Republic raced Svensson and Karsten at the Philadelphia Challenge Cup in the United States and won convincingly. Can Knapkova do it again? Is Karsten biding her time until the big one? Has Svensson’s winter training been effective? This World Rowing Cup will no doubt answer some big questions.
Keep an eye out too for Annekatrin Thiele of Germany. She has spent recent years in team boats but this season she has been at the top of German trials in the single. On her home turf, Thiele will be out to impress.
Men’s Eight (M8+)
The Germans come to Munich on the back of a two-year winning streak. Their 2010 World Champion win gave them back-to-back titles and, no doubt, huge confidence. Coach Hartmut Buschbacher has made two changes to the crew and moved Kristof Wilke into stroke seat. On their home waters, Germany will be hard to beat.
But the British are gaining momentum as their rowing squad is building on success in their quest to be the number one rowing nation at next year’s Olympic Games in London. Germany and Great Britain are likely to form the main clash of the giants in this event.
The Dutch, who finished fourth at the World Rowing Championships last year, have a whole bunch of new crew members. Still, rowing stalwart, Diederik Simon, 41, remains in stroke seat. Watch out too for France and Poland who often sit on the edge of the medals.
Men’s Single Sculls (M1x)
Ondrej Synek of the Czech Republic came through last season as the undisputed champion, remaining unbeaten in 2010. Can he be so convincing this year as these men make the push towards the Olympics? In an event where there is very little between the top boats, Synek has his work cut out for him and the proof of this may be in Synek’s loss to Slovenia’s Iztok Cop earlier this month at the Philadelphia Challenge Cup. But Synek knows how to perform when it is important and there is every indication that he will do what it takes at Munich.
Back to chase Synek is Great Britain’s unstoppable Alan Campbell. Campbell took a well-deserved bronze last year and his ability to sprint when needed has left other scullers in awe. Also likely to be up there at the head of the field is Norway’s Olympic Champion Olaf Tufte. Tufte often starts the season off slowly, preferring to continue high intensity training through these regattas, but he has the ability when needed.
Also watch for Germany’s Marcel Hacker, Tim Maeyens of Belgium and Sweden’s Lassi Karonen who all have the chance to be in the medals when they race at their best.