Who to Watch at 2014 European Champs
Belgrade, Serbia is ready and waiting for the 2014 European Rowing Championships to begin this Friday 30 May. The Sava Lake regatta course in the heart of Belgrade has attracted a record number of entries, with 36 European nations taking part.
Check the big names in rowing that will be racing in Belgrade as World Rowing highlights the Who to Watch. Also enjoy the extensive coverage that www.worldrowing.com will provide over the regatta weekend including a new look for our results and athlete bios section, an upgraded live race tracker plus live blogging, photos, race reports and more.
Women’s Pair (W2-)
An unbroken winning streak since 2008 by Romania may be under threat. Great Britain is boating their 2013 World Champion combination of Helen Glover and Polly Swann and they will be putting the heat on Cristina Grigoras and Nicoleta Albu of Romania.
Great Britain and Romania are likely to shine above the rest of the competition with many of the other combinations relatively new pair partnerships. Keep an eye out for Serbia with their top woman rower, Iva Obradovic teamed up with Ivana Filipovic. The duo finished seventh at last year's World Rowing Championships and in front of a home crowd they will be looking to impress.
Watch out too for the Netherlands who are part of the strong Dutch women's sweep squad.
Men’s Pair (M2-)
The partnership between Rogier Blink and Mitchel Steenman of the Netherlands is proving to be valuable. The duo has already clocked up a 2012 European Championship gold medal and a 2013 World Championship bronze medal followed by a win at the World Rowing Cup in Sydney earlier this season.
At last year's European Champs however, Blink and Steenman were upstaged by Serbia's Nenad Bedik and Nikola Stojic. Bedik is still in the boat with new partner Dusan Bogicevic and their home advantage must be taken into consideration.
This is a boat class in which the British regularly excel, but a new British combination this year means there is an unknown element. Alan Sinclair and Nathaniel Reilly-O'Donnell raced in their country's four last year and will now try their luck in the pair.
Keep an eye out for Greece who have won this event four of the seven times it has been raced at the Europeans and also watch for Germany who finished second to the Dutch earlier this month at the Wedau Regatta.
Women’s Double Sculls (W2x)
This race may end up with similar results to last year. The 2013 European Championship winners, Donata Vistartaite and Milda Valciukiate of Lithuania are back with a 2013 World Championship title giving them extra credence. Vistartaite and Valciukaite will face the silver medallists from last year's European Champions, Poland. Poland's duo remain the same of Magdalena Fularczyk who is a 2012 Olympic medallist and partner Natalia Madaj.
Great Britain has put together a strong combination of Frances Houghton and Victoria Thornley. Despite this being their first international race together in a double, their individual experience will undoubtedly shine through especially Houghton's Olympic Games tally of four.
Men’s Double Sculls (M2x)
The European Championships will be the 2014 coming out for last year's World Champions, Nils Jakob Hoff and Kjetil Borch of Norway. Will they have early season speed? Hoff and Borch will face some tough competition to put them to the test. The Norwegians will go up against both the silver and bronze medallists from the 2013 World Rowing Championships - Lithuania and Italy.
Lithuania's Rolandas Mascinskas and Saulius Ritter come to Belgrade on the back of a gold medal at the World Rowing Cup in Sydney in March. This must be a confidence boost when they take on Norway and Italy. Italy's Francesco Fossi and Romano Battisti will be motivated to defend their 2013 European Championship title in this event.
Azerbaijan is another crew to watch. Boris Yotov and Aleksandar Aleksandrov are both young, talented single scullers but have also been known to show their worth when teamed up in the double. Keep an eye out too for perennial partners, Hans Gruhne and Stephan Krueger of Germany. Gruhne and Krueger recently won the double at the Wedau Regatta.
Men’s Four (M4-)
British men's head coach Juergen Grobler has put together his dream four for Belgrade. Andrew Triggs Hodge, George Nash, Mohamed Sbihi and Alex Gregory have come together after rigorous trials and they will show their muscle against the 2013 World and European Champions, the Netherlands.
The Dutch have had one change from their 2013 winning line-up and will be hoping that this boat proves to be their country's flagship crew. Keep an eye out for Greece. In recent years they have regularly medalled in this boat class at the European Champs and the 2014 crew includes the return to rowing of Ioannis Tsilis and Georgios Tziallas who were both in the fourth-placed London Olympic crew.
Lightweight Women’s Double Sculls (LW2x)
Laura Milani and Elisabetta Sancassani of Italy are on a winning streak. Ever since this duo combined in late 2012 they have turned races to gold. They are the two-time European Champions, the reigning World Champions and currently Italy's most successful crew. Can they continue in 2014?
Up against the Italians will be the return of 2012 Olympic Champion, Katherine Copeland to Great Britain's boat. Copeland will be racing with Imogen Walsh who placed fourth in this boat class at last year's World Rowing Championships.
Watch out too for Germany's Lena Mueller and Anja Noske. Mueller and Noske finished second at last year's European Championships and third at the World Rowing Championships. This is their third season together and continual improvement is evident in their results.
Lightweight Men’s Double Sculls (LM2x)
This boat class is shaping up to be one of the most competitive of the regatta. To begin with it would be hard to overlook the 2013 World Champions, Kristoffer Brun and Are Strandli of Norway. The duo pulled off a stunner at last year's World Rowing Championships when they took the gold. But Brun and Strandli have new challenges this year. Reigning European Champions, Stany Delayre and Jeremie Azou of France are back racing. Delayre missed last year's World Champs due to a boat accident leaving Azou to race to second in the lightweight single. Delayre and Azou will be hoping to reassert their position in 2014.
Coming up through the ranks are Eleftherios Konsolas and Spyridon Giannaros of Greece. The duo won the World Rowing Cup earlier this year in Sydney and also have a 2013 World Champion gold medal from the lightweight quad among their recent successes.
Then there are the 2013 World silver medallists, Simon Schuerch and Mario Gyr of Switzerland. The pair come from their country's Olympic lightweight men's four but are doing well with the two-oared variety of the sport.
Don't forget about the bands of brothers. Tycho and Vincent Muda will race for the Netherlands. Jan and Ondrej Vetesnik will do it for the Czech Republic. And Paul and Bernhard Sieber are in it for Austria.
Lightweight Men’s Four (LM4-)
When there's a Danish boat lining up in the lightweight four there is little doubt the final will be all about a high-rating, 2000m sprint. The Danes are the current European and World Champions and this is their specialty event.
This year at the Europeans, however, Denmark is facing the 2012 Olympic silver medallists Great Britain. The Chambers brothers have been pulled back into the British boat and they will be out to prove they are ready to go in sweep rowing after a year of racing in the lightweight double.
Watch out too for the French. France finished third at last year's European Champs and then went on to a fourth place at the World Rowing Championships. The same crew is again together and ready to step up a place.
Women’s Quadruple Sculls (W4x)
The current World and European Champions, Germany has put together a new line-up which is absent of the experienced Britta Oppelt and Annekatrin Thiele. This may put the Germans back when it comes to picking up medals, but there is still a lot of talent in their younger line-up.
The Germans will face the Netherlands and Italy who have both done some tweaking to their line-up that finished second and third respectively at last year's European Championships.
Keep an eye out too for Ukraine and Belarus. Ukriane are the reigning Olympic Champions and for years Ukraine has emphasised this boat class as their priority. Post-London retirements have meant a new bunch of scullers are starting to emerge. Then for Belarus the great Ekaterina Karsten has joined the line-up along with Olympic medallist Yuliya Bichyk,
Men’s Quadruple Sculls (M4x)
The World Champion Croatians are not racing which leaves a gap to be filled at the head of the field. Olympic Champions Germany will be aiming to fill this spot. The Germans have retained Tim Grohmann and Karl Schulze from last year's silver medal World Championship crew and have added well-known names in sculling, Philipp Wende and Kai Fuhrmann.
If current results are anything to go by Poland will be in the medal mix. The Poles won the Wedau Regatta earlier this month and have boosted their line-up for the European Champs by adding junior single sculling World Champion Natan Wegrzycki-Szmczyk to the boat.
Watch out too for Italy who finished third last year at the European Championships and have the very skilled Simone Raineri sitting in stroke seat. Also look out for Estonia. The crew includes two members of the Olympic fourth-placed crew and at the 2013 World Championships they finished fifth.
Women’s Single Sculls (W1x)
There are quite a few new names among the entries, which leaves Olympic Champion, Mirka Knapkova of the Czech Republic as the stand-out entry. Knapkova took gold at last year's European Championships, but then finished fourth earlier this year at the World Rowing Cup in Sydney. Knapkova's experience, however, is bound to play to her advantage when she lines up in Belgrade.
Julia Levina of Russia has plenty of strengths and experience is one of them. Levina, 41, is in her 19th year of international rowing, which includes four Olympic Games. Levina, however can be inconsistent, but when she has a good race she is hard to beat. Also experienced is Annekatrin Thiele of Germany. Thiele is usually found winning medals in the quadruple sculls but she has had stints in the single.
Keep an eye out for Austria's Magdalena Lobnig as an up-and-coming sculler. Lobnig, 23, was second at last year's Europeans and a fourth-place at the 2013 World Rowing Championships definitely got heads turning her way.
Men’s Single Sculls (M1x)
One of the legends in men's single sculling, Olaf Tufte of Norway is back. Tufte is the 2004 and 2008 Olympic Champion but took a break following sub-par results at the London Olympics. Belgrade will be Tufte's return. This return is unlikely to faze the reigning World Champion Ondrej Synek of the Czech Republic. For the last four years Synek has been the most consistent of the single scullers. Olympic Champion Mahe Drysdale (NZL) has admitted that the Czech is currently in a class of his own.
But the single can be won or lost on a couple of strokes and Synek will have a bunch of scullers pushing him including Olympic bronze medallist Alan Campbell of Great Britain and 2013 World Championship bronze medallist Marcel Hacker of Germany.
Look out too for Roel Braas of the Netherlands who started to show real single sculling speed last year and also Mindaugas Griskonis of Lithuania who comes to Belgrade following a silver medal at the World Rowing Championships in Sydney.
Women’s Eight (W8+)
A large field for the women's eight has upped the pressure on perennial winners, Romania. The Romanians, however, will be ready for the challenge which includes last year's silver medallists at the Europeans, Germany.
But the biggest challenge may come from Great Britain. The British were fourth at last year's World Rowing Championships and many of these rowers are back in the boat including coxswain Zoe De Toledo with Louisa Reeve moving into stroke seat.
Keep an eye out too for Russia who were third in this boat class at last year's European Championships.
Men’s Eight (M8+)
A large entry of 11 countries has made this one of the best represented eights races to date at the European Championships and the stakes are high. Germany and Great Britain face each other for the first time since the British broke the German's winning streak at last year's World Rowing Championships.
Germany had been on a roll since 2009, including a gold at the 2012 Olympic Games, but at the 2013 World Champs, not only did Great Britain earn the World Championship title from the Germans, they also earned the first-ever men's eights World Champion title for their country. Both line-ups have been tweaked and both teams will be out to prove their early season boat speed.
Other eights up for medal contention will be last year's European Championships silver medallists Poland and also France with a line-up that includes London Olympic silver medallists from the pair, Germain Chardin and Dorian Mortelette.