Who to watch; 2015 European Rowing Championships
A year ago the European Rowing Championships was a feast of intense competition and new European Best Times. The time has come again for European crews to face each other, this time on Lake Malta in Poznan, Poland.
Nearly 600 athlete from 36 nations are competing and last year's overall winners, Great Britain will be bringing the largest team as they contest their first international regatta of the 2015 season. Check out the new combinations, old favourites and who may be on form in this Who to Watch at the European Championships.
Women's Pair (W2-)
Following on from their win at World Rowing Cup I in Bled, the Netherlands pair of Elisabeth Hogerwerf and Olivia van Rooijen are back to win more medals. This is the first season for the Dutch duo in the pair and it looks to be a good switch from last year's competition in the women's quadruple sculls. But Hogerwerf and van Rooijen will be up against the seemingly unbeatable World, European and Olympic Champions, Helen Glover and Heather Stanning of Great Britain.
This is Glover and Stanning's first international race for the 2015 season, but internal team testing has shown they are still fast and after setting a new European Best Time at last year's European Rowing Championships, the British duo have a special connection to this event.
Second last year at the European Rowing Championships, Cristina Grigoras and Laura Oprea of Romania are back together and will be a crew to watch out for as Romania is regularly successful at this regatta.
Men's Pair (M2-)
The return to the pair of Olympic silver medallists, Dorian Mortelette and Germain Chardin of France has started off well as they won the first World Rowing Cup this year in Bled. The competition in Poznan, however, looks to have stepped up a notch. Toni Seifert and Kristof Wilke of Germany won the Bled International Regatta earlier this month and are part of Germany's very strong men's sweep squad.
The depth of talent continues with Rogier Blink and Mitchel Steenman of the Netherlands racing. They finished second at last year's European Rowing Championships. Then there is the British pairing of James Foad and Matt Langridge who were second at last year's World Rowing Championships and have proved themselves to British selectors to remain together for a second season.
Watch out too for Hungary's Adrian Juhasz and Bela Simon Jr. Juhasz and Simon were second behind France at World Rowing Cup I earlier this month.
Lightweight Men's Double Sculls (LM2x)
The three medalling crews from World Rowing Cup I in Bled are back again to continue their 2015 racing season. Tycho and Vincent Muda of the Netherlands were first, Portugal's Pedro Fraga and Nuno Goncalves Coelho were second and Milosz Jankowski and Artur Mikolajczwski of Poland finished third. The finish was close in Bled and with the arrival of a lot more competition in Poznan, it looks like just making the final here will be a challenge.
Take the addition of 2013 World Champions, Kristoffer Brun and Are Strandli of Norway. Then there's last year's European Champions, Jeremie Azou and Stany Delayre of France. On top of this there's the ever-strong British boat, now featuring the new combination of Richard Chambers and William Fletcher. And making it even tougher is the Greek duo of Spyridon Giannaros and Panagiotis Magdanis who are current World Champions in the lightweight men's quadruple sculls.
This is going to be one very competitive boat class.
Lightweight Women's Double Sculls (LW2x)
Poland's Weronika Deresz took silver at World Rowing Cup I in Bled and now has a new partner for Poznan. Teamed up with Joanna Dorociak, will this be the crew that lights up the home crowd?
To make it to the top of the podium, Poland will have to contend with some relative unknown factors as nations have put together new combinations for Poznan. The name Marie-Louise Draeger is very well-known in Germany with an international career that stretches back to 1999. She has a new partner, under-23 World Champion Fini Sturm. Then there's Olympic Champion in the lightweight double, Katherine Copeland of Great Britain who has teamed up with new partner Charlotte Taylor. Taylor was fourth in the lightweight women's single sculls at last year's European Championships.
Watch out too for the return of Denmark's London Olympic duo of Juliane Rasmussen and Anne Lolk Thomsen. Rasmussen and Thomsen were fourth in London and since then Rasmussen has become a mother but still managed to fit in training. Also keep an eye out for Elisabeth Woerner and Maaike Head of the Netherlands who won bronze at World Rowing Cup I earlier this month.
Men's Four (M4-)
At last year's European Championships, Great Britain took gold and set a new European Best Time. This year they have put their top sweep men into the men's eight leaving the door open for some potential challenges for winning gold. The British, however, are always strong in the four and they will be hard to beat.
Strong contenders to medal must be winners of World Rowing Cup I; Belarus. The Belarusian crew proved to be good sprinters in Bled and they will come to Poznan with boosted confidence. They will again face silver and bronze medallists from Bled, Spain and Serbia respectively.
Keep an eye out too for Greece. They are the same crew that raced in the A-final at last year's World Rowing Championships and they have regularly shown their ability to medal.
Women's Quadruple Sculls (W4x)
Annekatrin Thiele, Carina Baer, Marie-Catherine Arnold and Lisa Schmidla of Germany have started off their 2015 season well with a win at the first World Rowing Cup earlier this month in Bled. The crew have just one change from the 2014 World Champion crew and it is looking like Germany will continue to dominate this boat class.
In Bled, however, the Netherlands showed that they had a very strong sprint and with a faster start, the Dutch will be ready to challenge. Bled silver medallists, Poland will have the home course advantage and they are riding on a wave of strength in Polish women's rowing.
Keep an eye out too for Ukraine. They are the Olympic Champions from London and are rebuilding their crew following post-London retirements.
Men's Quadruple Sculls (M4x)
It will be hard to look past the crew from Ukraine. They are the current World and European Champions. This is their first international outing for 2015 and they will be hoping to make an early-season impact.
Ukraine will need to be aware of Germany who were winners of World Rowing Cup I in Bled. The Germans have put together a crew that looks very much like their Olympic Champion crew, with just one change, the addition of Hans Gruhne.
Also vying for the medals will be World Cup I finalists, France, Poland and Switzerland. These crews will be making sure that the final in Poznan is a close one.
Men's Double Sculls (M2x)
The success of the new German double (Marcel Hacker and Stephan Krueger) at World Rowing Cup I in Bled, has seen them remain together for the European Championships. Former single sculler, Hacker had only been teamed up with Krueger for a couple of weeks when they raced in Bled. With more time together it is likely they will only be getting faster.
Hacker and Krueger were hoping to be able to test themselves against the current World Champions, Croatia. The Croatian Sinkovic brothers, however, have withdrawn due to injury.
That means Germany will have to watch out for 2013 World Champions, Kjetil Borch and Nils Jakob Hoff of Norway. The duo did not fare well in 2014, but they will be ready to prove themselves this year. There should also be strong competition coming from Bled silver and bronze medallists, Serbia and the Czech Republic.
Women's Double Sculls (W2x)
The women's double has just got a whole lot more interesting. Belarus's queen of rowing, Ekaterina Karsten is racing with Yuliya Bichyk as Karsten aims for her seventh Olympic Games. Poznan will also see the return to racing of Olympic Champion (from the women's double), Katherine Grainger of Great Britain. Grainger, 39, has not raced internationally since her London gold medal performance and this will be her first international race back after the post-London break. Grainger is teamed up with Victoria Thornley who competed in the women's single sculls last year.
Belarus and Great Britain will test themselves against medal contenders, Milda Valciukaite and Donata Vistartaite of Lithuania - the 2013 World Champions in this boat class and also the 2014 silver medallists and winners of World Rowing Cup I. They will also be up against local Poznan rowers, Poland's Magdalena Fularczyk and Natalia Madaj. Never underestimate the home-water advantage as Fularczyk and Madaj aim to continue their season unbeaten.
Keep an eye on Germany and Greece. The Germans finished second at World Rowing Cup I, earlier this month while Greece includes young indoor rowing phenomenon, Sofia Asoumanaki.
Lightweight Men's Four (LM4-)
When Switzerland put their London Olympic crew back together for World Rowing Cup I in Bled earlier this month, there was a lot of interest in how they would do. They won gold and in Poznan the Swiss will be truly tested as they come up against World and European Champions, Denmark. There is a good chance that Denmark will continue to dominate this boat class. But the lightweight four is always a close race and aiming for the medals will also be a new British line up as well as France who come with the credentials of a 2014 European Championship bronze medal as well as finishing fourth at last year's World Rowing Championships.
Women's Eight (W8+)
Romania has won every European Championships since it was reinstated in 2007. They will be looking to do the same this year. The Romanians, however, will have to contend with Great Britain who have been working hard to create a gold medal women's eight.
At last year's European Championships, Great Britain finished second to Romania with Germany in third. These are the crews that will likely be fighting it out for the medals again this year.
Men's Single Sculls (M1x)
World and European Champion Ondrej Synek of the Czech Republic is using Poznan to make his 2015 debut appearance. Synek has been racing in the single for a decade now and with two Olympic silver medals he has his sights set on Olympic gold. This has inspired Synek to continually improve and he will be hard to beat.
Out to give Synek a challenge will be a group of regulars in the single. This includes Roel Braas of the Netherlands who has shown inconsistent form but has also shown to have immense power. Lithuania's Mindaugas Griskonis regularly hover around the medals including 2014 European Championship bronze. Norway's Olaf Tufte continues to try and work his way back into medal contention. It has, however, been a long, slow path for the 2008 Olympic Champion.
Look out too for Aleksandar Aleksandrov of Azerbaijan who has a powerful sprint and the ability to medal when he times his race correctly and Croatia's Damir Martin who medalled at the World Rowing Cup in Bled.
Women's Single Sculls (W1x)
This field looks to be a relatively open slate as it presents a mixture of those trying to get back into medal position against those who are relatively new to this event. The best on paper must be Mirka Knapkova of the Czech Republic. Knapkova is the Olympic and European Champion, but had a very mixed 2014 season. She has, however, started the 2015 season well with a silver medal from World Rowing Cup I in Bled earlier this month.
Fie Udby Erichsen of Denmark medalled at the 2012 Olympic Games before taking time off to have a baby. She came back in 2014 and made the B-final at the World Rowing Championships. Also coming back in 2015 following injury is Olympian Sanita Puspure of Ireland and 2012 Olympic medallist Julia Michalska of Poland, in her first international race since the London Olympics.
Men's Eight (M8+)
This looks likely to be a Germany vs Great Britain showdown. Germany are the reigning Olympic and European Champions and regularly put special emphasis on their men's eight. They have started the 2015 season off well by winning at the World Rowing Cup earlier this month in Bled.
World Champions Great Britain have loaded their eight with the top rowers from their men's sweep squad and with names like Pete Reed, Alex Gregory and Mohamed Sbihi in the boat, you know that this crew has been selected to be the best. This will be Great Britain's first outing for the season.
Likely to be nosing in on this two-way duel is Russia. The Russian's have been building an eight for the last two years and they were the silver medallists at the 2014 European Championships. Also with the potential to cause a disruption is Poland. They were second in Bled and struck bronze last year at the World Rowing Championships.