Who to watch at Final Olympic Qualification Regatta
The FISA European Continental and Final Olympic Qualification Regatta will cap off the majority of qualification spots for the Rio 2016 Olympic Games in rowing. Sometimes known as the 'regatta of death', the regatta goes from 22-24 May on Lucerne's Rotsee regatta course in Switzerland.
Women's Pair (W2-)
Four qualification spots remain which is the highest amount out of all boat classes. China is hoping to have success with two athletes, Min Zhang and Tian Miao, who have come out of their 2015 women's eight. This, however, will be the first international race in 2016 for Zhang and Miao. In comparison, Maria Krasilnikova and Ekaterina Potapova of Russia raced this season to fourth at the European Rowing Championships. They are the highest ranked of the crews that raced at the European Championships. Spain also has a good chance with Anna Boada Peiro and Aina Cid who finished third at World Rowing Cup I in April.
Men's Pair (M2-)
The recently crowed European Champions, Bela Simon and Adrian Juhasz of Hungary are looking good to take one of the two spots available in the men's pair. Belarus's Dzimitry Furman and Dzianis Suravets may be in with a chance after finishing sixth at the European Rowing Championships, one spot ahead of Russia.
Women's Double Sculls (W2x)
There are two spots available and nine nations going for those two spots. The Czech Republic's Lenka Antosova and Kristyna Fleissnerova are in a good position to do well after their bronze medal win at the European Rowing Championships. They will meet bronze medallists from last month's World Rowing Cup, Denmark. Behind the Czech's at the European Championships were Lisa Scheenaard and Marloes Oldenburg of the Netherlands. They finished sixth overall which puts them into second rank by European Championships results.
Men's Double Sculls (M2x)
The crowd favourite has to be Norway. Two-time Olympic Champion Olaf Tufte has joined Kjetil Borch to aim at getting one of the two qualifying spots available. Forty-year-old Tufte qualified the men's single sculls last year, but has moved to the double for this qualification regatta. Borch and Tufte finished fifth earlier this month at the European Rowing Championships. Also very experienced is Sergii Gryn of Ukraine. Three-time Olympian, Gryn has a medal from the 2004 Olympic Games. He is joined by Ivan Furyk. Former under-23 and junior champion in the single, Michal Plocek of the Czech Republic has joined with Matyas Klang to try and qualify.
Men's Four (M4-)
There are two spots open and seven countries competing for them. Following the European Rowing Championships France must be top of the list. They took bronze after a highly contested race earlier this month. South Africa's crew tested themselves at World Rowing Cup I last month and finished sixth. This test run must give the South African's an advantage over New Zealand who will debut as a crew and debut their 2016 season at the qualification regatta.
Women's Single Sculls (W1x)
This boat class is only open to European countries plus Australia, Canada, New Zealand and the United States. There are three spots available and there is little to doubt that the favourite will be New Zealand's Emma Twigg. Twigg is the 2014 World Champion and finished fourth at the London Olympics. She did not compete internationally in 2015 but came back to full-time training late last year in very good form. Ireland's Sanita Puspure also must be a top contender. Puspure did this same 'regatta of death' four years ago and qualified for the London Olympics. She just missed out on Rio qualification last year but has shown good form this season with two bronze medals already - one from World Rowing Cup I and one from the European Rowing Championships. Also very much on the radar will be six-time Olympian Ekaterina Karsten of Belarus. Karsten won the single at the 1996 and 2000 Olympics. Also an Olympic medallist is Fie Udby Erichsen of Denmark who is the London Olympic silver medallist.
Men's Single Sculls (M1x)
Like the women's single, the men's single sculls is open to European nations plus the Australia, Canada, New Zealand and the United States. There are three spots available. Looking at the results this season, Hannes Obreno of Belgium looks to be on form. Obreno finished third at World Rowing Cup I and then took fourth at the European Rowing Championships. Obreno's main competition may come from Sverri Nielsen of Denmark who was sixth at the European Rowing Championships. Keep an eye on European Champion in the lightweight single, Lukas Babac of Slovakia and Cedric Berrest of France who was seventh at the European Rowing Championships and has over a decade of international experience.
Lightweight Women's Double Sculls (LW2x)
This boat class is open to European nations plus Australia, Canada, New Zealand and the United States. There are two qualification spots available. The 2013 World Champions, Laura Milani and Elisabetta Sancassani of Italy are lining up. Their form, however, in the last year has slipped and they may succumb to the combination of Ilse Paulis and Maaike Head of the Netherlands. Paulis and Head became the European Champions earlier this month. In Australia's boat is Hannah Every-Hall who was part of the London Olympic combination. Every-Hall is racing with Georgia Nesbitt. Also in with a chance could be Switzerland's Frederique Rol and Patricia Merz who recently finished fourth at the European Rowing Championships.
Lightweight Men's Double Sculls (LM2x)
This boat class is open to European nations plus Australia, Canada, New Zealand and the United States. There are two qualification spots available. Two boats from the London Olympic final will be racing. They include the Olympic Champions, Mads Rasmussen and Rasmus Quist of Denmark and Portugal's Pedro Fraga and Nuno Mendes who were fifth. Both these crews have had time out of the double since 2012. Perhaps in better form is the Belgian double of Tim Brys and Niels van Zandweghe who recently finished fifth at the European Rowing Championships. But they are likely to be wary of the New Zealand boat. World Champion in the lightweight single, Adam Ling is in the bow with Toby Cunliffe-Steel in stroke.
Lightweight Men's Four (LM4-)
Two qualification spots are available and 11 boats want them. It looks likely that one will go the way of Germany. The Germans have had success in this boat class in the past and at the European Rowing Championships they finished in the bronze medal spot which must have boosted their confidence coming into this event. The Spanish are also on the up and up. They had a sixth place finish at the European Rowing Championships and look to be in good form.
Women's Quadruple Sculls (W4x)
Two positions are open in this boat class and some top rowing nations are lining up. Both New Zealand and Great Britain were at the London Olympics in this boat class. New Zealand has a new crew line-up for this regatta while Great Britain is racing with the crew that finished fifth at the European Rowing Championships. But they will face stiff competition from the Olympic Champions, Ukraine. The Ukrainian crew is a new line-up and together they took the bronze medal at the European Rowing Championships. Watch out too for China who are the 2008 Olympic Champions.
Men's Quadruple Sculls (M4x)
Two spots are available and seven crews are in the running. Canada may have the upper hand after their silver medal finish last month at the World Rowing Cup. But arriving in Europe to race is New Zealand. The New Zealanders came hair-splittingly close to qualifying for the Rio Olympics at last year's World Rowing Championships when they finished ninth overall. Watch out too for Russia who have had big success in this boat in the past with a 2004 Olympic gold. And Italy is the 2000 Olympic Champion and they brought Alessio Sartori (who was part of the 2000 Olympic crew) into the boat.
Women's Eight (W8+)
There are two available spots in this boat class and the Netherlands look to have the upper hand at this stage. The Dutch won World Rowing Cup I last month and then took silver at the European Rowing Championships earlier this month. Australia may be a bit of an unknown factor, but they have regularly been in the eight at the Olympics. As have the Romanians who have numerous Olympic gold medals in this boat class.
Men's Eight (M8+)
The United States won the Olympic eight in 2004 and have been a regular medallists in this boat class. In 2012 they finished fourth at the Olympics after having to qualify through the Final Olympic Qualification Regatta. They look to be following the same route to Rio this time. Also likely to put on a good show is Poland who look to be on form this season. With only two spots available, this one will be tight.