Who to watch: the 2017 European Rowing Championships
The lanes are in, the boats are arriving, the athletes are training. All is ready for the 2017 European Rowing Championships in Racice, the Czech Republic. Starting on Friday 26 May and going through to finals on Sunday 28 May, the regatta has attracted over 500 athletes from 34 European nations.
Some of these athletes got to race earlier this month at World Rowing Cup I in Belgrade and they must be feeling race-ready as they meet a number of athletes stepping out the first time internationally since the Rio Olympic Games. Ondrej Synek is back in action to race in front of his home crowd in the men’s single sculls. So are Olympic Champions Jeremie Azou and Pierre Houin of France who will face the Irish Olympic silver medallists, the O’Donovan brothers in the lightweight men’s double sculls.
Women’s pair (W2-)
In the absence of two-time Olympic Champions Helen Glover and Heather Stanning, Great Britain sent a new line-up to World Rowing Cup I of Karen Bennett and Holly Norton. The duo did not disappoint and together they won gold. They will now be racing for the European title in Racice.
Keep an eye out for Hedvig Rasmussen of Denmark, the 2016 Olympic bronze medallist in the women’s pair. She will be racing at the Europeans with a new teammate, Christina Johansen who has returned to international rowing after a break.
Romania’s Laura Oprea is back in action. She won Olympic bronze last year in the women’s eight and will be teaming up in Racice with Beatrice-Madalina Parfenie, a Junior World Champion in the women’s pair from 2014.
Men’s pair (M2-)
The Czech combination of Jakub Podrazil and Lukas Helesic who placed seventh at the Rio Olympics last year and won bronze a few weeks ago at World Rowing Cup I are back and will be making the most of the home crowd. But look out for the arrival of Matteo Lodo and Giuseppe Vicino from Italy. These Italians were both part of the men’s four that won Olympic bronze last year in Rio and will likely be a force to reckon with in Racice. Like the Italians, Germany is at their first international regatta of the season and will be boating Olympians Anton Braun and Felix Drahotta. Drahotta was part of the silver medal German eight in Rio.
At World Rowing Cup I, Great Britain boated a new combination of Jacob Dawson and Matthew Rossiter. The duo won gold and they must be feeling confident to now go after their first European title.
Lightweight men’s double sculls (LM2x)
The top boats in the lightweight men’s double sculls from World Rowing Cup I will be facing each other once again. Great Britain’s Peter Chambers and Will Fletcher won gold. The silver medallists were Miroslav Vrastil and Jiri Simanek from Czech Republic and the bronze medallists were Poland’s, Jerzy Kowalski and Milosz Jankowski.
The World Cup final saw the top four boats finish within one and a half seconds of each other with the 2016 Olympic silver medallists, Gary and Paul O’Donovan of Ireland in fourth. They will also be racing in Racice and as the reigning European Champions, expect them to be gunning for a medal.
But watch out for the return of the Olympic Champions. Jeremie Azou and Pierre Houin from France are racing. All eyes will be on them to assess their fitness level in this new Olympiad.
Lightweight women’s double sculls (LW2x)
The gold and silver medallists from World Rowing Cup I were Poland and Great Britain respectively and they will be racing again in Racice. Poland’s Weronika Deresz and Martyna Mikoajczak finished seventh overall at last year’s Olympic Games, while Great Britain’s Katherine Copeland is the 2012 Olympic Champion in this boat class and she continues the partnership she began in 2015 with Charlotte Booth (nee Taylor).
Look out too for the eighth-place finishers from the Rio Olympics, Ionela-Liva Lehaci and Elena-Gianina Beleaga from Romania.
But the must-watch boat in Racice will be Ilse Paulis and Marieke Keijser of the Netherlands. Paulis is the Olympic Champion in this boat class and she has teamed up with under-23 Champion in the lightweight single, Keijser. This duo is sure to make a fast combination.
Men’s four (M4-)
All of the crews that medalled at World Rowing Cup I in Belgrade are back. The gold-medal winners were Great Britain’s Callum McBrierty, Matthew Tarrant, Mohamed Sbihi and William Satch and they will race again in the same line-up. Sbihi was part of the 2016 Olympic Champion men’s four crew.
The Netherlands will send the boat that raced to silver in Belgrade. Three of the four members finished fifth in the four in Rio, with Jasper Tissen now replacing Peter Van Schie. The Spanish crew won bronze at World Rowing Cup I and they will send the same line-up to Racice with the aim to reach the podium once again.
Watch out for the Italians. Olympic bronze medallists in this boat class in 2016, they will be racing at the European Rowing Championships with two of the same athletes that competed in Rio: Domenico Montrone and Matteo Castaldo. Joining them are Giovanni Abagnale and Marco Di Costanzo, also Olympic bronze medallists from last year, but in the men’s pair.
Women’s quadruple sculls (W4x)
All three crews that medalled at World Rowing Cup I in Belgrade will meet again. Poland, who won gold, will see one change to its line-up compared to Belgrade with Joanna Hentka replacing Marta Wieliczko. Two members of the Polish crew, Agnieskza Kobus and Maria Springwald, raced to Olympic bronze last year.
The Dutch silver medallists in Belgrade will send the same crew to Racice. Two of its members, Inge Janssen and Nicole Beukers, were part of the boat that won Olympic silver in Rio last year.
Bronze medallists in Belgrade, Great Britain will send the same crew to the European Rowing Championships. Their line-up includes under-23 World Champions in the double Mathilda Hodgkins-Byrne and Jessica Leyden as well as Bethany Bryan (an under-23 world bronze medallist in the eight) and Holly Nixon (2016 World Champion in the women’s four).
Look out too for Germany. They are the Olympic Champions, but come to Racice with a brand new line up. Ukraine is also racing. They finished fourth last year at the Olympic Rowing Regatta and have made just one change to their boat: Diana Serebrianska replaces Ievgeniia Nimchenko.
Men’s quadruple sculls (M4x)
The Lithuanian boat that won gold in Belgrade will race again in Racice, with one change to their line-up: Mindaugas Griskonis will replace Martynas Dziaugys who takes Griskonis’s place in the men’s double sculls.
As is the case early in the season, different combinations in crews are tried out. This sees two of the Polish scullers who won silver at World Rowing Cup I come together with two new teammates: Dominik Czaja and Adam Wicenciak replace Mateusz Biskup and Miroslaw Zietarski.
Great Britain entered two boats this boat class in Belgrade and they have retained the crew that won bronze, with just one change to their line-up: Peter Lambert replaces Thomas Barras. Lambert and Jack Beaumont were part of the Olympic boat that finished fifth in Rio last year.
Look out too for the Olympic Champions, Germany. They come to Racice with a new line up but still chock full of experience. The Italians are sending half of their under-23 world bronze medallist crew with Giacomo Gentili and Emanuele Fiume. They will be joined by 2012 Olympic silver medallist Romano Battisti and Andrea Panizza, a Junior World Champion from 2016 in the men’s coxed four.
Lightweight men’s four (LM4-)
Sitting in the middle of the Italian boat is Martino Goretti who will be contributing with his experience from Rio, where he finished fourth in this boat class. Goretti has been joined by a new crew. Piero Sfiligoi is the current under-23 World Champion in this boat class while Matteo Pinca has a World Championship silver medal from 2012 in the lightweight men’s eight.
Two members of the Czech boat, Jiri Kopac and Jan Vetesnik, were part of the crew that finished 12th overall at the 2016 Olympic Rowing Regatta and they raced at World Rowing Cup I in the open men’s four. They finished tenth overall.
The athletes in the Russian boat also raced in the open men’s four at 2017 World Rowing Cup I, where they finished seventh overall. Two members of the Hungarian boat finished fourth at World Rowing Cup I in the lightweight men’s pair: David Forrai and Roland Szigeti.
Women’s double sculls (W2x)
Two of the medalling crews from Belgrade will face each other again: the silver-medal winning Dutch combination of Lisa Scheenaard and Marloes Oldenburg and the Czech bronze medallists Kristyna Fleissenerova and Lenka Antosova. Also lining up will be the Swiss boat that finished fourth, with Pascale Walker and Andrea Fuerholz.
The Greek duo of Aikaterini Nikolaidou and Sofia Asoumanaki have been a last minute withdrawal leaving it up to the Dutch and the Czechs to battle it out for the top spots.
Men’s double sculls (M2x)
The Lithuanians are the 2016 Olympic silver medallists in this event and at World Rowing Cup I they won gold. In Racice, Mindaugas Griskonis will be replaced by Martynas Dziaugys who won gold in Belgrade in the men’s quadruple sculls.
The Swiss crew of Barnabe Delarze and Roman Roeoesli who won silver in Belgrade will race again and look to do just as well or better at the European level. Poland will send a different combination from the one that won bronze at World Rowing Cup I.
The fifth and sixth placed crews from World Rowing Cup I, Belarus and Bulgaria respectively, will line up again with the same athletes, while Great Britain will race for the first time in the double this season with a new-look crew consisting of Thomas Barras, who won bronze in the quad in Belgrade, and Frazier Christie.
Women’s eight (W8+)
The statistics show that Great Britain must be the favourites. They are the reigning European Champions and they won silver at the 2016 Olympic Rowing Regatta. But with this new season, the British has sent an entirely new line-up to Racice.
The Romanians, who won Olympic bronze in Rio last year, have retained five of the members from their Olympic boat, including coxswain Daniela Druncea.
The Netherlands were also A-finalists in Rio and took silver at the European Championships last year. They will send a boat containing four athletes that raced at the Olympic Regatta, also including their coxswain Ae-Ri Noort.
Men’s single sculls (M1x)
Swiss sculler Nico Stahlberg surprised the field at World Rowing Cup I when he beat Olympic silver medallist and reigning European Champion Damir Martin from Croatia by 42 hundredths of a second to win gold. Both athletes will meet again in Racice. This time they will be joined by multi Olympic and World medallist from the Czech Republic Ondrej Synek. A multi European Champion, Synek will want to impress in front of a home crowd as he makes his first appearance this season.
Look out too for Stanislau Shcharbachenia from Belarus who finished fifth at last year’s Olympic Rowing Regatta and also earlier this month at World Rowing Cup I.
Women’s single sculls (W1x)
All three medallists from World Rowing Cup I in Belgrade will race in Racice: gold medallist from Switzerland Jeannine Gmelin, silver medallist from Great Britain Victoria Thornley and bronze medallist from Austria Magdalena Lobnig. Are these the new top scullers in the single?
Two other World Cup A-finalists from Belgrade will also be racing again: rowing’s most medalled rower Belarus’s Ekaterina Karsten, 45, who finished fourth, and Sanita Puspure of Ireland who finished fifth.
Watch out too for Denmark’s Fie Udby Erichsen who won Olympic silver in 2012 and then was ninth in Rio.
Men’s eight (M8+)
Earlier this month The Netherlands caused quite a stir when they sent a club boat to World Rowing Cup I in Belgrade and beat the Olympic Champions, Great Britain to take gold. This result must have given the Dutch a huge confidence boost and sent the British back to the drawing board. For Racice the Netherlands are sending their national team eight which includes just one athlete from World Cup I, Ruben Knab, and then five of the athletes that were part of the Rio Olympic bronze medal crew.
The British are almost completely holding on to their Belgrade boat. Coach Juergen Grobler has made just one change to the line up – Tom Jeffery replaces Timothy Clarke.
Olympic silver medallists and reigning European Champions, Germany has retained their coxswain of ten years, Martin Sauer as well as three members of the 2016 boat - Hannes Ocik, Richard Schmidt and Malte Jakschik.