Who to watch at the 2019 World Rowing Championships
The race is on not just for World Championship status, but also for Tokyo 2020 Olympic qualification at the 2019 World Rowing Championships in Linz-Ottensheim, Austria. The race has attracted a record number of countries with 80 nations taking part. The racing will be intense. Here’s who to watch out for in the races.
Women’s pair (W2-)
Olympic Qualification places: 11
There are three crews that jump out as the most-likely medallists: Australia, New Zealand and Canada. Jessica Morrison and Annabelle McIntyre from Australia leapt onto the scene at World Rowing Cup II and finished just a few seconds behind the 2018 silver medallists, New Zealand’s Grace Prendergast and Kerri Gowler. Morrison and McIntyre then won at World Rowing Cup III.
This Australia-New Zealand battle will continue. But neither of the crews have faced the reigning World Champions from Canada, Caileigh Filmer and Hillary Janssens. Filmer was out for most of the season and she is back in time for the world championships.
There are a handful of other combinations that are likely to fight for the medals. Spain’s Aina Cid and Virginia Diaz Rivas are 2019 European Champions and they finished in the final at the third World Cup. Watch out too for the United States’ combination of Megan Kalmoe and Tracy Eisser. They finished third at the second World Rowing Cup. Don’t forget China, Romania, Italy and the Netherlands. They have all had top finishes this season and will be going for medals at the championships.
Men’s pair (M2-)
Olympic Qualification places: 11
The top of the podium in the men’s pair has been hard to call so far this season. The reigning World Champions, the Sinkovic brothers from Croatia are favourites to win again this year. They are the 2019 European Champions, but struggled with injury and illness and were not able to compete in all of the World Rowing Cups. Instead the top of the podium was claimed by two different line-ups in the Australian men’s pair. But neither of the top Aussie line-ups have been entered in Linz-Ottenshiem and instead the young Sam Hardy has been paired up with the more experienced Joshua Hicks. Without much time rowing together, it might be tough for these two to repeat the early-season Australian success.
That may leave room for New Zealand to find their way to the top of the podium. Thomas Murray and Michael Brake finished second at the second World Rowing Cup and third at the third World Rowing Cup. Watch out too for the Czech Republic. Their results have been sporadic, but they pulled off a silver medal at the third World Rowing Cup. And don’t forget about Canada either. They only raced at one World Rowing event this season, but they finished with a bronze medal.
Lightweight men’s double sculls (LM2x)
Olympic Qualification places: 7
A new frontrunner emerged this season; Germany. The German combination of Jason Osborne and Jonathan Rommelmann won every event in which they were entered, becoming World Rowing Cup winners and European Champions. They are likely to have the psychological advantage going into the World Championships.
After fierce internal selection, the Irish have boated their new combination of Paul O’Donovan and Fintan McCarthy. This breaks up the previous brother-combination of Gary and Paul O’Donovan and also Jacob and Fintan McCarthy. The new combination finished second at the final stage of the World Rowing Cup and are likely to be very fast.
Italy has also boated their top duo, Stefano Oppo and Pietro Ruta. These two picked up two silver medals at the second World Rowing Cup and the European Rowing Championships. Watch out too for Belgium’s Tim Brys and Niels van Zandweghe. They have been on the podium so far this season and have years of experience together. But the all-important number is seven. Who will fill the final spots for direct Olympic qualification? Perhaps it will be between Australia, New Zealand, China, Norway, Poland and Canada who have all finished close to the front-runners.
Lightweight women’s double sculls (LW2x)
Olympic Qualification places: 7
The Kiwis came storming onto the world scene at the second World Rowing Cup. Jackie Kiddle and Zoe McBride had seen some mixed results, but it looks like they’ve taken a turn. Kiddle and McBride picked up wins at the second and third World Rowing Cups. Their biggest challengers could be the Netherlands, Switzerland and China. The Dutch duo of Ilse Paulis and Marieke Keijser were not able to race together for most of season due to injury. But they finished with a solid silver medal at the final World Rowing Cup, showing their preparation for the World Championships is on track.
Switzerland’s Frederique Rol and Patricia Mertz have been steadily climbing the ranks for the last two years. They narrowly missed out on Olympic qualification in 2016 and look to be set to better their performance. Watch out too for China. Their combination of Dandan Pan and Wenyi Huang medalled at two of the World Rowing Cups.
And don’t forget about Belarus, they are the European Champions, but did not manage to get on the podium at any of the World Rowing Cups.
Women’s quadruple sculls (W4x)
Olympic Qualification places: 8
Many of these teams have not yet raced each other this season creating an element of mystery. China won the first two World Rowing Cups ahead of the Netherlands, Poland and Germany. They were not entered at the third World Rowing Cup when Germany managed to take gold, a feat they also managed at the European Rowing Championships. China’s combination may have what it takes to best Germany at the World Championships, but it remains to be seen. The Dutch finally have their all-star crew back in the boat together after struggling with many injuries throughout the season.
Don’t forget the World Champions, Poland. They were second to the Chinese and ahead of Germany at the second World Rowing Cup, but they finished in a disappointing fourth at the European Championships and behind Germany at the final World Rowing Cup. And keep an eye on Australia. They picked up a bronze medal at the third World Rowing Cup and have stayed in Europe to continue their training.
Men’s quadruple sculls (M4x)
Olympic Qualification places: 8
Poland could be the crew to beat. They won all three World Rowing Cups, despite many changes to their line-up. Then at the European Rowing Championships they finished back in the B-final. The rest of the field is difficult to call. The Dutch won the European Rowing Championships in style, then finished in third at the final World Rowing Cup in Rotterdam, where Germany took the silver. That was the only medal opportunity for the Germans this season.
Australia and New Zealand each took a medal at the second World Rowing Cup, but they were not able to repeat the performance at the third World Rowing Cup in Rotterdam. The results may have been difficult to read given the weather and the re-allocated lanes. Watch out too for Moldova. They won silver at the first World Rowing Cup and will be aiming to qualify their country for the Olympic Games.
Men’s double sculls (M2x)
Olympic qualification places: 11
The Swiss combination of Barnabe Delarze and Roman Roeoesli have had a stand-out season so far. They finished with a silver medal at the European Rowing Championships before winning gold at the second and third World Rowing Cups They are likely to be the crew to beat.
Great Britain has also shown top results this season. The combination of John Collins and Thomas Graeme finished second at World Rowing Cup II and third at World Rowing Cup III. They just missed out on the podium at the European Rowing Championships. Watch out too for Ireland. The young duo of Philip Doyle and Ronan Byrne came second at World Rowing Cup III. They have been climbing up the ranks and with a little luck, they could see a medal at the World Championships.
And don’t forget about Germany. Former single sculler Tim Ole Naske has teamed up with the experienced Stephan Krueger. They finished third at the second World Rowing Cup and regularly raced in the final.
Women’s double sculls (W2x)
Olympic Qualification places: 11
There are no clear frontrunners. The podium has switched, shifted and turned up-side-down throughout the season, underlining the impressive spread of talented crews in this boat class.
Most recently, Romania made the best in tough conditions at Rotterdam to win the third World Rowing Cup. Nicoleta-Ancuta Bodnar and Simona Radis of Romania also managed a silver medal at the European Rowing Championships, which may give them the upper-hand going into the World Rowing Championships.
But they will have to go up against the 2018 world silver medallists, New Zealand. The Kiwi duo of Brooke Donoghue and Olivia Loe won World Rowing Cup II. It was a close finish, however, with the United States’ combination of Cicely Madden and Genevra Stone pushing them to the line. Australia took third.
Australia also managed to grab silver behind Romania at the third World Rowing Cup. These results indicate that New Zealand, United States, Romania and Australia should be headed for the final. But anything can happen. The 2018 World Champions from Lithuania didn’t perform throughout the season, but they may have found their form by Linz-Ottensheim.
Men’s single sculls (M1x)
Olympic qualification places: 9
With so many nations entered these scullers will have to go through heats, repechages, quarterfinals and semifinals to get to the finals. Stamina will play a key role. The best performer this season has been Sverri Nielsen of Denmark who won the second and third World Rowing Cups. However, Nielsen finished off the podium at the European Rowing Championships where Germany’s Oliver Zeidler took gold. Zeidler is the young powerhouse, but his results so far this season have been inconsistent.
One of the most consistent athletes has been Pilip Pavukou of Belarus. Pavukou took silver at the first and second World Rowing Cups and finished in bronze at the European Rowing Championships. Then there’s the reigning World Champion, Kjetil Borch of Norway. Borch has been working his way back from surgery and finished second at World Rowing Cup III. Watch out too for 2016 Olympic silver medallist Damir Martin of Croatia. Martin has struggled with injury, but seems to be finally back on form. He won the first World Rowing Cup and finished third at the third World Rowing Cup.
It is impossible to count out the veteran Ondrej Synek of the Czech Republic Angel Fournier Rodriguez of Cuba. Both are extremely experienced athletes, Synek with Olympic medals.
Women’s single sculls (W1x)
Olympic Qualification places: 9
Emma Twigg of New Zealand is back. After becoming World Champion in 2014 and then finishing a disappointing fourth at the 2016 Olympic Games, Twigg took a few years off. But the pull of the Olympics had her take up oars again. Twigg won the second and third World Rowing Cups and is looking to be on her way to the World Championship title.
Twigg, however, won’t have it easy. She will face reigning World Champion, Sanita Puspure of Ireland. Puspure won the European Rowing Championships, but did not compete at any of the World Rowing Cups. And the 2017 World Champion, Jeannine Gmelin of Switzerland is also a force to be reckoned with. Gmelin has two silvers from this season.
Watch out too for the return of Miroslava Knapkova-Topinkova of the Czech Republic. After a short break to have a baby, Knapkova-Topinkova is back and has been on the podium this season. And don’t forget about local Austrian hero Magdalena Lobnig and Canada’s Carling Zeeman. Both have snagged medals this season in this incredibly competitive field.
Women’s Four (W4-)
Olympic qualification places: 8
The top crews have been switching places on the podium this season. The United States are reigning World Champions and they come to Austria with two of last year’s gold medallists, plus the return of two-time Olympic Champion Caryn Davies and World Champion from the women’s eight, Vitoria Opitz. The Americans will have tough competition from World Rowing Cup III winners, Australia. The Aussies finished second at the 2018 World Rowing Championships and have snagged two World Rowing Cup medals this season.
At World Rowing Cup II, Australia was bested by Denmark and China. Denmark has had scattered success in this boat class as part of their growing women’s sweep programme. They have made slight changes to the line-up, hoping to pick up a few seconds of speed. And China raced at the first and second World Rowing Cups, finishing third and second respectively. Don’t forget about the Netherlands. They won World Rowing Cup I and the European Rowing Championships. After a few line-up changes over the season, they seem to have settled on their combination for Linz-Ottensheim.
Men’s four (M4-)
Olympic qualification places: 8
Australia is reigning World Champions and this season they have been experimenting with different, yet equally talented line-ups. At World Rowing Cup II Australia won. The four did not race at the World Rowing Cup III when they seemed to be testing line-ups in the men’s pair. The line-up entered in Austria has two returners from the 2018 crew: Alexander Hill and Jack Hargreaves.
Olympic Champions Great Britain has struggled to produce results this Olympic cycle, but their men’s four has had some success, winning the European Rowing Championships ahead of Poland and Germany. Poland and Germany have also both posted results so far this season. Poland medalled at two of the three World Rowing Cups and took silver at the European Rowing Championships. Germany picked up a bronze at World Rowing Cup III and the European Rowing Championships.
The big question is, can the 2018 world silver medallists from Italy pull something out of the hat? Italy only raced at the second World Rowing Cup when they finished just a few seconds behind Australia, taking silver.
Women’s eight (W8+)
Olympic qualification places: 5
The United States reclaimed the throne at last year’s World Rowing Championships after losing it for the first time in over a decade in 2017. This shows nothing can be taken for granted. The US raced only once this season, at World Rowing Cup II where Australia won. The Australian crew has been working their way up the ranks. They took bronze last year and their World Cup win proves their early-season speed. But at the third World Rowing Cup, New Zealand made the best of the tricky conditions.
Going into the World Rowing Championships, the United States, Australia and New Zealand are all looking very strong. They will be up against top crews from Canada, Romania and Great Britain. These three were all on the podium at some point throughout the season.
Men’s eight (M8+)
Olympic qualification places: 5
Germany was unbeatable. That was until they were beaten by the British at the final World Rowing Cup in Rotterdam. There were several factors, of course, such as tricky weather conditions and lane re-allocation, but the British used it to their advantage to break the German winning streak. Will this give them the psychological edge going into the World Championships?
This race, however, is not just about the rivalry between World Champions Germany and Olympic Champions Great Britain. Canada competed at only one World Rowing Cup and finished in third. The United States has not yet shown their new crew, but they have been pouring energy into this boat for the Olympic Games. And don’t forget about the Kiwi crew. They picked up a bronze medal at the third World Rowing Cup and have double Olympic Champions Hamish Bond and Mahe Drysdale on board.
International boat classes
Lightweight women’s single sculls (LW1x)
With 19 entries there will be great racing. Many of the top single scullers from this season are now in the lightweight women’s double sculls, meaning the competition in Linz-Ottensheim is wide open. Watch out for Germany’s Marie-Louise Draeger. She finished third at the final World Rowing Cup and has a long rowing pedigree. Keep an eye on Sweden’s Emma Fredh. She is one of the most experienced scullers in the field. And Canada’s Ellen Gleadow had an A-final finish at the last World Rowing Cup, she might just fight for the medals.
Lightweight men’s single sculls (LM1x)The favourite must be Australia’s Sean Murphy. Murphy won at the second and third World Rowing Cups ahead of tough competition. But the field is full of talent including Slovenia’s Rajko Hrvat, who has years of experience and a small pile of medals. Watch out too for Italy’s Martino Goretti. He has had sporadic success of the last few seasons. And, of course, don’t count out Ireland’s Gary O’Donovan. He will be looking to prove himself and work his way back into the double.
Lightweight men’s quadruple sculls (LM4x)
This boat class has eight entries and the competition is likely to be between Italy and the Netherlands. They each won one World Rowing Cup, then Italy got the better of the Dutch at the European Rowing Championships. Watch out too for France and Ireland. They both have solid line-ups and a history of success in the lightweight sculling category.
Lightweight women’s quadruple sculls (LW4x)
With just five entries the crew to beat might be China. They won the third World Rowing Cup ahead of Germany and the Netherlands. Italy and the United States have entered for the first time this year and add an unknown factor.
Lightweight men’s pair (LM2-)
The crew to beat is probably the Czech Republic. Jiri Kopac and Jan Hajek have switched between sculling and sweeping, but have a handful of medals to their name. Watch out too for Italy, they have a history of success in the lightweight pair.
Lightweight women’s pair (LW2-)
Italy may pick up another win in this boat class. Sofia Tanghetti and Maria Ludovica Costa recently won at the under-23 championships and despite their young age, they are some of the most experienced in the pair. Watch out too for Germany. They finished second behind Italy at the under-23 level and will be looking to finish one place better.
Para-rowing boat classes
There are four Paralympic boat classes going for Paralympic qualification places in Linz-Ottensheim.
Para PR1 men’s single sculls (PR1 M1x)
A top seven finish will be the ticket to Tokyo, but with a record 27 entries, that will not be easy. There is no doubt, however, about the frontrunners. Ukraine’s Roman Polianskyi will once again go up against rival Erik Horrie from Australia. Polianskyi and Horrie have been trading the top of the podium for the last few years and it is always a surprise who will manage to get the win. Watch out too for Russia’s Alexey Chuvashev. He is competing for the first time this season. Chuvashev is the 2018 bronze medallist. And don’t forget about Great Britain’s Benjamin Pritchard, Brazil’s Rene Pereira and Lithuania’s Augustas Navickas.
Para PR1 women’s single sculls (PR1 W1x)
The favourite has to be Birgit Skarstein of Norway. Skarstein has been dominating this boat class for the last two years and is likely to be on top of the podium at the World Rowing Championships. But watch out for Moran Samuel. Samuel, from Israel, finished second at the third World Rowing Cup this year and is the 2018 world silver medallist. Also keep an eye on the young talent, Anna Shermet of Ukraine. Shermet has been rising in the ranks and most recently finished third at World Rowing Cup III. Then there’s last year’s world bronze medallist, Hallie Smith from the United States.
Para PR2 mixed double sculls (PR2 Mix2x)
There is no doubt about the leaders. Annika van der Meer and Corne de Koning from the Netherlands seem to be unstoppable. They are reigning World Champions, World Best Time holders and have won everything they have entered so far this year. As there are 12 entries and eight Paralympic qualification spots, nothing is a given. Watch out for Poland, France and Ukraine. They are regularly on the podium in this boat class. And keep an eye on the new combinations from Great Britain and the United States.
Para PR3 mixed coxed four (PR3 Mix4+)
With an incredible 17 countries entered we will see many line-ups for the first time this season. The United States won the second World Rowing Cup, but the reigning World Champions, Great Britain were not entered. Great Britain is back and has made several changes to their winning combination. Watch out too for Italy and France. They have been working on their line-ups and finished second and third respectively at the second World Rowing Cup.
There are five international para-rowing boat classes being contested in Linz-Ottensheim; the para PR2 men’s and women’s single sculls, para PR3 para men’s and women’s pair and para PR3 para mixed double sculls. The Dutch are likely to win their respective races in the singles with Corne de Koning and Annika van der Meer having both set new World Best Times at the World Rowing Cup in Poznan. Although the return of Kathryn Ross from Australia will provide great competition.
Canada is the reigning World Champions in the para PR3 men’s pair. They have not raced internationally yet this season, but are likely to be back on form. Italy will go up against the United States in the para PR3 women’s pair. This race could be a close one. In the para PR3 mixed double sculls watch out for the return of 2018 silver medallists, Johanna Beyer and David Erkinger of Austria.