Big teams are coming from the Netherlands and China as well as Great Britain and Germany with 42 countries represented. Watch out for the Sinkovic brothers in action in the men’s pair as well as World Champion Jeannine Gmelin racing in the women’s single sculls. Ondrej Synek will be up against the likes of Angel Fournier in the men’s single and welcome back the O’Donovan brothers to the lightweight men’s double.

Women’s pair (W2-)
It’s too early in the season for the Oceania crews, so in the absence of World Champions and World Best Time holders Grace Prendergast and Kerri Gowler from New Zealand, the top of the podium is up for the taking. World bronze medallists from Denmark will be looking to take the spot. The young pair won Olympic bronze in 2016 and went on to have a successful 2017 season. They are likely to be challenged by two Canadian pairs. Canada has a history of strong women’s sweep rowing and they will be after a medal.

Watch out too for Spain. They entered the crew that finished 5th at the 2017 World Rowing Championships; Aina Cid and Anna Boada Peiro. China also entered three crews that are likely to be strong. China comes to Belgrade with a significant women’s sweep team.  

Men’s pair (M2-)
All eyes will be on Croatia in the men’s pair. Martin and Valent Sinkovic finished their 2017 season with a silver medal at the World Championships when the Italian pair out-sprinted them to the line. They’ll be back and ready to take the top of the podium.

Hungary has entered their 2017 World Champion pair from the men’s coxed pair. They are likely to challenge for a spot on the podium. The rest of the pack is made up of relatively new combinations including Ireland’s Mark O’Donovan and Shane O’Driscoll who have moved from being World Champions in the lightweight pair. Keep an eye on Romania, who have had success in the men’s four, South Africa who are trying two new combinations and the Netherlands.

Paul O'Donovan (IRL) © FISA

 

Lightweight men’s double sculls (LM2x)
They’re back! After a year break from the Norwegian lightweight double, Are Strandli and Kristoffer Brun have entered in the first event of the 2018 season. This duo has a number of European, World Cup and World Championship medals around their neck, not to mention a 2016 Olympic bronze.

Also back in the double are Irish brothers, Paul and Gary O’Donovan. They have been training through the off-season in New Zealand and have had good water time.  

Belgium has entered their double that finished fifth at last year’s World Rowing Championships. In the absence of the three medal winners from the 2017 Championships, (France, Italy and China), if Belgium has maintained speed over the winter, they will be in a good position.

Several countries seem to be doing internal testing, with two to three crews entered. Switzerland and Great Britain have entered two crews and historically both are strong in this boat class. Also look out for the Czech Republic who won the B-final at the world champs and will be looking to improve on that finish.

Lightweight women’s double sculls (LW2x)
The 2017 World Champions from Romania are not entered in the first World Rowing Cup of the season, leaving a spot at the top of the podium. The Netherlands are likely to be a contestant. They are working on their new line-up of Olympic Champion Ilse Paulis and her new partner Marieke Keijser. Keijser has had much success in the lightweight single, winning silver at last year’s World Rowing Championships.

Gold medallist from the lightweight single, Kirsten McCann (RSA) will be trying a new line-up with Nicole van Wyk. Van Wyk has medalled at the under-23 level and will be making her senior debut. China has entered two crews and despite a disappointing finish at the World Championships, they often have a good showing in this category.

Bronze medallist in the lightweight single in 2017, Mary Jones (USA) has partnered with bronze medallist from the lightweight double, Emily Schmieg. If the duo has had enough time rowing together, they may be strong contenders.

Men’s four (M4-)
An impressive entry in the men’s four means this boat class will be hotly contested. There are new line-ups across the board as federations do their internal testing. The Netherlands has entered four crews, hoping that the top boat will avenge their disappointing fourth place finish at the 2017 World Rowing Championships.

The British are sending two new line-ups. The first four includes Olympic Champion from the men’s eight, Tom Ransley. Denmark should be hot on their tails, coming off a fifth-place finish at the 2017 World Rowing Championships. Their history in men’s sweep rowing makes them a contender. Watch out too for Spain and Canada. They were B-final finishers in 2017, but are likely to have gained speed over the winter.

There is a new crew from South Africa lining up as well. South Africa rarely joins racing this early in the season, it will be interesting to see what they can do.

Women’s quadruple sculls (W4x)

The Netherlands won Olympic silver in Rio and went on to win World Championship gold with two remaining rowers: Inge Janssen and Nicole Beukers. Three of the World Champions are back in the boat in Belgrade, Beukers, Olivia van Rooijen and Sophie Souwer, along with newcomer Karolein Florijn.

The Polish are here with their 2017 line-up. They won gold at every event until the World Championships, when they had to settle for silver.  Germany has entered a new-look quad, with two members from the crew that finished fourth in 2017 at the Sarasota-Bradenton World Championships. Russia, France and China are all likely to have strong crews as well, making this a boat class to watch.

Men’s quadruple sculls (M4x)
The A-final at the World Championships was a nail-biter as all six crews finished within five seconds of one another. Lithuania has not entered their men’s quad in Belgrade, choosing to row in two men’s doubles. Great Britain has entered their silver-medal winning quad from Sarasota-Bradenton, with 2017 single sculler, Thomas Barras back in the boat. Estonia finished third at the world champs and has made one change to their line-up, Kaspar Taimsoo has been replaced by Andrei Jamsa.

The three crews just shy of the podium at the 2017 World Championships finished in the following order: Netherlands, Poland, Norway. All three of them have entered crews, with slight adjustments to their line-ups. Norway has added Olaf Tufte to stroke seat. The double Olympic Champion and rowing legend will look to lead his crew to victory.

Men’s double sculls (M2x)
The men’s double sculls has one of the largest entries in Belgrade, with many countries entering multiple line-ups. Poland has broken up their silver-medal winning crew from the World Championships, one of whom went into the men’s quad, and entered two new doubles combinations.

Lithuania has done the opposite, breaking up their world champion quad and entering two doubles. With the success of Lithuanian men’s sculling, these crews are both likely to be fast. Estonia also put their stroke man from the quad, Kaspar Taimsoo, into a double and paired him with Sten-Erik Anderson. Anderson has been in and out of the men’s quad as Estonia tries different line-ups in the men’s sculling programme. Watch out too for Great Britain’s line-up of Jack Beaumont and Angus Groom.

With many new combinations, this field is open for the taking, and Belgrade will provide a good measure of where crews stand early in the season.

Ieva Adomaviciute (b), Milda Valciukaite (s), Lithuania, Women's Double Sculls, Semifinal A/B 2, 2017 World Rowing Cup III, Lucerne, Switzerland © Detlev Seyb/MyRowingPhoto.com

 

Women’s double sculls (W2x)
Lithuania will send their 2017 line-up of Milda Valciukaite and Ieva Adomaviciute. They were just outside the medals last year at the world championships and will be looking to improve. Valciukaite carries Olympic bronze from 2016 and world championship gold from 2013 and Adomaviciute is under-23 world champion in the women’s single.

Belarus is sending two boats. One with Olympic Champion and rowing legend, Ekaterina Karsten, 46, and Tatsiana Kukhta, the other who won the 2016 under 23 championships, Tatsiana Klimovich and Krystina Staraselets.

Keep an eye on France and the Netherlands. They are boating new line-ups, but the rowers each have a handful of medals between them at the under-23 and senior level. Don’t forget about China either. They have two crews entered, but their combination of Yang Lyu and Yuwei Wang came fifth in Sarasota-Bradenton.

Men’s single sculls (M1x)
All eyes will be on World Champion Ondrej Synek from the Czech Republic. Synek has regularly finished at the top of the podium, racking up five World Championship titles.

Despite Synek’s pedigree he could see challenges from Germany’s Tim Ole Naske who finished sixth at the 2017 World Rowing Championships. Naske is the junior and under-23 champion in the men’s single sculls and has been working his way up in senior competition.

Belarus’s Stanislau Shcharbachenia is also likely to mount a challenge. He is regularly in the A-final and his sprinting ability has put him on the podium several times. Lithuania has entered two singles sculls, Zygimantas Galisanskis and Mindaugus Griskonis. Griskonis recently raced in the double sculls and has a silver medal in that category from the Rio Olympics.

Keep an eye on Norway’s Kjetil Borch as well. He’s been part of the successful men’s double together with Olaf Tufte. Tufte is racing in the men’s quad, leaving Borch to race the single.

Sanita Puspure, Ireland, Victoria Thornley, Great Britain, Jeannine Gmelin, Switzerland, Magdalena Lobnig, Women's Single Sculls, A-Final, 2017 World Rowing Cup I, Belgrade, Serbia © FISA Igor Meijer

 

Women’s single sculls (W1x)
Jeannine Gmelin, 2017 World Champion from Switzerland, is definitely the one to watch. Gmelin wrapped up her incredible 2017 season with gold in Sarasota-Bradenton. She is likely to face a challenge from Magdalena Lobnig. Lobnig has been consistently on the podium in the last few years and races extremely well in rough conditions. Her ability to beat the waves took her to the European Championship title in 2016. Victoria Thornley from Great Britain is also likely to mount a challenge.

Germany has entered four boats, with Annekatrin Thiele at the top. Thiele won Olympic gold in the women’s quad, then switched to the single for the 2017 season. Belarus has entered three women’s singles, including Olympic Champion Karsten.

Also keep an eye on Canada’s Carling Zeeman. She has been a regular A-final finisher and has been on the podium at several world cups.

Men’s eight (M8+)
The reigning World Champions, Germany will be sending the same line-up to Belgrade as the one that won in 2017. These men are gunning for Olympic gold and this is just one step along the way. The British Olympic Champions are likely to be right behind them. They’ve put their top names into the eight for a stacked line-up.

Fourth and fifth-place finishers from Sarasota-Bradenton, the Netherlands and Romania are also sending crews. The Dutch have made many changes to their line-up, retaining only Kai Hendricks and Ruben Knab. They seem to be focusing their effort on the men’s four, in which they entered four different crews.

Women’s eight (W8+)
The British, the Netherlands and China have entered this race with comparably new line-ups. The British are still in the building phase. Following their silver medal at the Rio Olympic Games, as many members of their eight retired, or took time off. They began the project of rebuilding and it resulting in a fifth-place finish at the 2017 World Rowing Championships.

The Netherlands are in a similar position of mounting a competitive women’s eight. They are also racing three women’s fours and will be looking to do internal selection. The Chinese are coming to Belgrade with a huge sweep team. Their eight is relatively unknown and it will be interesting to see what they can do.    

Aletta Jorritsma (b), Karolien Florijn, José Van Veen, Monica Lanz (s), Netherlands, Women's Four, A-Final, 2017 World Rowing Cup I, Belgrade, Serbia © FISA Igor Meijer

 

Women’s Four (W4-)
Poland won a silver medal in the women’s four at the 2017 World Rowing Championships and they are in Belgrade with the same line-up. They are likely to be challenged by the Russia crew who took bronze in Sarasota-Bradenton and have retained the same line-up as well.

The Dutch have entered three crews and are likely to be strong contenders. The British split their eight into two fours and are also ones to watch. Don’t underestimate Denmark either, they have been strong in women’s sweep rowing.