Who to watch at World Rowing Cup II, Lucerne
The Rio Olympic Games are just over two months away and a big bunch of those racing in Rio will face each other this week at World Rowing Cup II in Lucerne, Switzerland. Starting with heats on Friday 27 May and going through to finals on Saturday and Sunday, more than 550 athletes from 51 countries will be racing.
Have a look at World Rowing's picks for this second World Rowing Cup in the series of three. There's 30 entries in the men's single sculls and the women's pair has attracted a huge field. Some entries look like countries are still deciding their Olympic boats.
Women’s Pair (W2-)
Helen Glover and Heather Stanning of Great Britain have had an uninterrupted winning streak in the women’s pair since 2012. They recently won the European Rowing Championships and in Lucerne they will face New Zealand for the first time this season.
In 2015 New Zealand took silver, but they have a new line up this year. Genevieve Behrent comes out of the country's medal-winning eight along with Rebecca Scown who is also an Olympic medallist.
The United States are sending two line-ups in an attempt to pick their top (and potentially Olympics) combination. Last year's bronze medal crew of Felice Mueller and Eleanor Logan have been split between the two boats with Grace Luczak and Meghan Musnicki the new team mates.
Look out too for South Africa, who won gold at World Rowing Cup I, as well as Denmark who finished fourth at last year’s World Rowing Championships. Germany’s Kerstin Hartmann and Kathrin Marchand are also in the mix. The duo won silver at the recent European Rowing Championships.
Men’s Pair (M2-)
The unbeatable Kiwi pair will be racing for the first time this season internationally. The owners of the World Best Time, Hamish Bond and Eric Murray, have not lost a single race since 2009. They will meet winners of World Rowing Cup I, Nathaniel Reilly-O'Donnell and Matthew Tarrant of Great Britain. This is duo took gold last year in the men's coxed pair. The top British pair of Sinclair and Innes have pulled out due to illness.
The Netherlands finished fourth last year at the worlds and are also looking to fine-tune their line-up as they have two crews racing. The 2015 duo of Mitchel Steenman and Roel Braas took bronze at the recent European regatta and silver at World Rowing Cup I.
Look out for Shaun Keeling and Lawrence Brittain of South Africa. They finished third at World Rowing Cup I and row very confidently. Australia planned to race but has withdrawn.
Women’s Double Sculls (W2x)
New Zealand will be racing for the first time this season with the same crew combination as the one that won in 2015: Zoe Stevenson and Eve MacFarlane. The two athletes have retained their spot in this boat for this Olympic season and will be ready to take on the winners of the European Rowing Championships, Belarus (Yuliya Bichyk and Tatsiana Kukhta). The Belarusians took gold ahead of Germany’s Julia Lier and Mareike Admas. Lier and Adams are last year’s World Championship bronze medallists.
Despite Greece underperforming at the recent European Rowing Championships, they are still worth watching out for. Aikaterini NIkolaidou and Sofia Asoumanaki of Greece are the 2015 world silver medallists.
Keep an eye out too for Lithuania, the 2013 World Champions who finished fifth at last year’s World Rowing Championships and also at the Europeans in Brandenburg.
Men’s Double Sculls (M2x)
Croatian stars Martin and Valent Sinkovic have become World Champions twice since forming a partnership. They are also the first double to have gone below six minutes, setting the current World Best Time at the 2014 World Rowing Championships. The brothers have already won two gold medals so far this season, at World Rowing Cup I and at the European Rowing Championships.
Also lining up are the 2015 world silver and bronze medallists, Lithuania and New Zealand respectively. The Lithuanians, Rolandas Mascinskas and Saulius Ritter won bronze at the European Rowing Championships, while Lucerne will be New Zealand’s first international regatta this season.
Watch out too for the German boat of Marcel Hacker and Stephan Krueger who took silver at the European Rowing Championships.
Men’s Four (M4-)
Reigning World Champions Italy will not be racing in Lucerne and so the battle is likely to be on between 2015 world silver medallists Australia and world bronze medallists Great Britain.
Australia will be sending nearly the same line-up as last year’s World Championship boat, with Joshua Booth replacing Spencer Turrin. Great Britain, however, has an entirely new line-up this year consisting of the four best male rowers on the British national team: Alex Gregory, Mohamed Sbihi, George Nash and Constantine Louloudis. At the European Rowing Championships the British won gold convincingly ahead of Belarus and France. Great Britain has a historical track record in this boat class and will be aiming to once again reclaim the top spot in their lead up to the Rio Olympics.
Watch out too for Canada, fourth-place finishers at last year’s World Rowing Championships and then fourth again this year at World Rowing Cup I.
Women’s Single Sculls (W1x)
Kim Brennan (née Crow) hasn’t missed a podium in the women’s single sculls since 2012. The Aussie is the 2013 and 2015 World Champion, and in 2014 she won silver behind Emma Twigg of New Zealand.
Twigg took a year out of rowing in 2015 and will try to secure Olympic qualification at the Final Olympic Qualification Regatta ahead of World Rowing Cup II. In the meantime, her fellow countrywoman Olivia Loe is entered in the single for the Lucerne World Cup.
At World Rowing Cup I it was Canada’s Carling Zeeman who led the field, finishing ahead of Belarus’s five-time Olympic Champion Ekaterina Karsten. Karsten will be racing prior to this World Cup at the Final Olympic Qualification Regatta, so at the time of writing is still aiming to go to Rio.
Look out too for China’s Jingli Duan who won world bronze last year, as well as Magdalena Lobnig of Austria who recently won the 2016 European Rowing Championships. The reigning Olympic Champion Mirka Knapkova of the Czech Republic is also entered. She has had a slow start this season and it remains to be seen if she will continue to improve as the season unfolds.
Men’s Single Sculls (M1x)
World Champion, Ondrej Synek of the Czech Republic will meet Olympic Champion, Mahe Drysdale of New Zealand for the first time this season. So far in this Olympic cycle, Synek has had the upper hand in terms of major wins against Drysdale. This race will show how each of their off-season training has gone.
Cuba’s Angel Rodriguez Fournier will be there. The 2013 silver and 2014 bronze world medallist raced at World Rowing Cup I in April and claimed silver behind Croatia’s rising single sculler Damir Martin. Martin has withdrawn from Lucerne at the last minute.
Watch out too for Lithuania’s Mindaugas Griskonis, last year’s world bronze medallist. He took silver behind Martin at the recent European Rowing Championships.
Lightweight Women’s Double Sculls (LW2x)
All nations that medalled at the 2015 World Rowing Championships will be racing in Lucerne. Leading the way is likely to be the New Zealand 2014 and 2015 World Champions who will be racing at their first international regatta of the season. In the boat is Sophie MacKenzie and Julia Edward.
The 2015 world bronze medallists, South Africans Kirsten McCann and Ursula Grobler, will be determined to show their form. They finished third at World Rowing Cup I and look to be on track in their Olympic build-up. Look out too for Germany’s Fini Sturm and Marie-Louise Draeger who won European Championship silver earlier this month, as well as Poland’s Joannna Dorociak and Weronika Deresz who won bronze. Then adding to the competition is Canada, Australia and China. This depth of talent will mean the fight for the medals will be intense.
Lightweight Men’s Double Sculls (LM2x)
All 2015 World Champion medallists in the lightweight men’s double sculls will be racing in Lucerne, but some with new line ups. The ones that are likely to receive the most interest is the new line up in the World Champion French boat. Jeremie Azou and Stany Delayre formed a partnership for four years, earning World Championship medals and European Champion titles together. But lately Pierre Houin has been showing better form than Delayre and Houin will now partner Azou. Houin is last year’s under-23 World Champion in the lightweight single and at the recent French National Small Boat Championships he convincingly beat Delayre in the lightweight single.
Last year’s World silver medallists, William Fletcher and Richard Chambers, will again represent Great Britain in this boat class. This will be their first international competition of the season.
Norway’s 2015 World bronze medallists and 2013 World Champions in the lightweight double, Kristoffer Brun and Are Strandli, will also be lining up. The Norwegians recently won bronze at the European Rowing Championships. Look out too for the 2014 World Champions from South Africa, James Thompson and John Smith as well as the Irish double of Gary and Paul O’Donovan who became European Champions a few weeks ago.
Lightweight Men’s Four (LM4-)
The Swiss combination of Lucas Tramer, Simon Schuerch, Simon Niepmann and Mario Gyr are still going strong. The 2015 World Champions already won World Cup and European Championship gold this season and are being promoted as Switzerland's top Olympic medal prospect.
Switzerland will face 2015 world silver medallists, Denmark in Lucerne. After racing in the open men’s four at the European Rowing Championships where they finished sixth, Denmark are back racing lightweight and have returned with Morten Joergensen back in stroke seat. Joergensen took a year off due to illness and overtraining and is now back with the crew.
France will be lining up with the same crew that raced to bronze at the 2015 World Rowing Championships, while New Zealand will have one change to the crew that finished fourth last year in Aiguebelette. Olympic medallist, Peter Taylor returns to the boat.
Look out too for Great Britain, silver medallists at the 2016 European Rowing Championships.
Women’s Quadruple Sculls (W4x)
At the 2015 World Rowing Championships, the United States surprised the field by taking gold ahead of 2013 and 2014 World Champions Germany. They will be sending two different line-ups to Lucerne as they look to fine-tune their Rio Olympic boat.
Germany, the world silver medallists, took the European Champion title in Brandenburg a few weeks ago, finishing ahead of Poland who were fourth at last year’s World Rowing Championships. Look out too for the Netherlands. They are the 2015 world bronze medallists and took silver behind Poland at World Rowing Cup I.
Men’s Quadruple Sculls (M4x)
Germany is the reigning World Champions and Olympic Champions in this event. They have, however, had a slow start this season. At the European Rowing Championships Germany missed the medals podium. Instead at the Europeans, it was Estonia finishing first, followed by Lithuania in silver and Russia in bronze. Estonia will not be racing in Lucerne leaving the door open for Lithuania and Russia to step up in the medals.
Look out for Australia’s world silver medallist crew from last year who will be making their first international appearance this season. Two athletes remain from last year’s line-up: Karsten Forsterling and Cameron Girdlestone. They are joined by James McRae and Alexander Belonogoff. Also keep an eye on the British crew who finished fifth at the recent European Rowing Championships and qualified for Rio from a fourth-place finish at the World Rowing Championships last year.
Women’s Eight (W8+)
Watch out for the arrival of the Americans. The invincible United States have not lost a major race in this event since 2006 and will be racing for the first time this season. They will line up against the 2015 world silver and bronze medallists, New Zealand and Canada, respectively.
Canada has often finished in silver position behind the United States during the past decade. They will be looking to challenge their long-time contenders. At World Rowing Cup I, the Canadians won silver, behind the Netherlands who have still to qualify for Rio.
In 2015, it was the first time that New Zealand had ever won a World Championship medal in the women’s eight and they look to be going from strength to strength. Look out too for Great Britain who won earlier this month at the European Rowing Championships. They crossed the line in a tight finish with the Netherlands.
Men’s Eight (M8+)
Great Britain has won each of the World Rowing Championships in this Olympic cycle, followed by Germany in silver. Germany are the reigning Olympic Champions and earlier this month they won European gold, beating Russia and Great Britain to the line. Germany and Great Britain will meet again in Lucerne. The British boat has been altered as their four top sweep rowers are now contesting the men's four, so Great Britain will have to give it their all in the face of Germany.
But there are also other challengers. Look out too for the Netherlands, the 2015 world bronze medallists who took gold at World Rowing Cup I and the arrival of New Zealand who were fourth at last year's World Rowing Championships.