Who to Watch at World Rowing Cup I in Plovdiv
The 2019 international rowing season is about to begin with World Rowing Cup I just around the corner. Racing returns to the home of the 2018 World Rowing Championships, Plovdiv, Bulgaria with athletes showing their early season speed.
World Rowing Cup I starts on Friday 10 May and progresses through to finals on Sunday 12 May. Racing will be live streamed on worldrowing.com. The event has 14 Olympic boat classes and two International boat classes being raced.
Women’s pair (W2-)
The United States and Romania are both using this as an opportunity for internal selection and additional racing. The United States has entered four women’s pairs who will also race in the women’s four. A late withdrawal of the US top crew of Tracy Eisser and Megan Kalmoe for medical reasons has meant a reshuffle and more opportunities for their team mates.
Romania has three women’s pairs using combinations from their women’s eight. However, last year’s European Champions, Madalina Beres and Iuliana Popa, are not among them leaving some potential for a surprise. Watch out too for Spain. Aina Cid has a bronze medal from last year’s World Championships and is now paired up with new partner, Virginia Diaz Rivas. Rivas has spent the last few years competing in the women’s single sculls.
Men’s pair (M2-)
This field is robust with 15 crews lining up. There’s no doubt that all eyes will be on World Champions Martin and Valent Sinkovic of Croatia. The Sinkovic brothers finally managed to take the world title last year in Plovdiv after a season of injury and illness. They come to Plovdiv after dominating the Croatian National Championships.
The Sinkovic’s will face a big challenge from Romania. Marius-Vasile Cozmiuc and Ciprian Tudosa have a silver medal from last year’s World Championships and they will have spent the winter itching for gold. The question is: who wants to show their full potential this early in the season?
Spain is likely to be in the mix. Javier Garcia Ordonez and Jaime Canalejo Pazos finished sixth at the World Championships, but in the absence of a few big names, they may find their way onto the podium. And do not be surprised to see Serbia and Poland in the final. They have both entered three crews and are likely looking to do some early-season selecting.
Lightweight men’s double sculls (LM2x)
There are ten crews entered and the podium could be anyone’s. Favourites would have to be Tim Brys and Niels van Zandweghe from Belgium. This duo finished third at last year’s World Rowing Championships after being regularly on the podium throughout the season. They are likely to face challenges from China, Poland and Spain. The Polish crew of Jerzy Kowalski and Milosz Jankowski finished a disappointing eighth at last year’s World Championships, but together they have several medals around their neck and are likely to come out strong this year.
China and Spain have both entered new line-ups. The Chinese have put Man Sun and Junjie Fan together. Fan spent last season in the lightweight single and Sun is a bronze medallist from the 2017 World Championships. If they work well together, this duo might have a shot at the podium. The Spanish crew has sixth-place finisher from Plovdiv Rodrigo Conde Romero together with new partner Patricio Rojas Aznar. With all the new line-ups, the lightweight men’s double is surely one to watch.
Lightweight women’s double sculls (LW2x)
All eyes will be on last year’s World Champions Ionela-Livia Cozmiuc and Gianina-Elena Beleaga from Romania. Just nine short months ago Cozmiuc and Beleaga fought their way through a tough finals race to become World Champions on the same canal in Plovdiv, Bulgaria.
The biggest challenge for Romania is likely to come from the Dutch. Bronze medallist Marieke Keijser, however, is not entered due to injury. Olympic Champion Ilse Paulis will compete together with Martine Veldhuis. Watch out too China. They have entered three crews. The top duo of Fang Chen and Dandan Pan come out of the 2018 World Champion lightweight women’s quadruple sculls.
Women’s quadruple sculls (W4x)
The Dutch most certainly are the crew to watch. They have settled on a new 2019 line-up which includes the return of Olympic silver-medallist Inge Janssen. Janssen took a one-year break following the crew’s gold medal at the 2017 World Rowing Championships and is now back and aiming for Tokyo 2020.
The Chinese have entered a crew with a few returning members from their fourth-placed boat at last year’s World Rowing Championships.
Men’s quadruple sculls (M4x)
With some of the top crews missing from this first event of the year, the podium will be up for the taking. Poland may be the crew to beat. They have put together a new quad which includes Wiktor Chabel. Chabel stroked the boat to last year’s sixth place finish at the World Rowing Championships.
Watch out too for Romania. They have entered a young crew by pulling up some of their under-23 and junior stars. If this boat has had enough time together, they might have a chance at the podium and youthful exuberance will be on their side. Mexico, Moldova and China round off this five-boat race.
Men’s double sculls (M2x)
Keep an eye out for the new combination from Belarus. Stanislau Shcharbachenia has been around for a while, spending recent years in the men’s single sculls and scoring some medals in this boat class. He has teamed up with Dzianis Mihal and if they have had enough time rowing together, this will be a promising combination.
The Polish are also likely to have a strong crew, although they have put their top two scullers into sweep boats for this event. And China has entered three crews, which is likely to be about building up for Tokyo 2020 Olympic qualification. They might just find their way onto the podium during this quest.
Women’s double sculls (W2x)
In this nine-boat field, the Dutch are the crew to watch. Lisa Scheenaard and Roos de Jong won several medals in the 2018 season including a European Championship silver. With another year rowing together, they are likely to be frontrunners in this early phase of the 2019 season.
Scheenaard and de Jong will be challenged by Poland’s Krystyna Lemanczyk-Dobrzelak and Martyna Mikolajczak. This duo finished sixth at last year’s European Rowing Championships and eighth at the World Rowing Championships. Keep an eye out too for China and Belarus. They have entered new line-ups this year, but judging by past performance, they will be in medal contention.
Men’s single sculls (M1x)
The men’s single sculls will see 16 competitors take to the waters of Plovdiv. There are a few standout names in this group, including the return of Croatia’s Damir Martin. Martin did not compete at the World Rowing Championships last year, following a season struggling with injury and landing himself in the c-final at the European Championships. Martin is well-known for his challenge to New Zealand’s Mahe Drysdale in the final of the 2016 Rio Olympic Games. He will certainly be looking to work his way back to the top.
The rest of the field is a toss-up with most of the competitors posting mixed results over the last few years. Mexico’s Juan Carlos Cabrera pulled off an eight-place finish at the Rio Olympics, but found himself in the d-final at the 2017 World Rowing Championships. Aleksander Aleksandrov of Azerbaijan finished seventh at the European Championships last year and he could be in for the medals. Watch out too for Serbia, they have entered two athletes who have been racing in the men’s double sculls.
Women’s single sculls (W1x)
The women’s single sculls sees the return of two rowing legends. Ekaterina Karsten from Belarus is now back to the women’s single after she competed last year in the women’s quadruple sculls. This marks the start of her 29th season of World Rowing events. Karsten will compete against another rowing great, 2012 Olympic Champion Mirka Knapkova of the Czech Republic.
Knapkova is working her way back after taking the 2017 season off to have a baby. She finished well down at last year’s World Rowing Championships where she raced in her country’s women’s quad. But Knapkova won’t stay down for long.
Watch out too for Bulgaria’s young talent, Desislava Georgieva. She finished third at last year’s World Rowing Under-23 Championships in the women’s single and will be looking to step up this year in her senior-level performance. Keep an eye too for China’s Yan Jiang. She was part of the women’s quad that finished sixth at the 2016 Olympics and second at the 2017 World Rowing Championships.
Women’s Four (W4-)
This new Olympic boat class will only get harder as countries ramp up towards this year’s Olympic qualification. This race seems to be acting as national selection for China and the United States. These countries have entered multiple crews, some who are also competing in the women’s pair.
The United States’ crews are packed full of talent, although there is only one remaining member of their 2018 World Champion women’s four. Molly Bruggeman is joined by Olympic Champion Meghan Musnicki who is back after a two-year break following gold at the Rio Olympic Games. Musnicki also won gold at London 2012.
Watch out too for the top crews from the Netherlands and Romania. There are big names in both boats and they will be looking for gold early in the season.
Men’s four (M4-)
The Romanian delegation to this first World Rowing Cup is significant including two crews entered in this boat class. They include the 2018 European Champion crew of Mihaita-Vasile Tiganescu, Cosmin Pascari, Stefan-Constantin Berariu and Ciprian Huc. Tiganescu, Pascari, Berariu and Huc finished fifth in a tough final at last year’s World Rowing Championships and they are certainly ones to watch.
Romania will be challenged by Poland, who has also entered two crews. The Polish have changed their line-up slightly, but still have several members of their seventh-placed crew from last year’s World Championships. Watch out too for Croatia. They’ve pulled up some of their young stars from the junior and under-23 level and it will be interesting to see how they perform on the senior level.
Women’s eight (W8+)
The United States has decided to focus their effort in Plovdiv on the women’s pairs and the fours, leaving a four-boat field in the women’s eight. The fight will likely happen between the top Romanian boat and the Dutch.
The Romanians upset the world order two years ago by winning the World Rowing Championships in the women’s eight, but they were not able to find the same speed last year, finishing fifth. The Dutch won early in last year’s season, but were not able to keep up the momentum to pull off a podium at the World Rowing Championships. This will be a great early-season test for both crews.
Men’s eight (M8+)
This may turn into a two-boat race between Romania and Poland, due to some last-minute withdrawals It is anyone’s guess who will come out on top. Both crews are boating new line-ups with the Polish crew being a group of young athletes. The first World Rowing Cup will give these athletes a great opportunity to race early in the season.
The lightweight women’s single sculls has drawn seven entries from around the world. The favourite has to be Belarus’ Alena Furman. She rowed an incredible final at last year’s European Championships to take home the title. Watch out too for Olympic bronze medallist from the lightweight double sculls, Wenyi Huang of China. And keep an eye on Mexico’s young Kenia Alanis Lechuga. She is still building up experience and already has some impressive results under her belt.
The lightweight men’s single sculls has 11 entries, including Croatia’s Luka Radonic, Hungary’s Peter Galambos and Slovenia’s Raijko Hrvat. These three have been competing against each other for years and are likely to be at the head of the field in Plovdiv.