World Rowing previews here the 14 Olympic events which sees the arrival of Australia,  New Zealand and Canada, amongst others, to the Samsung World Rowing Cup series for 2012. It also witnesses a number of crews who recently qualified for the Olympics through the Final Olympic Qualification Regatta, raced earlier this week on the same Lucerne regatta course.

Women’s Pair (W2-)
The return to international competition of the World Champion Kiwi crew of Juliette Haigh and Rebecca Scown signals the inevitable showdown between New Zealand and Great Britain’s Helen Glover and Heather Stanning. These two crews last met at the 2011 World Rowing Championships and the finish was so tight that it was decided on the final stroke of the race.

Glover and Stanning come to Lucerne with the advantage of a World Cup win from Belgrade while Haigh and Scown may be slightly disadvantaged by their change of hemispheres.

These two crews, though, will be wary of the United States. The USA has entered two boats that finished second and third in Belgrade. Both boats are top calibre and will be racing their hardest not only to do well at the World Cup, but also to be the top US boat.

The depth of talent is even thicker with the arrival of 2011 bronze medallists, Sarah Tait and Kate Hornsey of Australia.

Men’s Pair (M2-)
The win by Germany’s Anton Braun and Felix Drahotta at the first stage of the 2012 Samsung World Rowing Cup series earlier this month in Belgrade was one of the stunners. Can they keep it up in Lucerne when they face three-time World Champions in the pair, Eric Murray and Hamish Bond of New Zealand, for the first time?

Murray and Bond have been unbeatable since 2009 making them firm favourites whenever they line up. Lucerne will reveal what their off-season training has done. This is the same for last year’s bronze medallists, Lorenzo Carboncini and Niccolo Mornati. The Italian duo missed Belgrade and will make their 2012 debut in Lucerne – every expectation is that they will have speed.

After a post-Beijing break, Olympic silver medallists in the pair Dave Calder and Scott Frandsen made a comeback in 2011, finishing fifth at the World Rowing Championships. In this Olympic year, no doubt will their performance step up another notch.

Silver medallists in Belgrade, George Nash and William Satch of Great Britain are a new combination, as are the Germans, and showed that they have the talent to be on the medals podium. Watch out too for the Greek Gkountoulas twins. They finished third in Belgrade and in recent years have regularly been on the medals podiums.

Women’s Double Sculls (W2x)
Since 2010, when it comes to the women’s double it is impossible to look past Katherine Grainger and Anna Watkins of Great Britain. This duo has remained unbeaten since they came together. But at Belgrade Germany’s Britta Oppelt and Annekatrin Thiele put on a good show in chasing Grainger and Watkins to the line. In post-race interviews Watkins admitted they always felt confident of holding the lead. Can anyone beat the British flagship boat?

With last year’s silver medallist Australian crew out of the picture due to injury it will be up to the world’s third and fifth-placed boats from 2011, New Zealand and Poland, to step up for the challenge. New Zealand’s Fiona Paterson and Anna Reymer and Poland’s 2009 World Champions Julia Michalska and Magdalena Fularczyk are using Lucerne to debut their 2012 season and everyone will be interested to see what speed they have developed since last year’s World Rowing Championships.

In the A-final expect to see the Antosova sisters from the Czech Republic, third-place finishers at the World Cup in Belgrade, and potentially China who, with three entries, look to still be sorting out their final crew for the London Olympic Games.

Men’s Double Sculls (M2x)
Early May in Belgrade the final in the men’s double sculls was spectacular. Five boats finished within two seconds of each other. The arrival of World Champions Nathan Cohen and Joseph Sullivan of New Zealand and Olympic Champions Scott Brennan and David Crawshay of Australia is likely to make the final even more intense.

Australia and New Zealand will face a very fast German combination, Eric Knittel and Stephan Krueger, winners in Belgrade and 2009 World Champions. They will also face Great Britain’s silver medallists from Belgrade – the new 2012 combination of Bill Lucas and Sam Townsend.

Lithuanians Saulius Ritter and Rolandas Mascinskas became European Champions in the double together last year. Starting their 2012 racing season in Lucerne, their competition is waiting to see what they have in store for this Olympic year.

There is also the comeback crew of 2000 Olympic Champions and 2004 Olympic silver medallists Luka Spik and Iztok Cop of Slovenia. Spik and Cop have had mixed results since racing in the Olympic final four years ago in Beijing. It now seems they are doing everything right to build up and peak for London.

Men’s Four (M4-)
The new-look British men’s four (Alex Gregory, Pete Reed, Tom James and Andrew Triggs Hodge) took charge in Belgrade to cross the line first, but behind them a storm brewed. Belarus, Greece and the Czech Republic finished within half a second of each other. Belarus and 2011 world silver medallists Greece will compete again in Lucerne and there is every indication that they will continue to step up to the challenge of the formidable British four.

For Great Britain the four is their magic boat, having won gold in this event at the last three Olympics. This is the priority boat for coach Juergen Grobler. But in rowing there are no certainties and Great Britain knows they cannot be complacent, especially as Australia has made it their goal to win back the four which they last won at the 1996 Olympics.

Australia go to Lucerne with a new line-up from the crew that were third at last year’s World Rowing Championships. Three-time Olympic Champion Drew Ginn remains in the boat with Joshua Dunkley-Smith and they are joined by James Chapman and William Lockwood. The anticipation around Australia and Great Britain meeting for the first time in 2012 is immense.

Lightweight Women’s Double Sculls (LW2x)
The field for the lightweight women’s double is not huge, but it has quality as countries narrow their focus to Olympic competitors. Eleven nations have entered including all of the finalists from the 2011 World Rowing Championships.

Without a doubt, holding the edge at this stage are the current World Champions Christina Giazitzidou and Alexandra Tsiavou of Greece. They showed their continued good form in Belgrade by rowing a controlled winning race ahead of Great Britain’s Sophie Hosking and Katherine Copeland and China’s Dongxiang Xu and Wenyi Huang who were second and third respectively.

These three boats are back to race again in Lucerne and they will be joined for the first time this season by last year’s A-finalists Australia and New Zealand as well as 2011 silver medallists, Canada. Australia, New Zealand and Canada have all retained only one member of their 2011 crews as selectors put together what they see as their best Olympic boat. This scenario means that a level of unknown potential hovers over the event. The heats at Lucerne will start to reveal what to expect.

Lightweight Men’s Double Sculls (LM2x)
The showdown between New Zealand and Great Britain will arise again in Lucerne. New Zealand’s Storm Uru and Peter Taylor became World Champions in 2009. But the Olympic Champion duo, Hunter and Purchase, have been back on top since 2010.

At the first World Rowing Cup in Belgrade, Purchase and Hunter finished first, putting them in good position for Lucerne where Taylor and Uru will race their first international race this year.

Watch out for the flying Greeks. Panagiotis Magdanis and Eleftherios Konsolas pushed the British right to the line in Belgrade leaving Hunter struggling to stand after the race on the medals podium.

But the Danes will also line up. Two-time Olympians and 2008 Olympic bronze medallists Rasmus Quist and Mads Rasmussen came back together last year and in Belgrade finished fourth.

Lightweight Men’s Four (LM4-)
In an event that invariably sees close finishes, the Belgrade World Cup indicated that the legendary Danish boat is back on medal-winning form. The Danes’ signature high stroke rate for the entire race was evident in Belgrade. This left Great Britain and China panting to keep up, finishing second and third respectively.

In Lucerne the field becomes even deeper especially when you count the arrival to the 2012 international scene of Australia. Anthony Edwards, Samuel Beltz, Benjamin Cureton and Todd Skipworth of Australia are the reigning World Champions and will definitely give the Danes food for thought.

Keep an eye out too for the Swiss. This crew finished sixth last year and will debut their 2012 season on familiar home waters where the ringing of cow bells will no doubt stimulate their rowing prowess.

Women’s Quadruple Sculls (W4x)
There has been much reshuffling going on compared to the crews that lined up last year at the World Rowing Championships. At the World Champs, Germany and the United States were the top two crews. This year the game may change. A new-look Ukrainian boat won in Belgrade with Germany back in second and the United States out of the medals in fourth.

Ukraine race again in Lucerne with the same crew but in a slightly different order. Germany has two crews racing in this event with the top boat being one different from the Belgrade line-up. The United States will also boat two crews in Lucerne – one being the same as the one in Belgrade and the other featuring three of the 2011 world silver medal crew.

Great Britain will seek to step up from its bronze medal performance in Belgrade, and, with last year’s world bronze medallists New Zealand in the mix as well as the arrival of the Australians, a whole new set of results could be expected as it appears that crew decisions are still being made in this boat class.

Men’s Quadruple Sculls (M4x)
After finishing third last year, Croatia made a strong 2012 debut by winning in Belgrade. This crew has retained the same members as the past four years and after coming through as under-23 champions they took the rowing world by storm by becoming senior World Champions in 2010.

Croatia looked confident in their Belgrade win despite strong pressure from second-placed Germany as well as a new Estonian line-up that finished third. These boats are all in Lucerne and there’s no doubt racing will be just as intense, especially with the arrival of World Champions, Australia.

The Australians, however, have had to swap in a new stroke to replace the injured Daniel Noonan. Jared Bidwell now joins Christopher Morgan, James McRae and Karsten Forsterling.

Keep an eye out too for Great Britain, Switzerland and Poland. These crews raced in the B-final in Belgrade but all have the potential to push into the A-final.

Women’s Eight (W8+)
When the United States eight appears on the start line all other crews instantly know who to look out for. The United States come to Lucerne with an incredible unbroken winning streak that goes way back to the 2006 World Rowing Championships. Apart from super coxswain, Mary Whipple, the crew has been swapped and changed, but still their success remains.

United States coach Tom Terhaar knows, however, that he can never rest on his laurels, and he will be watching winners of the Belgrade World Rowing Cup, the Netherlands, closely.

Joining the Dutch and the Americans in Lucerne is Canada. The Canadians finished second to the United States last year and many of the crew have rowed at United States universities, thus giving them a level of understanding of the World Champion crew.

Keep an eye out too for Australia. This Australian line-up arrived early in Lucerne to race at the Final Olympic Qualification Regatta and finished first, booking their spot at the Olympic Games. They race here to consolidate their racing experience.

Women’s Single Sculls (W1x)
China’s Xiuyun Zhang stood on the top of the podium in Belgrade. As a 1996 Olympic medallists, it looks like Zhang’s longevity in the sport is playing to her advantage and after finishing fourth at the 2008 Olympic Games, Zhang began this 2012 Olympic season in great form.

World Champion Mirka Knapkova of the Czech Republic was second in Belgrade with six time World Champion and two-time Olympic Champion Ekaterina Karsten of Belarus absent. Karsten will race in Lucerne and there will be much interest regarding her current condition as she has not been the same dominating figure that she was in the past.

Also debuting her 2012 season is world bronze medallist from 2010 and 2011, New Zealand’s Emma Twigg. Twigg will add to the depth of talent in this event with 2010 World Champion Frida Swensson of Sweden also competing.

Keep an eye out too for Nataliya Mustafayeva of Azerbaijan. Mustafayeva finished third in Belgrade and, since coming into the single a year ago, has been slowly improving with every race that she enters.

Men’s Single Sculls (M1x)
What a line-up. As the event with the most number of entries in Lucerne, going through the list brings up more than six boats that absolutely have the capability of making the A-final and a long list of athletes that deserve a mention.

There is 2010 World Champion Ondrej Synek of the Czech Republic and five-time World Champion Mahe Drysdale of New Zealand who is using Lucerne as his first international race of the 2012 season. There is Alan Campbell of Great Britain who has become a podium regular over the last two seasons.

Then there are the Latin American challengers with good credentials. Angel Fournier Rodriguez of Cuba was third in Belgrade and Argentina’s three-time Olympian Santiago Fernandez is making a comeback.

Scandinavia has a strong presence in the form of Lassi Karonen of Sweden and two-time Olympic Champion Olaf Tufte of Norway. Karonen often sits on the edge of the A-final but also has World Cup medals to his credit. Tufte has not been very successful since his 2008 Olympic gold medal, but can never be discounted.

Add to the list Germany’s Marcel Hacker, a regular finalist in the single for the last decade. Hacker is debuting in Lucerne this season as injury kept him away from Belgrade.

Men’s Eight (M8+)
This event continues to have Germany written all over it. The Germans, like the United States women’s eight, are on an unbroken winning streak. Their streak, led by coxswain Martin Sauer, goes back to 2009 and looks likely to continue.

Germany finished first in Belgrade despite a head-to-head fight with Great Britain through the first half of the race. The Germans finally managed to pull away leaving a tired Great Britain in the silver medal spot. The Netherlands came in third with all three of these countries meeting again in Lucerne.

The eight also sees the arrival of 2008 Olympic Champions and 2011 bronze medallists Canada as well as last year’s fourth-placed Australians. Canada has been rebuilding since their 2008 win and coach Mike Spracklen has huge experience on how to best work the four-year Olympic cycle. The boat also has the bonus of Olympic Champion coxswain Brian Price coming out of retirement and ready to do what he needs for a top London Olympic performance.