This post-Olympic year has seen a number of high-profile retirements leaving the door open for some new names to come to the forefront. It has seen the Olympic Champion Sinkovic brothers from Croatia switch from the men’s double sculls to the pair. And the United States women’s eight hopes to break more records as they go to these World Champs as unbeaten at this event since 2006. It has seen the women’s single sculls open up to new names like Lobnig and Gmelin following the retirement of the majority of 2016 frontrunners.
Lightweight Men’s Double Sculls (LM2x)
France’s Pierre Houin and Jeremie Azou became Olympic Champions last year in Rio after remaining undefeated throughout the Olympic season. Azou has been dominating in this boat since 2015, when he rowed with another partner. The winning streak of the French lightweight men’s double sculls seems to be on a roll. The Houin-Azou duo raced at three regattas this season, at two stages of the World Rowing Cup and at the European Rowing Championships – they did not lose once.
The French will be up against Italy and Poland who have recorded consistent results this season. Poland’s Jerzy Kowalski and Milosz Jankowski won two bronze medals this season – at World Rowing Cup I and at World Rowing Cup III. Meanwhile, Pietro Ruta and Stefano Oppo from Italy finished fourth at the 2016 Olympic Games in the lightweight men’s four. Now in the double, a boat class in which Ruta already has several years of experience, Ruta and Oppo have won silver at World Rowing Cup III and at the European Rowing Championships they took bronze.
Conspicuous in their absence is the Olympic silver medal Irish double. Gary O’Donovan is out due to illness leaving brother Paul to race in the lightweight men’s single sculls.
Lightweight Women’s Double Sculls (LW2x)
New Zealand’s new line-up raced once this season together. Made up of two very accomplished athletes, Zoe McBride is a two-time senior World Champion and World Best Time holder in the lightweight women’s single sculls while Jackie Kiddle is an under-23 World Champion in this boat class. Together they won gold with clear water. They look to be tough to beat.
Poland raced at all three stages of the World Rowing Cup season and the European Rowing Championships and did not miss a single podium. Weronika Deresz and Martyna Mikolajczak won the European Rowing Championships and gold at World Rowing Cup I, as well as two World Rowing Cup silver medals.
But at World Rowing Cup II, it was China who won the gold ahead of Poland. Fang Chen and Dandan Pan only raced once this season and recorded the win. Look out too for Great Britain. Two British crews raced at World Rowing Cup I and both medalled, one in silver and one in bronze. One athlete from each of those two boats was selected to create the combination of Katherine Copeland and Emily Craig who went on to win bronze at the European Rowing Championships. Katherine Copeland is the 2012 Olympic Champion in this boat class.
And don’t discount the young Romanians. The newly crowned under-23 World Champions, Ionela-Livia Lehaci and Bianina-Elena Beleaga, will aim to prove their worth at the senior level.
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Men’s Single Sculls (M1x)
Topping the overall 2017 World Rowing Cup standings with 17 points was Switzerland’s Nico Stahlberg who raced at each of the three World Cup stages. He won gold in Belgrade, then bronze in Poznan and finally finishing fourth in Lucerne.
But New Zealand’s new sculling star Robert Manson looks hard to beat. Manson raced at two World Rowing Cup regattas and won gold at each one. He finished the World Rowing Cup series only one point behind Stahlberg, with 16 points. At World Rowing Cup II in Poznan, Manson set a new World Best Time, breaking the time that had been set by his Kiwi predecessor eight years prior by nearly three seconds.
Watch out too for Cuba’s Angel Fournier Rodriguez, who claimed two World Cup silver medals this season, both times behind Manson. The World Champion medallist will aim to add yet another championship medal to his collection.
Then there is the tried and true multi-Olympic and World Championship medallist Ondrej Synek from the Czech Republic. He claimed another European Championship title this year, but was not so successful on the World Cup circuit.
Do not discount Damir Martin from Croatia. The Olympic silver medallist from Rio did not have his best season so far but will aim to prove his worth once again at the Worlds.
Women’s Single Sculls (W1x)
Austria’s Magdalena Lobnig and Switzerland’s Jeannine Gmelin have been the top athletes to look out for in this boat class this season. Gmelin earned two World Cup gold medals, while Lobnig earned two World Cup bronzes and one gold in Poznan.
Look out too for Great Britain’s Victoria Thornley. She is this year’s European Champion and also won a World Cup gold in Belgrade and silver in Poznan. Carling Zeeman from Canada raced only once during the pre-Championship season, winning World Cup silver in Lucerne – proving that she will also be in the race for medals. Then there is China. Jingli Duan raced once this season, but the 2016 Olympic bronze medallist did so in podium fashion at World Rowing Cup II, taking bronze.
Men’s Pair (M2-)
Following the retirement of the Kiwi Pair, New Zealand’s Bond and Murray, this boat class has opened its doors to new champions and many countries have stepped up to the challenge including the Olympic Champions from the men’s double sculls, the Croatian Sinkovic brothers. In their debut race in the pair Martin and Valent Sinkovic took silver.
But despite there being four major regattas so far this season, the pair is too hard to call. This boat class saw four different gold medal winners: Great Britain, Italy, France and New Zealand.
The French achieved the most number of World Rowing Cup points with 13, ahead of Serbia, with 12. Both nations reached the podium three times this season. French brothers Valentin and Theophile Onfroy won gold at World Rowing Cup II, a European Championship silver and a bronze from Lucerne. Serbia’s Nenad Bedik and Milos Vasic won silver at World Rowing Cup I and II and bronze at the European Rowing Championships.
Matteo Lodo and Giuseppe Vincino were part of the men’s four that won Olympic bronze in Rio. They became European Champions together. In Lucerne, they were forced to withdraw for medical reasons and so will come to Sarasota-Bradenton potentially with an element of surprise.
New Zealand’s James Hunter and Thomas Murray raced once this season, at World Rowing Cup III, and won gold less than one second ahead of Croatia. The British duo for the World Champs have not yet raced internationally this season. Tom Jeffery and Thomas George both come from their nation’s eight.
Women’s Pair (W2-)
New Zealand (Grace Prendergast and Kerri Gowler) won the two World Rowing Cups they entered this season and dominated at the Henley Royal Regatta. They also set a new World Best Time of 6:49.08. They will be the crew to beat.
The United States’ Megan Kalmoe and Tracy Eisser, however, will have the home advantage. They won silver at both regattas that they competed at this season, in Poznan at World Rowing Cup II and in Lucerne at World Rowing Cup III. Romania also medalled this season. Madalina Beres and Laura Oprea won the European Rowing Championships where they doubled up to also win European gold in the women’s eight. They will aim to repeat this double-header in Sarasota-Bradenton.
The Danish crew of Hedvig Rasmussen and Christina Johansen will also be one of the top combinations to look out for. Rasmussen is the 2016 Olympic bronze medallist in this event and this year, teamed up with new partner Johansen, they won World Cup bronze and European silver.
Great Britain has a new crew after the retirement of Olympic Champions, Stanning and Glover – Holly Hill and Melissa Wilson both finished sixth in the women’s four at the World Rowing Cup in Lucerne but have yet to show themselves internationally in the pair.
Women’s Double Sculls (W2x)
Brooke Donoghue and Olivia Loe of New Zealand won two World Rowing Cup regattas this season – their first season together as a combination. At World Rowing Cup II, they won gold in 6:39.13, thereby setting a new World Cup Best Time. The Kiwi duo will be top favourites in Sarasota-Bradenton.
The French crew of Helen Lefebvre and Elodie Ravera-Scaramozzino won silver in Lucerne and finished fifth at last year’s Olympic Rowing Regatta. They are also expected to be among the best in the field.
The Czech Republic medalled twice in 2017 and will be ones to watch. Athletes Kristyna Fleissnerova and Lenka Antosova claimed the European Championship title and won bronze at World Rowing Cup I. Look out too for Australia’s Olympia Aldersey and Madeleine Edmunds who won bronze at World Rowing Cup II.
As for China, at World Rowing Cup II, they won silver, but in Sarasota-Bradenton they will line up a new combination. Lyu Yang raced in the B-final of the double at last year’s Olympic Games, while Fei Wang has had very few appearances on the world rowing stage to date.
Men’s Double Sculls (M2x)
Poland did not miss a single podium this season in the men’s double sculls, albeit with a variety of athletes as they worked out their best combination. The Poles won four medals at four regattas: two silvers, including at the European Rowing Championships, and two World Cup bronze medals. The final combination they have selected is Miroslaw Zietarski and Mateusz Biskup. Back together are Olympic silver medallists Saulius Ritter and Mindaugas Griskonis of Lithuania. They will be a crew to watch.
Although having competed at only two World Rowing Cup regattas, New Zealand accumulated an equal number of World Cup points as Poland – a total of 16. John Storey and Christopher Harris of New Zealand won gold in Poznan and in Lucerne. In Lucerne, their winning margin over Poland was a mere 0.68 of a second.
Italy’s Luca Rambaldi and Filippo Mondelli are this year’s European Champions and won bronze in Lucerne. Expect the Italians to be in the fight for medals along with Switzerland. Swiss athletes Barnabe Delarze and Roman Roeoesli medalled twice this season and finished fourth in Lucerne. Watch out too for Norway. Olaf Tufte and Kjetil Borch could also make the podium.
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Women’s Four (W4-)
Australia won two World Rowing Cup regattas with Lucy Stephan, Katrina Werry, Sarah Hawe and Molly Goodman, placing them at the top of the field. But on home territory, the United States could well shine, especially as they have a strong women’s sweep programme to select from. At World Rowing Cup II the United States pushed Australia to the line and in Sarasota-Bradenton, two of the athletes entered were part of the crew that won silver at last year’s World Rowing Championships.
Canada too could do well. At the Poznan World Rowing Cup they took bronze and in Sarasota-Bradenton the crew will include three athletes who finished fifth in the women’s eight at the Rio Olympics.
Romania has made one appearance this season. At the European Rowing Championships they claimed the gold medal ahead of Poland and the Netherlands.
Men’s Four (M4-)
Historically this is Great Britain’s boat class. This year their 2017 line up made the podium at all three World Rowing Cups, winning gold at stage one in Belgrade and at stage three in Lucerne. However, the European Rowing Championships did not go well where they finished fifth. At World Rowing Cup II they lost to the Australians by less than one second.
Australia’s crew that beat the British finished in the fastest time this season – 5:44.34. Their stroke, Alexander Hill, was part of the boat that won Olympic silver last year in Rio in the four.
Look out too for the Italians. Two athletes in the boat raced to Olympic bronze last year in Rio. This year, they claimed the European Championship title and also took silver in Lucerne. Then there is the Netherlands., Germany and Spain who all claimed World Cup bronze medals this season.
Women’s Quadruple Sculls (W4x)
Poland won all three World Rowing Cup Regattas, but a fourth-place finish at the European Rowing Championships prevented a perfect season. Poland’s line-up remained consistent throughout the season (Agniesyka Kobus, Marta Wieliczco, Maria Springwald and Katarzyna Zillmann) including two members of the Olympic bronze medal crew (Kobus and Springwald).
The Polish crew may be the season favourites, but they will not have an easy ride at the World Rowing Championships. The Germans (current Olympic Champions), the Dutch and British took European honours early in the season, shutting out the Polish crew from the podium. The Poles came back strong, but a tight finish at World Cup III reveals just how precarious their position is.
The Netherlands had a consistent season with three silver medals – two at World Cup level and one at the European Rowing Championships. Look out too for Australia. They took World Cup silver and bronze this season and will be looking to make the podium once again.
Men’s Quadruple Sculls (M4x)
Lithuania is undefeated this season, winning World Rowing Cup I and III as well as the European Rowing Championships and they look to be the crew to beat despite ongoing line up changes.
At World Rowing Cup II, with Lithuania absent, Great Britain claimed gold with a time of 5:36.42, posting the season’s fastest final so far. The experienced Poles could also be podium contenders, having made the podium three times this season.
Men’s Eight (M8+)
Germany has been undefeated this season, having won two stages of the World Rowing Cup series as well as the European Rowing Championships. They also set a new World Best Time in the process and kept the World and Olympic Champions, Great Britain at bay. The British has had mixed results this season with a new line up from their 2016 boat.
Watch out for the Netherlands who have medalled at each regatta that they entered. Also put on the list to watch Australia and New Zealand. Both countries have made the podium this season.
The wild card must be the United States. They have not raced internationally this season but with former Olympian and national team coach Mike Teti back as coach and with the crowd behind them, they may surprise.
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Women’s Eight (W8+)
All eyes will be on the United States boat. The US women’s eight has remained unbeaten at the Olympic and World Championship level for a decade, creating an unprecedented winning streak. Along the way the line up has changed but the coach has remained the same – Tom Terhaar. This regatta season the crew raced once. At World Rowing Cup II, they finished in bronze medal position behind New Zealand and Great Britain. Could this be the end of their winning streak?
New Zealand and Great Britain will be doing their best to better the United States along with Romania. The Romanians dominated the Olympic podium before the US took over in the top position and at the Rio Olympics they were back in the medals. This season Romania has won gold twice – once at the European Rowing Championships and then again at the World Rowing Cup in Lucerne.