Who to Watch at the 2010 World Rowing Championships apart from the Bann Boys.

Who to Watch at the 2010 World Rowing Championships apart from the Bann Boys.

New Zealand’s Lake Karapiro is the venue for the 2010 World Rowing Championships, starting at the later-than-usual time of 31 October and going through to 7 November. This later date is to make the most of New Zealand heading into spring. This week Karapiro has been enjoying warm weather with more good days expected as athletes from 49 nations, including a large contingent from the United States, Great Britain and Germany, settle into this southern hemisphere location.

To follow is a summary of the 14 Olympic class events, including the four blue riband events (men’s and women’s single scull and men’s and women’s eight), with an overview of the rowers to watch in those boat classes.

Women’s Pair (W2-)

New Zealand’s Juliette Haigh and Rebecca Scown come into this event as the winners of the final Rowing World Cup. But a lot of strokes have been rowed since that July race and Romania’s convincing win at the European Championships in September shows that Camelia Lupascu and Nicoleta Albu (Romania) are stepping up. Lupascu and Albu are in their second year together and last year they finished second at the World Rowing Championships. At Lake Karapiro Lupascu and Albu will focus solely on the pair, rather than the usual double-up with the eight. This indicates their desire to not let anything get in the way of them winning.

Lupascu and Albu, however, will not only have to overcome the home-course advantage of the New Zealanders, but also they face the return of 2009 World Champions, Susan Francia and Erin Cafaro of the United States. Like the Romanian’s, Francia and Cafaro are not doubling up in with the eight. There is no doubt the seriousness and toughness expected for this event.

Keep an eye out also for Kerstin Hartmann and Marlene Sinnig of Germany and also the new, improved combinations coming out of Australia (Sarah Tait and Phobe Stanley) and from Canada (Krista Guloien and Andreanne Morin).

Men’s Pair (M2-)

If all of the hype around this race is correct, the final will come down to a showdown between New Zealand’s Hamish Bond and Eric Murray and Great Britain’s Peter Reed and Andrew Triggs Hodge. These two boats have been vying for supremacy for two years with Bond and Murray always managing to preserve the upper hand. But British uber-coach Juergen Grobler has put full faith into his two top men by keeping them in the pair and Reed and Hodge are hugely motivated by their desire to throw the New Zealanders.

But this event is far from a two-boat race and both the Kiwi’s and the Brit’s had better not ignore Italy and Greece. Lorenzo Carboncini and Niccolo Mornati of Italy may be in their first season together but they have an enormous amount of experience behind them including Olympic medals. Greece’s Georgios Tziallas and Ioannis Christou have earned their spot by beating in the pair their fellow countrymen, the Gkountoulas brothers, who were 2009 bronze medallists.

Women’s Double Sculls (W2x)

This event has been dominated all season by Katherine Grainger and Anna Watkins of Great Britain. Grainger, the top British woman rower and alrounder, has committed to this boat over other boats showing her desire to dominate the double. Through this season Grainger and Watkins have doubled up and raced the quad as well, but at Lake Karapiro they will put their full focus and skills into the double.

Behind Grainger and Watkins results have been mixed. Germany’s Annekatrin Thiele and Stephanie Schiller look to be improving after taking gold at the European Championships, but their racing earlier in the season has been inconsistent. Czech sisters, Lenka and Jitka Antosova are unpredictable. Sometimes they pull off a great race but other times they appear to flounder. Australia has been trying different combinations through the season, settling for Kim Crow and the return of 2008 Olympian Kerry Hore.

But the real scoop may be Poland. Magdalena Fularczyk and Julia Michalska are the reigning World Champions, however injury issues early this year kept both of them out of the boat. Fularczyk and Michalska made their 2010 debut at the European Championships and a silver medal proved that they are very much back in the game.

Men’s Double Sculls (M2x)

The French are oozing confidence and after their win at the final Rowing World Cup as well as the European Championships, Cedric Berest and Julien Bahain go to Lake Karapiro with a sense of entitlement. Berest and Bahain, however, have been known to stumble when they get behind and this could be an advantage for Matthew Wells and Marcus Bateman of Great Britain. Wells and Bateman won two of the three Rowing World Cups this season – their first season together – and they look to still be in their honeymoon stage of racing.

This event, however, has come to represent close starts and very tight finishes and this closeness means that there are at least three other boats that have proven medal potential. The Estonian’s (Allar Raja and Kaspar Taimsoo) are one and their silver at the European Championships indicates that potential. New Zealand’s Nathan Cohen and Joseph Sullivan are unrelenting when they race and have already medalled at a 2010 Rowing World Cup. Current World Champions, Germany (Erik Knittel and Stephan Krueger) have had to deal with injury issues earlier in the season and although they were a bit sluggish at the European Championships, a lot can change in seven weeks.

Men’s Four (M4-)

The most stable and consistent crew this season is Great Britain. Partridge, Egington, Gregory and Langridge of Great Britain have won two of the three Rowing World Cups for 2010 and, unlike the bulk of their competition, they have held on to the same line up.

But the late running of the World Rowing Championships may play to the advantage of crews who have had to deal with changes. Germany finally won late in the season at the European Championships and they have now had more time to settle into their combination. Late running may also help the Greeks who raced into the silver position at the European Champs. Greece pulled out a phenomenal closing sprint which will surly cause other crews to be wary.

Watch out too for three other crews; The United States often come through in this event even after very little international racing, France have a very talented line up and New Zealand who are fronting up with a gutsy young crew.

Women’s Single Scull (W1x)

Belarus has put all of their eggs in one basket with their sole representative at Lake Karapiro being Ekaterina Karsten. Odds are that their exclusive choice will pay dividends with Karsten coming to these World Champs having not lost a single major race in two years. To beat Karsten another competitor will have to out-fox her as the six-foot tall Belarusian has the power and finishing speed that regularly leaves no answer for her competition.

Perhaps, however, this is the year of Mirka Knapkova of the Czech Republic. Knapkova was the first overseas rower to arrive in New Zealand, giving herself a month to acclimatize to the country and the best possible shot at dethroning Karsten. Knapkova has been the bridesmaid to Karsten for nearly eight years and in that time she has gathered a huge collection of silver medals.

Also sitting closely behind in Karsten’s formidable wake is the gutsy pocket dynamite Frida Svensson of Sweden and New Zealand’s Emma Twigg. Twigg cut her season short when she stepped out of the international picture to recover from exhaustion. Now back on form Twigg will be taking advantage of her knowledge of Lake Karapiro to go after the medals. Watch out too for the very experienced Julia Levina of Russia who, on a good day, is a medal prospect and newcomer to the single game Fie Udby Erichsen of Denmark. Erichsen is already making waves after her fourth place finish at the European Champs.

Men’s Single Scull (M1x)

Ondrej Synek of the Czech Republic has been the dominating force this season coming to Karapiro unbeaten in 2010. He has demonstrated a new-found confidence which enables him to race well from behind as well as in front. But this is the World Rowing Championships and the stakes are higher. They are particularly high for New Zealand’s Mahe Drysdale. Drysdale is going after his fifth consecutive World Champion title and on his home turf. Drysdale, however, is coming back from an early season injury and may have to play it cool.

The stakes are also high for Olympic Champion Olaf Tufte of Norway who was the last sculler to claim a World Champion title since the arrival of Drysdale. Watch out too for the gutsy Alan Campbell of Great Britain – the best single sculler to come out of Britain for many years. There is also Lassi Karonen of Sweden and the ever improving Canadian, Malcolm Howard.

This race also welcomes to the international rowing world two new countries. Bradley Jowitt represents Samoa and Saeed Alzahmi is racing for the United Arab Emirates.

Lightweight Women’s Double Sculls (LW2x)

Last year’s World Champions, Greece’s Christina Giazitzudou and Alexandra Tsiavou spent most of the season racing in other boats, but when they finally came together last month at the European Champs, they won and did it convincingly. This must be food for thought for final Rowing World Cup winners, Alice McNamara and Hannah Every-Hall of Australia. McNamara and Every-Hall lead the way for Australian women lightweights as well as one of the main medal hopes for the Australian team. They will be hoping to grab that gold for the team.

But both of these crews must have taken note of the Americans. Ursula Grobler and Abelyn Broughton raced just once this season internationally – winning the first Rowing World Cup – and the duo are so confident that they have doubled up to race in the lightweight quad as well.

The depth of talent continues with Poland (Magdalena Kemnitz and Agnieszka Renc), Canada (Lindsay Jennerich and Tracy Cameron), Great Britain (Hester Goodsell and Sophie Hosking) and Germany (Daniela Reimer and Anja Noske) all holding the potential to medal. Making the A-final of this race will be a big achievement in itself.

Lightweight Men’s Double Sculls (LM2x)

New Zealand’s Storm Uru and Peter Taylor come into this event as the reigning World Champions, but with the 2012 Olympics coming closer into view, the standard has stepped up. British Olympic Champions, Mark Hunter and Zac Purchase are back on the scene. Germany has the young, but ever-improving, duo of Lars Hartig and Linus Lichtschlag already showing that they have medal potential. Then there is Canada’s Douglas Vandor and Cameron Sylvester who are working towards Olympic gold to redeem their disastrous 2008 Olympic medal bid that ended due to illness.

The talent, however, does not end there. Portugal’s Nuno Mendes and Pedro Fraga are the flagship crew for Portuguese rowing and they are already looking to be Portugal’s most successful rowers ever. Then there is the ever-present Italians. Lorenzo Bertini and Elia Luini have every chance of medaling on a good day.

Lightweight Men’s Four (LM4-)

The results at the European Championships last month really shook up the status quo in this event with regular medallists, Denmark at the back of the pack and reigning World Champions, Germany coming through for gold despite being sluggish for most of the season. The Germans have had one change to their 2009 winning crew with Bastian Siebt now looking much more comfortable in the boat.

Everything will step up a notch for the World Champs with winners of the final Rowing World Cup, Great Britain back in action. The Brits and Danes have been duking it out for most of the season and as both boats always race to win, the final in this event is sure to be a crowd-pleaser.

Also likely to be in the mix are the surprise of the season, Switzerland. The Swiss took bronze at the European Championships ending a medal drought for the country in this event. The Italians are regulars in the A-final and as long as they don’t leave their sprint too late, they will be medal contenders. Keep an eye out too for the Dutch and Australians.

Women’s Quadruple Sculls (W4x)

Great Britain won two out of three of the Rowing World Cups this season, but the crew that will race on Lake Karapiro has a new, albeit familiar, look. Grainger and Watkins are out as they focus solely on the double and in their place sees the return of Debbie Flood and Frances Houghton – both returning after taking silver two years ago at the Beijing Olympics in this boat. Beth Rodford and Annabel Vernon complete the lineup.

Great Britain will have to keep a wary eye out for reigning World Champions, Ukraine who have put their top women into this event and come to Karapiro following a win at the European Championships. Germany is also itching to do well and claim back the status they had in this event for so many years. Watch out too for Olympic Champions, China. Ziwei Jin, from the 2008 gold crew, is back in stroke seat with a very strong crew following her. And the United States often surprise when the pressure is on.

Men’s Quadruple Sculls (M4x)

All eyes will be on Croatia. Sain, Martin and the Sinkovic brothers have managed to beat the Polish Olympic Champions on more than one occasion this season and with Poland not racing at Lake Karapiro, it is the Croats that will have the ‘favourite’ sign pinned to their back.

The depth of talent facing Croatia at Karapiro, however, is quite formidable. The Italian lineup includes 2000 Olympic gold medallist, Simone Raineri. Ukraine, Australia and Russia also have a mix of very experienced Olympians. But it does not end there. Both Germany and Great Britain have relatively new crews but, despite this, both of them have medalled so far this season. Be prepared for a very close final.

Women’s Eight (W8+)

This season has unfolded in a similar manner to the last couple of seasons with the United States and Romania eyeing each other up at the head of the field. But this could all change at Karapiro. At the final Rowing World Cup, Canada led over the United States for most of the race only to be piped into second on the final stroke.

Coach Al Morrow is back at the helm for the Canadian women and the wonder-coxswain, Lesley Thompson-Willie is back in the steering seat. This combination of coach and coxswain has a proven track record stretching back many years. The Canadian’s, however, have chosen to double up with Andreanne Morin and Krista Guloien also rowing the pair, while both the United States and Romania have decided not to follow that road.

Keep an eye out also for the Netherlands and Great Britain. The British have already medalled this season while the Dutch, stroked by Femke Dekker, always seem to pull off a medal when it really counts. And be advised, Dutch supporters love to swim out to meet their medal winning boats, Karapiro may be just the right place to do that.

Men’s Eight (M8+)

Current World Champions Germany is coming to Karapiro on the back of an unbeaten season and their convincing wins means that the Germans will be the crew to beat. Australia and Great Britain gave it a good bash at the final Rowing World Cup. Australia, however, come to these World Champs as a relatively unknown factor. The lineup has changed to include the four that struck silver at the 2008 Olympics. Meanwhile, Great Britain has altered their World Cup crew by two.

Also fighting to push onto the medals podium will be Poland. The Polish crew are a long term project with their sights set on the 2012 Olympics and a silver medal at last month’s European Championships indicate that they are improving and on track. Watch out too for Canada who continue to rebuild after their 2008 Olympic win.



October 29th, 2010

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