Tuesday, March 13, 2012

GB Trials Done and Dusted - Next up, USRowing Hosts NSR I in Chula Vista

GB Olympic Trials

GB Rowing hosted its Olympic Trials over the weekend at Eton Dorney, and the racing featured a number of notable no-shows, some predictable results, and a few surprises. The list of athletes not competing at the event grew throughout the week, and the final tally included both members of the defending world and Olympic champs in the LM2x (this has Rowing Illustrated's Sean Wolf ready to predict that New Zealand's Storm Uru and Peter Taylor will take the crown in London), as well as Rob Williams and Richard Chambers (of the LM4-), Hester Goodsell of last year's bronze medal LW2x in Bled, Annie Vernon of the W4x, and several members of the heavyweight men's squad. Despite the long list of absentees, the racing was intense and showed off the depth and top-end speed of the GB squad in the midst of its selection process.

Andy Triggs Hodge and Pete Reed took first place in the M2-, as expected, but the field was reshuffled behind the top pair, with high-performing youngsters George Nash and Constantine Louloudis claiming third place overall, behind the 'Alex pair' of Alex Partridge and Alex Gregory. The racing was very tight for third, fourth and fifth place–Richard Egington and Tom James, who finished less than two seconds back of Louloudis and Nash, just held off the charging Moe Sbihi and James Foad by 0.02 seconds, while the new combination of Tom Ransley and Greg Searle took sixth. It has been interesting to see the extent to which head coach Jürgen Grobler's decision has been all but confirmed by the British media regarding moving Triggs Hodge and Reed into the four, which would reorder the priorities of the squad to four, eight, and pair, respectively. Ultimately, it is important to remember that the decision lies with one man, and it's hard not to get the sneaking suspicion that Hodge and Reed might be in his ear for one more shot at the Kiwi pair this summer, despite all the talk.

If Hodge and Reed are moved into the M4- (and, given the hints dropped by the likes of Sir Steve Redgrave about the lineups, I must admit, it seems very much on the horizon), then the four will likely enter the Games as a gold medal favorite, though Australia's new-look four will no doubt provide quite a challenge this season, with Ginn and Free reunited, along with physiological phenom Joshua Dunkley Smith and Will Lockwood (clearly, these guys don't get along at all). The eight will (featured in the video below), in this scenario, undoubtedly be faster and almost certainly include Nash and Louloudis, but should be careful not to be too solely focused on the Germans, as the Canadians, Australians, Dutch, and (we think) Americans could, if all goes according to plan, pose a threat to any level of the podium. The pair would still be highly competitive, given the depth on the squad, but it would be quite a task to go from a different boat class to the podium in the M2- on such short notice (though Scott Frandsen and Dave Calder of Canada proved it could be done in Beijing).



Alan Campbell took first place in the M1x, ahead of one half of the 'Red Express,' Matt Wells. While there has been much speculation about the possible movement of Campbell into a new M2x, it seems unlikely given the depth of the field in that event (among the deepest in all of world rowing), the success of Matt Wells and Marcus Bateman (who made the final only to succumb to a stomach bug that plagued the GB squad last year in Bled the night before the race), and Campbell's powers in the single, which earned him another worlds medal last summer despite early season setbacks.

Decisions, decisions.

On the women's side, Heather Stanning and Helen Glover all but stamped their names on their seats for the Games, and Katherine Grainger was able to overturn last year's result against doubles partner Anna Watkins (who recently set a new world record for 5k on the 'ergo'), taking first place in the W1x. The lightweight racing saw last year's winner Sophie Hosking take second place behind a surprisingly quick Kat Copeland, who raced as an member of the GB U23 LW2x in Amsterdam, before taking fifth place overall in the LW1x at senior worlds in Bled last summer. This has opened up questions about the LW2x, despite good results last season–something that can be said of nearly every crew fielded by GB Rowing in 2011.

NSR I, Chula Vista

Coming up this week is the first National Selection Regatta in Chula Vista, CA, and there are a number of the top athletes in the U.S. system set to compete in the M2-, W2-, M1x and LM2-. It's not possible to comment on the women's side, as the coaching staff has decided not to reveal any information regarding lineups. On the men's side, however, there are a number of names that jump off the list.

We are picking the duo of Glenn Ochal and Charlie Cole as the favorite entering the fray, as Cole has been the top starboard in the U.S. for some time now, and Ochal is possessive of a truly elite physiology. Henrik Rummel and Jake Cornelius will be very competitive as well, but Cornelius has battled injury quite a bit during training over the past couple of seasons, and the combination of Will Miller and Scott Gault is given to the only instance of 'doubling up' (at least on paper), as Miller is listed in the M1x as well (whether this is indeed the case remains to be seen).

As for the M1x, it's a deep field. However, it's tough to see anyone beating Ken Jurkowski at this point. Sam Stitt, Warren Anderson, and Will Miller, who were thrown into a quad together (along with Ochal) last summer, managing eighth place despite the late start, will certainly be in the hunt. Nearly everyone in the Graves/de Regt family will be present and in much better form than at the fall speed order, in addition to a host of very experienced lightweights, including Tom Paradiso, Bob Duff, Dan Urevick-Ackelsberg, Greg Ruckman, and Cody Lowry. Jamie Koven will be back sculling after spending some time with the sweep camp in Oakland, and it will be very interesting to see how he performs in this quality field. Given the level of talent, it's easy to predict some great racing.

NSR I kicks off on Thursday morning.

(Note: for more on the above video, as well as to see others like it, check out 'The Squad' webcasts on the official site of the GB Rowing Team.)

-Bryan and the RR Team

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