Saturday, August 24, 2013

World Rowing Championships 2013: RR Picks and Predictions

The 2013 World Rowing Championships are underway in Chungju, South Korea, and it just wouldn't be right if we didn't throw our hats in the ring for some picks and predictions for the finals. While some post-Olympic regattas have been low on entries at the international level, this year's worlds feature more nations than ever, and there are a number of events where rivalries are already emerging on the road to Rio. And so, without further ado, here are the results of our glimpse into the crystal ball, hidden deep within the confines of the RR International Research Department.

Men's Pair
The Kiwis own this event, and, as pointed out by World Rowing's preview article on the upcoming championships, they are set to break yet another record—that being for the longest streak of consecutive wins at the international level. It's an event that other rowing federations have deemed low priority (in a number of cases), which has everything to do with Hamish Bond and Eric Murray being utterly dominant, and we don't see anything changing in Chungju. Another crew we're keen on is Shaun Keeling and Lawrence Brittain (2011 U23 silver medalist in the men's pair) of South Africa—the duo showed promise in Lucerne, and though it's a young crew, Keeling brings a great deal of experience to the table, having raced with three-time Olympian Ramon DiClemente from 2008-2010 (including a fifth-place finish in Beijing). Italy's Marco Di Costanzo and Matteo Castaldo, and Spain's Alexander Sigurbjonsson Benet and Pau Vela Maggi will be looking for repeat podium performances from Lucerne, however, so the battle for the lesser medals may be an intense one—it's also important to keep an eye on the Olympic silver medalists from France.

Podium Picks:
NZL
ITA
ESP

Women's Pair
Much like the last Olympic cycle, this looks to be a battle between New Zealand and Great Britain. Both 2012 Olympians have new pair partners, and both have already produced impressive results, with GB's Helen Glover and Polly Swann entering the competition with an undefeated season on the line, and Rebecca Scown and Kayla Pratt New Zealand looking to lay spoiler (having taken second in Lucerne). Also fighting for the medals will be USA's Meghan Musnicki and (Cornell alum) Taylor Goetzinger—it's never safe to count out a U.S. women's sweep boat at the world level, and there is a great combination of youth and experience in this crew.

Podium Picks:
GBR
USA
NZL

Men's Four
The Australian men's four will be looking to bounce back from a defeat in Lucerne, which saw the new-look U.S. crew of Mike Gennaro, Henrik Rummel, Seth Weil, and Grant James take a wire-to-wire victory over the field. This time, we're anticipating another battle between these two crews, with Italy once again chasing, and the U.S. defending their early season success. Also of interest will be The Netherlands and Canada—both crews are likely to be knocking on the door, and Canada's crew features four outstanding (former Pac-12) oarsmen, including three 2012 Olympic silver medalists from the men's eight, in Conlin McCabe, Rob Gibson, and Will Crothers.

Podium Picks:
USA
AUS
ITA

Men's Eight
Here, we're looking for a return to form for a GB crew that had what we're sure they would describe as a lackluster performance in Lucerne—never underestimate Jurgen Grobler. While the U.S. came out with guns blazing at the final World Rowing Cup, edging as-yet undefeated Germany for the top of the podium, the U.S. crew has lost one of their top oarsmen in Glenn Ochal, who is currently taking some personal time away from the national team (though rowing the single out at Marina Del Rey in Los Angeles and with plans to return). Still, we're anticipating another podium performance from Team USA, just behind the top German crew (much as it pains us to agree with Daniel Spring!).

Podium Picks:
GBR
GER
USA

Women's Eight
Team USA has had a stranglehold on this event for the last seven years, and, despite a setback in the first World Rowing Cup of the 2013 season, the Americans once again set the gold standard for speed in the big boat in Lucerne. However, it will be interesting to see how the crew reacts to a late substitution after their stroke seat, Heidi Robbins, had to be pulled due to a back injury (Meghan Musnicki will be slotted into the eight as Robbins' replacement, with Caroline Lind moving to stroke). As usual, we're expecting Canada to be the main challenger for the United States in this event, with a crew that features Natalie Mastracci, Sarah Black, Cristy Nurse, and Christine Roper (these four women are also doubling up in the women's four). Romania is our pick to round out the medals in this event.

Podium Picks:
USA
CAN
ROU

Men's Single
This is going to be another interesting event—so far this season, the reigning Olympic champion, Mahé Drysdale, has been working to get back into rowing shape after taking some time away from the sport following London. To date, the hot favorite in 2013 has been Ondrej Synek, and we see that trend continuing in Chungju. Also knocking on the door is likely to be Aleksandar Aleksandrov, who is coming off a win at Henley Royal Regatta. Angel Fournier-Rodriguez of Cuba has been coming on strong for a number of years now, and most recently took third in Lucerne—he may just wind up on the podium at worlds this year.

A Final Probables:
Ondrej Synek
Aleksandar Aleksandrov
Mahé Drysdale
Angel Fournier-Rodriguez
Alan Campbell
Luka Spik

Women's Single
The women's single is likely to be a heated battle for the medals between Australia's Kim Crow (our pick to win), defending Olympic champion Mirka Knapkova, and Eleanor Logan of Team USA. Crow was the only athlete in rowing to win two Olympic medals last year, and may be the best athlete in the field, though Knapkova's experience will be a tremendous factor in what looks to be close racing for the gold. Also, while Elle Logan is relatively new to the single, she's hardly unused to the grand stage, having won back-to-back Olympic gold medals in the women's eight.

A Final Probables:
Kim Crow
Mirka Knapkova
Elle Logan
Emma Twigg
Frida Svensson [withdrew due to illness]
Donata Vistartaite [withdrew to concentrate on the W2x]
Julia Levina
Magdalena Lobnig/Inge Janssen

Men's Double
New Zealand's crew Robert Manson and Michael Arms have been a dynamic duo thus far in 2013, and given their training partners (the Kiwi M2-), we're looking for another strong performance on the biggest stage. The most experienced crew in the event is the German lineup of Eric Knittel and Stephan Krueger, but their results have been all over the map to date, and we're feeling it a little risky to pick them for the podium in Chungju (though likely to make the final). Italy's Francesco Fossi and Romano Battisti will be among the top challengers for the Kiwis (as they were in Lucerne). Rounding out the podium, we're looking for Lithuania's Rolandas Mascincas and Saulius Ritter to move up a spot from their fourth-place finish at the final World Rowing Cup.

Podium Picks:
NZL
ITA
LTU

Women's Double
While many are looking for the Lithuanian duo of Donata Vistartaite and Milda Valciukaite to crack the podium at worlds this year, we're concerned about Vistartaite doubling up in the women's single affecting their chances for double hardware [update: no longer doubling up, concentrating on this event—therefore likely to be in the mix for the medals]. The Kiwis have been the form crew thus far, and again, given the dominance of the All Blacks in small boats, we're looking for that to continue in Chungju. Also, while so far the Belarusian double featuring perennial contender in the women's single, Ekaterina Karsten, has not managed to find podium speed, we feel that they'll be on top form in South Korea, and may even challenge for the gold.

Podium Picks:
NZL
BLR
GBR LTU

Men's Quad
This event has been a battle for supremacy between the Germans and the Croatians so far this year, and while the racing has been tight, the we're looking for the Germans to defend their Olympic title this season at the world level. Also looking to be one of the form crews is Estonia, with Great Britain and Switzerland also likely making the A Final in Chungju.

Podium Picks:
GER
CRO
EST

Women's Quad
Like the men's event, Germany looks to be the top contender in the women's quad, and are coming off a dominant performance in Lucerne. In fact, while we hate to be boring, we have to say that given the data, we're looking for a repeat performance from World Rowing Cup III, with the same three rowing federations hoisting flags on the podium in South Korea.

Podium Picks:
GER
POL
AUS

Lightweight Men's Four
The lightweight men's four is always a close event, but we think that the new-look Kiwi crew, featuring 2012 bronze medalist in the LM2x Peter Taylor, is certainly a 'crew to watch' in the event. However, our top pick is Denmark, a crew with three returning 2012 Olympians that finished a close second in Lucerne, tracking the Kiwis all the way down the course, but unable to find that extra gear to pull even. Look for another tight contest in South Korea between these crews, this time with Denmark coming out on top, with Great Britain's crew (featuring 2012 silver medalist in this event, Chris Bartley) rounding out the podium.

Podium Picks
DEN
NZL
GBR

Lightweight Men's Double
Great Britain looks like the form crew in this event, with the Chambers brothers having jumped out of the silver medal-winning lightweight men's four from London and into the double this season. So far, the duo have been very impressive, though they'll have very stiff competition from Italy in the final. We're looking for Switzerland's duo of Mario Gyr and Simon Schuerch to take the bronze, having also made the transition from the sweep crew (fifth in London) to sculling, with solid results so far. We'll be keeping a close eye on the U.S. entry of Austin Meyer and Nick Trojan as well, which could crack the final.

Podium Picks:
GBR
ITA
SUI

Lightweight Women's Double
This is likely to be a battle for gold between Italy (the winners from Lucerne) and New Zealand, and this time we're looking for Lucy Strack and Julia Edward to take the top spot on the podium (though Italy looked dominant in their heat, and appear to be on the same form as at World Rowing Cup III). We're also confident that the U.S. crew of Kristin Hedstrom and Kate Bertko will bring home more hardware at the world level, though it will be a tight final (surprise, surprise), with Great Britain's Kathryn Twyman and Imogen Walsh battling for a podium finish.

Podium Picks:
NZL
ITA
USA

As we like to say, better late than never—we'll be keen to see how the picks turn out, and the finals already drawing ever closer!

-RR

[Updated 25 August, 18:45 PDT]

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