Friday, September 5, 2014

2014 World Rowing Championships Recap and Review: Kiwis Golden, Great Britain Rolling

Rainbows over the Bosbaan, Amsterdam (Photo: Nick D'Antoni)

Worlds have been in the books for a few days now, and we've all had the chance to reflect on what was another outstanding regatta capping off a great summer of international-level racing. Going in, the Kiwis looked to be firing on all cylinders—and the All Blacks didn't disappoint—while Great Britain, arguably the most complete team in the lead-up to their home Olympics, bounced back from midseason doldrums in the eight and emerged as the force to be reckoned with in men's sweep rowing. The U.S. women, on the other hand, continued their incredible run of success, and once again accounted for the lion's (lioness's?) share of the American medal haul.

Top Performers: Men's Heavyweight Rowing

Without question, the 'MVPs' for the 2014 world champs have to be the Kiwi Pair. These guys achieved something that hasn't been done since 2001, when two other Olympic rowing legends accomplished that feat, and in 2014, it wasn't close in either case. To give some sense of just how awesome their performance was, their time in the final (6:09.34) was less than a second off their own World Best Time in the event (6:08.34)—and they were racing this the day after winning the M2+, in which they shaved nearly 9 seconds off the previous World Best Time. The GB men's pair of James Foad and Matt Langridge, who took silver, recorded the fastest time ever for a British M2-, and still lost by open water. Yes, it's a fast course (in fact, 14 of the 24 World Best Times in rowing have been recorded on the Bosbaan), but yikes. Also getting back into the action in the M2- was South Africa—comforting to see after growing so accustomed to Ramon DiClemente and Donovan Cech were in seemingly every A Final for the first seven years of this millennium. Shaun Keeling raced with DiClemente in the Beijing Olympics, and he and his new pair partner Vincent Breet seem to have found something this season.



Also, we'd be remiss if we didn't mention the British men's sweep squad as a whole—winning the men's eight and men's four, while taking a 'sterling' silver in the pair, is no small accomplishment. Clearly, these guys were peaking at the right moment, and a special hats off goes to the pair, who narrowly missed the big boat, but who more than capitalized on the opportunity in the small boat in Amsterdam. Stroke Constantine Louloudis brought an excellent, sustainable rhythm to the crew that saw them through a very tough challenge from Olympic champion Germany, while Poland—a crew that Greg Searle described in the commentary as 'consistently inconsistent' (which is certainly a fair assessment) managed to make their way onto the podium with two good races.

The GB men's four were excellent as expected, but the U.S. men's crew in that event needs to be recognized—a close silver behind that British crew is an outstanding result, and while the U.S. men's eight might have had something of a 'sophomore slump,' it's clear that the team environment that has been established by Luke McGee and Bryan Volpenhein is paying dividends. And, not only did the U.S. men's four impress on the water, they also nailed the post-game press conference:

Mike Gennaro


Seth Weil


And, we couldn't resist...

Top Performers: Women's Heavyweight Rowing
On the women's side, the U.S. and Canada continue to excel fueled by the increasingly competitive NCAA rowing world. That's not taking anything away from the coaching staff in either country, who continue to push the right buttons to get results on the world stage, but the fact is that the U.S. has won with a different crew every year. This season, they benefited from the return of Eleanor Logan to the mix, after a year out in the single (an event in which she managed to make the final at worlds in her first international circuit with two blades), and the U.S. again defended their world title in the eight—an undefeated streak that stretches back to 2006, and is the longest active streak in rowing.



Topping the podium in the women's single this year, and edging Aussie phenom Kim Crow into second place, was New Zealand's Emma Twigg—amazingly, it was Twigg's first world championship title (we say amazingly because she has been such a regular performer on the world stage for years). The top end of the women's single is, even two years out, growing increasingly competitive, with relative newcomer Jingli Duan of China rounding out the podium this season, and Olympic champion Mirka Knapkova relegated to the B Final.



In the women's pair, GB's Helen Glover and Olympic partner Heather Stanning finished off another undefeated season in the event, winning the Euro champs, two of three world cups (they didn't attend the first world cup), and the world championships. They remain the crew to beat in the event, and yes, they too set a new World Best Time this year, clocking in at a blazing 6:50.61.

Rounding out our top picks for women's heavyweight rowing, the Kiwi women's four—a relative throw-together crew of Kelsey Bevan, Grace Prendergast, Kayla Pratt, and Kerri Gowler—set a new world best time. For Prendergast and Gowler, it was their second world title of the summer, having demolished the field in the U23 women's pair in July, and raced to a silver medal at the final world rowing cup in Lucerne. Look for that duo to be champing at the bit for the Olympic W2- bid in 2016.

Top Performers: The Lightweights
The surprise of the regatta (and we mean that in a good way) might have been the South African LM2x. Don't get us wrong—John Smith and James Thompson are Olympic champions (in the LM4-), so we wouldn't put anything past them, but these guys were in the C Final in Lucerne, and making the transition from sweep to sculling in a single season (they raced to sixth in the LM4- at lear year's world champs) is typically quite difficult. Not only did they win, but they too set a new World Best Time, holding off the crew that were our favorites to win the event, Stany Delayre and Jérémie Azou of France by just inches. Hats off, gents! (Also, as a side note: It was great to see Stany Delayre healthy and back racing again!)

On the women's side, it was another set of Kiwis (they're everywhere!) who placed their names in the record books en route to gold, as Sophie MacKenzie and Julia Edward proved their mettle on the Bosbaan. Just back of them were two Olympians from Canada, Patricia Obee and Lindsey Jennerich—good to see them back in top form again as well. Also, just off the podium were the South African combination of Ursula Grobler and Kirsten McCann—maybe this time Grobler has found the right situation to make a run at the Olympics, with many months, and many meters still to go until Rio.

Thanks to FISA getting serious about video coverage, you can re-watch all the finals online for free, here. (Thanks gents!) And we recommend that you do. After all, what else are you going to do between now and the Head Of The Charles?

-RR

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