World Rowing Championships 2011: RR Picks and Predictions

Afternoon on Lake Bled (Photo: B. Kitch)
The World Rowing Championships are about to begin, and we're on site for the first time, very much looking forward to the racing. Disclaimer: There are a huge number of events, so in making our picks, we've had to be selective based on our knowledge/ability to do sufficient research. Fair warning: this article will contain opinions.

So, without further ado, here we go:

Women's eight -

1. USA
2. Canada
3. Great Britain
4. The Netherlands
5. Romania
6. Germany

Yes, this is very similar to the Lucerne final. The USA, however, is brining the best lineup in the world to the event this time, with several Beijing Olympic Champions back in the boat (split into pairs for Lucerne). We are expecting an open water victory for the US, with Canada in a strong second place. Also, because Team GB is very well coached, and no doubt very intent on setting a standard for London, we see them breaking into the medals in Bled, though the eight from Netherlands cannot be discounted. All four will likely be well rested, as CAN and NED should take the top two spots to qualify directly for the final in heat 1, while USA and GBR will likely take the top two spots in heat 2, leaving ROU, CHN, UKR, and GER to duke it out in the reps.

Men's eight -

1. Germany
2. Great Britain
3. Netherlands
4. Canada
5. USA
6. Australia

The German men's eight has looked very good all season, but perhaps not quite so dominant this year. The GB eight is very talented and experienced, and, like their counterparts on the women's side, will be looking to set the tone going into London. Also, they had a very strong race in Lucerne in an unfavorable lane -- all of which seems to indicate that they may very well move a step up the podium this week in Bled. The Netherlands have an outstanding crew, featuring Diederik Simon and Olivier Siegelaar in the stern pair. NED showed that the characteristically insane Dutch sprint is alive and well in Lucerne, and they will be looking to firmly establish themselves as medal contenders in Eton following a fourth place finish in Beijing. The Canadians have reshuffled their lineup, have a huge amount of horsepower, and have brought back Malcolm Howard to the eight. While it's difficult to say exactly what degree of change this will mean for the overall speed, it's also hard not to see them moving up in the rankings given the switches. The USA crew that was new in Lucerne is back for their second international regatta as a unit, and will be looking to hunt down a medal in a very tightly packed top end of the field. There is a great deal of young talent in the boat, with Nareg Guregian of Cal at stroke doing an excellent job of rhythm-setting and racing aggressively. Australia placed 7th overall in Lucerne, and dominated the petites -- we see them moving up into the A Final at the main event here in Bled.

Women's Single -

1. Ekaterina Karsten
2. Emma Twigg
3. Mirka Knapkova
4. Xiuyun Zhang
5. Frida Svensson
6. Julia Levina

While Karsten placed fourth in Lucerne, she knows exactly what she is doing, and will be fully prepared for this regatta. Ultimately, she will have been less concerned with World Cup results than preparing herself as best as possible for the World Championships (though, having said that, the same applies to her approach to this year versus next year -- the bottom line is, she knows how tro structure a training program that will lead to her best performance when it matters most). Emma Twigg is up and coming, and will be looking to place herself in the mix for London. Mirka Knapkova has had a great season to date, having won Henley in July. Xiuyun Zhang proved that she has the speed to contend in Lucerne, and Frida Svensson is a standard among the top women's scullers. Julia Levina won the petite final in Lucerne, but had a brutal semi that kept her out of the A Final (Zhang, Karsten and Svensson were all in Levina's semifinal).

Men's Single -

1. Ondrej Synek
2. Mahé Drysdale
3. Alan Campbell
4. Marcel Hacker
5. Lassi Karnonen
6. Olaf Tufte
(7. Ken Jurkowski)

Synek has been dominant ever since Beijing, and is not showing any signs of slowing down in the lead up to London. Drysdale will be doing everything he can to catch Synek, but Synek just looks like he is at the top of his game, which put him at the top of the World rankings. Campbell and Hacker missed Lucerne, and while Campbell is having a strong season and, as a member of Team GB, will be looking for a strong showing going into London, Hacker is all over the map in terms of results. So far, this has been a good year for Hacker, and we're expecting him to return to form here. Lassi Karnonen is having a solid year, and will continue to produce solid results in Bled. Tufte, well, there is some disagreement on this one -- ultimately, it's a pick based on the past. He seems to be able to turn it on and off when he feels like it, and we're thinking that he will step up at the key time and get into the A Final. Also, we are looking for Ken Jurkowski to cap off what has been a breakthrough year for him with a solid performance in Bled, winning the B Final at Worlds for the first time (and setting a new standard for himself for London, where he may break into the top six). He's got all the tools, as well as the complete commitment that it takes to race well.

Women's Pair -

1. Great Britain
2. New Zealand
3. USA
4. Romania
5. South Africa
6. Australia

The GB duo of Helen Glover and Heather Stanning looked outstanding on the Rotsee, with a long, smooth rhythm and a solid race profile, establishing their lead and hanging on through a vicious sprint by Juliette Haigh and Rebecca Scown of Rowing New Zealand. GB is a younger crew, but given the experience in Lucerne, where they did not fold despite tremendous pressure from NZ, we are taking them to win once again here in Bled. These two crews will likely separate themselves from the rest of the field, though there will be a battle for the bronze. While we don't know much about the USA entry as a pair at this point, we do know that the US women's squad is perhaps the deepest in the world right now, so we are expecting them to be in the final and in the hunt for a medal. Kady Glessner won a gold medal in the the eight in Karapiro, and won the eight in Lucerne last month. Caryn Davies won gold in the eight in Beijing, and was also in the eight on the Rotsee.

Men's pair -

1. New Zealand
2. Great Britain
3. Canada
4. Greece
5. Italy
6. Germany

The top three crews in this event are looking to stamp their names on the podium in Eton Dorney already, and the Gkountoulas Brothers from Greece have shown year in and year out that they can contend. Hamish Bond and Eric Murray are looking like Drew Ginn and Duncan Free in 2007, though the talent in the GB pair is without question, and the competitive fire in Canada's a great strength (from the looks of it, Canada has also switched the seating, with Scott Frandsen in the bow and Dave Calder at stroke -- it will be interesting to see if the change pays off for them). Italy has a strong combination, and the Germans were tough luck B-Finalists in Lucerne following a cracker of a semifinal, so we are looking for them to break into the top six in Bled.

Men's Four -

1. Great Britain
2. Greece
3. USA
4. Germany
5. New Zealand
6. Australia

The British four has been outstanding all season, and will be looking to lock down the lineup for the Olympic Games with a solid victory in Bled. Greece has a very experienced and talented crew, and will be firmly in contention. Team USA is bringing a very strong crew to the event, with athletes who have done well in this event before (Giuseppe Lanzone and Brett Newlin), as well as proven sweep rower Charlie Cole (the top starboard in the US camp), and former sculler Scott Gault, who placed fifth in Beijing in the M4x. The USA also got the most favorable heat -- with 1 to the semis USA will line up against NZ, CHN, RSA and BLR, while AUS and GRE are in the same heat, as are  GBR and FRA. New Zealand had a strong performance in Lucerne and will be back in the mix again here in Bled. Also, Australia will be keen to break into the A Final following their 7th place finish in Lucerne last month, as Drew Ginn and co. continue their preparations for the 2012 Games.

Lightweight Women's Double -

1. Great Britain
2. USA
3. Canada
4. Australia
5. Greece
6. Italy

Hester Goodsell and Sophie Hosking have been turning in podium finishes for some time now, and with the recent reshuffling of the Canadian LW2x due to the injury to Tracy Cameron, Lindsay Jennerich will race with Patricia Obee, who has been in the LW1x (Cameron will race the LW1x in Bled). While Obee is undoubtedly talented, it is difficult to make things work with very little time in a very competitive sculling event. For this reason, we see the combinations from GB and USA (Julie Nichols and Kristin Hedstrom, winners of the 2011 World Cup in the event) taking the top two spots on the podium. The GB crew is coached by Australian Olympian and silver medalist in the M4x (along with Tim McLaren) Paul Reedy, and the USA duo is being coached by Dave O'Neill of California Women's Crew.

Lightweight Men's Double -

1. Great Britain
2. New Zealand
3. Denmark
4. Italy
5. Canada
6. China

Zac Purchase and Mark Hunter are back once again for Team GB, and we think they are going to continue their winning ways here in Slovenia. Storm Uru and Peter Taylor will be looking to topple their rivals, and we see them in a strong second place, with perennial contenders Mads Rasmussen and Rasmus Quist taking the bronze in the event for Denmark. Italy's Lorenzo Bertini and Elia Luini are also extremely fast, and could knock one of our picks off the podium if they manage to put it all together in the final this year.

A few more, in summary format:

M2x -
1. Great Britain
2. New Zealand
3. Slovenia (on their home course, perennial contenders)
4. France
5. Germany
6. Australia (Beijing Olympic champions getting back in gear for 2012)

M4x -
1. Poland
2. Germany
3. Croatia
4. GB
5. USA
6. Russia or Switzerland

W4x - (we agree with Daniel Spring aka 'fatsculler' -- @fatsculler on Twitter -- on this one!)
1. Great Britain
2. China
3. Germany
4. New Zealand
5. USA
6. Australia

1. GB
2. Denmark
3. Italy
4. China
5. Switzerland
6. Australia

And that wraps up the predictions for this year. Yes, there are some events we've missed, but the work that goes into the research is important, and we feel that what we've presented here is based on a fair interpretation of objective data, some of which we have included. Looking forward to seeing how it all plays out in beautiful Bled over the coming days!


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