BRIT MEDAL HOPES AT WORLD CHAMPS, LOOKING FOR A NEW CLUB FOR 2016? September 04 2015
It can turn athletes a little bit loopy and – on training camps especially – they are prone to venture a little of piste. There are examples here and here (parental advisory: features excessive wrongness).
This year it was the turn of the Great Britain women’s squad to strut their stuff for the benefit of YouTube viewers. There’s some nice video editing from Olivia Carnegie-Brown and at least there aren’t any men in mankinis.
How will OCB’s eight and the rest of the GB squad get on the azure waters of Aiguebelette, France this weekend? A quick run-down follows, focusing on the Olympic events, where most crews who reach the finals will also grab a qualifying spot for the Rio Games next year.
GB also have several shots at gold in non-Olympic finals, which take place on Friday (so you may know more when you read this than I do as I write it). It’s always difficult to work out what’s on when but there’s a schedule here (if you can decipher it). All times are local, which is an hour ahead of the UK.
Gold medal hopes
Unbeaten all season in the women’s pair, Olympic champions Helen Glover and Heather Stanning have won their heat and semi-final with ease so far and look like taking their second world title together. American pair Felice Mueller and Eleanor Logan are the only ones to have got within two seconds of the Brits all year, at the second World Cup of the season in Varese.
A new combination this year in the men's lightweight double, Will Fletcher and Richard Chambers look like they're coming good at the right time as they were fastest qualifiers from Thursdays semi-finals, faster even than favourites Stany Delayre and Jeremie Azou of France, although the Brits were pushed a little further in their semi.
The men’s eight go into Sunday’s final race aiming for a third successive world title, and looking like favourites. After a year in the four, top athletes like George Nash, Mo Sbihi and Alex Gregory are back in the big boat. They beat the best in the world in Lucerne and could do the same here. Arch-rivals Germany beat the Brits in the European Championships back in May but GB have strengthened since then, with Stan Louloudis the obvious addition. Matt Gotrel, Pete Reed, Paul Bennett, strokeman Will Satch and cox Phelan Hill complete the line-up.
How close will men's pair James Foad and Matt Langridge get to toppling New Zealanders Hamish Bond and Eric Murray? Perhaps closer than last year, when they became the fastest British pair ever in taking silver in Amsterdam, four and a half seconds behind the Kiwis, who took their sixth successive global title.
Why aren’t the world record-holders in the lightweight women’s double, Olympic champ Kat Copeland and new partner Charlotte Taylor, favourites to win their event? New Zealanders Sophie Mackenzie and Julia Edward beat them in Thursday’s semi, while four crews were faster in the other race. Taylor and Copeland beat the Kiwis in the Varese World Cup, though, and their sprint finish is a sight to behold.
The men’s four is normally GB’s most established boat. In contrast this year a new combination was put together between the World Cup series and the World Champs but Alan Sinclair, Scott Durant, Tom Ransley and strokeman Stewart Innes are doing a decent job in their first regatta together. Perhaps Canada would have pushed them into third in their semi but for a huge crab but their time compares favourably with the Dutch and Aussies in the other race.
Back in their first-choice line-up, the men’s quad of Graeme Thomas, Sam Townsend, Charles Cousins and Pete Lambert made it through the “repechage from hell” after failing to win their heat then survived the semi-final from hell, as 0.8 seconds separated second from fifth. Meanwhile reigning world champions Ukraine missed out in the other race. Germany, Australia and Lithuania may be stronger that the Brits, who have yet to find their best form since Cousins’ return from a wrist injury.
Meanwhile Jack Beaumont, who subbed into the crew earlier in the season, is back home after being hospitalised in Portugal when his double scull collided with the GB men’s eight on training camp.
After a horrible 2014, when he must have wondered whether his career was at an end, Olympic bronze medallist Alan Campbell is back in the men’s single sculls pack and was one of the few British medallists in Lucerne last month. He was beaten by world champion Ondrej Synek in the quarterfinals here, while Croatia's Damir Martin looks strong and Campbell’s old sparring partner Mahe Drysdale is as formidable as ever but you would never bet against the fast-starting sculler from Coleraine getting into the medals.
Best of the rest
If Katherine Grainger were to miss out on a medal in the women’s double it would be the first time in 13 years – not counting last year’s commentating gig – that she has left a global championships without silverware. However she and Vicky Thornley were third in their heat behind Lithuania and Australia and the Polish double also look particularly strong.
Men’s double John Collins and Jonny Walton are fast improving, having finished no better than fifth in major events this year, but are in a tough field, headed by Croatia’s Sinkovic brothers.
The lightweight men's four has featured a different line-up at every major event this year and has yet to gain a medal. Jonno Clegg, Peter Chambers, Mark Aldred and Chris Bartley were forced through the repechage here, in what is always a nail-bitingly tight event.
Third in their heat at the start of the week, the GB women’s eight will need to take a step up if they are to step onto the podium but their first task on Sunday is to secure one of the five Olympic qualifying spots for Rio. The lineup is Katie Greves, Louisa Reeve, Jess Eddie, Donna Etiebet, Vicky Meyer-Laker, Olivia Carnegie-Brown, Rosamund Bradbury, Zoe Lee and cox Zoe de Toledo.
In the last 36 hours I have watched all 4 Jaws films (not for the 1st time, I should add). I don't know whether if I feel proud or ashamed..— Zoe De Toledo (@zoedetoledo) September 3, 2015
Out of contention
It’s back to the drawing board for the GB women’s quad of Frances Houghton, Jess Leyden, Tina Stiller and Melanie Wilson, who finished third in Wednesday’s repechage and failed either to reach the final. Just five crews in this boat class qualify for Rio from this year’s Worlds (half the quota of many other events) so they have it all to do next year.
The only event Great Britain have not competed in at these world championships is the women’s single scull. Beth Rodford was apparently not judged fast enough to compete and instead travelled as a sculling spare.
Para medals in the bag
While Great Britain’s Olympic crews geared up for a big weekend, the Paralympic team were busy bringing home the bacon, with each of the four entries winning at least a silver medal on Thursday night.
Arguably the toughest was the gold won by the reigning Paralympic champion mixed coxed four of
Grace Clough, Dan Brown, Pamela Relph, James Fox and cox Oliver James, who survived their closest finish ever to beat the American crew by two tenths of a second.
Tom Aggar, Paralympic champion in 2008, has endured ups and downs since but he secured his second successive world silver behind Australian Erik Horrie. Russia’s Alexey Chuvashev completed a carbon copy of last year’s arms-shoulders single scull podium.
Rachel Morris's bid to win a medal at a third successive Paralympics is very much on course as she won world silver just 18 weeks after undergoing shoulder surgery. The former handcyclist won Paralympic gold in 2008 and bronze four years later before switching to rowing in search of a new challenge.
Perhaps the biggest surprise on Thursday, though, was the second-place finish by Laurence Whiteley and Lauren Rowles. Whiteley has been training on his own for more than two years while a talent search was under way to find him a suitable female partner - the only way he could make the Paralympics. Teenager Rowles, a former wheelchair racer who competed on the track at the 2014 Commonwealth Games, only started rowing this year so there is plenty more to come.
What a day!! Well done team! First time ever that a para team has won 4 medals. All 9 rowers top 2 in the world!— Tom Dyson (@TommyD2012) September 3, 2015
Ducks in a row
Bank Holiday Monday provided nice weather for ducks but perhaps not for the launch of Paddleducks, a new venture looking to provide rowing tours on the Thames and beyond. Touring rowing is popular on the continent but less so over here. Helena Smalman-Smith – one of the brains behind the venture - regularly takes part in those European events and is keen to help make the concept more popular in the UK.
"I am really keen to push the fact that racing is not the only way to get a sense of achievement and enjoyment out of rowing," she says.
"I'm a novice sculler, for example – OK, I don’t train hard enough, but I’m too small to get far as a rower racing, but I love my long-distance rowing exploits, where just completing it is enough.
"A trip is always memorable, and bonding with your crewmates. And it’s perfect for all the middle-aged people who have done Learn 2 Row since 2012 [but] for who racing is rarely a rewarding pathway."
Looking for a new club for 2016?
Judging by the number of clubs holding squad meetings and open days this weekend, it is clearly time to start the 2015/16 season. Here are just a few of the clubs gearing up for the new term and keen to find new members.
.@BBLRC Open day on Sun 6th Sept 10-1. Beginners course starts Mon 7th. Season k/o mtg for experienced rowers Thurs 3rd at 7pm. All welcome— Barnes Bridge LRC (@BBLRC) August 21, 2015
Female and wanting to row? Get in touch for the new season. We kick off on Saturday 5th September.— City RC (@CityRC) August 27, 2015
Looking for a Tideway club for this season? Come & meet us at our Open Day on Saturday 5 Sept from 10am! http://t.co/IXjQEm0hLH— Furnivall SC (@FurnivallSC) August 24, 2015
Senior Women. New season squad meeting is on 05/09 at 08.00. New athletes always welcome. @NorthWestRowing— Grosvenor RC Chester (@GrosvenorRC) August 26, 2015
Our season commences with a talk from Head Coach Peter Hardcastle followed by a water session at 0700 this Saturday (5th).— London RC (@TheRealLondonRC) September 3, 2015
Want to try rowing?!? We are holding a FREE taster day Sat 5th Sept for details contact email@example.com pic.twitter.com/FoFCUrIzA9— RoyalChester RC (@Royal_Chester) August 11, 2015
If you’re already established at your club don’t forget about Hugga’s Club Referral Scheme – you could get £150 worth of free kit if your club switches to wearing Hugga clothing this year.