OLYMPIC REGATTA STARTS ON SATURDAY: WHERE WILL BRITISH MEDALS BE WON? August 04 2016
Four years on from the Dorney Roar, Great Britain’s rowers are ready again for Olympic action, under the shadow of the statue of Christ the Redeemer at the Lagoa Rodrigo de Freitas in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.
The regatta begins on Saturday and most crews have at least a heat and semi before their finals, which span four days from Wednesday to Saturday.
In an order determined by their performances so far this season, here are the British crews to watch in Rio.
Helen Glover, Heather Stanning
They were Great Britain’s first gold medallists in any sport at London 2012 and the women’s pair have gone undefeated since, even during 2013 when Major Stanning was on a tour of duty in Afghanistan.
An old rival has returned to the fray, though. Rebecca Scown and Juliette Haigh of New Zealand kept GB’s wannabe-golden duo into second place at the 2010 and ’11 world championships. Now Scown is back with a new partner, Genevieve Behrent. They ran the Brits close at the Poznan World Cup at the end of May and have their eyes on an upset in Rio, where they also double up in the eight.
Alex Gregory, Mohamed Sbihi, George Nash, Constantine Louloudis
The last time there was an Olympic podium without a British four on it was way back in 1992, and they have now won four straight gold medals. Gregory returns from the crew that triumphed at London 2012, joined by three athletes who have stepped on from their bronze medals of four years ago – Louloudis and Sbihi in the eight and Nash in the pair.
Three of this crew won a world title in 2014 and the closest they have come to defeat this season was a nail-biting drive to the line in Lucerne which saw their Australian rivals crab in the closing strokes. The Aussies and the USA are their main rivals for gold.
A great perspective about why we sit on that start line and the pressure to perform. https://t.co/qIjFCBCJIN— Brianna Stubbs (@BriannaStubbs) July 30, 2016
Scott Durant, Tom Ransley, Andrew T Hodge, Matt Gotrel, Pete Reed, Paul Bennett, Matt Langridge, Will Satch, Phelan Hill (cox)
GB have been world champions in this event for each of the last three years whether – in 2013 and ’15 – with their best athletes in the boat or, in 2014, without them. This year has been tougher but they still have a shot at the title the country last won 16 years ago.
Two rowers – Ransley and Langridge – plus cox Phelan Hill return from the crew that made a brave all-or-nothing gamble to beat Germany to gold at London 2012 and ended up with a consolation bronze. Olympic champs Pete Reed and Andrew T Hodge have joined the fray after overcoming their respective battles with illness. The Germans and Dutch look like their biggest rivals this time, with New Zealand and Australia lurking.
Alan Sinclair, Stewart Innes
The battle to be the second fastest pair in the world this summer may actually be easier than the fight to be the best in Britain. Sinclair and Innes beat squad-mates Nathaniel Reilly O’Donnell and Mat Tarrant (who themselves had won the opening World Cup regatta of the season) by 0.3 seconds in Lucerne to gain selection.
The all-conquering Kiwi pair Hamish Bond and Eric Murray already have one foot on the middle of the podium but the Brits will expect to be able to mix it with the best of the rest: Australia, Holland’s Henley winners and Serbia.
Katie Greves, Melanie Wilson, Frances Houghton, Polly Swann, Jessica Eddie, Olivia Carnegie-Brown, Karen Bennett, Zoe Lee, Zoe de Toledo (cox)
Great Britain have never won an Olympic medal in this boat class but this could well be the year when they make history. Leading athletes Wilson and Houghton moved from the sculling squad over the winter and the eight haven’t been off the podium this season, even in the midst of a selection battle (of which more later).
The USA are favourites to win their 11th straight global title in this event but the Brits are likely to be in the thick of the battle behind with New Zealand, Romania and the Netherlands.
Hey there Rio! pic.twitter.com/UecYn4JEsh— GBRTeamW8 (@GBRTeamW8) July 30, 2016
Jack Beamont, Sam Townsend, Angus Groom, Peter Lambert
To lose one key member of your world-class crew might be considered a misfortune; to lose two is downright gutting. The men’s quad – world bronze medallists in 2013 and a bow ball off gold the following year - had already spent the season getting used to the absence of Charles Cousins because of back surgery. Then, on arrival in Rio, Graeme Thomas was ruled out of the regatta with flu-like symptoms.
The final decision was of course tough for Thomas – a former rugby player with an in-your-face attitude and a real will to win who was the last sculler to miss London 2012 and who was delighted earlier this summer to have taken over the stroke seat. “I don’t agree with the decision but I don’t think anyone in my shoes would,” he said. “As an athlete you always back yourself.”
Sport can be as cruel as it is wonderful. https://t.co/iKkpnpZy64— Eira Parry (@ParryEira) August 2, 2016
Beaumont’s story could be one of the headlines of the Games, though, if the quad gains a medal. Just a year ago he feared he may not walk again, let alone row at an Olympics, after a collision between his double and the GB men’s eight on training camp left him with four fractured vertebrae and two broken ribs.
Beaumont subbed in and helped win World Cup silver in Lucerne in May so the crew will still not have given up hope of winning GB’s first ever Olympic medal in this boat class. Australia, world champions Germany and Poland are likely to be among their leading rivals.
Lightweight men's four
Chris Bartley, Mark Aldred, Jono Clegg, Peter Chambers
Denied gold after a controversial lane draw in 2012, Bartley and Chambers are back for another shot at an Olympic podium. Last year was one to write off – they finished ninth at the Worlds – but two medals so far this season will give hope in what tends to be the closest event of the regatta.
New Zealand, Denmark and last year’s world champs Switzerland will be their biggest rivals for medals.
Lightweight women's double
Charlotte Taylor, Katherine Copeland
Four years ago Kat Copeland was putting her face on a stamp by winning Olympic gold with Sophie Hosking, while Charlie Taylor was finishing her first season in a sculling boat, coming fourth at British Championships after making a final at Henley Women’s Regatta.
Since coming together two years ago, this combination has set a world best time and won a world championship silver. This season has been difficult as injury and illness has seen them underperform at one major regatta and miss the other two but they will be confident of being in the mix here, along with New Zealand, the Netherlands and Denmark.
For much of this Olympiad, Campbell’s hopes of adding to his 2012 bronze looked pretty slim as he missed the 2014 Worlds and failed to reach the A-final last summer. However, he has found some form again this year to make two World Cup A-finals, with a bronze in Poznan in his last major race before Rio.
Fellow London medallists Mahe Drysdale of New Zealand and Czech Ondrej Synek are up among the favourites again. Croatia’s Damir Martin and Belgian Hannes Obreno – who beat Drysdale at Henley – are just two younger scullers who will have something to say about that, though.
Jonathan Walton, John Collins
If Leicester City can win the Premier League then why can’t another son of that blandest of East Midlands cities get his hands on some silverware? Jono Walton is a Foxes fan and could just be celebrating for the second time this year, alongside partner Collins in Rio.
There is likely to be one space on the podium behind Croatia’s Sinkovic brothers (Twitter hashtag #BrotoBio) and the Kiwi double scull of Robbie Manson and Chris Harris. Their Norwegian and German rivals feature an Olympic champion in Olaf Tufte and a former world champion in Marcel Hacker respectively but this young British combination have a chance.
Lightweight men's double
Will Fletcher, Richard Chambers
Last year, Fletcher and Chambers led at half-way in their World Championships final, just missing out to France for gold. This season has been tougher, with injury blighting the first two races. Given two months more training though, these two may just have stretched the pace they showed in the final World Cup regatta over a full 2k, in which case watch out France, Norway and South Africa.
SA duo James Thompson and John Smith were in the light four that controversially pipped the elder Chambers brother to gold in 2012, which could give the rivalry a little extra edge. Although Fletcher is making his Olympic debut, this is his 11th year in a GB vest – he raced in the GB/France J16 match in 2006.
Victoria Thornley, Katherine Grainger
Should Katherine Grainger come back from the Olympics with anything less than a silver medal – something she has never done in her previous four Games – she may still feel thankful after a testing few months that saw her risk not going to Rio at all.
In May she and Thornley abandoned their double as it had yet to reach a podium, and made a bid for selection to the eight. Having missed out in seat-racing for the eight, they found themselves back in the double and belatedly confirmed for selection.
Grainger – who took two years out after winning in London - stayed silent throughout the process, finally speaking to the Press Association just before departure for Rio, saying: "I knew coming back was a huge task for me ... I always saw that as being the biggest test I'd face. I didn't then expect to go through the rollercoaster this year.”
The duo say they will focus on getting through their heat before daring to think about the likes of New Zealand, Poland and Lithuania, the leading crews in the event.
Katherine Grainger ready to put selection 'rollercoaster' behind her https://t.co/ZbgJ6hJqqT— sarah johns (@sportee_2606) July 27, 2016
If you fancy your chances predicting Olympic champions, have a shot at Fantasy Rowing. There is £150 worth of Hugga kit up for grabs for the winner. The deadline is midnight on Friday 5 August, after which you will be able how your predictions for glory in Rio match up against every other entry.
And while we’re all getting ready for Rio …
As the world's best prepare for Rio, over 100 pupils, parents and supporters from Kingston Grammar School are getting ready to row 35 times the distance of an Olympic event, in a single day, down the River Thames on 10 September.
The 70km event from Henley to Thames Ditton - which will raise money for the charity Young Minds and for the school boat club - has the backing of double Olympic champion James Cracknell, who learnt to row at KGS.
“The 2k races you see at the Olympics are tough but the pain only lasts for less than six minutes,” Cracknell said. “Seventy kilometres in a day is a real marathon - in fact, it's two! This is especially tough if you’re not a regular rower, as is the case with some of the people taking on the challenge.”