Time for a few reflections on an intriguing weekend’s racing in Lucerne.
The biggest disappointment in this event was the withdrawal of Damir Martin of Croatia. I was really looking forward to seeing him take on Mahe Drysdale, especially as the two men look to have radically different race plans. martin tends to blast out of the blocks and get as big a lead as possible whereas Mahe is more of a “diesel” engine…he’s not the quickest off the blocks but he’s relentless and hauls in the field over the 2nd K. The question is would martin have gotten a big enough lead to hold off the charging Kiwi? Hopefully we’ll find out in Poznan. As it was it was Synek of the Czech Republic who made the running only to be hauled in by Drysdale in the final quarter, it definitely looked like Drysdale broke Synek who gave up the fight in the final couple of hundred metres and concentrated on holding off Fournier Rodriguez of Cuba for the silver medal.
One of the most interesting aspects of this event was the emergence of the Dutch sculler Stefan Broenink. The 24 year old started sculling last year racing in the double in Bled and Lucerne. He’s switched to the single this season and finished 14th in Brandenburg. In Lucerne he was like a different man and finished a superb 4th. Alan Campbell had a positive performance finishing 5th which was his best performance since Lucerne last year.
The anticipated showdown between the two GB pairs never materialised as the GBR1 boat was split up due to illness, Alan Sinclair covered for Pete Reed in the M8 and Stewart Innes was just one of a number of British athletes who went ill, either in the run-up to the regatta or during racing itself.
On the day there were no great surprises, the Kiwis won (again) although the opposition held them off for a bit longer than usual this time. But all the excitement was what was going on behind the Kiwis. The Dutch and British no.2 boat had an absolute ding-dong of a battle. The British looked to have secured the silver only for the Dutch to catch them on the line. Both crews were given the same time but the result went the way of the men in orange, overturning the defeat they suffered at the hands of the Brits in Varese. It remains to be seen which British crew will win the selection battle for Rio and whether or not both boats will race in Poznan.
Business as usual for the Croatians although it looked like they were made to work harder than they have for a while by the New Zealanders. The highlight of this event was the fact that two GB doubles made the A-Final. But, what promised to be an intriguing showdown between teammates was neutered by the fact the Jack Beaumont had to sub into the M4X at the last minute. In the end both GB boats finished at the back of the field. But what it does show is that selection is by no means done and dusted in the British 2X
The British started as clear favourites although the loss of strokeman Stan Louloudis through illness nearly put a spanner in the works. The final was a brilliant race, the Aussies (also racing with a sub) really took it to the British and had a clear lead at the 1000m mark. But the British began to reel them in and George Nash said after the race that at no point did they think they were going to lose. But it came right down to the line. The British put massive pressure on the Australians overhauling a 2 second deficit at 1500m to draw level with 3 strokes to go, the Aussies cracked and Josh Dunkley-Smith caught a massive crab. Some argue that that lost them the race, I disagree, watching the footage closely the British were definitely on the surge and would’ve won by 1-2 feet even without the crab. But, it’s certainly given the British something to think about, this event isn’t going to be the cake-walk that it perhaps looked it might be when the British line-up was announced.
The US had a disappointing race, this is their no.1 men’s crew and they were never really in the hunt eventually finishing 4th. What will have hurt more is the knowledge that both the British and Australian boats were racing with subs on board and will only get faster.
Another event where GB got hit by illness. Pete Lambert had to drop out on the morning of the final and Jack Beaumont sub in. in the final they stormed out into the lead only to be overhauled in a beautifully timed move by the Australians. The Aussies were the class crew of the field but the British will take a massive boost from their performance and will be confident of getting their own back on the Australians when they are back to full strength. But, with the likely addition of the Estonians and Russians it’ll be a different contest in Poznan. The performance of the German quad this season has been very disappointing. The world Champions have been curiously out of form this season and Lucerne was no different. They qualified for the final by finishing 4th in the Rep and were never really in the hunt for a medal. Lucerne was a very poor regatta for the Germans and they ended up with 2 Olympic class silvers and one non-Olympic class gold placing them 6th in the medal table.
This was one of the highlights of the regatta, again, GB were hit by illness. Pete Reed withdrew before the regatta and was replaced by Alan Sinclair and Matt Langridge apparently was suffering during the week and was only at about “85-90%”. Everyone was expecting this to be the latest instalment in the GB v GER soap opera. But the Dutch gate crashed the party. They rowed beautifully and took their first win over a German M8 since the Athens Olympics in 2004. The Dutch seemed to have much more time at the finish than the rest of the field, despite all rating 37-38, it was very reminiscent of the ’96 Olympic 8. The Kiwis will be disappointed with a 5th place after reaching the 1k in 2nd. The Russians were never in the hunt and their challenge looks to be fading. There is a big question mark hanging over this crew as well with Alexander Kornilov under suspicion of doping. The US had a great regatta, taking the bronze medal and pushing the Brits off the podium for the first time since Lucerne 2013. The only question over the performance of the US is that they may have been more “race ready” than the rest of the field having had to race at the FOQR earlier in the week. But what is clear is that the M8 is no longer the 2 horse race it has been so far this Olympiad. The Germans will be scratching their heads, they probably thought that given the British had moved their four strongest athletes into the 4 that the 8 was going to be an easy ride….it’s nothing but now!
Kim Brennan started as favourite and duly delivered in convincing style. Her win was as much about sending a message to Emma Twigg as it was about beating her opponents in Lucerne. Gevvie Stone of the USA has established herself as a serious medal contender. One of the most exciting races at the third World Cup is the likely first meeting for 2 years of Twigg v Brennan.
The biggest story in this race was the absence of the British. Heather Stanning felt unwell during their warm up and so they withdrew. This left the race open to the Americans and Kiwis. For the Americans it was a selection battle between USA1 Mueller and Luczak and USA2 Musnicki and Logan. In the end it was USA1 who capitalised on the absence of the British to take a very comfortable win guaranteeing their selection for Rio (if they want to be in the W2-). The Kiwis rallied in the final 500 to take silver with USA2 just holding off the South Africans for bronze. The British will take comfort from the knowledge that they beat the USA1 crew quite comfortably in the semi-final and will remain confident as they head into Poznan.
This was a real topsy-turvy race. The New Zealand world champions were never in the hunt and trailed in last. The 2013 world champions from Lithuania had a fantastically timed race, 5th at the first marker, 3rd at the 100m, 2nd at the 1500m and took the win by 7/10th seconds. This was their first win since taking the world title 3 years ago. The Australians led from the first stroke but got overhauled by the Lithuanians and ended with silver. The Germans had a disappointing regatta, the European silver medallists could only manage 4th.
Since London 2012 the Germans have raced this event 16 times and won 12 of them. But their mantle of invincibility in this event has been well and truly shattered. In Lucerne they were led from start to finish by the Poles. The Polish are having a fabulous season winning their first ever gold in this event in Varese and following it up with their 2nd in Lucerne.
One big surprise in this event was the performance of the Americans, they were World champions last year and had entered two boats at Lucerne with 3 of that World championship winning crew between them. But neither crew impressed with the USA2 boat squeezing into the final by pushing out their no.1 boat in the repecharge. In the final they were never in the hunt and finished 6th, 10 seconds behind the Poles. This was a big disappointment for the Americans who a clearly still in selection mode, but they would’ve wanted the boats to be more competitive than they showed this weekend. It remains to be seen who gets the nod for Poznan.
This was a fabulous race. The Americans and New Zealanders both had athletes doubling up in the W2- and perhaps that showed in the final, although in commentary Greg Searle reckons it makes no difference to these athletes and that they train for it….hmm.
The stars of the race were the British. They dispatched the Canadians (who had a shocker of a regatta) and also held off the Kiwis and were closing down on the Americans at the finish. This will be a massive confidence booster for the British as they head back to Caversham. They sent a big message to coach, Paul Thompson, that they are a strong powerful unit. When they get back to Caversham they face more selection battles as Vicky Thornley and Katherine Grainger will both be trialled in the boat. The Brits confidence is sky high and cox, Zoe de Toledo firmly believes that whichever combination eventually races in Rio hey have the capability to win gold. Personally I think that’s a step too far, the USA have only been beaten twice in this event in the last 10 years. But, what Lucerne has shown is that the British can push them and are rapidly establishing themselves as strong silver medal contenders.
This was the first race for the new look French double of Azou and Houin and they didn’t disappoint, leading from start to finish. I was a little disappointed in the performance of the British, their semi-final result promised better, but this was their first race of the season and Chambers has only just recovered from a hand injury so I would expect better from them in Poznan.
Another fabulous LM4- race and a surprise result with the Swiss World Champions losing to the Kiwis. For their part the Kiwis were slow out of the blocks (they were last at the 500m mark) but then had a storming middle 1000 to pass the Swiss and race away to a relatively comfortable 1.7 sec win. Again, for the British it was a disappointing race. They had a good heat but were never really in the hunt in the final, finishing 5th. Consistency is the key for this boat and they will be expecting a better performance in Poznan in a couple of weeks’ time. Interestingly the times in the heats between the LM4- and heavyweight M4- were within 1 second of each other. This could be another nail in the coffin of the LM4- as an Olympic event. They face becoming a victim of their own success, the speed of the top LM4-‘s are too similar to the M4-‘s to justify having it as a separate event. It’ll be a great shame if the event does drop off the Olympic programme for Tokyo, but I think it’s looking increasingly likely.
This was the one bright point in an otherwise miserable regatta for the Canadians. Patricia Obee and Lindasy Jennerich took a somewhat surprising victory ahead of the South Africans and the New Zealand World Champions in bronze. This was Canada’s first win in this event since Lucerne 2011 and they won by unleashing a huge sprint in the final 500m which was 2 seconds faster than anyone else. The German European silver medallists had a disappointing day finishing 11th. The Chinese look to have been using Lucerne as selection trials with China 1 Wenyi Huang and Feihong Pan getting the better of China 2 Miao Wang and Dandan Pan in 4th and 6th respectively. Poznan should see the return of the British after a bitterly disappointing Brandenburg so that will definitely spice things up a bit.
So all in all a mixed bag of results for the big rowing nations. The Kiwis finished top of the medal table and the will be pleased with the performance of the LM4- and M1X, but there will be concerns elsewhere, neither 8 raced to their potential and the W2X in particular looked well off the pace. The Germans had a shocker, especially in the quads but they will also be concerned over the performance of the M8. For their part the British will see this as an average performance, a number of crews were blighted by illness which, in my opinion, probably cost them 1 possibly 2 golds (in the W2- and M4X) but there will be concern about the lightweight men’s crews who promised much and yet didn’t deliver. The US will be pleased with their wins in the W2- and W8 and also with the medal in the M8 but they have their own concerns especially with the W4X.
Really the only country to emerge totally happy from Lucerne will be the Dutch. A fantastic performance from their men’s 8, they were the only nation to get all three of their heavyweight men’s sweep boats on the podium. They will also be extremely pleased with the strong performance from M1X Stefan Broenink.
Roll on Poznan!