Rio Olympics – Rowing Program Preview – by Phil Coates
In just a matter of days the Games of the XXXI Olympiad will get underway, with the rowing taking place during the first week of competition. This year the regatta will be held on the stunning Rodrigo de Freitas Lagoon in the heart of Rio. With the world famous Sugarloaf Mountain and Christ the Redeemer looking down on the course, this is arguably the most spectacular venue to host an Olympic Regatta since Penrith in 2000. Over the next two editions The Catch will be previewing all the action – first up, we look at the Men’s heavyweight side of the competition.
- Men’s Single Scull
The favourite to take out the single scull will be defending champion Mahe Drysdale of New Zealand, but a few new challengers on the scene will mean Mahe has to be on his A game to join the likes of Bobby Pierce, Thomas Lange and Olaf Tufte as a repeat winner of the Olympic Gold in this event.
Coached by the mercurial Dick Tonks, a former consultant to the SRC men’s open squad and friend of the club, Drysdale would be a deserving champion given his performances over the Olympiad. He was a comfortable winner of both the Lucerne and Poznan World Cups in 2016, before being defeated by the young Belgian Hanes Obreno in the Diamond Challenge Sculls at Henley Royal Regatta. Drysdale, while ever consistent, has had an unfortunate habit of coming into trouble in advance of major regattas, and nerves will be on edge after the surprise defeat at Henley.
The biggest challenge is expected to come from the silver medallist of the London and Beijing Games – Ondrej Synek of the Czech Republic. He was safely held by Drysdale at Lucerne but his preparation has been faultless and at age 34 will surely know this is his last shot at the title with the aforementioned Obreno and Damir Martin of Croatia the rising stars of the boat class.
One to keep an eye out for in the heats is Luigi Teilemb of Vanuatu who many members will be familiar with from his time training at SRC last year.
- Men’s Double Scull
This event will of course hold great interest for SRC as our very own Chris Morgan races for Australia alongside the young West Australian David Watts. This is relatively new combination, with Morg’s having an injury interrupted Olympiad while Watts is relatively new to the Senior A ranks.
The untouchable Sinkovic bros of Croatia have owned this event, but once you get past them it’s a wide open event a medal could be on the cards. The key opponents in the race of silver and bronze will be New Zealand, Great Britain Lithuania and Norway, but there are plenty of unknowns in the field.
As mentioned, the Croatians are the undisputed champs in this event, and similar to the men’s pair, the only question marks on their performance will be the winning margin.
- Men’s Pair
Similar to the double, the dominance of the Kiwis presents a great opportunity for the silver and bronze medals which we all hope will be taken by the Sydney pair of Alex Lloyd and Spencer Turrin. Having rowed together for SRC since their junior days the Club will be right behind the boys when they line up in Rio. Initially modest expectations have risen significantly after an excellent European season and they will rightly start a strong fancy for a medal.
The Kiwi pair of Eric Murray and Hamish Bond will be the clear favourites of the regatta, and likely the one rowing crew that will attract global prominence at the Games given their incredible winning record dating back to 2009. There is an SRC connection in this crew with former head coach Gary Robertson the father in law of Eric Murray.
As ever, team GB will represent a challenge and the Dutch have also demonstrated good speed this year, but behind the Kiwis it really is wide open.
- Men’s four
The mantle of the Oarsome Foursome has well and truly been passed from Australia to Great Britain over the last 20 years, with the Brits taking the last 4 gold medals and favoured to do so again in Rio. Interesting all the main contenders in this event have had some uncertainty around selection throughout the season, but the prevailing wisdom is that GB will again take out the event.
Obviously the four holds great hope for Australia and after going so close to winning at Lucerne confidence will be high for an upset win that would be a huge boost for the entire team.
The Italian’s have been building in this boat class over a number of years and while only a young crew, have been the subject of interesting betting move since Domenico Montrone moved into the crew after competing in the eight earlier in the season.
- Men’s quad
The quad sees the resumption of what has developed into a spirited rivalry between Australia and Germany dating back to the 2011 World Championships in which the great Dan Noonan led the Australian’s to an upset victory on Lake Bled. The Germans got their revenge at the London Olympics, defeating the Croatians and the Australians.
There have been a few personnel changes since then but again it looks to be Germany v Australia, with the Aussies the marginal favourites after a series of strong performances during the European Summer. This has been a rapid rise for the John Driesson coached crew who have certainly been the surprise packets of 2016. Such is the momentum behind the crew that they, along with Kim Brennan nee Crow, will be the ‘bankers’ on which RA will be desperate to deliver Gold.
The likes of Poland and Estonia will inevitably provide strong resistance but it looks a race in two.
- Men’s eight
The eight looks the most open event on the men’s program, with anyone’s guess as to who will win between Germany, the Netherlands and Great Britain. Even the United States have shown some glimpses of improvement this year and could challenge for the gold.
Unfortunately Australia was unable to qualify a boat, so it will be an event to sit back and enjoy, with perhaps a small investment on team USA to get the job done in the blue riband event.