Bled World Rowing Championships preview and information for journalists about NZ team
The end of August will be the pinnacle of the 2011 World Rowing season with the world's best getting together in Bled, Slovenia, for the 2011 World Rowing Championships. The event opens on 28 August and races take place over eight days.
The regatta, which doubles as the first and main Olympic Qualification Regatta for the London 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games, has attracted a record 68 nations and over 1200 athletes. The entries are spread across 14 Olympic events, eight international events and five Paralympic adaptive rowing events. The men's single sculls has the largest number of entries with 36 countries represented in this "Blue Riband" event. The lightweight men's double sculls is also very well represented with crews from 34 nations entered.
Racing on the picturesque Lake Bled, many athletes will not only be aspiring for World Championship titles, they will also be working towards qualifying their boat for next year's Olympic Games. The 14 Olympic events offer varying numbers of qualifying spots and, thus, added pressure for those involved.
New Zealand is looking good in the men's and women's single sculls and men's and women's pairs. In the women's single Emma Twigg heads to the World Rowing Championships on the back of a win at the final stage of the 2011 Samsung World Rowing Cup regatta of the season. In the men's event Mahé Drysdale will be up against reigning World Champion Ondrej Synek of the Czech Republic with Norway, Sweden, Great Britain and Germany all medal prospects. The New Zealand duo of Hamish Bond and Eric Murray continue to dominate in the men's pairs, having won 13 consecutive races they have entered over the past three years and will again face their arch rivals Peter Reed and Andrew Triggs-Hodge of Great Britain.
Other hot NZ prospects include the men's lightweight and heavyweight double sculls. Storm Uru and Peter Taylor were world champions in the lightweight class in 2009 and Joseph Sullivan and Nathan Cohen are the current champions in the heavy boat. The women's double scull of Anna Reymer and Fi Paterson has also been going well in the build up. Also in with a chance are the men's four, the women's quad and the men's quad, though their primary focus will be on making the Olympic cut. The men's eight has more work to do after disappointing Lucerne. With only seven sure to qualify from a field of 13 they will have to recapture the form that took them to fifth place at the Karapiro World Championships last November.
Over recent years arch rival GB has embarked in a programme with the aim to impress at their home Olympic Games. This has meant huge success for the country in rowing, evident throughout the 2011 season. Great Britain comes to Bled as top medal contenders in a number of events. Leading the way are Katherine Grainger and Anna Watkins who are on a two-year winning streak in the women's double sculls. And, judging by recent races, this is highly likely to continue at Bled. Great Britain is also placing big expectations on their men's four and lightweight men's four to bring home gold.
These World Championships also act as the Paralympic Qualification Regatta and there is no doubt that Tom Aggar of Great Britain, the Paralympic Games gold medallist, is still the standard-setter in this relatively new rowing discipline. Aggar races in the men's single sculls and comes to Bled on an unbeaten run that includes holding the World Best Time. The men's single is the largest adaptive event with a record 17 countries competing. Adaptive events are raced over 1000m and include one event for intellectually disabled on top of the four physically disabled events. Karapiro medallist Danny McBride is in Bled for New Zealand.
Live results, audio streaming, race reports, results and a photo gallery will be available throughout the regatta on www.worldrowing.com The draw will take place on Friday.