Preview of the weekend’s finals

[img_assist|nid=1981|title=Men’s double looking for “their best race yet” in today’s final|desc=Peter Spurrier|link=none|align=right|width=640|height=450][img_assist|nid=1967|title=Alan Campbell faces a strong line-up today|desc=Peter Spurrier|link=none|align=left|width=268|height=440][img_assist|nid=1980|title=The women’s double will be in action today|desc=Peter Spurrier|link=none|align=right|width=448|height=263]Men’s single scull

When Alan Campbell lines up for the Olympic Games men’s single scull final on Saturday he will be in the company of three times world champion Mahe Drysdale of New Zealand, the reigning Olympic champion, Olaf Tufte of Norway, and the 2007 world silver medallist Ondrej Synek. Lassi Karonen from Sweden has been a finalist at every world cup this season whilst Belgian Tim Maeyens was an Olympic finalist four years ago. Campbell was fourth at the last world championships and took world cup gold in Munich this year but has since had a punctured preparation period due to a knee infection which required surgery. His aim here was to get to the final. "It’s the big one now. The pressure’s off. Let’s see if I can find that Olympic Performance", he said.

Women’s pair

One certainty in Saturday’s women’s pair final is that Louisa Reeve and Olivia Whitlam will start the race as relative unknowns. The Romanians are the Olympic champions, the Belarussians are the world champions and every other crew has won a world cup medal already this year. By contrast Whitlam and Reeve rowed together internationally as a senior pair for the first time at the Lucerne world cup regatta in June and then qualified for the Games via the last-chance Olympic Qualifying Regatta in Poznan, Poland, in June.

Women’s double scull

Elise Laverick and Anna Bebington were disappointed with their performance in the heats here but bounced back in the repechage to qualify for the final. On paper, as world bronze medallists from 2007, the duo should be a medal chance here, too. However their winter’s training was disrupted when Bebington contracted a protracted virus. Since their return to on-water action they have worked at improvements week on week and they won the final world cup in Poznan in the absence of the Chinese favourites – Li Qin and Tian Liang who are the reigning world champions. Kiwi twins Caroline and Georgina Evers-Swindells are the Olympic champions.

Men’s double scull

TeamGB’s Matt Wells and Stephen Rowbotham have not been outside the medals at any world cup so far this season and, as Matt Wells said after the semi-finals, "any one of us could win the final and I’m convinced we haven’t had our best race here yet". Jean-Baptiste Macquet and Adrien Hardy must be amongst the gold medal favourites. They hold the world’s best time for the event and Hardy won the Olympic title four years ago albeit with Sebastien Villedent. Luka Spik and Iztok Cop of Slovenia were Olympic champions in Sydney four years ago and Athens silver medallists. They have wise racing heads. New Zealanders Rob Waddell and Nathan Cohen are a new partnership this year and won the season’s last two world cups whilst the Estonians
Tonu Endrekson and Jueri Jaanson were world bronze medallists in 2007. Australia’s Scott Brennan and David Crawshay were world cup bronze medallists twice this season.

Men’s four

With the elimination at semi-final stage of all three 2007 World Championships medallists this final now has a completely fresh and unpredicted feel. TeamGB must be amongst the gold medal favourites after their semi-final win despite a season disrputed by injury to both Tom James and Andy Hodge. This is also the GB boat (with Alex Partridge instead of Tom James) who were 2005 and 2006 world champions. Australia were world cup winners in Lucerne whilst all the other finalists have won world cup medals this season except the German four who made substitutions because of illness for the semi-finals.

Lightweight men’s double scull

TeamGB’s lightweight men’s double scull of Zac Purchase and Mark Hunter, the current world championships bronze medallists, will line up as favourites to win today’s final. They are unbeaten this season through three world cups and the earlier rounds here. Their main opponents are likely to be Greece, silver medallists four years ago and world silver medallists last year, although beaten by the British duo here, but Italy, Denmark and China could also prove a threat with Cuba providing a relatively unknown ingredient. Purchase and Hunter came together for the 2007 racing season. Purchase previously won world championship medals in the lightweight men’s single scull whilst Hunter was in a double scull with James Lindsay-Fynn.

Lightweight men’s four

TeamGB’s lightweight men’s four are the reigning world champions having taken their title in Munich last year in August. They have not had the best of seasons since taking an opening world cup silver on the same Munich course on which they won their world title. According to crew member Paul Mattick the combination have not been afraid to try "some new things" this season but have now gone "back to basics". They came through a tough semi-final which included the 2007 world silver and bronze medallists plus Olympic champions, Denmark, who have come back to form just at the right time and probably start today’s race as favourites.

Women’s quadruple scull

If previous form is any guide, this final should boil down to a sizzling battle battle between TeamGB, as the reigning world champions, China, who won the world cup in Lucerne this year and Germany, the nation who has won every Olympic title since the event was added to the programme in 1988. TeamGB beat Germany in the heats to qualify direct to the final whilst China won the opposing heat. "We know that this will be a tough final and that no-one will roll over for us. That is what we train for", said Debbie Flood in anticipation. "We are expecting the final to be a complete stroke by stroke battle down the course. We have got to give it everything if we are to achieve the result we want", added Grainger.

Women’s eight

The USA will start this final as favourites to win. They are the reigning world champions. Romania took silver a year ago in Munich whilst GB were bronze medallists after a roller-coaster season. 2008 has also been a period of mixed fortunes for the GB women’s eight. In the final here they will be looking to replicate the fast start they achieved in the heats to put themselves in contention for the latter stages of the race. Romania are the reigning Olympic champions whilst the Netherlands were bronze medallists four years ago.

Men’s eight

TeamGB qualified for this final with a stand-out performance in the heats and have moved into the potential medal consciousness here. On more established form the Canadians, as current world champions, must take pole position. The USA are reigning Olympic champions and the Dutch have a strong history of men’s eight racing having taken silver four years ago whilst Australia.

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