World and Olympic medallists take first steps in 2016 season

“This is the first step in one of the most important seasons of our rowing careers”, said 2012 Olympic silver medallist Chris Bartley about the weekend’s GB Rowing Team assessment at Boston in Lincolnshire.

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“This is the first step in one of the most important seasons of our rowing careers”, said 2012 Olympic silver medallist Chris Bartley about the weekend’s GB Rowing Team assessment at Boston in Lincolnshire.

Bartley will be one of a host of World and Olympic medallists who will race against the clock on rowing machines on Saturday before undertaking a grueling 5km on-water time trial on Sunday.

Whilst GB’s top rowers are normally exempt from the October assessment, this season is different as the coaches and Performance Director keep an eye on the progress of winter training and take a look at all those seeking to snatch a squad place before Rio as well as those chasing World U23 and British Universities’ squad places.

“This season is shorter than the usual season”, explained Bartley with less than 300 days to go to the Rio Games. So it’s important that we get it off on the right foot and show ourselves well. This will give us greater confidence when it comes to results in the racing season”.

Bartley is part of a competitive lightweight men’s single scull group due to be in action on the river Witham on Sunday.

This includes Will Fletcher and Richard Chambers, who raced so enticingly to World silver in their debut lightweight men’s double scull season, along with Richard’s younger brother and fellow 2012 silver medallist Peter and former world medallist Mark Aldred.

Joel Cassells, Sam Mottram, Jamie Copus, Stephen Parsonage and Zak Lee Green could be amongst the main challengers, all except Lee Green are still U23s.

Kat Copeland and Imogen Walsh may well fight for line honours in the lightweight women’s single scull across the weekend. Copeland is the reigning Olympic Champion and World silver medallist in the double scull whilst Walsh is the reigning World silver medallist in the single scull. Copeland’s 2015 double scull partner, Charlotte Taylor, is out on medical grounds.

Double Olympic men’s four champion Andrew Triggs Hodge will mark his return from a long lay-off during the two-day event.

Hodge lines up in the open men’s single scull in a field led by 2013 and 2014 men’s quad World medallists Sam Townsend and Pete Lambert along with 2012 single scull bronze medallist Alan Campbell.

Jonny Walton and John Collins, from the 2015 men’s double scull, and World men’s pair silver medallist Matt Langridge will be in action.

Langridge has swapped to the single as James Foad, his pairs partner, is unable to race as are Charles Cousins and Graeme Thomas all on the doctor’s list this weekend. Langridge, of course, has pedigree as a sculler despite being in the sweep squad currently. He was World Junior Champion in this event.

Many of the open weight men, including all of the eight that won World Championship gold last month, will race in pairs in Boston. Moe Sbihi and Alex Gregory, who won both assessments they competed in last season plus the senior trials, are paired together once again.

George Nash and Will Satch rekindle their 2012 men’s pair bronze medal partnership, double men’s four Olympic Champion Pete Reed races with several-times Boat Race winner and GB World medallist Constantine Louloudis.

World men’s eight champions Matt Gotrel and Paul Bennett team up as do Tom Ransley and Stewart Innes who will race against their World men’s four bronze team-mates Alan Sinclair and Scott Durant.
World coxed pair medallists Mat Tarrant and Nathaniel Reilly O’Donnell are another strong combination.

Some other familiar faces rejoin their 2015 World medal winning team-mates in action at Boston Rowing Club.

Anna Watkins will make her first competitive appearance since winning Olympic gold in London when she races in the open women’s single scull in a big field which includes 2012 Gold medallist Heather Stanning and 2015 World double scull finalists Katherine Grainger and Vicky Thornley and nearly all of the World finalist GB women’s eight.

Watkins, who won her 2012 double scull gold at Eton Dorney with four-times Olympic medallist Grainger, returned to training earlier this year following the birth of her second child.

Polly Swann, the 2013 World Champion and 2014 European Champion in the women’s pair with Helen Glover, will also continue her comeback from injury having won gold and bronze at the British Championships in Nottingham last week. Glover, out of the boat briefly in recent days with a heavy cold will not race.

With Rio less than 300 days away the tempo will be sharp and the event has attracted a bumper entry.

Many of the ergo tests will also take place in Boston on Saturday, at the Princess Royal Sports Arena, and this event is open to spectators from 10-4pm.

This weekend’s assessment is the first of three in the build-up to the Olympic Games, with the others taking place on December 19 and February 27-28. The GB Rowing Team Olympic Trials will then be staged at Caversham in March.

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