Emerging talent set to battle with returning Olympians in third GB winter assessment

The third GB winter assessment will see competitors take on a 5km time trial, with successful athletes invited to the senior and U23 trials in April


Kat Copeland will be one of the competitors on Saturday (Naomi Baker)

Nearly 250 rowers in 190 crews will descend on Lincolnshire’s River Witham on Saturday, 11 February, when the GB Rowing Team’s third winter assessment takes place at Boston Rowing Club.

Barring medical exemptions, any rower aiming for the 2017 World Championships in Sarasota, Florida, or for the World U23 Championships in Plovdiv, Bulgaria, must race the 5km time trial.

Sir David Tanner, British Rowing’s performance director, said: “With returning Olympians racing against the next generation, this is always one of the more exciting assessments of our national selection process in the post-Olympic year. It is a year in which new and talented rowers can make a name for themselves.”

The names of many Rio medallists are on the provisional entry list, with some new combinations to catch the eye.

2016 Olympic men’s four champion Moe Sbihi is set to team up with Will Satch, winner of men’s eight gold last summer on Rio’s Lagoa, in the men’s pair. The pair battled against each other as captains of opposing GB relay teams at the British Rowing Indoor Championships in December – with Sbihi’s crew coming out on top – but now come together, aiming to impress over the 5km course.

Karen Bennett and Zoe Lee were part of GB’s history-making women’s eight silver medal crew in Brazil and were due to headline the 16-crew women’s pair list in a week when major decisions could be afoot for the Olympic rowing programme.

Unfortunately Lee has been forced to drop out but the field is still set to include reigning women’s four World Champions, Fiona Gammond and Holly Norton.

By the weekend, World Rowing will be in the throes of voting on a Tokyo 2020 programme to recommend to the IOC which could include a new women’s four event as the sport moves towards gender parity – although a number of other options are also under consideration.

“It is a year in which new and talented rowers can make a name for themselves.”

No fewer than 40 females will line up for the open women’s single scull event which includes a competitive return for Vicky Thornley, winner of Olympic silver in the double scull in Rio. She will race names like Jess Leyden, reigning U23 World women’s double scull champion, Holly Nixon and Bethany Bryan who will be looking to underline their Olympic potential.

34 scullers are set to race the equivalent men’s event in which Olympians Jack Beaumont, John Collins, Pete Lambert and Jonny Walton are among the ones to watch.

Both lightweight single events have big entry lists with 40 contesting the men’s time trial and 29 in the women’s. Both races should be fiercely contested. The provisional men’s entry list includes Olympians Peter Chambers and Will Fletcher plus Joel Cassells and Sam Scrimgeour, world cup and World Championships medallists, as well as Gavin Horsbrough – a world U23 Champion in 2016 – although the entry list is still subject to change.

2012 Olympic Champion Kat Copeland and 2015 World silver medallist Charlie Booth (nee Taylor) are in a women’s field that includes World women’s quad Champions Emily Craig, Eleanor Piggott and Brianna Stubbs plus 2016 assessment winner Gemma Hall.

Successful rowers from all five boat classes will be invited, on the basis of their Boston results, to the 2017 season GB rowing senior and U23 trials, taking place at the Redgrave-Pinsent rowing lake, near Reading, on 15 and 16 April.

This Saturday, therefore, is the final moment for rowers to impress the selectors and receive an invitation. Download the provisional entry list here – although the please note that the list is subject to change before Saturday’s racing.