GB rowers ready for the 2019 European Rowing Championships in Lucerne

With nearly 600 athletes competing at the Europeans this weekend, there are sure to be plenty of tantalising match-ups. Martin Cross previews the racing on the Rotsee

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Victoria Thornley (c) Naomi Baker

The 2019 European Rowing Championships affords a fantastic opportunity for the GB Rowing Team to make their mark at the start of a crucial season. Not only will it take place on Lucerne’s beautiful Rotsee but there’s also a bumper entry with almost 600 athletes entered from 36 national federations.

After sitting out the season’s first World Cup event, Jurgen Grobler, the GB Rowing Team’s Men’s and Women’s Chief Coach, has brought out all his big guns. Sixteen British boats will contest for medals. They will line up against very strong squads from Germany, Italy and the Netherlands. Throw in a whole bunch of 2018 world champion crews from the likes of Croatia, France and Norway and there’s no doubt that the results here will give a major pointer to which boats stand the best chance of qualifying directly for the Tokyo Olympics from this summer’s World Rowing Championships at Linz.

British boats will be involved in some fantastic contests – there are so many fascinating match-ups that it’s hard to pick out the best.

Victoria Thornley’s welcome return to racing after missing out on the 2018 World Rowing Championships, owing to illness, is a particular highlight. The Rio silver medallist will not only go head to head against Mirka Topinkova Knapkova and Fie Udby Erichsen, who took Olympic gold and silver respectively in 2012, but will also face Jeannine Gmelin, the darling of the home crowd at the Rotsee. The Swiss sculler was world champion in 2017 and took an impressive silver last year. The final will undoubtedly be a race to savour.

In the sculling squads, the British team is fortunate to have so much strength in depth. This is reflected in the pace of the men’s and women’s quads that are expected to be strong medal contenders.

Victoria Thornley’s welcome return to racing is a particular highlight

While the men had an erratic 2018 season, with the quad managing a seventh place at the World Rowing Championships, they did manage to register a stunning triumph on the Rotsee. Only Jonathan Walton returns from that boat but Jack Beaumont and Angus Groom from the fast 2018 men’s double and Peter Lambert, now fully recovered from injury, join him. The women’s quad, with the Hodgkins Byrne sisters on board, will hope to better their fifth-place finish in Plovdiv last season.

Meanwhile, the rivalry in both men’s and women’s eights will be intense. Grobler has put his best oarsmen in the men’s eight. Joining Moe Sbihi and Matt Tarrant, are Jacob Dawson and Tom Ford from the four that took a brilliant bronze in Plovdiv, together with Josh Bugajski, James Rudkin, Tom George and Oliver Wynne-Griffith. They will face a new-look German crew. The reigning world champions have changed their crew for the first time in two years, with coach Uwe Bender bringing in the powerful Laurits Follert and Chris Reinhardt to cope with the best that the British boat might have to throw at them.

The British women’s eight took a silver medal in Glasgow’s European Rowing Championships last year but the crew failed to fire in Plovdiv. With Karen Bennett and Zoe Lee now reunited from the eight that won a silver medal in Rio, there are signs that the boat will have enough pace to take another medal. The field includes crews from the Netherlands, Romania and Russia.

Lee underlined the excitement that all the British competitors are feeling ahead of the Europeans when she said: “I’m really happy to be back in the eight. It’s such a fast boat. It will make for exciting racing in Lucerne.”

Check out the full GB crew list here.

For daily highlights and updates, follow @BritishRowing on Instagram, Facebook and Twitter

 

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