If Mitch Hedberg had made observations about rowing rather than NASCAR, I think he would’ve asked this question: Why do all these folks have to go backwards?
The World Championships are annual, even in Olympic years. The 2010 event was in New Zealand last fall; the 2011 event will start Aug. 28 in the ominous-sounding town of Bled, Slovenia.
World Cup competition is starting soon, and the powers that be have put together a handy preview.
Single sculls: The three medalists from 2008 and Britain’s Alan Campbell must be awfully familiar with each other by now. The 2010 Worlds finished in this order: Synek, Drysdale, Campbell, Tufte. Synek was unbeaten in 2010, while Olympic champion Olaf Tufte aims to peak in the big events.
2008: Olaf Tufte (Norway), Ondrej Synek (Czech Republic), Mahe Drysdale (New Zealand)
Projection: Czech Republic, Britain, Norway
Top Americans: Kenneth Jurkowski made the B final in 2010, finishing 12th overall.
Double sculls: New Zealand’s Nathan Cohen finished fourth with Rob Waddell in 2008 and won the 2010 Worlds with Joseph Sullivan. Britain’s Matthew Wells also changed partners and moved up from 2008 bronze to 2010 silver. The rest of the 2010 finalists — France, Norway, Australia, Germany — didn’t feature any rowers from the 2008 final. A German boat won the 2009 title, and Estonia finished on the podium.
2008: David Crawshay/Scott Brennan (Australia), Tonu Endrekson/Juri Jaanson (Estonia), Matthew Wells/Stephen Rowbotham (Britain)
Projection: New Zealand, Britain, Australia
Top Americans: Glenn Ochal and Warren Anderson won the 2010 B final to rank seventh overall.
Lightweight double sculls: No reason to mess with the top boat — Britain’s Zac Purchase and Mark Hunter have the Olympic and world titles. Italy’s Elia Luini changed partners and moved from 2008 fourth to 2010 silver. The 2010 bronze was decided by 0.03 seconds, with New Zealand’s Storm Uru (name for the ages) and Peter Taylor edging Canada’s Douglas Vandor and Cameron Sylvester. Denmark’s 2008 bronze medalists took time off and returned.
2008: Zac Purchase/Mark Hunter (Britain), Dimitrios Mougios/Vasileios Polymeros (Greece), Mads Rasmussen/Rasmus Quint (Denmark)
Projection: Britain, Italy, New Zealand
Top Americans: Jonathan Winter and Brian De Regt placed 11th in 2010.
Quadruple sculls: Croatia came from nowhere to win 2010 gold in Poland’s absence. Italy, on the other hand, had three of the same four in the boat to take silver in both 2008 and 2010. Australia moved up from 2008 fourth to 2010 silver with a couple of changes in the boat.
2008: Poland, Italy, France
Projection: Croatia, Poland, Italy
Top Americans: Dropped from fifth in 2008 to seventh in 2010, turning over most of the crew.
Coxless pair: Few familiar faces from 2008 to 2010. In 2010, New Zealand and Britain pulled away for a close 1-2 finish, with Greece well ahead of the rest. We’ll give Britain the slight home advantage. Greece has already mixed up its rowers despite the 2010 bronze.
2008: Australia, Canada, New Zealand
Projection: Britain, New Zealand, Greece
Top Americans: Deaglan McEachern and Ryan Monaghan may sound like a Scots/Irish pair, but they took ninth for the USA in 2010.
Coxless four: This event and its lightweight counterpart are for men only. Why? They think women would get lost? Anyway, an experienced French team won in 2010, while a less-experienced British team was a close fourth. Greece and New Zealand took the spots in between. Germany might have the pieces to make a run.
2008: Britain, Australia, France
Projection: France, Greece, Britain
Top Americans: Changed three people in the boat from 2008 to 2010 and finished fifth.
Lightweight coxless four: Top three in 2010 separated by 0.08 seconds — Britain, Australia, China. And Germany and the Netherlands weren’t far back. Yeah, we’re throwing at a dartboard on this one. Denmark has brought back 39-year-old Eskild Ebbesen to try to get back in the fray, further complicating things.
2008: Denmark, Poland, Canada
Projection: Britain, Australia, China
Top Americans: Finished fourth in a fast B final to rank 10th in 2010.
Eight: Quite a few changes on the podium from 2008 to 2010, where it was Germany, Britain, Australia. The rest of the A final: Netherlands, New Zealand, USA. Canada, the 2008 gold medalist, won the B final. Germany has been dominant for two years, but this is a glamourous event in Britain (think Oxford-Cambridge), and the hosts can’t be ruled out.
2008: Canada, Britain, USA
Projection: Germany, Britain, Australia
Top Americans: Often a strong event for the team.
Single sculls: Sweden’s Frida Svensson won the 2008 B final and graduated in 2010 to win the world title, just ahead of 2008 bronze medalist Ekaterina Karsten. New Zealand’s Emma Twigg made a similar step up — third in 2008 B final, third in 2008 A final. The Czech Republic’s Mirka Knapkova was fifth in 2008 and a somewhat distant fourth in 2010, but she upset Svensson and Karsten in a race earlier this year. The World Cup preview also tells us to look out for Germany’s Annekatrin Thiele, a veteran of larger boats now making waves on her own.
2008: Rumyana Neykova (Bulgaria), Michelle Guerette (USA), Ekaterina Karsten (Belarus)
Projection: Sweden, Belarus, New Zealand
Top Americans: Lindsay Meyer ranked 10th in 2010.
Double sculls: New Zealand’s Evers-Swindell sisters have retired, leaving this open for yet another British victory. Bronze medalist Anna Bebington is now Anna Watkins, and she teamed with Katherine Grainger to win by more than five seconds in 2010. Australia was a comfortable second. Poland edged the Czech Republic for third.
2008: Georgina Evers-Swindell/Caroline Evers-Swindell (New Zealand), Annekatrin Thiele/Christiane Huth (Germany), Elise Laverick/Anna Bebington (Britain)
Projection: Britain, Australia, Poland
Top Americans: Stesha Carle and Kathleen Bertko were a close fifth in 2010.
Lightweight double sculls: Canadian bronze medalist Tracy Cameron remained in the boat for 2010 and won the world title with Lindsay Jennerich. The next five, all spaced about two seconds apart in the A final — Germany, Greece, Australia, Britain, New Zealand. Britain is one of the few countries to keep its World Championship duo together in 2011.
2008: Kirsten van der Kolk/Marit van Eupen (Netherlands), Sanna Sten/Minna Nieminen (Finland), Melanie Kok/Tracy Cameron (Canada)
Projection: Canada, Germany, Greece
Top Americans: Eighth place in 2010 for Ursula Grobler and Abelyn Broughton, but veteran Julie Nichols is racing with Kristin Hedstrom early in 2011.
Quadruple sculls: Three of the four British rowers who took silver in 2008 are still together in the 2010 world champions’ boat, and they’re sticking together in 2011. Ukraine changed more personnel to move up from fourth to second. Germany has a nice collection of bronze. Poland has shifted 2009 double sculls world champion Julia Michalska to this boat.
2008: China, Britain, Germany
Projection: Britain, Ukraine, Germany
Top Americans: Fifth in 2008 and 2010.
Coxless pair: New Zealand’s Juliette Haigh and Rebecca Scown, the former a 2008 finalist, won the 2010 world title by more than three seconds. Britain took second, with the USA just ahead of Australia and Canada for bronze.
2008: Georgeta Andrunache/Viorica Susanu (Romania), Wu You/Gao Yulan (China), Yuliya Bichyk/Natallia Helakh (Belarus)
Projection: New Zealand, Britain, USA
Top Americans: Zsuzsanna Francia and Erin Cafaro are the 2010 bronze medalists.
Eight: Always a big event for the world and Olympic champion USA. Canada moved up from fourth in 2008 to silver in 2010. Romania stayed in third. Britain keeps finishing just outside the medals. Romania and the Netherlands also are traditional powers.
2008: USA, Netherlands, Romania
Projection: USA, Canada, Britain
Top Americans: Coxswain Mary Whipple is going for her third Games.