Alan Campbell launches Team GB’s Olympic rowing campaign today on Rio’s Estadio de Lagoa, facing opposition from Belarus, Korea, Zimbabwe and Indonesia for a place in Tuesday’s quarter-finals of the open men’s single scull.
The 2012 bronze medal open men’s single sculler, from Coleraine and coached by John West, will lead off a British contingent of 12 boats and 47 rowers in action at the Games at a lake which Team GB Team Leader, Sir David Tanner, has described as ‘one of the iconic venues of the Games.’
Today’s race-card includes the men’s pair of Alan Sinclair, from Inverness, and Henley’s Stewart Innes, the European silver medal winners. They have drawn the Dutch crew of Roel Braas and Mitchel Steenman, also multiple medal winners this season, in their opening heat. A top-three finish from the six starters will see them into Tuesday’s semi-finals.
“The guys are excited about racing at their first Games and are fired up because of the support back home,” said their coach Rob Dauncey.
Olympic women’s eight finalist from 2012 Vicky Thornley, from Wrexham, and five-time Olympian and Glasgow’s defending Olympic champion Katherine Grainger, have a tough opener in the open women’s double scull in which they need a top-three placing to progress.
They are drawn to race alongside Lithuania’s 2013 world champions Donata Vistartaite and Milda Valciukaite in a heat also featuring 2015 world bronze medallists, Germany.
“It’s a very tasty heat and the women are looking forward to testing themselves,” said coach Paul Thompson.
Jonny Walton and John Collins will kick-off their debut Olympics in a heat of the open men’s double scull, which features current world bronze medallists New Zealand and 2014 silver medallists, Italy. A top-three finish for the duo, coached by Mark Banks, will see them safely into Tuesday’s semi-finals.
Peter Chambers and Chris Bartley both took silver in the lightweight men’s four at London 2012 and return to this boat class in Rio where they race with Olympic first-timers Mark Aldred and Jono Clegg.
In today’s opening heat the quartet, who finished the World Cup season on a strong note, with bronze in Poland, have drawn 2014 world champions and 2015 world silver medallists, Denmark. They also race the Germans whom they beat into fifth place in the final in Poland. Three crews go through to semi-finals.
“It will be interesting to see how we run off against the Danes in the opening heat because they are one of the top crews in the world. It will put everyone’s minds at rest to see where we stand,” said coach Hamish Burrell.
Jack Beaumont has flown out to join the Team GB men’s quadruple scull crew in the past few days because of illness to Graeme Thomas. Beaumont, Sam Townsend, Angus Groom and Peter Lambert will close out Team GB’s first day of racing.
“Australia and Poland are the seeded crews, so it will be a good test,” said coach Paul Stannard of their opening heat from which two crews progress to Wednesday’s final and the others to a repechage which provides those crews with a second chance on Monday.
Sunday’s start-list will see the men’s four, women’s pair and the two lightweight double scull crews in action in opening heats.
Defending Olympic champion Alex Gregory, Moe Sbihi, George Nash and Constantine Louloudis start unbeaten this season in the men’s four. They line up with South Africa, France and Greece in heat three. This is the only rowing event at the Games which will feature a Russian crew, drawn in heat one.
Three crews from each heat will progress to the men’s four semi-finals on Wednesday. Britain have been Olympic champions in this event at every Games since Sydney 2000.
“Overall the draws are good but there is no easy opposition at Olympic Games level. We are here to compete and to show how we can perform. We have prepared well and we are now looking forward to it,” said coach Jurgen Grobler who is coaching at his 11th Olympic Games here.
Helen Glover and Heather Stanning will race a women’s pair heat which includes Denmark and Germany who are both World Cup finalists this season.
Robin Williams, coach to the Olympic, World and European Champion duo said: “The draw has turned out evenly balanced with the seeded crews missing each other but we have crews in our heats who can race, and race well, so we will be giving them the proper respect.” Three crews progress from this heat.
Kat Copeland, like Glover and Stanning, is a defending Olympic champion. With Charlotte Taylor, Copeland won world silver a year ago.
The duo missed the latter part of this season’s World Cup racing because of injury but have come through well from two recent good training camps.
Only two crews progress to semi-finals from this event. Coach Paul Reedy said: “We are racing crews that are ranked quite highly so it will be a good first test and we are raring to go.”
Richard Chambers, the elder of the Chambers siblings and a London 2012 lightweight men’s four medallist, races this Games with Games debutant Will Fletcher in the lightweight men’s double scull.
In a somewhat ironic twist the combination, coached by Darren Whiter, are drawn alongside John Thompson and John Smith who were half of South African lightweight four who so narrowly pipped Team GB to gold in London four years ago. The top two crews go on to the semi-finals with the remainder to the repechages.
Britain’s two eights open their Games on Monday. The men have drawn Holland, Italy and New Zealand. Germany, the Olympic champions, are in the other heat.
Christian Felkel, who co-coaches the eight with Grobler, said: “It was expected that the Germans would be in the other heat because of the seedings. The Dutch, of course, won in Lucerne at the World Cup so that will be interesting but we are not worried and we can’t wait to get going.”
The Team GB European champion women’s eight are drawn with Canada and New Zealand. James Harris, co-coach of the European Champion women’s eight with Paul Thompson, said: “The seeding meant that we would always face New Zealand in the heats. We’ve traded results with them this season and the Canadians, of course, are the world bronze medallists from last year. So it’s going to be a good three-boat fight.”
Only one crew can progress to the final. The other two will have second chance via the repechage.