The 2016 Rio Games are right around the corner and the waters of Rodrigo de Freitas lake will host the Olympic rowing competitions. Here are the top six stories that will take place on that lake from August 6 – 13.
United States women’s eight reign
The prestigious U.S. women’s eight (W8+) dynasty is coming into the Rio Games seeking their third straight Olympic gold medal and 11th straight world title. They have remained undefeated in a world or Olympic title since 2006. (The W8+ and other Olympic disciplines are not contested at the World Rowing Championships in Olympic years.) In all of professional, collegiate or amateur sports such feat is near impossible – which crowns the U.S. women’s eight as arguably the best team in sports history.
Only one team has comparable and noteworthy results: The Soviet National Hockey Team won 14 consecutive world championships – including Olympic years – from 1963-1976. Individually, Edwin Moses claimed victory in 122 straight races of the 400-meter hurdles.
Out of the nine U.S. Rowing athletes that won gold at the 2012 London Olympics, only two return to Rio – Megan Musnicki and Eleanor Logan. The U.S. women’s eight ever-changing roster speaks numbers on the U.S. Rowing coaches. They must narrow down and select the perfect combination of rowers year in and year out to maintain the W8+ boat legacy.
Watch the women’s eight final on August 13 streamed live on NBCOlympics.com and presented on NBC (check your local listings).
The British dynamic duo
Heather Stanning and Helen Glover have been undefeated in the women’s pair (W2-) since 2011. They hold the world record time in the W2- with 6 minutes, 50.61 seconds achieved at the 2014 World Rowing Championships.
The U.S. W2- won bronze at 2015 World Championships but were eight seconds behind the winning time of Britain’s Glover and Stanning. However, Grace Luczak and Felice Mueller – who will represent Team USA in the W2- in Rio – won gold in the W2- event at the 2016 World Cup II. They defeated Rio medal contenders, New Zealand’s Rebecca Scown and Genevieve Behrent. Stanning and Glover withdrew from the final at the World Cup II due to illness, which raises the question. Who would have won if the Brits took to the line? We’ll find out in Rio.
Watch the women’s pair final on August 12 streamed live on NBCOlympics.com and presented on NBC (check your local listings).
New Zealand’s Eric Murray and Hamish Bond are undefeated in the men’s pair (M2-) since 2007. Their closest competition may be Britain’s James Foad and Matt Langridge who won gold in the 2015 European Championships in the M2- and took silver at the 2014 and 2015 Worlds. If any pair has a fighting chance to dethrone Murray and Bond, it’ll be them.
Watch the men’s pair final on August 11 streamed live on NBCOlympics.com and presented on NBC (check your local listings).
Croatian brotherly love
Brothers Valent, 27, and Martin Sinković, 26, usually finish about two seconds ahead of their competition, so unless the unexpected happens – expect the Croatian duo to triumph in the men’s double sculls (M2x) in Rio.
Introduced to rowing by their first-born brother Matija, Valent followed his footsteps and Martin followed suit after a football injury sidelined him from the sport. It wasn’t until after the London Games that Martin and Valent discovered their path to success.
The twosome has consistently finished ahead of their two major competitors in the event – Lithuania’s Rolandas Mascinskas and Salius Ritter and New Zealand’s Robert Manson and Christopher Harris. The Sinković brothers won gold in the M2x at the 2014 and 2015 World Championships and will claim Croatia’s first Olympic gold medal in rowing with a victory at the Rio Games.
Men’s double sculls final on August 11 streamed live on NBCOlympics.com and presented on NBC (check your local listings).
Quadruple the threat
The U.S. could win its first Olympic gold medal in the women’s quadruple sculls after finishing first at the 2015 World Championships.
Changes in their training after the London Games catapulted the U.S. Rowing sculling program – which was weaker in the past. The German and Dutch women have also showed capabilities to earn gold. With an Olympic gold medal on the line and three close-matched countries vying for the top result – a dramatic, action-packed race will ensue.
Women’s quadruple sculls final on August 10 streamed live on NBCOlympics.com and presented on NBC (check your local listings).
Rough Rio waters
There have been multiple reports and water quality investigations exhibited by the Associated Press regarding the poor water quality in Rio de Janeiro and viruses found in Lagoa Rodrigo de Freitas – Rio’s rowing venue.
Kaitlin Snyder, coxswain of the U.S. women’s eight boat, said she’d gladly skip the tradition of throwing the coxswain in the water. “Winning would be enough of a celebration.” Snyder said, according to the Associated Press.
Snyder and the rest of the U.S. Rowing Olympic team will fortunately be armed with anti-microbial suits.
All things considered, Rio indeed has water quality issues and at least one U.S. rower is tired of hearing about it – Megan Kalmoe. She makes that statement very clear in her blog post:
Stop trying to ruin the Olympics for us.
I can’t be sure when the first headlines about the water quality in Rio appeared and the conversation really started. But ever since then, it seems like it’s all people want to talk about. And I can’t really understand why. At this point, it is known that there are issues with the water quality. It is known that athletes are going to be at risk for illness. It is known that we are going to have to be smart, hygienic and take precautions. Great. Let’s move on.