Podium of the lightweight women's double sculls
Silver medallists Lindsay Jennerich and Patricia Obee of Canada, gold medallists Sophie Mackenzie and Julia Edward of New Zealand and bronze medallists Wenyi Huang and Dandan Pan of China during the medal ceremony of the lightweight women's double sculls at the 2014 World Rowing Championships in Amsterdam, the Netherlands.

World Rowing continues its annual review of each of the Olympic boat classes, featuring here the lightweight women’s double.

With the return of 2012 Olympic Champion Katherine Copeland, who had a year off in 2013, expectations were high for the British lightweight women’s double boat. Copeland and partner Imogen Walsh started the season off with a bronze medal at the European Rowing Championships, followed by two World Cup gold medals in Aiguebelette and Lucerne.

Also true to their reputation, reigning World Champions from Italy, Elisabetta Sancassani and Laura Milani, launched their season by winning the title at Belgrade’s European Rowing Championships. This was their third consecutive European Championship win. The duo went on to compete at the World Rowing Cup in Lucerne, where they finished fourth behind Canada.

The Canadians have forged a spot in the lightweight double in recent years. Regular in the boat, Lindsay Jennerich first made her appearance in this boat class at international senior level in 2007 and won World Championship gold in 2010. With current partner Patricia Obee, Jennerich also took silver at the 2011 World Rowing Championships. After a seventh place finish at the London 2012 Olympic Games and a 2013 break (Jennerich took time off while Obee competed in the lightweight single), they were back together this year on form. Despite finishing fifth at the World Rowing Cup in Aiguebelette, they made the podium with a bronze medal later on in Lucerne.

Germany also features regularly at the top end of the lightweight double. Anja Noske has been competing in this boat class at senior level since 2008. In 2010, she doubled up in the lightweight women’s quadruple sculls and medalled in both events at the World Rowing Championships, taking gold in the quad and silver in the double. Lena Mueller joined her in 2012 and together they qualified for the Olympic Games at the Final Qualification Regatta in Lucerne. Together they made the Olympic final and since then have won European silver twice as well as world bronze last year at the World Rowing Championships in Chungju, Korea.

As the 2014 season unfolded, two combinations remained hidden until the World Rowing Championships in Amsterdam – New Zealand and China.

New Zealander Julia Edward was already well-known for having set a World Best Time in the lightweight double with Louise Ayling back in 2012. This year, she and partner Lucy Strack took silver at the initial World Rowing Cup of 2014 in Sydney. But with Ayling dropping out of the New Zealand team, Edward continued the season alone. Racing at the remaining World Cups in the lightweight single, she won gold on both occasions. Meanwhile, Edward’s Amsterdam partner, Sophie Mackenzie was focusing on the World Rowing Under 23 Championships where she would win a third consecutive under-23 medal in the lightweight women’s double.

In China, Wenyi Huang had come back to international racing in 2014 after winning silver at the London Olympics. At the World Rowing Cup in Sydney, she raced to gold in the lightweight women’s single sculls, and then to sixth at the World Rowing Cup in Aiguebelette in the lightweight women’s double. Huang did not race again until Amsterdam, where she showed up with a new partner, Dandan Pan, who was competing internationally in the lightweight double for the first time. Previously Pan had competed in the lightweight single and quad as well as the open-weight double.

Heading to Amsterdam, Great Britain, Italy, Germany and Canada were the boats most expected to be challenging for the top spot. Things changed, however, when Great Britain missed out on qualifying for the A-final and Germany did not compete in their semifinal due to medical issues.

In the final in Amsterdam, South Africa took an early lead with New Zealand hot on their heels. After the first quarter, New Zealand was in front. With 1000m left to row, the Canadians started making their move, progressing up to third. New Zealand remained in front, followed by South Africa, then Canada. As South Africa began to lose speed, New Zealand widened the gap over the rest of the field. China then unexpectedly charged, overtaking South Africa. At the line it was New Zealand, Canada and China. New Zealand had set a new World Best Time, breaking the one that had been set two years prior as well as the one that had been set a short while earlier in the B-final by Great Britain. The new time is 06:48.56.

After racing, Edward said: “I actually couldn’t believe it crossing the line. This is my first world champ title, it’s been a dream.”

“It was our best race,” said Jennerich. “We had a great start, then got on an awesome rhythm.”

Look out for these crews in 2015. 

2014 World Rowing Championships, Amsterdam (NED) lightweight women’s double final

2014 World Rowing Cup III, Lucerne (SUI) lightweight women’s double final

2014 World Rowing Cup II, Aiguebelette (FRA) lightweight women’s double final