05 May 2022
From Tokyo 2020, looking forward: The Four
The 2022 World Rowing season is bearing down on us, and as we move towards the first races of the international season we are reviewing a selection of our Olympic and Paralympic boat classes. The end of an Olympic and Paralympic cycle always means changes are coming – coaches change the nations they are working with, some athletes retire, some athletes stick around, but focus more on their family life or academic life.
Put four rowers in a boat, give them one oar each and, hey, you’ve got a straight four. When you talk about classic boats to row, the four is one of them. Through most rowing careers the four will be in the mix of boats rowed for men and women.
At the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games, the women’s four came back on the programme, and its status had noticeably improved internationally. Now that the four has been back for a full Olympiad and that new Olympic Champions have been established in this boat class, we can take a look at how 2022 might play out.
What went on in 2021?
European Rowing Championships
The Dutch women successfully defended their title by holding off Ireland who proved to have a strong finishing charge and a finish just 0.45 of a second behind the Dutch. The new British crew took hope from finishing third.
In the men’s race, the 2020 European Champions from the Netherlands got out to a flying start in the final. But it was not to last. Great Britain not only got into the lead, but then moved clean away from the rest of the field. Romania managed to sneak on through into second and Italy denied the Dutch of a medal by taking third.
World Rowing Cup Series
The series opened in Zagreb with World Rowing Cup I and despite a small field for the men, competition was intense. France used the event as a warm-up to the Final Olympic Qualification Regatta and left Zagreb feeling confident. France finished first over Poland and Croatia. A very different suite of countries lined up at World Rowing Cup II. This time Great Britain took top honours with South Africa and Romania following in second and third. At World Cup III Great Britain boated their young ‘Paris project’ crew. The crew proved themselves by finishing second, just behind winners Italy and ahead of Poland.
The women’s four didn’t race at World Rowing Cup I so started their World Cup season at the second event. Despite using a substitute in the boat, the Dutch crew finished first, comfortably ahead of Great Britain and Romania. The Netherlands then capped off a perfect season at World Cup III by winning with open water over Denmark and Poland.
The Olympic Games
Like the return of an old friend, the women’s four was back in the Olympic Games and with much pomp and ceremony the racing didn’t disappoint. In the final Australia proved to be pure class by leading the entire race and finishing with a gold medal and an Olympic Best Time. This was 13 seconds faster than the previous time, 1992, the last time the women’s four raced at the Olympics. The Netherlands came through in second. In third the Irish made history by being the first women to every win a medal in Olympic rowing for their country.
Results: AUS, NED, IRL, GBR, CHN, POL
An Australian – British tussle has been the men’s final formula for the last few Olympic Games. Great Britain has won the last five Olympic Games, but always with Australia pushing them to their limits. For the Tokyo final Australia had the lead with Romania just ahead of Great Britain. The Australians – Purnell, Turrin, Hargreaves and Hill – then broke away to a clear water lead. The British started to move back on Romania with Italy taking chase. A crooked finish by the British saw the end of their men’s four dream run with Australia winning and setting a new Olympic Best Time. Romania was second with Italy in third. Out of the medals, the British sat in fourth.
Results: AUS, ROU, ITA, GBR, USA, NED
Now that’s noteworthy
- Kyle Schoonbee swapped his row suit for a suit and married fellow South African national team rower, Nicole van Wyk.
- Irish rower Eimear Lambe has rowing in the family. She is the younger sister of Claire Lambe who is also an Olympian. Eimear, however, is the one with the medal.
- Jessica Morrison and Annabelle McIntyre of Australia didn’t just row to gold in the four at the Tokyo Olympics, they also competed in the pair.
We say good bye to…
- It’s not quite good bye, but Oliver Cook of Great Britain is taking some time off from rowing. Fair enough. He’s already been rowing for a decade internationally.
- Boudewijn Roell. The Dutch rower is hanging up his oars.
- Elisabeth Hogerwerf of the Netherlands is also hanging up her oars.
- Stephanie Grauer of Canada is heading back to Stanford University to continue her studies. We hope to see Stephanie back in the boat soon.
Crystal ball gazing
When it comes to the men, what has become an almost certainty is that the battle between Australia and Great Britain will continue. Australia may have the upper hand as it looks like Great Britain will be doing some rebuilding after missing out on the medals in Tokyo. But judging by the World Cup medal their ‘Paris project’ team produced, Great Britain is well on the road to success. Always keeping their hand in will be Italy. The Italians always have a stock of strong sweep rowers on hand. They medalled at Tokyo with a substitute in the boat. Keep an eye on Romania as well. If their rowers continue, they will be a force throughout this season.
The arrival of Ireland into the medal-winning mix of the women’s four means this boat class continues to get stronger and bigger. Despite lacking Olympic results, the United States, New Zealand, and Canada have the capability of boating a fast four. The question will be where they prioritise their sweep rowers with the pair and eight also to choose between. Olympic Champions Australia must have huge confidence and a feeling of some ownership of the four. They will be the crew to watch in 2022. Watch out too for the Netherlands who have a strong squad of sweep rowers to pull into their four. And keep an eye on Great Britain as they are bound to come out swinging this year.