Rowing preview: Four U.S. boats seek Rio berth at Final Olympic Qualification Regatta
The United States rowing team qualified 10 of 14 Olympic boat classes at the 2015 World Championships. Olympic hopefuls in the remaining four crews -- men's single sculls (M1x), men's double sculls (M2x), men's quadruple sculls (M4x) and the men's eight (M8+) -- will get one final opportunity to represent Team USA in Rio at the 2016 European Continental and Final Olympic Qualification Regatta on May 22-24.
The ideal finger-shaped lake for competitive rowing, the Rotsee, is located on the northern edge of Lucerne, Switzerland. With nearby hills protecting it from winds resulting in little to no current, and a 2400m stretch, the Rotsee is a prime rowing venue to play host to the Final Qualification Regatta.
The Rotsee was home to the first ever World Rowing Championships in 1962. And is the final stop in the World Rowing Cup annual series if the Rotsee doesn't host the World Championships -- which was the case in 2001 -- resulting in a different city hosting the final stop of the World Cup. In 2002, 2008 and 2012 the Rotsee was the second stop. The World Cup series began in 1990.
It is here that the four U.S. crews competing need to finish in the top two except for the M1x which needs a top-three finish in order to earn an Olympic selection. Below is a breakdown of each Olympic class event looking to represent the U.S. in Rio.
Men's single sculls
Ken Jurkowski of the U.S. heads into Lucerne looking to claim one of the three spots in a field of 16. His biggest competition may come from Belgium, Denmark, Slovakia and France who all have their eyes on a top-three finish.
Belgium's Hannes Obreno finished fourth at the European Rowing Championships and third at the World Rowing Cup I.
Denmark's Sverri Nielsen finished sixth at the European Championships.
France's Cedric Berrest, a three-time Olympian, has vast experience competing on a global stage and finished seventh at the European Championships.
Lastly, the men's lightweight single sculls European champion, Slovakia's Lukas Babac will also compete against Jurkowski.
A total of 29 boats will race in Rio with 26 boats already qualified for Olympic selection. Seventeen crews will enter the Final Qualification Regatta in the M1x to claim the final three spots.
Men's double sculls
Eleven of the 13 boats have qualified and only two spots are up for grabs for an Olympic berth. Americans Willy Cowles and Stephen Whelpley won their final at the Olympic Rowing Trials last month and now need a top-two finish to punch their ticket to Rio.
Norway's Olaf Tufte, a two-time Olympic champion, joined Kjetil Borch in the M2x, they finished fifth at the European Championships and are the heavy favorite heading into Lucerne.
Ukraine's Sergii Gryn, a three-time Olympian and teammate Ivan Furyk will also be a force to be reckoned with.
Cowles and Whelpley need to subdue a field of 11 crews to earn an Olympic selection.
Men's quadruple sculls
Seven boats will line up at the Final Qualification Regatta and the U.S. M4x will look to finish in the top two. Brothers Peter and John Graves, Ben Dann and Ben Davison were victorious at the Rowing Trials and earned an opportunity to send the U.S. to the Rio Games.
The American M4x team has to face stiff competition in Lucerne with Russia, Canada, Italy and New Zealand as their biggest competitors.
Russia won gold while Canada won silver at last month's World Cup. Italy added Alessio Sartori to the team who won Olympic gold in the M4x in 2000. New Zealand is looking to bounce back from barely missing Olympic selection last year at Worlds.
A total of eight of 10 boats have qualified for Rio in the M4x, the remaining two spots will be filled at the conclusion of the Final Qualification Regatta.
The U.S. is one of five crews entered to compete in the M8+ in Lucerne. They are fighting for a top-two finish to an Olympic selection.
The American M8+ team consisting of coxswain Sam Ojserkis, Austin Hack, Rob Munn, Mike DiSanto, Steve Kasprzyk, Glenn Ochal, Alex Karwoski, Hans Struzyna and Sam Dommer will face Australia, Spain, Italy and Poland.
Poland may be their biggest threat but the U.S. will definitely have their hands full with all of these countries, as they are all capable of producing good results.