CAMBRIDGE, Mass. (August 17, 2009) – The 45th Head Of The Charles Regatta, taking place on the Charles River in Boston and Cambridge, Mass., October 17 and 18, will feature one of the greatest fields of elite rowers that this legendary Regatta has ever assembled, it was announced by race organizers today.
All six of the finalists from the 2008 Olympic Single Sculls event – Olaf Tufte (gold medal), Ondrej Synek (silver medal), Mahe Drysdale (bronze medal), Tim Maeyens (fourth), Alan Campbell (fifth) and Lassi Karonen (sixth) – will be joined by 2008 Olympic Double Sculls finalist Iztok Cop and Marcel Hacker, winner of the petite final at the 2008 Olympics – in an eight-man sweeps boat dubbed the "Great Eight."
The Great Eight will compete in the Championship Men's Eights race at the Head Of The Charles against a field that is scheduled to also have national team boats representing the United States, Great Britain and France.
"To have such accomplished elite rowers coming to Boston for this year's Head Of The Charles certainly is a thrill," said Fred Schoch, executive director for the Head Of The Charles. "Short of a world championship or an Olympic regatta, it's rare that you'll see so much talent in one place. This is an historic occasion for the Head Of The Charles."
The Great Eight, which is the brainchild of British coach Bill Barry, competed together for the first time in March at the Head of the River Race on the Thames River in London. In that race, the Great Eight bettered Leander Club comprised of five British National Team members from the Beijing Olympics to win the title.
The Regatta also announced that it will change its one-race rule that, until now has allowed each competitor to only register for and compete in one event in the Head Of The Charles. For Championship and Lightweight Events only, any rower who competes in the 2009 World Rowing Championship in Ponzan, Poland, will be allowed to compete in both a sculling boat (single or double) and a sweep boat (fours, eights).
"We've relaxed the one-race rule this year to give not only these world-class athletes the opportunity to compete in both sculling and sweeps events, but any of the rowers from this year's World Championship," said Schoch. "This will add excitement for the fans and all of the rowers involved as it gives them another chance to see some of the best rowers in the world battle the challenging Charles River course not once, but twice."
All eight members of the Great Eight will also team with the Head Of The Charles in an outreach program on Thursday afternoon, October 15 at Community Rowing, Inc. This event will allow these elite athletes to share their experiences and expertise with local rowers of different abilities and ages.
The Great Eight is sponsored by Concept2, the leading manufacturer of world-class indoor rowers and racing oars. The Liberty Hotel in Boston, the Official Hotel of the Head Of The Charles, will provide accommodations for each rower.
ABOUT THE HEAD OF THE CHARLES REGATTA
Now in its 45th year, the Head Of The Charles Regatta is the world's largest two-day regatta attracting more than 8,500 rowers and 300,000 spectators to the banks of the Charles River. Races begin on Saturday, October 17 and conclude on October 18 with the "Great Eight" rowing in the final event of the day the Championship Eight. For more information go to www.hocr.org.
Biographical Information for the "Great Eight"
Alan Campbell, Great Britain: Alan Campbell began rowing for his school, Coleraine Academical Institution for Boys, in Northern Ireland before moving to London and joining the Tideway Scullers School. In 2003, Campbell left school to pursue rowing full time and that year won the Diamond Sculls at Henley Royal Regatta. He then made his international debut at the World U23 Championships in 2003, where he was forced to switch from the double to the single sculls five days before the regatta when his sculling partner became ill. Despite this he finished 8th. Campbell competed in the quadruple sculls at the 2004 Summer Olympics, finishing in 12th place. In 2005, Campbell won the men's single at the GB Selection Trials, and raced in the men's quad for the World Cup series, winning the bronze at the Lucerne regatta. At the 2005 World Championships in Gifu, Japan, the men's quad narrowly failed to reach the final. In 2006, Campbell switched to competing in the men's heavyweight single and won the Munich world cup regatta ahead of Olaf Tufte. He also finished second in Lucerne, behind Mahe Drysdale, and fourth in Poznan, to win the overall World Cup standings. Alan competed in the 2008 Olympics in Beijing where he participated in the Men's 2000m Individual Scull; managing to remain in first for the first 1000m, where he was then over taken by Olaf Tufte and came in fifth position. Prior to the games, he had picked up a virus that required knee surgery, which left him on crutches for three weeks in June 2008
Iztok Cop, Slovenia: Iztok started rowing at the age of 13 in Bled, where Slovenia's best rowing club is located. Originally rowing in the coxless pairs, Cop finished second in the World Championships in 1991, and won Bronze at the Barcelona Olympics in 1992 with Denis Zvegelj (the first Olympic medal for independent Slovenia). He then switched to the single scull, winning gold at the 1995 World Championship, but came in fourth at the Atlanta Olympics in 1996. He then changed to the men's double sculls with Luka Špik, and won the 1999 World Championships, and gold at the Sydney Olympics in 2000, which was the first Olympic gold medal for Slovenia since its independence. Špik and Cop were the favorites to win the men's double sculls at the 2004 Summer Olympics, but finished in the silver medal position.
Mahe Drysdale, New Zealand: Born in Melbourne, Australia, Drysdale began rowing at university at the age of 18. He gave up rowing to concentrate on his studies, but began rowing again after watching fellow New Zealander Rob Waddell win gold at the 2000 Olympic Games. Drysdale began competing at the World Cup level in 2002, rowing in the New Zealand coxless four. After the 2004 Olympic Games, in which his New Zealand crew finished fifth in the final, Drysdale switched to the single scull, winning the 2005 World Championships at Gifu, Japan, despite having broken two vertebrae in a crash with a water skier earlier in the year. He successfully defended his title in 2006 at Dorney Lake, Eton, England and again in 2007 at Munich, Germany. Drysdale is a member of the West End Rowing Club in Avondale, Auckland, New Zealand and Tideway Scullers, London. Drysdale was officially selected as New Zealand's Olympic heavyweight sculler on March 7, 2008. He was also chosen to carry the flag for New Zealand during the parade of nations in the opening ceremony. Unfortunately for Drysdale, a severe gastrointestinal infection in the week before his final saw him off form and he was only able to carry the bronze medal for the men's single scull. Drysdale captured the Championship Men's Singles event at the 2005 Head Of The Charles Regatta. Drysdale won the 2006 supreme Halberg award, the University of Auckland Young Alumnus of the Year Award in 2007, and was awarded Member of the New Zealand Order of Merit for services to rowing in the New Years Honours 2009.
Marcel Hacker, Germany: Hacker is a member of the German national rowing team and has been competing at the international level since 1994. In 2000, Hacker broke onto the scene by capturing the bronze medal in the single sculls at the Olympic Games in Sydney. Two years later, Hacker captured the gold medal in the single sculls at the 2002 World Rowing Championships in Seville. Hacker has captured eight gold medals in single sculls in World Cup events and in July of 2009 was in the gold medal quadruple four for Germany that won gold at the World Cup stop in Lucerne, Switzerland.
Lassi Karonen, Sweden: Karonen has been competing internationally as a member of the Swedish national rowing team since 2003. In 2008, Karonen captured the bronze medal in the single sculls at the World Cup stop in Lucerne, Switzerland. That turned out to be foreshadowing for his greatest accomplishment to date – reaching the finals in the men's single sculls at the 2008 Olympic Regatta in Beijing. He is a member of the Brudpiga Rowing Club and is coached by Per Andersson.
Tim Maeyens, Belgium: Maeyens began rowing at age of nine and rows for the Royal Rowing Association of Bruges. In 1999, Maeyens won the bronze medal in the single scull at the Junior World Rowing Championships. In 2002, he teamed up with Christophe Raes to finish sixth place in the double scull at the World Rowing Under 23 Championships. In 2004, he made the finals on the Olympic Games in Athens and earned sixth place. Maeyens again made the final in the 2008 Olympics this time finishing fourth, just 1.8 seconds out of a medal.
Onderj Synek, Czech Republic: Synek has been competing internationally for the Czech Republic since 2000. He has competed in the quadruple, double and single sculls but is the only member of the "Great Eight" with sweep experience in international competition, having been a member of the Czech eight with coxswain that captured the 2007 European Rowing Championship in Poznan, Poland. As a sculler, Synek has enjoyed great success culminated by a silver medal finish at the 2008 Olympic Games in Beijing, which matched his best ever finish in an Olympic or World Championship event as a single (2007 World Championship). Synek has eight gold medals in World Cup competition, his most recent coming in the single scull at the 2008 World Cup stop in Lucerne, Switzerland.
Olaf Tufte, Norway: Tufte is the two-time defending Olympic gold medalist in the single sculls. At the 2004 Summer Olympics he won the gold medal in the men's single sculls. He won silver in the men's double sculls at the 2000 Summer Olympics together with Fredrik Bekken. He has also won two World Championships in the single sculls, in 2001 and 2003. When not rowing, Tufte earns a living growing cereals at the family farm in the Nykirke part of Hoten and he works as a fire-fighter. Olaf is a member of Horten Roklubb, one of the most successful Norwegian rowing clubs of all time. In heat 6 of the 2000m in the 2008 Olympics single sculls, Tufte came in first with a time of 7:20.18. In the finals, he was down nearly 2 seconds with 500m to go, but came back to win with a time of 6 minutes, 59.83 seconds, repeating his victory in Athens.