It will be crowded at the top of the elite sweep field at this week's 48th Head Of The Charles Regatta. A large field of national team boats filled with Olympians will make life challenging for the top strong collegiate crews. The Olympians will be using the Regatta as a tour stop of sorts, according to HOCR operations director Lib Diamond. The Head Of The Charles will be a way for the Olympians to "highlight...their participation in the summer Olympics," Diamond said.
The Women's Championship 8+ race will have upwards of 40 Olympians in the field. Five of the women from Team USA's gold-medal winning eight in London will be competing as USRowing. Rounding out the lineup will be three members of the boat that placed third in the Women's Quadruple Sculls. The Canadian silver-medal eight and the Dutch bronze- medal eight are also in the race. The London Rowing Club is competing with women from Great Britain's fifth-place Olympic Women's eight, together with a New Zealand pair that won bronze at the Games. Meanwhile, the Women's "Great 8+", a mashup of Olympic scullers from Lithuania, Germany, Poland, Austria, the Czech Republic and the United States, have won nine Olympic medals among them.
All of the international teams will start after the top four finishers from last year's Regatta - the University of Virginia, Radcliffe, the University of Michigan and Yale—who will look to hold their slender slice of open water on the Olympic crews chasing them.
In the Men's Championship 8+ race, Harvard starts first after its win a year ago. Chasing them down will be the Great 8+, officially known as the Tideway Scullers, The eight men in this year's boat, five of whom were also in the victorious 2009 Great 8 lineup, have collectively won eleven Olympic medals, including four in London—bronzes for Iztok Cop, Alan Campbell and Glenn Ochal, and a gold for New Zealand's Mahe Drysdale. Other collegiate teams to watch in the Champ 8+ include the University of Washington, Brown and the University of California-Berkeley.
Olympic veterans head the field in both championship singles races as well. Defending champion and hometown favorite Gevvie Stone will start first in the women's race and is certain to receive the loudest cheers as she heads up river. Stone, who placed seventh in London, has won the Head Of The Charles three times, including the last two, and as a member of Cambridge Boat Club, the Regatta's host, has logged countless miles on the course. She'll need every bit of that home court advantage if she's going to successfully defend, as chasing her up the course will be a pair of Olympic medalists. Miroslava Knapkova of the Czech Republic won gold in London (she's also the 2011 World Champion) and Australian Kim Crow, who won bronze in single sculls and silver in double sculls last summer, will both test Stone's HOCR dominance.
On the men's side, all eyes will be on defending champion, five-time world champion and reigning Olympic champion Mahe Drysdale. Two-time HOCR champion Michael Sivigny—who upset Drysdale in 2009—and Lassi Karonen of Sweden—Drysdale's Great 8+ boat mate and fourth in the single sculls in London—figure to be the Kiwi's strongest challengers.
The other six scullers in the Men's Great 8, meanwhile, will pair up and race in the Men's Championship Doubles on Saturday afternoon. Alan Campbell and Aleksandar Aleksandrov; , Marcel Hacker and Glenn Ochal, and Iztok Cop and Olaf Tufte will all look to upend defending champions Tom and Peter Graves of Craftsbury.