The road to the Rio 2016 Olympic Games continues with the announcement of the entries for the last chance to qualify in rowing - the FISA European Continental and Final Olympic Qualification Regatta.
To be held in Lucerne, Switzerland from 22-24 May 2016, the regatta has attracted nearly 400 athletes from 47 countries. Olympic qualification spots will be contested in the 14 Olympic boat classes with the qualification spots divided between the European Continental Qualification Regatta and the Final Olympic Qualification Regatta.
For the European Event, the men's single sculls has attracted the largest field with scullers from 17 countries all hoping to qualify for Rio. Included in the men's single is Belgium's Hannes Obreno who recently finished fourth at the European Rowing Championships. There is also three-time Olympian Cedric Berrest of France and Denmark's Sverri Nielsen.
The women's single sculls has attracted participation from 13 nations. The stand-out competitor is likely to be Emma Twigg of New Zealand. Twigg is the 2014 World Champion in this boat class and she comes back to the single after taking a year off from competitive rowing. Twigg will face Elza Gulbe of Latvia who recently finished second at the European Rowing Championships and Olympian Sanita Puspure of Ireland who was the European Championship bronze medallist.
The women's single also includes Ekaterina Karsten of Belarus. Olympic Champion, Karsten is aiming for her seventh Olympic Games as a 44-year-old. She won the women's single at both the 1996 and 2000 Olympic Games. The lightweight men's and women's double sculls are the other two events for the European regatta.
For the Final Qualification Regatta, ten events are being contested for final spots in the Olympic rowing quota. The men's eight event features Australia, Spain, Italy, Poland and the United States. The United States has a strong history of winning gold at the Olympic Games and are the 2004 Olympic Champions. In 2012 the US finished fourth. At the 2012 Olympics, Australia was sixth in the eight. Two slots are open in this event. The women's eight features Australia, China, Germany, Netherlands and Romania. All have strong traditions in this event and it will be very intense. Two slots are up for grabs in this event as well.
The men's pair includes recently crowned European Champions, Hungary. Andrian Juhasz and Bela Simon of Hungary will be up against 12 other countries with strong competition likely to come from Germany, Russia and the Czech Republic.
Of the 14 boat classes, four boat classes are open only to European crews (plus crews from Australia, New Zealand, Canada and the United States). Ten boat classes are open to all countries of the world. Continental regattas have already taken place in Korea for Asia/Oceania, in Chile for the Americas and in Tunisia for Africa.
The main Rio 2015 Olympic qualification regatta occurred at the 2015 World Rowing Championships. Since then there has been a series of continental qualification regattas with this regatta being the final opportunity.