The 2018 World Rowing Championships in Plovdiv, Bulgaria, gave a strong indicator of who to watch for at the Tokyo 2020 Paralympics. It is the second Championships rowed over the new 2,000km distance, and here are five takeaways since competition finished on Sunday (16 September):
1. Dutch dominance
The PR2 mixed double sculls (PR2 Mix2x) crew from the Netherlands won impressively again and have not lost a race this season. Corne de Koning and Annika Van der Meer set a new World Championship Best Time of 8:07.92 on the way to becoming back-to-back champions. De Koning took double gold also winning the PR2 men's single sculls (PR2 M1x) title and Van der Meer went home with silver from the women’s equivalent.
2. Great Britain still the crew to beat
Despite injuries, personnel changes and not having raced at all this season, the British PR3 mixed coxed four (PR3 Mix4+) held off the challenge of the US crew to win another world title. Grace Clough, Ellen Buttrick, Ollie Stanhope, Daniel Brown and cox Erin Wysocki-Jones were pushed hard. But a strong second half of the race meant that the British boat has not lost a World Championships final since 2010.
3. Rivalry remains
Australia's Erik Horrie made it five world titles in a row when he won the PR1 men's single sculls (PR1 M1x) in a new World Best Time of 9:16.90. He shaved nine seconds off the previous record to beat Ukrainian Roman Polianskyi. The Paralympic champion finished less than half a second behind Horrie after leading much of the race, and expect them to continue pushing each other toward the Tokyo 2020 Paralympics.
4. Skarstein gets faster and faster
Not content with breaking the World Best Time twice this season already, Norway's Birgit Skarstein did it again in the final of the PR1 women's single sculls (PR1 W1x). She won her second world title in 10:13.63, wiping 11 seconds off the previous World Best Time and drawing her closer to that eluded Paralympic medal.
5. Focus on the future
Plovdiv 2018 was the first time four new boat classes were raced at the World Championships. De Koning won the first Worlds gold on offer in the PR2 M1x; France's Perle Bouge in the PR2 W1x; Canada’s Kyle Fredrickson and Andrew Todd in the PR3 men's pair (PR3 M2-); and the USA’s Danielle Hansen and Jaclyn Smith in the women’s equivalent (PR2 W2-). Although these classes will not be raced at Tokyo 2020, they open more events for athletes of different impairments to join the sport.
Complete results from the 2018 World Rowing Championships are available on World Rowing’s website.