Plovdiv 2018: World champions back for more

Birgit Skarstein and Erik Horrie among returning gold medallists 08 Sep 2018
Sunset photo of rower in a boat on the water
Norway's Birgit Skarstein is the women's single sculls world champion
ⒸIgor Meijer/FISA
By Louise Wood for the IPC

All five gold medallists from 2017 are back to defend their titles when the action starts at the 2018 World Rowing Championships in Plovdiv, Bulgaria, on Sunday (9 September).

Nine medal events including four new additions will be contested by a total of 77 boats.

The PR1 men's single sculls (PR1 M1x) will see the most entries with 19 rowers. They include participants from Nigeria, Paraguay and Sri Lanka. But the battle is expected to be between four-time world champion from Australia, Erik Horrie, and Paralympic champion Roman Polianskyi. The Ukrainian has dominated the class this season in Horrie's absence and will try to prevent him from winning a fifth consecutive world title.

Norway’s Birgit Skarstein is the big favourite in the women’s equivalent (PR1 W1x). The 2017 winner from Sarasota-Bradenton, USA, has proven her form by breaking the World Best Time twice this year.

The PR2 mixed double sculls (PR2 M2x) will see World Best Time holders Annika van der Meer and Corne de Koning of the Netherlands back to retain their title.

Great Britain's PR3 mixed coxed four (PR3 Mix4+) will be a different crew to that won the world and Paralympic titles after James Fox and Giedre Rakauskaite missed out due to injury. Grace Clough and Ollie Stanhope will now be joined in the boat by Paralympic champion Daniel Brown and debutant Ellen Buttrick, alongside new cox Erin Wysocki-Jones. They will race in a field of 13 looking to take their title.

Last year saw the inclusion of the PR3 mixed double sculls (PR3 Mix2x) in the World Championship programme, which was won by the Brazilian crew of Diana Barcelos de Oliveira and Jairo Klug. They will try to repeat that success against opposition from Austria, Germany and the USA.

New events

The Championships will also see four new World titles decided; the PR2 men’s and women’s single sculls; and the PR3 men’s and women’s pair.

The Dutch mixed pair de Koning and van der Meer will chase more medals in the PR2 men's single sculls (PR2 M1x) and the PR2 women's single sculls (PR2 W1x) respectively. De Koning is the outstanding rower in his class, but van der Meer will face a tough competitor in France's Perle Bouge.

Crews from Australia, Canada, France, Japan and Russia* will row for the first World title in the PR3 men’s pair (PR3 M2-). Meanwhile three crews, Italy, the USA and Russia, will take to the water to vie for the gold medal in the women’s equivalent (PR2 W1x).

The 2018 World Rowing Championships run until 16 September.

*Editor's note: The International Paralympic Committee suspended the Russian Paralympic Committee on 7 August 2016 for its inability to fulfil its IPC membership responsibilities and obligations, in particular its obligation to comply with the IPC Anti-Doping Code and the World Anti-Doping Code (to which it is also a signatory). As a result of the suspension, Russian athletes cannot enter IPC sanctioned events or competitions, including the Paralympic Games.