By Peggy Shinn | June 14, 2017, 1:34 p.m. (ET)
Team USA rows away after the medal ceremony for the women's eight at the Olympic Games Rio 2016 at Lagoa Stadium Aug. 13, 2016 in Rio De Janeiro. 

 

At the 2016 Olympic Games Rio, two U.S. boats won medals in rowing — with nine women (including the coxswain) bringing home gold medals from the women’s eight, and Gevvie Stone winning silver in single sculls.

As the next Olympic quadrennial begins, US Rowing is in the middle of an exciting year. First, the IOC recently announced a change in boat classes for the Olympic Games Tokyo 2020, a change that will bring gender equity to the men’s and women’s events. The IOC added the women’s coxless four to the program and removed the lightweight men’s four. Now both genders will compete in seven boat classes (since women’s rowing was introduced to the Olympic program in 1976, the women have competed in six boat classes and the men in eight).

Also, the U.S. is hosting the 2017 World Rowing Championships in Sarasota-Bradenton, Florida, in September — the first time world championships have been held in U.S. waters since 1994. At world championships, the women’s eight is aiming for its 12th consecutive international title. Their dominating streak began at the 2006 World Rowing Championships, which the U.S. women’s crew won in world-record-setting time. They have won every world championship and Olympic race since then — 11 in a row.

As a preview, 19 U.S. women are rowing in four different boat classes (single sculls, pair, four, and eight) in the World Rowing Cup II in Poland this weekend. Three of these women won Olympic medals in Rio, and four other 2016 Olympians are aiming for medal redemption at the 2017 world championships.

Here’s a look who’s returning, who’s not, and who to watch in Sarasota-Bradenton in September.

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Returning 2016 Olympians

The U.S. boat to watch in Poland is the women’s pair, with 2016 Olympians Megan Kalmoe and Tracy Eisser. Both women competed in quadruple sculls in Rio. Defending world champions in Rio, the quad finished a disappointing fifth in the final. In a blog post written after Rio, Kalmoe called it the biggest disappointment she has ever faced as an athlete.

This year, Kalmoe and Eisser have switched from sculling (two oars) to a sweep boat (one oar each). If they finish in the top half of the field in the pair in Poland, they can accept a bid to the 2017 world championship team.

From the “great eight” — the women’s eight that won a third consecutive Olympic gold medal in Rio — two athletes are competing in the women’s eight in Poland. Emily Regan, who rowed bow in Rio, is back in the women’s eight, as is Katelin Guregian (nee Snyder), who coxed the women’s eight to gold in Rio; she also coxed the eight to four world titles. Snyder married 2016 U.S. Olympian Nareg Guregian in December. He is working in California, but Katelin is back with the national team for 2017.

Also rowing in the eight in Poland is Grace Latz, who competed with Kalmoe and Eisser in the women’s quadruple scull in Rio. Latz and Regan are also competing in the four in Poland — a new boat class for women in the Olympic Games Tokyo 2020.

Lauren Schmetterling, who won Olympic gold in the women’s eight in Rio, has switched her focus from sweep boats to sculling this year. She finished second in singles at the National Selection Race in April (behind 2016 Olympian Felice Mueller) and hopes to qualify for the 2017 world championships in this boat class.

Mueller plans to race a single at the World Rowing Cup III in Lucerne, Switzerland, in July. Both women will then compete in US Rowing’s “trials III” in August for the right to compete at the 2017 world championships.

Megan O’Leary — a 2016 Olympian in the double sculls — is also rowing a single in Poland. She and Ellen Tomek, who finished sixth in the double in Rio, are trying to qualify for world championships in the double but pulled out of the national selection race (trials II) in May at the last minute due to injury. They will compete in trials III in August. “If they are healthy, they are fast,” said US Rowing spokesperson Allison Mueller.

Don’t Be Surprised If …

Don’t be surprised if Olympic silver medalist Gevvie Stone shows up for trials III in August and/or Meghan Musnicki, who’s still training and doing CrossFit in upstate New York, asks to race for a seat in the eight.

Stone, who won the silver medal in single sculls in Rio, competed in the double with lightweight sculler Mary Jones at trials II and won. But she begins her residency in emergency medicine at the Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center in Boston this month. Will she take off a few days to compete in trials in August?

Amanda Elmore, who stroked the women’s eight to gold in Rio and is a PhD candidate at the University of Michigan in biomedical sciences, finished her master’s degree this spring and is back at the training center but is not racing in Poland this weekend. Will she try for a seat in a boat at world championships?

Grace Luczak, who rowed in the pair with Felice Mueller in Rio, could also make a comeback. She has been training in New York City while doing an internship for professional business services firm Ernst & Young. The pair were in the medals for the first half of the finals in Rio, then faded in the final 1,000 meters and finished fourth.

Who to Watch

Of the 19 women rowing in Poland who have never competed in an Olympic Games, several are up-and-comers who have won multiple medals at world junior and world under-23 championships. Two of the brightest stars are Kristine O’Brien, 25, from the University of Virginia, and Molly Bruggeman, 24, from Notre Dame.

O’Brien competed in the four that won the world title in 2015. During 2016, O’Brien was one of the last women cut from the Olympic team. Instead, she competed at 2016 worlds and stroked the four to a silver medal. O’Brien has two gold medals from rowing the eight at under-23 world championships (2012 and 2013).

Bruggeman rowed bow in the four that won silver at 2016 world championships. On three under-23 national teams, she also won two gold medals at 2014 under-23 world championships in the eight and four.

Victoria Opitz, 29, who was also one of the last women cut before the Rio Games, is back. A three-time world champion in the eight (2013, 2014, and 2015), Opitz could make a run for the Tokyo Games.

In Poland at World Rowing Cup II, Opitz and Bruggeman are on the roster for the women’s eight and a four; O’Brien is listed on the roster only in the four.

U.S. Men’s Rowing

US Rowing recently hired Mike Teti to help coach the men, who came home from Rio without any medals. A former U.S. Olympic coach and current Cal-Bears coach, Teti will work with Olympian Bryan Volpenhein to select and train the men for the eight and four for 2017 world championships.

Teti has coached boats in five Olympic Games (1996-2012), with his boats winning three Olympic medals and 28 total medals (including world championships). Notably, he coached the 2004 U.S. Olympic men’s eight, stroked by Volpenhein, to a world record in its heat and an eventual gold medal. It was the first time that the United States won Olympic gold in the men’s eight since 1964.

A freelance writer based in Vermont, Peggy Shinn has covered four Olympic Games. She has contributed to TeamUSA.org since its inception in 2008.