Danish rowing before the 2020 Olympics: Two candidates for medals and disappointing Olympic qualifications
Danish athletes and teams have won a total of 45 medals at the last 5 Olympic Games, which have been held since the millennium. Top scorer among the medal winners is rowing, which has won a total of 9 Olympic medals (3 gold, 2 silver and 4 bronze medals) closely followed by sailing with 8 Olympic medals (2 gold, 1 silver and 5 bronze medals), badminton with 6 Olympic medals (3 silver and 3 bronze medals) and cycling with 5 Olympic medals (one gold, 2 silver and 2 bronze medals). In particular, the introduction of lightweight rowing at the Olympic program at the 1996 Olympics in Atlanta has been very beneficial for the Danish Association of Rowing (DFfR). The “golden lightweight four”, who won medals at all the Olympics in the period 1996-2016, became an institution in Danish elite sport, but also the lightweight double sculler with Rasmus Qvist and Mads Rasmussen, who won Olympic bronze medal in 2008 and Olympic gold medal in 2012, achieved impressive international results in their careers. Unfortunately, the lightweight four is no longer on the Olympic program, which means that only two lightweight classes – the double sculler for women and men – and 12 open classes at the 2020 Olympics will now compete. And unfortunately, it does not appear that Denmark will be represented. neither in double sculls for women or men in Tokyo.
The excellent Olympic results of Danish rowing are one of the main reasons why DFfR is among the top scorers in terms of financial resources and expert assistance from Team Denmark – the Danish elite sport institution. The amount of funding in 2019 is more than DKK 9 million. During the four-year period leading up to the 2020 Olympics, the amount of funding for Danish rowing is approaching DKK 40 million. kr.
From this perspective, both DFfR and Team Denmark should also have ambitious goals and high expectations for the Danish results at the 2020 Olympics. Against this background, the 2019 World Championship, held in Linz-Ottensheim, offered both positive and negative performance of the Danish rowers. Denmark was represented in 8 Olympic classes, but only managed to qualify for the 2020 Olympics in 2 classes: Sverri S. Nielsen in singles sculls for men and W4- with Christina Juhl Johansen, Lærke Berg Rasmussen, Frida Sanggaard Nielsen and Ida Gärtz Jacobsen. I believe that Fie Udby Erichsen in single sculler for women to qualify for the Olympic 202o at one of the last two regattas in spring 2020, but in all other classes the Danish rowers were very far from the Olympic qualification: LW2 became No. 17 (Olympic qualification top 7), W2- became No. 17 (Olympic qualification top 11), W2- became No. 15 (Olympic qualification top 11), M4- became No. 16 (Olympic qualification top 8) and W8- became No.11 (Olympic qualification top 5). These teams still have the opportunity to achieve Olympic qualification at the FISA Continental Qualification Regatta or at the FISA Olympic Qualification Regatta, which will be held in the spring of 2020, but in my opinion at the 2019 World Championship performances it becomes very difficult to achieve Olympic qualification in more than 3 classes. There is simply too much distance from the men’s current performance level to the level needed to achieve one of the few Olympic qualifying places remaining. By comparison, it can be mentioned that Denmark was represented in 6 classes (W1x, W2-, W2x, LW2, LM2 and LM4) at the 2016 Olympics in Rio.
Currently, Denmark’s best medal chance at the 2020 Olympics is attributed to the 25-year-old Sverri S. Nielsen from the Faroe Islands, who won the WC silver medal after Oliver Zeidler from Germany, but ahead of the world champion of 2918 Kjetil Borch from Norway in a very exciting A-final. Sverri has undergone a fantastic development, especially in the past year with two World Cup victories and he is much better today in the tactical performances of his races compared to previous seasons. Sverri S. Nielsen is, in my opinion, one of Denmark’s biggest medal candidates at the 2020 Olympics. The team of W4- have also shown a very high international level this season with victory in one of the World Cups. The young team also delivered an excellent WC performance with a bronze medal after Australia and the Netherlands. In my opinion, there is no doubt that Australia, one of the world’s strongest rowing nations, is a favorite for the Olympic gold medal next year on the Sea Forest Waterway, but I believe that Denmark – along with nations such as the Netherlands, USA, Poland and Romania – must compete for the other two podiums.
I also believe that 34-year-old Fie Udby Erichsen, who surprised everyone with the silver medal at the 2012 Olympics in London has really good chances of securing the third Olympics attendance in 2020, but her chances for being a part of the medal match in Tokyo are in my opinion very limited. The 2019 World Championship was a disappointment for Fie with a 4th place in the B-finals and thereby a total 10th place – just outside the 9 Olympic qualifying places.
It will be very disappointing if Danish rowing only qualifies in 2 or 3 classes for the 2020 Olympics, and at least one Olympic medal should be the target of Danish rowing. If that does not happen, the proceeds of one of Danish elite sports’ largest investments of DKK 40 million in the period 2017-2020 will be far too modest. Danish rowing balances on a knife age until the 2020 Olympics, but the chances of two Olympic medals in Tokyo are definitely present.