Eleven U.S. Crews Set to Race on Opening Day of 2018 World Rowing Championships

PLOVDIV, Bulgaria – The United States will have 11 crews in action on Sunday, the first day of competition at the 2018 World Rowing Championships in Plovdiv, Bulgaria.

Last year, American crews won six medals at the world championships on home soil in Sarasota, Fla., and with 27 crews competing this year, the squad will be looking to improve on that performance in Plovdiv.

After winning a bronze medal in the lightweight women’s double sculls at last year’s world championships, Michelle Sechser (Folsom, Calif.) is looking to reach the medal podium in the lightweight women’s single sculls in 2018. Rowing in the fourth and final heat, Sechser will race against scullers from Germany, The Netherlands, Tunisia and France, with the top two finishers advancing to the semifinals. Germany’s Mary Louise-Drager won the event at World Rowing Cup III in Lucerne, Switzerland.

Coming off of separate bronze-medal performances in Sarasota, Emily Schmieg (Philadelphia, Pa.) and Mary (Jones) Nabel (Huntsville, Ala.) will race against Austria, Thailand, Poland and Algeria in the second of four heats, with the top two finishers moving on to the semifinals. Schmieg won bronze in the event last year with Sechser, while Nabel won bronze in the lightweight single sculls. Nabel and Schmieg placed sixth in the event at this year’s first world cup race of the season and seventh in the final world cup stop in Lucerne.

“The field is incredibly fast this year,” Schmieg said. “There were eight different medalists in this year’s three world cups. We’re looking to build on our progress from Belgrade and hopefully end up in the A final.”

In the lightweight men’s single sculls, Andrew Campbell (New Canaan, Conn.) returns to international competition after taking the year off following the 2016 Olympic Games. Campbell last raced internationally in the lightweight men’s double sculls in Rio de Janeiro, finishing fifth. In tomorrow’s first race of the day, Campbell will take on scullers from Serbia, Switzerland, Mexico and Hungary. The top two finishers will advance directly to the semifinals. Switzerland’s Michael Schmid has finished in the top two in all four major international races so far this season, winning the event at both the European Championships in early August and World Rowing Cup III and finishing second at the other two world cup races.

“It’s a thrill to be back here at the world championships,” Campbell said. “I feel like I had a fairly convincing trials, so I feel like I have a good mandate to try and get on the podium here.”

In the women’s pair, Vicky Opitz (Middleton, Wis.) and Gia Doonan (Rochester, Mass.) will take on crews from New Zealand, Australia, Ireland and Ukraine. The top three finishers will advance directly to the semifinals. In addition to racing the pair, Opitz and Doonan will be doubling up into the women’s eight. New Zealand’s Kerri Gowler and Grace Prendergast, the defending world champions, won both world cup races they entered this year and come into the regatta as the favorites in the event.

The men’s pair of Michael Colella (Kensington, Md.) and Anders Weiss (Barrington, R.I.) return to the world championships and will be looking to improve on last year’s 11th-place finish. Rowing in the fifth of five heats, Colella and Weiss will race against Germany, New Zealand, Australia and The Netherlands, with the top four finishers qualifying for the quarterfinals. New Zealand’s duo of Thomas Murray and Michael Brake won the event in Lucerne.

In the men’s double sculls, John Graves (Cincinnati, Ohio) and Ben Davison (Inverness, Fla.) return to the world championships after finishing ninth in Sarasota. The duo finished seventh at World Cup III earlier this year and will attempt to build on that finish in Plovdiv. Graves and Davison will race in the third of four heats against Great Britain, Bulgaria, Norway, Ukraine and Romania, with only the winner advancing to the semifinals. Great Britain’s Angus Groom and Jack Beaumont medaled at the first two World Rowing Cup races of the year, winning gold in Linz-Ottensheim, Austria.

In the men’s single sculls, first-time national team member Kevin Meador (Berkeley, Calif.) will be taking on scullers from Turkey, Belarus, Germany and Israel in the third of five heats, with the top three finishers moving on to the quarterfinals. Germany’s Oliver Zeidler won medals at all three world cups this year, including a silver in Lucerne.

In the lightweight men’s double sculls, Hugh McAdam (Hollis, N.H.) and Peter Schmidt (Providence, R.I.) will take on crews from Norway, South Africa, Ukraine and Slovakia in the third of five heats. Schmidt raced the event last year, finishing 16th. On Sunday, the top four crews in each heat will advance to the quarterfinals. Norway’s Kristoffer Brun and Are Strandli won gold at the European Championships.

Racing in the first of four heats in the men’s four, Alexander Richards (Watertown, Mass.), Nick Mead (Strafford, Pa.), Michael Clougher (Canton, Mass.) and Dariush Aghai (Skokie, Ill.) will take on Chile, South Africa, The Netherlands and Denmark, with the top two finishers moving on to the semifinals. South Africa won a bronze medal in Lucerne, while The Netherlands also reached the medal podium during the world cup circuit. While Richards is the only returning member of the crew, all four rowers raced at last year’s world championships. Clougher competed in the single sculls, while Aghai and Mead were members of the silver-medal winning men’s eight. The U.S. finished 10th in the event in 2017.

Last year, the U.S. reached the final of the women’s quadruple sculls, finishing fifth. This year’s crew of Elizabeth Sonshine (Short Hills, N.J.), Emily Huelskamp (Sainte Genevieve, Mo.), Maureen McAuliffe (Herndon, Va.) and Kara Soucek (McCall, Idaho) will be looking to improve on that performance. McAuliffe, Huelskamp and Sonshine all return to the boat, while Soucek was an alternate on last year’s world championships’ squad. The quartet will race in the first of three heats against Great Britain, Germany, Russia and the Czech Republic, with the top three going straight to the semifinals. Germany won gold in the event at the world cup races in Lucerne and Linz.

In the men’s quadruple sculls, Erik Frid (Madbury, N.H.), Michael Knippen (Germantown, Wis.), Gregory Ansolabehere (Bakersfield, Calif.) and Justin Keen (Hatfield, Pa.) will take on Germany, France, Poland, Russia and Lithuania. Frid returns from last year’s boat. Poland and Germany have both medaled twice during the world cup season.

Nearly 950 athletes from 62 countries are scheduled to race in Plovdiv. The U.S. has the largest team, with entries in 27 of the 29 events across the eight-day event. The regatta offers racing in the men’s and women’s single sculls, lightweight single sculls, double sculls, lightweight double sculls, pair, lightweight pair, quadruple sculls, lightweight quadruple sculls, four and eight, as well as the para-rowing men’s and women’s PR1 single sculls, PR2 single sculls, PR2 mixed double sculls, PR3 mixed double sculls and the PR3 mixed four with coxswain.

Racing begins on Sunday, September 9, and runs through Sunday, September 16. Finals will take place over the last three days, beginning on Friday, September 14. A complete entry list can be found here.

Complete press coverage, athlete bios and links to event information are available at www.usrowing.org and www.worldrowing.com. Follow along with the U.S. National Team at the 2018 World Rowing Championships by using the hashtags #WRChamps and #WRC2018.

World Rowing recently partnered with NBC Sports Group for coverage of the World Rowing Cups, European Championships and World Championships for the next three years.

The first four days of racing (Sunday through Wednesday) will be streamed live via authentication on the Olympic Channel: Home of Team USA (OlympicChannel.com) and the Olympic Channel app or via authentication on NBCSports.com and the NBC Sports app, which includes NBCSN’s coverage.

The Olympic Channel television network will broadcast live the final four days of the event (Thursday through Sunday), while NBCSN will broadcast a highlight show on Friday and Sunday night. Click here for the most up-to-date broadcast schedule.

Live-streaming will not be available on www.worldrowing.com, but the VOD clips will be available 24 hours after the event.

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