Around the World in Eight Sports

Review of the week: 31 August – 6 September

Hamish Bond

It was a tight battle between two countries on opposite sides of the world, at the World Rowing Championships on the beautiful Lac d’Aiguebelette in France. Great Britain just edged New Zealand at the top of the medal table when it took victory in the men’s eight.

But the Kiwis would have been in first place had only events on the Olympic programme been included. They look in great shape for Rio with 2012 gold medallists Hamish Bond (above) and Eric Murray winning an extraordinary sixth consecutive coxless pairs title.

Despite their distance, Great Britain and New Zealand have a lot in common. They both have a long rowing tradition, Britain with the Henley Regatta and New Zealand with its schools competition, the Maadi Cup, which has been taking place annually since 1947.

Winning the Maadi Cup can be the first stroke in the race for Olympic medals. Nathan Cohen and Joseph Sullivan, the double sculls gold medallists from London 2012, both had Maadi Cup victories in their school days, both winning the under-18 single sculls.

But tradition is not enough. Funding from UK Sport and High Performance Sport New Zealand ensures a smooth passage through the water for rowers from those countries.

Nino Schurter at the Worlds 2011

There was similar rivalry between France and Switzerland at the Mountain Bike World Championships. France won a larger share of the medals but Nino Schurter (above) of Switzerland pipped Julien Absalon of France in the men’s cross country. Schurter must now be favourite to win the Olympic gold medal in Rio, to add to his silver and bronze.

Great Britain’s men and Germany’s women were victorious at the European Wheelchair Basketball Championships and there was plenty of action on other continents as well.

In Asia, Japan hosted the Women’s World Cup in volleyball, where China was crowned as champion and Serbia also qualified for Rio. The gold medallist from London, Brazil, was absent, having pre-qualified as the host country, but will also be a threat next year.

Japan won the Asian Championships to qualify for the Olympics in women’s basketball and the Asian Boxing Championships were dominated, as usual, by Kazakhstan, which won 5 of the 10 weight categories. Its neighbour, Uzbekistan is hoping to emulate it, and punched above its weight by reaching 7 finals, but it only managed to take home 2 golds.

In North America, the US Open tennis tournament got underway in New York and, in South America, there were Olympic test events in Rio in beach volleyball and canoeing.

Last but not least, opening ceremonies took place at the All-Africa Games in Brazzaville, Congo, and the Commonwealth Youth Games in Samoa. They will be covered next week.

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