Philadelphia, PA – Both the men's and women's rowing teams have been able to medal in the eight competition in each of the past two Olympics, but the United States has found trips to the podium less frequent in the smaller boat events.
That could be the case once again in London, where hosting Great Britain, along with the likes of Australia and northern neighbor Canada, are expected to give the U.S. all it can handle on Dorney Lake.
While the United States leads the all-time medal count in rowing with 84, 30 more than Great Britain, the Brits led all countries with six medals in the 2008 Beijing Olympic Games. Great Britain also matched Australia as the only countries to capture two rowing golds, while Canada was second in the overall medal count with four thanks to a gold, silver and two bronzes.
Australia, New Zealand and the U.S. all finished with three medals, with the Americans grabbing a gold, silver and bronze spread out over the 14 total events.
Two of those medals came in the eight, which features a team of eight rowers in addition to a coxswain. The women captured the gold in Beijing with a time of 6:05.34, becoming the first American crew to win the event since 1984 in Los Angeles.
Canada's team finished fourth.
Six of the women who rowed the U.S. to the gold return for the London Games, including coxswain Mary Whipple as well as Caryn Davies, Caroline Lind, Eleanor Logan, Susan Francia and Erin Cafaro. The squad has to be considered the favorite given that the United States is six-time defending world champions and won gold at the 2012 World Rowing Cup in Switzerland with a new world best time of 5:54.17.
Confidence should be high for the group and both Logan and Cafaro are examples of that. The duo actually qualified for the women's pair, but declined in order to participate again in the eight.
The 2008 women's roster also captured a silver, with Michelle Guerette finishing just .44 seconds behind gold-medal winner Rumyana Neykova of Bulgaria in the single sculls. It marked the first time that the U.S. medalled in the event since 1988.
Rowing for the women in the single sculls across the pond will be Gevvie Stone and she is one to watch given that both of her parents, Gregg and Lisa Stone, were elite rowers for previous national and Olympic teams.
The lone men's team to capture a medal in Beijing was done by the eight squad, though its bronze may have been a bit of a disappointment given that the U.S. captured goal in the race at Athens in 2004.
Canada won the event with a time of 5:23.89, followed by the silvering Great Britain.
While it will be a completely different team for the United States in this year's eight, it isn't one that lacks experience. Both David Banks and Giuseppe Lanzone, who was born in Peru before moving to the U.S. at the age of 15, rowed in Beijing for the men's four that finished ninth, while twins Ross and Grant James won gold in an eight boat at the 2008 World Rowing Under 23 Championship.
Of the members of Great Britain's eight that captured silver, only Matt Langridge and Alex Partridge return.
The men's side of the sport has seen some recent dominance in both single sculls and pairs. Norway's Olaf Tufte has won the past two golds in singles and will look to defend his medal in London, while Australia's Drew Ginn has captured the past two pairs with different partners. He won in 2004 with James Tomkins, while he shook off a back problem to nab gold with recently-retired Duncan Free in Beijing.
Ginn is taking a shot at a fourth gold medal after also winning in the fours in the 1996 Games in Atlanta. He'll return to the fours in what figures to be a showdown with the hosting United Kingdom, which has won the last three golds in the event but was beaten out by Australia by 0.87 seconds in the recent World Cup regatta in Munich.
Three of the four rowers for Great Britain's gold-medal winning team return for the London Games, including Andrew Triggs Hodge, Pete Freed and Tom James. Rounding out the group in place of Steve Williams is 2009 and '11 World Champion Alex Gregory.
Two other Australians to watch are Anthony Edwards and Kim Crow.
Edwards, 37, is set to become just the third Australian rower to compete at five Olympic Games as he leads a lightweight men's four that won gold in the World Championship last year.
Australia finished ninth in the lightweight fours in Beijing as Edwards failed to add to his medal total that includes silvers in 2004 and 2000 as well as a bronze in 1996 in lightweight double scull.
Crow, meanwhile, is expected to become the first Australian to compete in two events at the same Olympic Games since Marina Hatzakis and Bronwyn Roye rowed in the women's double and quadruple scull at Atlanta in 1996. Crow is slated to participate in women's single sculls as well as team with Brooke Pratley in double sculls.
Also for Australia, David Crawshay and Scott Brennan look to repeat their gold medals won at Beijing in the double sculls, while Great Britain's Mark Hunter and Zac Purchase will try to defend their gold in the lightweight men's double sculls.
For Britain's women, the decorated Katherine Grainger will appear in her fourth Olympics and has captured three silver medals in three straight games. She earned her country's first female rowing medal in 2000 by grabbing silver in the quadruple sculls, a feat she repeated in the 2008 Games with Annie Vernon, Debbie Flood and Frances Houghton. The Glasgow-born 36-year-old also nabbed a silver at Athens in 2004 in the pairs.
Grainger could end her string of silver medals in this year's double sculls. She is set to team with Anna Watkins and the duo hasn't lost since becoming partners in 2010. Watkins won bronze with Elise Laverick in Beijing.
The U.S. finished fifth in the women's double sculls in 2008.
Great Britain is hoping for another strong showing on its home waters as rowing is the only sport the country has won gold at in every Games since 1984.
In addition to winning gold in the men's eight in Beijing, Canada was able to net a bronze in the men's lightweight fours, an event in which Denmark has won three of the four golds awarded since the race's debut in the 1996 Games.
David Calder and Scott Frandsen won silver in the pairs behind Ginn and Free, while the women's lone medal -- a bronze -- was captured by Melanie Kok and Tracy Cameron in lightweight double sculls.
Calder and Frandsen return to London in pairs, while veteran coxswain and seven-time Olympian Lesley Thompson-Willie will be among those rowing in the women's eight. Thompson-Willie is one of only three Canadian women with four Olympic medals -- one gold (1992), two silver (1984, 1996) and one bronze (2000) -- and aiming to become the first Canadian athlete to medal in five different Olympic Games.
Andrew Byrnes, Malcolm Howard and 11-year veteran Brian Price all return to the men's eight that won gold in 2008 for Canada.
Rounding out men's events in Beijing, Poland captured gold in the quadruple sculls, an event in which the U.S. placed fifth. Scott Gault returns for the Americans in London and is joined by Henrik Rummel, Glenn Ochal and USRowing's 2011 Athlete of the Year Charlie Cole.
The U.S. women also finished fifth in Beijing in the quadruple sculls, with China ending Germany's four-Olympic run of gold medals. East Germany had won the inaugural event in 1988 at Seoul.
Romania has won the past three gold medals in women's pairs, including back- to-back golds by the duo of Georgeta Andrunache and Viorica Susanu. The two also won gold together as part of Romania's eight in 2000 and 2004, with Andrunache also winning gold at Sydney in 2000 in pairs.
Rowing will be held over eight days in London, beginning on July 28 with the last of the medal races taking place on Aug. 4. Men's eight and both the women's pairs and quadruple sculls are the first to have medal races, slated for Aug. 1.
Each event will consist of heats, with the top boats qualifying for the next round. Those boats that don't advance will get a second chance in the repechage round.