World Championships: Medal quest for NI quintet in France

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Coleraine rowers target podium places

Five Northern Ireland rowers will be chasing glory when the World Championships get underway in Aiguebelette, France on Sunday.

The regatta doubles up as the main route of Olympic qualification for Rio 2016 and that will initially be the main focus for London 2012 medallists Alan Campbell and brothers Richard and Peter Chambers, who are part of a strong Great Britain squad.

Fellow Coleraine and GB rower Joel Cassells and Enniskillen's Leonora Kennedy, who represents Ireland, will be taking part in non-Olympic class events.

Twelve months ago Campbell was dropped from the world championships squad and had to begin rebuilding his international career. A

After an early season injury setback that forced him to miss the European Championships, the 32 year-old announced he was back and approaching his best with a bronze medal and the World Cup regatta in Lucerne.

The three-time world medallist is now looking forward to adding to the three world medals he has already won and competing at a fourth Olympic Games next summer.

However, it's a stacked single sculls field with Olympic champion Mahe Drysdale and defending world champion Ondrej Synek favourites again and new emerging talent such as European gold medallist Damir Martin to contend with.

Alan Campbell is targeting a podium place in the single sculls at Aiguebelette
Alan Campbell is targeting a podium place in the single sculls at Aiguebelette

Richard Chambers' partnership with Englishman Will Fletcher in the lightweight double sculls got off to a good start with silver at the European Championships and bronze at the World Cup in Varese, but illness to Fletcher meant as a duo they were unable to compete in the final at Lucerne.

The French combination of Stany Delayre and Jeremie Azou have been unbeatable all season and are strong favourites to win gold, but Chambers and Fletcher should be in the battle with South Africa and Norway for the medals.

Injury and illness have disrupted the progress of the GB lightweight four this season with three different combinations at the three international regattas.

Peter Chambers and Chris Bartley remain from the quartet that took Olympic silver three years ago and are joined by Jonno Clegg and Mark Aldred.

They could be good enough to win the world title, although they may not reach the 'A' final - it's unclear as to how good they will be with such little time together as a crew.

Peter Chambers (second from left) will hope to qualify for the Olympics with the lighweight four crew
Peter Chambers (second from left) will hope to qualify for the Olympics with the lighweight four crew

The top nine in the singles sculls and top 11 in the lightweight double sculls and lightweight four will secure Olympic places.

Cassells won the European title in the non-Olympic lightweight pair with Peter Chambers at the start of the season and will be hoping to push his way into the four in time for Olympic selection.

In France he competes in the pair once again with Sam Scrimgeour and if he needs any motivation, Chambers won the world championship in this event in Bled in 2011 and made the squad for London less than a year later.

Ireland have a number of crews hoping for Olympic qualification but Leonora Kennedy will have to wait until the final qualifying regatta next year.

She had a disappointing season with Monika Dukarska in the women's pair and they'll row as part of the women's four alongside Aifric Keogh and Barbara O'Brien.

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