World Rowing Championships 2011: day-by-day guide

By Lawrence BarrettoBBC Sport

Full timetable on the official event websiteexternal-link

Over the course of this week, 1,200 oar-wielding rowers from 68 nations will take to Lake Bled in northwest Slovenia to compete in the annual World Rowing Championships.

Ordinarily, the prize of a world gold medal would be enough to motivate any athlete, but this year the racing will take on an extra edge as the regatta doubles as an Olympic qualification event for London 2012.

Britain are sending a 68-strong squadexternal-link with spots in all 14 Olympic classes on the line. For most, a top-10 finish in the men's competitions or a top-eight finish in the women's should be enough to secure their place on the start line at Eton Dorney next summer. But with four world titles to defend in Bled, Britain will want to do more than just qualify.

Last year, Germany topped the medal table in Lake Karapiro, New Zealand, pipping Britain by a single gold medal. That success has continued in 2011, with the Germans snatching the overall World Cup trophy from Britain for the first time since 2007.

The British squad will be undeterred, though, as they only competed in two out of the three World Cup regattas, deciding to miss the event in Hamburg as a result of the E.coli epidemic, and came back strongly in the last round in Lucerne, Switzerland, winning four golds in a total of 10 medals.

The BBC Red Button, BBC Sport website and BBC Radio 5 live sports extra will have live coverage of the event from 1-4 September when the finals take place. Here are some of the highlights over the crucial four days of competition.

Thursday 1 September

Brit watch: All eyes will be on veteran Greg Searle, who won Olympic gold in the coxed pairs at the 1992 Barcelona Games alongside his brother Jonny. After missing out on a medal in Sydney, Searle retired from the sport before returning in 2010 and winning silver at the World Championships. The 39-year-old goes in the men's eight who are favourites for gold.

What else? World champions Juliette Haigh and Rebecca Scown from New Zealand will face stiff competition from British duo Heather Stanning and Helen Glover in the battle for gold in the women's pair after the Brits shocked the world-leading Kiwis in Lucerne. The Germans, led by Britta Oppelt, are favourites to take the spoils in the women's quad, while the British team of Mel Wilson, Beth Rodford, Annabel Vernon and Debbie Flood, the reigning champions, are now focused on winning the 'B' final to secure their 2012 place after getting knocked out in the heats.

Friday 2 September

Matthew Wells and Marcus Bateman
Wells and Bateman won the double scull at the Henley Royal Regatta this summer

Brit watch: British gold medal hopes lie with the men's lightweight coxless four today. The foursome of Chris Bartley, Paul Mattick, Rob Williams and Richard Chambers are the reigning champions and edged Denmark at the Lucerne regatta - but with the crews almost identical in weight, the margins of victory are usually tight so expect a nail-biting finish.

What else? Hosts Slovenia's best medal chance lies with the men's double pairing of Iztok Cop and Luka Spike. The 2000 Olympic gold medallists are back together and rowing well after a break from the sport with Cop describing Lake Bled as his 'backyard'. They'll likely fight for bronze, though, with reigning champions Nathan Cohen and Joseph Sullivan and British duo Matthew Wells and Marcus Bateman closely matched at the front. Over in the women's eight, it's hard to look past the United States crew who remain unbeaten since 2006.

Saturday 3 September

Brit watch: Five-time world champion Katherine Grainger, who has missed out on gold in the last three Olympics, and Anna Watkins are overwhelming favourites in the women's double scull having remained unbeaten since they paired up in January 2010. Things are less certain in the men's pair, with Olympic champions Andy Triggs Hodge and Pete Reed struggling to get the better of New Zealand duo Hamish Bond and Eric Murray. A 14th defeat to the Kiwis since Beijing could see the Brits move into the coxless four boat for London 2012.

What else? Ondrej Synek of the Czech Republic has transformed himself from relative unknown to national hero following his staggering unbeaten run in the men's single scull over the last two years. There's no shortage of challengers, mind, with four-time New Zealand world champion Mahe Drysdale, two-time Olympic champion Olaf Tufte of Norway and Britain's Alan Campbell all capable of winning medals. Over in the men's quad, in-form Germany, who struck gold in Lucerne, could shock reigning champions Croatia.

Sunday 4 September

Zac Purchase and Mark Hunter
Purchase and Hunter are the reigning Olympic and world champions

Brit watch: Reigning Olympic and world champions Zac Purchase and Mark Hunter are favourites in the men's lightweight double scull despite a season of set-backs. Purchase has been sidelined with a virus since May; however, the 25-year-old insists he's "physically and mentally ready". Meanwhile, the men's four team of Tom James, Richard Egington, Alex Gregory and Matthew Langridge won gold in both World Cups they entered this year, making them favourites.

What else? The women's lightweight double is wide open with reigning world champions Tracy Cameron and Lindsay Jennerich arriving in Bled with the former recovering from a stressed rib. That means Britain's Hester Goodsell and Sophie Hosking, who won the World Cup season, and American duo Kristin Hedstrom and Julie Nichols, who have also won a World Cup gold this year, will fancy their chances. The single scull is equally unpredictable with New Zealand's Emma Twigg and China's top sculler Xiuyun Zhang both capable of winning. On the domestic side, British two-time Olympic silver medallist Frances Houghton's main aim will be making the final as she continues her comeback from injury.

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