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World’s best to join forces at Head

August 18, 2009

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The Great Eight, rowing’s version of the Dirty Dozen, will attempt to repeat their remarkable triumph on the Thames when a collection of the world’s best single scullers takes on several national eights at the 45th Head of the Charles Regatta in October.

The boat, made up of athletes from eight nations, includes the top seven finishers from last year’s Olympics, led by medalists Olaf Tufte (Norway), Ondrej Synek (Czech Republic), and Mahe Drysdale (New Zealand), plus Iztok Cop (Slovenia), a three-time Games medalist in the double and pair.

It will be the first time in Head of the Charles history that all three Olympic medalists in the men’s single will be competing. The boat also will include Tim Maeyens (Belgium), Alan Campbell (Great Britain), Lassi Karonen (Sweden), and Marcel Hacker (Germany).

“Short of a world championship or an Olympic regatta, it’s rare that you’ll see so much talent in one place,’’ said Head executive director Fred Schoch. “This is an historic occasion for the Head of the Charles.’’

Thrown together in March as a fantasy by British coach Bill Barry with less than a week’s practice, the Great Eight won the fabled Head of the River Race by dethroning defending champion Leander, which featured five Beijing medalists, three of them from the British eight. Here they likely will be up against US, British, and French entries, as well as top American college crews in the championship finale Sunday, Oct. 18.

To allow the Great Eight also to compete individually in Saturday’s championship single, the regatta’s one-event-only rule has been suspended for all rowers competing in the upcoming world regatta in Poland.

John Powers