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Olympic rowing preview

Some 25 miles west of London's city center sits Eton Dorney, a world-class rowing facility where the 14 rowing events (eight for the men, six for women) will take place. There are two types of rowing -- sculls (two oars per rower) and sweep (one oar). The eight is the only event that has a coxswain, who sits at the end of the boat, calls strokes and steers.

SPORTS EXPLAINER: ROWING

Each race is 2,000 meters long, and six boats race in each heat.

Team Great Britain: The British could very well dominate the competition in the lake. Since 2008, when the Brits took home six medals in rowing, the team has only gotten stronger, collecting six, nine and 10 medals at each world championship regatta since. In 2011, no British boat finished outside of the top 10, and with the home crowd behind them in 2012, there's no telling how well the team will do. Whether in men's single sculls with Alan Campbell, whose landed on the podium in each world championship since Beijing, or Anna Watkins and Katherine Grainger, two-time defending world champs in the women's double sculls, the British rowers will make waves in Eton Dorney.

Germany's Men's Eight: Just how dominant were the German's in this marquee event? Between 1960 and 1996, Germany failed to reach the podium in the men's eight just once: in 1984, when East Germany boycotted the Los Angeles Games. They had gone quiet after Atlanta, and after going three Olympic Games without a medal, and a shockingly poor performance in Beijing, the Germans have reemerged as a powerhouse. Germany has gone undefeated since 2008, which includes gold medals at the last three world championships.

Juliette Haigh and Rebecca Scown, New Zealand: This Kiwi duo is the two-time defending world champions in the women's pair, defeating Britain's Helen Glover and Heather Stanning both years. It sets up what is sure to be a tense race in London given that Haigh and Scown pulled ahead at the 2011 Worlds on the very last stroke of the 2,000-meter race, beating Glover and Stanning by just .08 second.

As the German men have dominated the men's eight in this Olympic cycle, so have the U.S. in the women's event. The five-time defending world champions and 2008 gold medalists will be the women to beat in the eight. In the women's pair, Sarah Zelenka and Sara Hendershot, who were part of the gold-medal-winning women's quad at the 2011 World Championships, may have an outside shot for a bronze. In the smaller boats, the women's quadruple sculls crew, which won a silver at last year's worlds, has three top five finishes this year.

Over the last three Worlds, U.S. men's crews have medaled in just two events, neither of which are on the Olympic program. The best chance for a podium finish for the U.S. may be the men's four, but the attention during that race will likely be fixated on the Australians' bid to unseat the British, who have won the event in the last three Olympics.

For the first time in modern Olympic history, the U.S. men's eight, which had won a gold medal in Athens and a bronze in Beijing, failed to qualify for London at last year's World Championships, forcing the crew to wait until the last-ditch qualifying event in late June. A win in Switzerland secured a place at the games, but with underwhelming results lately (8th in 2011 Worlds, 6th in 2010), the expectations for the boat are low.

In the coxless pair and quad, steering is controlled by a rudder that is attached to strings and controlled by one of the rowers' feet.... In the lightweight events, men can weigh no more than 160 pounds and women no more than 130. But the crews must average no more than 154.3 pounds for men and 125.7 pounds for women.

Aug. 1: Women's pair, women's quadruple sculls, men's eight.

Aug. 2: Men's double sculls, men's lightweight four, women's eight

Aug. 3: Men's single sculls, men's quadruple sculls, men's pair, women's double sculls

Aug. 4: women's single sculls, men's lightweight double sculls, women's lightweight double sculls, men's four

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