Jess Eddie in GB eight for Europeans

Durham rower Jess Eddie wants the new-look GB Rowing Team women’s eight to show they remain Europe’s leading contenders for an Olympic medal when the 2016 racing season begins this weekend.

GB were the top European crew at last year’s World Championships as they finished just outside the medals behind the United States, New Zealand and Canada.

Five of that crew, including Eddie, remain in the boat for the Rio 2016 Olympic-season opener – the European Championships in Brandenburg, Germany from May 6-8.

And the double Olympian is looking to lay down a marker at the start of a season she hopes will end with a first-ever GB women’s eight Olympic medal.

“The Europeans will be a big test,” said Eddie, who helped the eight to fifth place at both Beijing 2008 and London 2012.

“There are some crews there who haven’t qualified for Rio yet so they will be preparing for the qualification regatta and will be on tip-top form.

“But by the time we got to the World Championships last year we were the fastest European crew so we have to put ourselves out there to win this race.

“It will be hard because some of the crews will be the fastest they’ll be all season but I think we have the quality and skill to do that.”

Competition for places in the eight has been fierce this winter, which Eddie thinks can only benefit the crew going forward.

Coming into the boat are the fit-again Polly Swann and relative newcomer Karen Bennett along with two members of last season’s quadruple scull, Melanie Wilson and Frances Houghton.

The latter – a silver-medallist at Athens 2004 and Beijing 2008 – is on course to compete at her fifth Olympic Games in Rio.

“Fran is one of the most experienced members of our team and has a massive engine on her,” said Eddie, who learnt to row at Durham ARC.

“She’s excited to come back into a big crew boat. She’s spoken to me about it before and I told her the eight would welcome her with open arms, she’s definitely going to be a key member of our crew.

“We’ve changed four of the crew, which is quite a big shake-up, but it’s exciting as there have been some real step-ons from people in the team to ensure they got into the boat.

“It has definitely been an outstanding performance by Karen Bennett to put her hand up and show our selectors how good and fast she is. She’s really come on leaps and bounds to earn her seat and I’m really pleased for her and the rest of the girls.”

The full team selection for the European Championships can be found at

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