The most eagerly expected victory at the World Rowing Championships due to get underway at Sarasota-Bradenton in Florida tomorrow would probably be that of the United States women’s eight, unbeaten at this level since 2006.
It would be unfair, however, to say the only thing that looked likely to prevent the Rio 2016 champions adding another world title on home water was Hurricane Irma, which veered past the course at Nathan Benderson Park earlier this month but, thankfully from a sporting viewpoint, caused relatively little damage.
It will take a huge effort from any of the home crew’s rivals to halt this unprecedented winning streak, but the US eight’s bronze medal position in the second of this season’s World Cups behind New Zealand and Britain has prompted some hopes that these Championships could mark the end of their era.
The coach who has guided the US eight to ten straight world and Olympic wins, Tom Terhaar, will meanwhile be doing his utmost to ensure a grandstand home victory at the 47th edition of World Rowing's showcase event.
Romania, which dominated the Olympic podium before the American era, also look strong, having won the European title and the World Rowing Cup in Lucerne.
More than 900 athletes from 69 nations will be taking part in an event that will witness some interesting post-Olympic changes, most notably the shift of Croatia’s Olympic champion men’s double scullers Martin and Valent Sinkovic to the pair following the retirement of the all-conquering New Zealanders Eric Bond and Hamish Murray.
In their debut race in the pair the Sinkovic brothers took silver, but there have been four different gold medallists this season in a suddenly-open class - from Britain, Italy, France and New Zealand.
French brothers Valentin and Theophile Onfroy won gold at World Rowing Cup II, a European Championship silver and a bronze from Lucerne.
Serbia also look like contenders - Nenad Bedik and Milos Vasic won silver at World Rowing Cup I and II and bronze at the European Rowing Championships.
There is a similar picture in the women’s single sculls following the retirement last year of most of the leading performers.
Switzerland’s Jeannine Gmelin and Austria’s Magdalena Lobnig are the form athletes this season – Gmelin has won two World Cups, while Lobnig has earned two World Cup bronzes and a gold in Poznan.
Look out too for Britain’s Victoria Thornley, this year’s European champion who has also won a World Cup gold in Belgrade and silver in Poznan.
Carling Zeeman from Canada raced only once during the pre-Championship season, winning World Cup silver in Lucerne.
China’s Rio 2016 bronze medallist Jingli Duan has also raced once this season, taking bronze at World Rowing Cup II.
Switzerland’s Nico Stahlberg tops the World Rowing Cup standings in the men’s single sculls with 17 points, but New Zealand’s new sculling talent Robert Manson looks hard to beat, having won both his World Cup races this season, setting a world best time in Poznan.
The lightweight men’s and women’s double sculls look very likely to go respectively to France’s Olympic champions Pierre Houin and Jeremie Azou, unbeaten this season, and New Zealand’s new combination of Zoe McBride, twice world champion in the single sculls, and world under-23 champion Jackie Kiddle.
The retirement of Britain’s double Olympic champions Heather Stanning and Helen Glover has opened up the women’s pairs, and New Zealand’s Grace Prendergast and Kerri Gowler have won the two World Cups they entered this season, also setting a world best time of 6min 49.08sec.
Australia will seek to prise away Britain’s recent grip on the men’s four event having beaten them at the second World Cup meeting.
But Britain won at the first and third World Cups and aren’t about to relinquish their great tradition in a hurry.
Australia’s women’s four have won two World Rowing Cup regattas, but they face a strong US challenge.
Poland and Lithuania are respective favourites for the women’s and men’s quadruple sculls.