A Chance to Prove Themselves
According to Olympic rowing silver medallist Debbie Flood this Saturday’s GB Winter Assessment Trials at Boston in Lincolnshire will be "a real chance for newcomers to prove themselves".
Races at Boston will take place as a time trial over a 5km course. The event is an important part of the selection process in 2006 – a year in which Britain hosts the World Championships, at Eton in August, for the first time in 20 years.
With such a strong women’s squad, including six Olympic medallists and four world champions, the fight to win a seat in the top boat this season will be tough. But, says Flood, there are a number of newcomers "snapping at the heels" of the established stars.
"We have such a good development group now in the women’s squad, especially the training group for the women’s eight. It’s very good for us because it pushes us hard. It’s more competitive".
As well as keeping an eye on the new opposition, the leading women will also use the trials as a chance to gauge the quality of their winter training to date.
In Boston, the senior women’s trial will be in single sculls over the 5km course and in time trial format. "It’s a good test", said Frances Houghton, also an Olympic silver medallist and one of the favourites to win at the weekend. "It shows whether you’ve done the training. You can’t blast it like a 2km Olympic course, you’ve actually got to row quite well to succeed".
Twice Olympic medallist and twice world champion Katherine Grainger, winner of the last trial over 5km, will also be amongst the favourites and Sarah Winckless will be in the frame.
Of the the emerging youngsters Annie Vernon, who competed in the single scull at the World Championships last Autumn, and Anna Bebington, both graduates of the lottery funded World Class Start programme, are both names to watch.
All the leading men should also be on show in pairs at Boston this weekend unlike the equivalent trial in December from which Olympic gold medallist Steve Williams had to withdraw when his partner, Alex Partridge, went down with a knee injury.
Partridge has since made a good recovery from the injury and, whilst having missed some of the base winter training, is getting back to his best.
Andy Hodge and Peter Reed, the other half of GB’s world-title winning men’s four last season with Partridge and Williams, will be a strong entry. Hodge competed in a single in December because Reed was ill.
Tom Stallard and Josh West, both of Leander Club and both former Cambridge Blues, won the December pair trial and team up once more. Kieran West, 2000 Olympic gold medallist in the eight and Tom James, stroke to the GB eight at the 2004 Athens Olympics, are another strong pairing.
Former leading sculling athlete Matt Langridge has switched to sweep oar this season and competes in a pair with squad newcomer Tom Solesbury.
Ian Lawson, winner to the December trial in the single scull, has been ruled out with illness this weekend and so Alan Campbell and Stephen Rowbotham will be the main favourites for this title.
Mark Hunter, Leander club captain, won the lightweight men’s single scull trial in December. His main rival then, Zac Purchase, has been ruled out this weekend by a wrist injury.
Hester Goodsell, world U23 single scull champion in 2005, and former world bronze medallist Helen Casey should dominate the lightweight women’s single scull trial.
"These trials form the final part of our winter assessment process", said David Tanner, GB Rowing’s Performance Director. "From this weekend’s results, and all the other tests and trials since October, we will select those rowers to be invited to the final GB Senior Rowing Trials in April after which the squad will be selected for the opening events of the 2006 season".[Visit www.ara-rowing.org and link to Boston Rowing Club site for details and results]