A golden start
It was a golden start to finals weekend for GB Rowing at the World Championships – sponsored by Siemens – with the day’s finals book-ended by gold medal performances from Zac Purchase and the Camelot sponsored men’s four. In between there another medal for the home crowds to cheer from the double sculls of Matt Wells and Stephen Rowbotham and other results that suggest a continued bright future for GB Rowing.
GB’s men’s four ultimately made light of the combined pressure of being defending World Champions, race favourites and the ‘home’ team in their final. The GB crew were leading the field at the first marker and kept the main challenge from the Dutch and USA under scrutiny. GB crew then pushed out from the field in a superb third quarter and maintained this lead until the closing stages when as earlier in the week, the Germans mounted a determined challenge. But with the crowd playing their part, Williams, Reed, Partridge and Hodge won their 24th race in a row.
"We were rolling a bit from side to side and it wasn’t very clean in the last 200m. It was just a matter of digging deep for the last 20 strokes. We managed 20 big ones and get across the line first", said Steve Williams. "It was fantastic to be able to share the experience with the crowd afterwards. We got out of the boat and had a chat which was nice! So a big ‘thank you’ to all of the crowd who came and supported us today."
It was a result that delighted the crew’s sponsor Camelot, whose Chief Executive Dianne Thompson was quick to salute the four’s efforts, "It was fantastic to see the men’s four win today, especially at home and at a London 2012 venue. As operator of The National Lottery, Camelot is committed to raising £1.5 billion for London 2012 and, in the meantime, as Lead Sponsor of GB Rowing, we’re proud to support the men’s four and women’s quad in the lead up to Beijing in 2008."
Zac Purchase had his first taste of World Championship victory earlier in the day, when true to form, he took control of his final at halfway and never let threats from his Spanish and New Zealand opponents spoil his day. His determination to row his own race saw him through, "I stuck to what I had to do and it paid off."
The men’s and women’s double sculls will have left the large crowds with sore throats as they scrapped every inch of the way to the finish line. For Matt Wells and Stephen Rowbotham, the result was a well deserved bronze medal – the first for GB men’s crew scullers at this level in 29 years. For Annie Vernon and Anna Bebington it was a heartbreaking fourth place behind pre-race favourites the Evers-Swindells from New Zealand.
At the end of the day’s action, GB Rowing’s Performance Director was a happy man, "I was very pleased with the way things went today. The four’s race was outstanding, as was Zac Purchase. The conditions made for a really tight field in the four, but they just showed their class in the second half of the race and I’m very proud of them, it was a great result.
"Zac with his world record just showed how he’s come on as an athlete and a sculler and at 20 to have achieved that – the first time we’ve won that event since Peter Haining in the mid 90’s – I think is superb. Well done also to both of our doubles – in their different ways they each had great races today. The women very nearly got the bronze on the line and they are the future – both from our World Class Start programme and in their first season together in this boat. The men’s double just stuck to their own race and it just shows what happens when you’re world class and focussed. Their bronze medal was richly deserved. Overall, a really good day for GB."
SATURDAY’S RACING IN FULL
Zac Purchase was out to better the silver medal he won at last year’s World Championships in Gifu. Elias Pappas was the first to show, with Purchase and the Spaniard in close attention. Inevitably as the race progressed Purchase moved back on terms and was contesting the lead by halfway. The race was still all about those three boats as the race progressed to three-quarter distance. Purchase pulled out a lead of a length with 500m to go and the flying Kiwi moved up to third. The Spanish sculler raised his rate to challenge and the crowds raised their Game to shout the Briton home.
"At the end of the day you have to stick to your race plan – you have to get your boat from the start to the finish as soon as possible and if other people want to go hard and have a good crack at you, then fair game. I stuck to what I had to do and it paid off thank God."
I had to focus on that middle 500m and try to go that little bit faster and getting ahead of the other guys. It was a phenomenal crowd – first time I’ve experienced an atmosphere like that and it really gave me a lift for the last 500m."
It was hard to spot any chink in the immensely strong line-up in the final of the men’s single sculls boasting current and former Olympic and World Champions. GB’s Alan Campbell made an early move alongside Germany’s Marcel Hacker and these two set the early pace. After 500m Hacker led the field, with Campbell back in the chasing pack. Move after move came from the chasing pack and ominously Drysdale started his push just after halfway. Thereafter it was all about Hacker, Synek and Drysdale as Campbell fell out of contention. Drysdale moved on to challenge Hacker and in a close finish Drysdale took the race by 9/100ths of a second in what proved to be another world best time.
It subsequently emerged that Campbell had difficulty with the fastening gate on his rigger around the halfway mark with severely hampered his ability to challenge the field.
China were the first to show in the men’s pairs final with Australia, GB’s Smith and James and New Zealand following. Ginn and Free in the Australian boat moved through, with their Olympic and World Championship credentials, the Aussies opened out a significant gap on the three boats fighting it out for the medals, China, New Zealand and Germany. With a quarter to go, it looked like the medals were settled, with Australia having established an unassailable lead. The New Zealanders mounted an immense challenge, but ultimately it was just too late and they had to settle for second place ahead of the fast finishing Canadians.
In the women’s double sculls pre-race favourites the Evers-Swindells from New Zealand justified their billing early on, leading the field to the first quarter mark . The Australian crew of Kell and Pratley were right with them and took the initiative just before the halfway mark. And that’s the way it stayed until the closing stages when the top five crews all began to merge. Right in the thick of it and enjoying the vocal support of the grandstand, were GB’s Annie Vernon and Anna Bebington. They posted an electric time over the last 500m, but, heartbreakingly, it was just not enough as the Australians, Germans and Kiwis crossed the line ahead of them. Just over a second separated the first four crews and the GB double lost out on a medal by a 10th of a second, but they have a bright future ahead of them.
Such was the focus in the GB boat that Bebington confessed afterwards that she wasn’t aware of the tight finish, "All the way down, I wanted to know where we were, but I kept thinking that the best thing to do was to control my stroke as best I could. So I never really knew how close it was."
Matt Wells and Stephen Rowbotham got off to a solid start in the men’s double sculls. It was the French, however, that quickly established a stranglehold on the race. A canvas at 250m quickly became over a length at halfway. The Slovenians gave chase with Poland, Belgium and GB disputing third place. It effectively seemed to become two races at this point – one for gold and silver and one for the bronze. But then GB made their move and took a lead on the chasing pack and incredibly began to gain on the leading pair. In the end Wells and Rowbotham’s charge was good enough to convincingly take the bronze medals, but not quite enough for silver.
Matt Wells was happy with the result, "We knew that if we stayed calm in the first 1000m, in the second 1000m we’re the quickest crew. It just happened so well. It’s just really good for us to finish on the podium."
There was good news for GB as both Shaun Sewell in the arms single sculls and Karen Cromie and James Roberts in the trunk and arms double sculls qualified through the repechages today. That means there will be a full complement of British boats in tomorrow’s adaptive finals.
WORLD CHAMPIONSHIPS ETON, GREAT BRITAIN RESULTS DAY SEVEN (Races involving British crews only)
1. Liz Kelll/Brooke Pratley (Australia) 6:47.67
2. Britta Oppelt/Susanne Schmidt (Germany) 6:47.95
3. Caroline Evers-Swindell/Georgina Evers-Swindell (New Zealand) 6:48.82
4. Annie Vernon/Anna Bebington (GREAT BRITAIN) 6:48.96
5. Natalia Ryzhkova/Yana Bichyk (Ukraine) 6:49.90
6. Volha Berazniova/Yuliya Bichyk (Belarus) 6:53.59
1. Drew Ginn/Duncan Free (Australia) 6:18.00
2. Nathan Twaddle/George Bridgewater (New Zealand) 6:19.13
3. Kevin Light/Malcolm Howard (Canada) 6:21.83
4. Yongquiang Zhang/Xiangdang Wang (China) 6:22.16
5. Jochen Urban/Andreas Penkner (Germany) 6:23.24
6. Colin Smith/ Tom James (GREAT BRITAIN) 6:27.76
1. Steve Williams/Peter Reed/Alex Partridge/Andrew Hodge (GREAT BRITAIN) 5:43.75
2. Germany 5:44.64
3. Holland 5:45.54
4. USA 5:47.09
5. Slovenia 5:49.44
6. France 5:50.01
1. Mahe Drysdale (New Zealand) 6:35.40
2. Marcel Hacker (Germany) 6:35.49
3. Ondrej Synek (Czech Republic) 6:37.51
4. Olaf Tufte (Norway) 6:39.13
5. Tim Maeyens (Belgium) 6:44.30
6. Alan Campbell (GREAT BRITAIN) 6:49.08
1. Jean-Baptiste Macquet/Adrien Hardy (France) 6:07.60
2. Luka Spik/Iztok Cop (Slovenia) 6:09.79
3. Matthew Wells/Stephen Rowbotham (GREAT BRITAIN) 6:10.95
4. Michal Sloma/Marcin Brezezinski (Poland) 6:12.82
5. Martin Yanakiev/Ivo Yanakiev (Bulgaria) 6:13.78
6. Stijn Smulders/Christophe Raes (Belgium) 6:14.58
1. Zac Purchase (GREAT BRITAIN) 6:47.82*
2. Juan Zunzunegui Guimerans (Spain) 6:50.14
3. Duncan Grant (New Zealand) 6:52.73
4. Bine Pislar (Slovenia) 6:57.62
5. Elias Pappas (Greece) 6:59.69
6. Gerard van der Linden (Holland) 7:06.05
* World Best Time
Single Sculls – ‘B’ Final
1. Michaela Taupe (Austria) 7:46.48
2. Ismaray Marrero Aria (Cuba) 7:50.53
3. Antonia van Deventer (GREAT BRITAIN) 7:52.53
4. Phuttharaksa Nikree (Thailand) 7:54.19
5. Hilde Gudem (Norway) 7:56.35
6. Coralie Ribeil (France) 8:01.46
Pairs – ‘B’ Final
1. Rodica Florea/Ioana Papuc (Romania) 7:05.60
2. Fei Yu/Yan Yang (China) 7:07.50
3. Emily Martin/Sarah Heard (Australia) 7:10.75
4. Tatsiana Narelik/Alina Makhneva (Belarus) 7:14.57
5. Baz Moffat/Jess Eddie (GREAT BRITAIN) 7:16.88
Arms men’s single sculls – repechage
1. Shaun Sewell (GREAT BRITAIN) 5:43.03
2. Simone Miramonti (Italy) 5:47.05
3. Luis Miguel Castro Carmone 5:48.83
4. Josip Friscic (Croatia) 6:11.79
5. Wo Chau Wong (Hong Kong) 6:31.23
Trunk and arms double sculls – repechage
1. Konstantina Garatsa/Athnasios Kotsis (Greece) 4:31.56
2. Karen Cromie/James Roberts (GREAT BRITAIN) 4:34.52
3. Rafael Luz/Josiane Lima (Brazil) 4:52.30
4. Valeria Corazzin/Enio Billiato (Italy) 5:05.16