Scotland top, England second at Commonwealth Champs

Scotland topped the medal table at the Commonwealth Rowing Championships, held at Strathclyde Country Park over 1500 metre and 500 metre courses.

With 14 nations competing, this was the sixth edition of these Championships and altogether the Scottish team won nine gold medals, four silvers and two bronzes. England were second on the table, with the same 15-medal medal total – five golds, seven silvers and three bronzes, while Canada were third, with four golds, four silvers and five bronzes. Wales and Australia each won one gold, with Wales also taking four silvers and five bronzes. Northern Ireland took two bronze medals while Norfolk Islands lightweight sculler Simon Nola made history with his nation’s first-ever medal – bronze in the 500 metre dash.

Pippa Whittaker from Leander was the most successful English athlete, winning two golds and two silver medals.  Her golds came in full-distance single sculls and double sculls (partnered by lightweight Fran Rawlins from Mortlake, Anglian and Alpha), and the silvers came in the sprint single and, again with Rawlins, double sculls. Rawlins had her own golden success winning the lightweight singles category.

Speaking after her singles win, Whittaker said, “I’ve been training in the development squad, mostly in sweep, so it’s good to be back in the single. It was exciting and I was happy with how I executed,” adding, “it’s all been very good here and very nicely organised.”

England’s other gold medal successes came in men’s lightweight pairs, through Nick Buckle of Leander and the University of London’s Matthew Bedford. Bedford joined forces with John Hale and Dan Clift of Isle of Ely, and Cardiff University’s Robbie Massey, to take gold in coxless fours, while Buckle and Bedford also won bronze in their sprint event.

However, the most successful athlete of all was Glaswegian Angus Groom from Leander Club, who took four golds – in open single sculls and sprint single sculls, before joining up with Robert Gordon’s University’s Lewis McCue to win both the open and sprint double sculls categories.  McCue took a third gold when he partnered Cameron Buchan, home from Northeastern University in the USA, to victory in the coxless pairs’ event.

After his single sculls win, Groom said, “To be a Commonwealth champion is absolutely brilliant. This is my first time representing Scotland at anything, so to do it on home waters is absolutely fantastic.”

The Scottish women’s quadruple sculls crew of Rebecca Lightfoot from Rhu, Emma McDonald from Lochwinnoch, and the Edinburgh duo of Katherine Douglas and Karen Bennett won the first final of the event to set the tone. Bennett and Douglas then partnered each other to gold in the women’s pair event, as well as silver medals in double sculls. 

Donald Evans from Saltcoats won the lightweight single sculls sprint and the Scottish gold medal haul was completed by Tom Claxton from Helensburgh and Glasgow’s Kieran Brown, who won the lightweight coxless pairs sprint.  They also took silver in the full-distance pairs and double sculls events.

Glasgow’s Georgina Grandfield came second to England in the women’s single sculls category while the Scottish bronze medals were picked up by Emma McDonald in lightweight singles and McDonald again, this time partnered by Rebecca Lightfoot, in lightweight double sculls. 

These Commonwealth successes follow hard on the heels of the Scottish record-breaking performances at the Home International Regatta in Cork two weeks ago, and complete the most successful international season yet achieved by Scottish rowers.

The sole Welsh gold medal was won by Becca Chin in the single sculls dash.

The spirit of the regatta was summed up in the final race – an exhibition mixed eights event. In conjunction with these Championships, Scottish Rowing had been running an Inspire programme for their talented junior athletes, who had been shadowing the senior team in their preparations as well as acting as the start team for the regatta. They were released from stake-boat duties to race in a field that included an impromptu ‘Spirit of the Commonwealth’ crew – a composite drawn from Gibraltar, Guernsey, the Isle of Man, Vanuatu and Zambia, with a Scottish cox. A delighted Welsh eight just held off a strong Scottish charge on the line to win.

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By Mike Haggerty