Multiple wins and maiden victories as “exceptional” Trials conclude
There was a ninth win for Alan Campbell, a fourth in a row for Moe Sbihi and hat-tricks for Helen Glover, Heather Stanning, Alex Gregory and Vicky Thornley as the GB Rowing Team Olympic-season Trials concluded in style.
The races were packed with quality and depth, giving selectors plenty to ponder ahead of the European Championships team announcement in April – and, of course, this summer’s Olympics in Brazil.
GB Rowing Team Performance Director Sir David Tanner said: “We’ve had an exceptional set of Trials which is suitable for an Olympic year.
“We’ve had some great racing and it was good to see the standard of our Olympians stepping up with some top-level performances.
“We still have some questions as we move towards our crew formation. We have good information from these Trials as we start putting together our boats for the European Championships in May and then, later in the year, for the Olympics.”
See below for full race reports, quotes and results.
Vicky Thornley led out the women’s single scull final and produced a dominant performance, pushing herself and the clock to the end to claim a third successive GB Trials win in 7:34.14.
Behind her, Holly Nixon was again in consistent and rhythmical form to take second. The main tussle turned out to be between Mathilda Hodgkins-Byrne and Tina Stiller as to who would make the top three.
Hodgkins-Byrne had the advantage all the way through 1500m but, with 350m to go, Stiller put in a push and then a sprint to take third in 7:43.75.
“I don’t how much it was at the end but I was confident I could win the race,” said Thornley. “I wanted to put down a competitive time. It felt like a nice scull, felt consistent through the middle and I was quite pleased with it.
“It’s really important to prove to the coaches and yourself at these Trials that you have moved on and you are in a good place. I really wanted to stamp my authority on today and I felt I did that.
“When it sinks in that I’ve won an Olympic Trials, that will be a nice feeling. I’ve put myself in the best position to be in a good boat, so that’s all I can do.”
Lucinda Gooderham won the B final.
The men’s single scull final promised to be a cracker and so it proved as Alan Campbell claimed his ninth Trials win and his first since 2012, the year he won Olympic bronze.
Campbell laid out his intentions from the outset, starting quickest and building a lead which he maintained throughout.
“I’m very happy with that,” Campbell said. “This is now my ninth win, dating back to my first Trials in 2003, and I’m hugely relieved. It’s a hard, tough race, probably the hardest of the year, and it feels like a collective weight has been lifted.
“Now we can get on with forming crews and doing what has to be done this summer. I know where I want to be and I have put myself in a good strong position but it’s a decision that has to be made.”
Graeme Thomas was the early challenger to emerge from the five-boat chase behind. He and Angus Groom battled bow ball to bow ball through the second half of the race but Thomas had the pace at the end to take second.
Peter Lambert, part of the men’s quad for the past three seasons, put in a strong performance to win the B final.
“I wanted to show the selectors a bit more dominance in the B final, which I felt I did pretty well,” he said.
Charlotte Taylor moved into a temporary lead but Kat Copeland came through just after 650m to nose ahead. She stretched the gap to almost two-thirds of a length but Taylor had reserved some fuel and drew on that in the finishing 250m to win by three feet. Imogen Walsh was third.
Taylor said: “I’m really pleased to have won, I didn’t realise I had. It was a pretty savage fight to the line, we were pushing each other on the whole way.”
Copeland added: “It was my best race of the regatta. I spoke to my coach before and we said about really committing in the third 500, which I think I did. I had nothing left at the end but all in all I was really pleased.”
“I’m obviously really happy,” said Fletcher. “It’s a great end and start to the season if you know what I mean. Final trials are over, now we can look forward to the big one – the Olympics.”
The lightweight men’s pair final was closely contested all the way down the course but in the last quarter, Sam Scrimgeour and Jonno Clegg kept their length and cool to overhaul Joel Cassells and Peter Chambers. At the finish, the Imperial College and Leander pair had just under a length on the early race leaders.
Chambers and Cassells had registered their intent early on with a blistering first quarter that gave them a second’s lead over Scrimgeour and Clegg. By the 1000m mark, the Oxford Brookes oarsmen were flying and had edged out to over a length’s lead. Chris Bartley and Mark Aldred were not far off the pace in third place.
As the third quarter unfolded, Scrimgeour and Clegg began to reel in the high rating pair from Brookes. With 500m to go, the distance was now just half a length between the crews. Clegg began his charge for the line early. With 350m to go, the pairs were level and Clegg began to draw away.
Attention now focused on whether the fading Brookes pair could hold off Bartley and Aldred. Fortunately, Chambers had just enough in the tank. Clegg and Scrimgeour won in a time of 6:46.02, just under a length in front of Cassells and Chambers. Bartley and Aldred were third.
“I think the race went exactly to plan,” said Clegg. “We’ve rowed the pair a lot so we knew what we needed to do. We went out hard, got into a really strong rhythm and were confident through the middle. That paid off in the end.”
Scrimgeour added: “We have proven ourselves here, finished on a high and can take that through to whatever comes next.”
Helen Glover and Heather Stanning showed sensational pace to dominate the final of the women’s pairs. The reigning Olympic, World and European Champions posted their clear intent to win a second gold in Rio. At the finish, their margin of victory over Jess Eddie and Polly Swann was over ten seconds.
“It’s good to get the Trials done and know we are in as good a shape as we thought we were,” said Glover. “We see it as the start of the season rather than the peak of any kind.”
Stanning added: “We have a great working combination between the two of us and with our coach, Robin [Williams]. It’s exciting to get back in the boat every year, it’s not like putting old slippers on – they’re not worn out, there’s still lots to come.”
The strong pre-race favourites led from the first stroke. At the first 500m marker, they had already established a lead of over four seconds. At that stage, Ro Bradbury and Louisa Reeve led a pack of chasing pairs. Over the second 500m, Glover and Stanning again registered the quickest time, pulling out another four seconds on the Leander pair.
With the race all but in the bag, interest then centred on the fight for second place and in the third 500m, Jess Eddie and Polly Swann began to recover from their poor start. The London RC and Leander pair were third with 500m to go. In the last quarter, they moved up into second place. But there was no doubting the quality of Stanning and Glover’s winning performance. They crossed the line in a time of 7:13.4. Frances Houghton and Olivia Carnegie Brown rowed the fastest last 500m to take third place.
The quality of the field in the men’s pairs final was outstanding. It was reflected in a closely fought race won by Alex Gregory and Moe Sbihi. But though the Leander and Molesey pair had led from the first few strokes they came under real pressure in the last quarter from Constantine Louloudis and Pete Reed. At the line, the margin was less than a second.
Gregory and Sbihi showed genuine pace in the first quarter to lead a closely packed field by a length. And the Molesey and Leander pair continued to move away in the second quarter. Their lead at the halfway point was over three seconds.
Early in the contest, the Leander pair of Alan Sinclair and Stewart Innes had been in second place. But by the 1000m, George Nash and Will Satch had taken over as challengers to Gregory and Sbihi. The contest began to close up in the third quarter as Reed and Louloudis began to charge. Coming up to the final 500m the chasing pairs were bowball to bowball. The intensity of that contest was beginning to bring Gregory and Sbihi back to the field.
As the finish line approached, the bow of the Leander and Oxford University pair begun to creep ever closer. But Gregory and Sbihi knew that if they kept a cool head they would cross the line first. At the finish they were just half a length in front in a time of 6:31.24. Nash and Satch were a close third.
Sbihi, who has now won the last four GB Trials, said: “I’m very relieved, it’s a stressful couple of weeks leading into Trials so it’s nice to come away with a win.
“We had a great training camp, so we knew we were coming into the Trials in good shape, but everybody has been pushing us and I’m just happy to win for a third year in a row with Alex.
“I’m looking forward to the summer, it’s going to be fantastic to race in whatever boat we are selected for and go out to try and win an Olympic gold medal.”
The strength in depth in the men’s squad was demonstrated in the B final, where the experienced pair of Matt Langridge and Andrew T Hodge finished runners-up to World coxed pair champions Nathaniel Reilly-O’Donnell and Matt Tarrant.
Hodge said: “This is by no means a fair reflection on either of us and we’re struggling to understand why at the moment. It goes to show how strong the team is and it’s really great to be a part of that, massive congratulations to everyone who was out there in the A final – really, really great racing.”
Tarrant added: “We came out wanting to prove ourselves and put down a performance to show where we should be rather than where we currently are.”
1. Alan Campbell (Tideway Scullers’ School) 6:52.94
2. Graeme Thomas (Agecroft RC) 6:55.07
3. Angus Groom (Leander Club) 6:58.18
4. John Collins (Leander Club) 6:59.17
5. Jonny Walton (Leander Club) 7:00.05
6. Sam Townsend (Reading Univ BC) 7:01.57
1. Victoria Thornley (Leander Club) 7:34.14
2. Holly Nixon (Leander Club) 7:41.17
3. Tina Stiller (Tees RC) 7:43.75
4. Mathilda Hodgkins-Byrne (Reading Univ BC) 7:44.35
5. Jess Leyden (Leander Club) 7:50.18
6. Katie Greves (Leander Club) 7:55.97
2. Jamie Kirkwood (Leander Club) 7:14.76
3. Samuel Mottram (Leander Club) 7:19.34
4. Jonathan Jackson (Leander Club) 7:24.62
5. Zak Green-Lee (Agecroft RC) 7:25.21
6. John Hale (Imperial College BC) 7:33.67
1. Charlotte Taylor (Putney Town RC) 7:47.57
2. Kat Copeland (Tees RC) 7:47.99
3. Imogen Walsh (London RC) 7:51.54
5. Brianna Stubbs (Wallingford RC) 8:01.58
6. Emily Craig (Univ of London BC) 8:02.04
1. Peter Lambert (Leander Club) 6:59.28
2. Nick Middleton (Leander Club) 7:02.72
4. Rowan Law (Leander Club) 7:12.96
5. Jon Stimpson (Nottingham RC) 7:16.51
6. Frazier Christie (Leander Club) 7:23.54
3. William Warr (Leander Club)/Matt Rossiter (Leander Club) 6:43.86
5. George Rossiter (Leander Club)/Barnaby Stentiford (Leander Club) 6:52.93
6. Chris Boddy (Leander Club)/Thomas Ford (Leander Club) 7:02.27
1. Lucinda Gooderham (Leander Club) 7:55.84
2. Georgia Francis (Imperial College BC) 8:00.39
3. Emily Carmichael (Leander Club) 8:02.87
1 Fran Rawlins (Leander Club) 8:07.12
3. Robyn Hart-Winks (Edinburgh Univ Boat Club) 8:12.58
(As at Monday 21 March) Pairs listed from bow to stroke.
* denotes U23
Tom Barras (Leander Club/Staines/07.01.94)* MED – withdrawn
Alan Campbell (Tideway Scullers School/Coleraine/09.05.83)
Frazier Christie (Leander Club/Bath/11.01.93)
John Collins (Leander Club/Whitton/24.01.89)
Angus Groom (Leander Club/Glasgow/16.06.92)
Peter Lambert (Leander Club/Maidenhead/03.12.86)
Rowan Law (Leander Club/Nottingham/01.12.96)*
Harry Leask (Leander Club/Edinburgh/16.10.95)*
Nick Middleton (Leander Club/Henley-on-Thames/12.08.88)
George Stewart (Molesey BC/Esher/14.04.95)*
Jon Stimpson (Nottingham RC/Gex, France/18.07.90)
Graeme Thomas (Agecroft RC/Preston/08.11.88)
Sam Townsend (Reading Univ BC/Reading/26.11.85)
Sam Twine (Reading Univ BC/Tavistock/06.01.94)*
Jonny Walton (Leander Club/Leicester/06.10.90)
Chris Boddy (Leander Club/Thornaby-on-Tees/16.11.87)/Thomas Ford (Leander Club/Holmes Chapel/03.10.92)
Timothy Clarke (Leander Club/Henley-on-Thames/07.04.91)/Phil Congdon (Leander Club/Bury St Edmunds/06.06.89)
Rory Gibbs (Oxford Brookes Univ BC/Lane End/03.04.94)*/Matthew Aldridge (Oxford Brookes Univ BC/Christchurch/11.03.96)*
Michael Glover (Oxford Brookes Univ BC/Burnham/03.06.95)* /Morgan Bolding (Oxford Brookes Univ BC/Withiel/13.05.95)*
Luke Moon (Molesey BC/Deal/25.03.93)/Chris Heywood (Molesey BC/Ascot/29.05.94)*
George Rossiter (Leander Club/Newbury/09.03.92)/Barnaby Stentiford (Leander Club/Ippleden/06.02.91)
William Warr (Leander Club/Tunbridge Wells/12.03.92)/Matt Rossiter (Leander Club/Newbury/25.09.89)
Emily Carmichael (Leander Club/Cheltenham/29.05.92)
Debbie Flood (Leander Club/Guiseley/27.02.80) MED – withdrawn
Georgia Francis (Imperial College BC/Newbury/18.08.94)*
Katherine Grainger (St Andrew BC/Glasgow/12.11.75) (injured) MED – withdrawn
Lucinda Gooderham (Leander Club/Garboldisham/09.06.84)
Katie Greves (Leander Club/Oxford/02.09.82)
Mathilda Hodgkins-Byrne (Reading Univ BC/Hereford/01.10.94)*
Jessica Leyden (Leander Club/Todmorden/22.02.95)
Holly Nixon (Leander Club/Enniskillen/07.12.93
Tina Stiller (Tees RC/Yarm/23.06.87)
Victoria Thornley (Leander Club/Wrexham/30.11.87)
Zoe Lee (Imperial College BC/Richmond/15.12.85) MED – Withdrawn
Richard Chambers (Leander Club/Coleraine/10.06.85) (injured) MED – Withdrawn
John Hale (Imperial College BC/Cambridge/28.02.88)
Jonathan Jackson (Leander Club/Henley-on-Thames/02.06.95)*
Jamie Kirkwood (Leander Club/Newcastle/30.08.89)
Samuel Mottram (Leander Club/Stoke Mandeville/14.11.94)*
Sam Tuck (Molesey BC/Peterborough/26.07.93)
Kat Copeland (Tees RC/Stockton-on-Tees/01.12.90)
Emily Craig (Univ of London BC/Mark Cross/30.11.92)
Gemma Hall (Wallingford RC/Wargrave/10.04.92) MED – withdrawn
Robyn Hart-Winks (Edinburgh Univ BC/Kirriemuir/07.10.93)
Fran Rawlins (Leander Club/Uckfield/08.07.86)
Brianna Stubbs (Wallingford RC/Poole/13.07.91)
Charlotte Taylor (Putney Town RC/Bedford/14.08.85)
Imogen Walsh (London RC/Inverness/17.01.84)
Henry Fieldman (Molesey BC/Barnes/25.11.88)
Phelan Hill (Leander Club/Bedford/21.07.79)
Zoe De Toledo (Leander Club/London/17.07.87)
Matilda Horn (Univ of London BC/Windsor/16.08.92)
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