Rowers have “another gear to go” ahead of crunch Trials finals
Olympic medallist Mohamed Sbihi says that he and Olympic gold medallist Alex Gregory, favourites to win the men’s pair final at the GB Rowing Team’s Olympic-season trials, have “another gear to go” after their semi-final win today.
Sbihi said of their win: “We had the objective to go hard out of the blocks and stick to doing our own thing. We got the rewards over the first 500m and then were able to settle into a nice rhythm, relax and kick out”.
Alan Sinclair and Stewart Innes put in a sizzling performance to take second behind Gregory and Sbihi in a semi which, by contrast, held heartache for 2012 men’s four champion Andrew T Hodge and World silver medallist Matt Langridge. The duo did not have enough in the tank in the closing 350m to nudge into third place, taken by Tom Ransley and Scott Durant, and will race a B final instead.
The scene is now set not only for a men’s pair final crammed with World and Olympic medallists but some cracking racing across the board as the pressure mounts on potential Olympic places.
Emerging talent Angus Groom and 2012 bronze medallist Alan Campbell look set to lock horns in the men’s single scull final having won their semis today respectively. John Collins, Sam Townsend, Graeme Thomas and Jonny Walton will also fancy their chances as recent World medallists or finalists in sculling events.
Campbell said: “I’m feeling very good and happy with it but it’s all to play for tomorrow”. Both men know that a fit Charles Cousins, winner of the past two trials, would have presented a challenge. Cousins has recently had back surgery for an injury that has scuppered his chances of racing in Rio but is determined to battle back to fitness and mount a Tokyo campaign.
Another tight contest could unroll in the lightweight women’s single scull. Charlotte Taylor, Kat Copeland and Imogen Walsh were involved in an almost blanket final last time round and with only two seats at the Olympics for this group of rowers the pressure is intense. Taylor and Walsh won the two semis today.
Will Fletcher looked the strongest of the lightweight men’s single scullers in winning his semi-final from defending champion Jamie Kirkwood but there is still all to play for tomorrow with Zak Lee Green and Sam Mottram in the mix.
Helen Glover and Heather Stanning were, as expected, consummate winners of their women’s pair semi-final and are certainly strong favourites to win. They had an early run-out against their expected strongest opposition in Jess Eddie and Polly Swann today and the two pairs will clash again tomorrow.
Sir David Tanner, Performance Director of the GB Rowing Team, said: “They have been fantastic conditions to race in today and what we’ve seen is the depth we’ve got in our squads, in most of the events, especially the open weight ones. It’s great to see so many competitive women’s pairs as well as men’s, and the singles on the men’s side are really good. We’ll have an interesting day of finals.
“Having qualified 12 boats for the Olympics it means we have some choices to make. So even if you look down a little bit, in several events down the final, or even not quite in it, they could still make the Games and arguably do well. It’s where we are and it’s competitive stuff.”
115 rowers are contesting these trials with just 48 Olympic places on offer. Tomorrow’s racing takes place from 10-12.00.
Defending champion Vicky Thornley dominated her semi-final of the women’s single scull, having generated an early lead. Mathilda Hodgkins-Bryne trailed her in second place throughout with Katie Greves seeing off the challenge of Emily Carmichael in the final 500m to take the third quafliying slot. Thornley’s winning time was 7:58.59.
Thornley said: ”It’s been a good day. My time trial was a solid piece this morning. I had control of the semi-final so it allowed me to focus on my technique and feel how the boat was moving. The final is where I’m going to push on. I generally have a good start so I’ll be sticking to my race plan and seeing that through to the finish.”
In the earlier semi-final Holly Nixon started brightly and took a half-length lead over Jess Leyden but the former World Junior Champion had reversed that by half-way to ease into the lead. Leyden went on to win in 7:57.02 with Nixon briefly challenged by Tina Stiller who dropped back in the final quarter.
Leyden said of her win: “I was quite surprised but singles racing is an event in itself. I’m excited about tomorrow. It’s the one time of the year that we get to test over 2km on water, which is what we are here for. Tomorrow, I’m going to stick to my race plan and see where I come.”
Nixon said: “I think I am in pretty good shape coming into the trials compared to last year and it’s been a good day. If anything I am just really happy to be here. It is a real honour to race alongside such great athletes and it is a great experience for me as well. I am taking it step at a time and am just aiming to get the best position I can tomorrow.”
Groom said: “I’m happy and pretty confident. I didn’t have to sprint in that one. I’m in a much better place physically and mentally than last year when I came fourth. There’s no reason why I can’t finish higher than that”.
Behind him it was tight, tight, tight between Jonny Walton and Graeme Thomas. With 350m to go Walton seemed to have the upper hand, holding a two-thirds advantage. At that stage Thomas looked over his shoulder and picked up the pace to surge past Walton., with Peter Lambert dropping off the pace to take fourth.
Walton was still pleased with his performance, saying: “I’m quite pleased with that race as it is my first Senior A final. It was a tough semi-final to get that third spot against the other three guys. Tomorrow, I just want to build on that row. There are definitely bits to work on. I was pleased with the middle bit but it’s about putting it all together.”
Campbell, meanwhile, was closely tracked by John Collins before taking victory in 7:17.74. Sam Townsend, holding third throughout, put in a strong final quarter to pip Collins and take second on the line.
In a somewhat processional opening semi of the lightweight women’s single scull, Imogen Walsh led Olympic double scull champion Kat Copeland to take the win in 8:13.45 with a big gap back to Emily Craig in third.
Charlotte Taylor took the honours in the second semi-final of this event in a time of 8:21.09 with Ellie Piggott in second and Brianna Stubbs in third, setting up the chance of another tight battle between Taylor, Walsh and Copeland in tomorrow’s final. Piggott held her form throughout but could not find the pace to close the gap on Taylor.
Four years ago Taylor was completely unknown at this level. She said: “If I had just imagined racing Olympic Trials four years ago I would have been over the moon. This is a privilege.
“The thing was just setting myself up for tomorrow – today is important but tomorrow is the main event. It’s always really tight in our event and everyone is always so close. I think it will be right to the line like last year.”
Will Fletcher and Zak Lee Green won the two lightweight men’s single semi-finals. Fletcher’s was the more comfortable of the two victories in a time of 7:33,26. The 2015 World lightweight men’s double silver medallist was ahead by 500m gone and held a gap of five and a half seconds at the 1500m mark over Jamie Kirkwood, twice a previous winner at these trials. Jonathan Jackson was third.
Tension is high in the GB open women’s sweep squad currently with a tough battle for the seats in the women’s eight. Donna Etiebet and Vicky Meyer-Laker produced a strong first half to the opening semi-final of the women’s pair.
On the opposite side of the lake to the training centre they held a slender lead to halfway over Frances Houghton and Olivia Carnegie-Brown on the boat-house side. Between them Karen Bennett and Melanie Wilson were chipping away at each other.
As the second half unfolded it became clear that Houghton and Carnegie-Brown had enough in the tank to pull away and eke out the win in 7:40.30. As Etiebet and Meyer-Laker faltered Bennett and Wilson stepped up to take second. All three crews will now do battle again tomorrow with Gammond and Holly Norton into the B Final.
By contrast the winner of the second semi-final always looked likely to be Helen Glover and Heather Stanning – the World, Olympic and European Champions. They were ahead early, found a four second margin over Jess Eddie and Polly Swann and held that advantage to the end to win in 7:32.17. Behind them, Louisa Reeve and Ro Bradbury bagged the third qualifying slot.
Alan Sinclair and Stewart Innes put in a sparkling performance in the men’s pair semi-finals to take second to event favourites Alex Gregory and Mohamed Sbihi. The duo looked strong and held their rhythm throughout. Small wonder that they roared in triumph as they went over the line as behind them were two class pairs.
Tom Ransley and Scott Durant were in third throughout and held on to their position despite continual pressure from Matt Langridge and Andrew T Hodge who now race the B Final. For 20 strokes in the final 500m it looked as if double Olympic champion Hodge and World silver medallist Langridge were about to mount a challenge before running out of gears. They now race the B final.
Pete Reed and Constantine Louloudis controlled the second semi-final of the men’s pair by moving up into the lead at halfway and then holding out against strong pressure from 2012 Olympic men’s pair bronze medallists Will Satch and George Nash. In turn Satch and Nash were challenged throughout by Matt Gotrel and Paul Bennett. These three pairs moved through into tomorrow’s final with Nathaniel Reilly O’Donnell and Matt Tarrant edged out in the final 500m. Reed and Louloudis took the victory in 6:42.99 to Gregory and Sbihi’s 6:43.83.
Satch said: “It’s nice to finally do some side-by-side racing but I don’t like it so much when it’s against your team-mates. The squad is so just so strong, everyone is right on your tails and some guys have missed out on the A final. It is the Olympic Trials but at the end of the day, you have to remember it is just another test.”
SF A/B 1
1. Angus Groom (Leander Club) 7:10.56
2. Graeme Thomas (Agecroft RC) 7:12.02
3. Jonny Walton (Leander Club) 7:13.79
4. Peter Lambert (Leander Club) 7:21.86
5. Rowan Law (Leander Club) 7:38.19
6. Jon Stimpson (Nottingham RC) 7:46.02
SF A/B 2
1. Alan Campbell (Tideway Scullers’ School) 7:17.74
2. Sam Townsend (Reading Univ BC) 7:18.95
3. John Collins (Leander Club) 7:19.92
5. Nick Middleton (Leander Club) 7:31.58
6. Frazier Christie (Leander Club) 7:52.91
SF A/B 1
5. Chris Boddy (Leander Club) / Thomas Ford (Leander Club) 7:08.62
6. George Rossiter (Leander Club) / Barnaby Stentiford (Leander Club) 7:11.30
SF A/B 2
6. William Warr (Leander Club) / Matt Rossiter (Leander Club) 7:24.62
SF A/B 1
1. Jess Leyden (Leander Club) 7:57.02
2. Holly Nixon (Leander Club) 7:58.78
3. Tina Stiller (Tees RC) 8:03.17
4. Lucinda Gooderham (Leander Club) 8:07.95
SF A/B 2
2. Mathilda Hodgkins-Byrne (Reading Univ BC) 8:03.82
3. Katie Greves (Leander Club) 8:07.33
4. Emily Carmichael (Leander Club) 8:13.98
5. Georgia Francis (Imperial College BC) 8:23.05
SF A/B 1
SF A/B 2
SF A/B 1
1. Zak Lee Green (Agecroft RC) 7:38.07
2. Samuel Mottram (Leander Club) 7:39.67
3. John Hale (Imperial College BC) 7:44.41
4. Sam Tuck (Molesey BC) 7:45.09
SF A/B 2
2. Jamie Kirkwood (Leander Club) 7:36.15
3. Jonathan Jackson (Leander Club) 7:41.97
SF A/B 1
1. Imogen Walsh (London RC) 8:13.45
2. Kat Copeland (Tees RC) 8:15.82
3. Emily Craig (Univ of London BC) 8:27.12
4. Fran Rawlins (Leander Club) 8:36.11
5. Robyn Hart-Winks (Edinburgh Univ Boat Club) 8:42.84
SF A/B 2
1. Charlotte Taylor (Putney Town RC) 8:21.09
3. Brianna Stubbs (Wallingford RC) 8:36.24
2. Sam Twine (Reading Univ Boat Club) 7:30.29
3. George Stewart (Molesey BC) 7:32.71
3. Timothy Clarke (Leander Club) / Phil Congdon (Leander Club) 6:58.29
4. Adam Neil (Leander Club) / Cameron Buchan (Leander Club) 6:59.35
5. Luke Moon (Molesey BC) / Chris Heywood (Molesey BC) 7:01.33
(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)*
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)
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)
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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