Men’s eight become first British A finalists after strong third day of World Rowing Championships

The men’s eight became the first British crew to progress through to the A finals at the World Rowing Championships today as they put in a dominant performance to finish top of their heat

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GB's men's eight off the start line at the World Rowing Championships. Credit: Nick Middleton

The crew, of Tom George, James Rudkin, Josh Bugajski, Mohamed Sbihi, Jacob Dawson, Ollie Wynne-Griffith, Mat Tarrant, Tom Ford and cox Henry Fieldman, led from start to finish but had to contend with a big final sprint from the USA and Dutch crews in the final 500m, digging deep to cross the line in first place.

Double Olympic medallist Sbihi said: “Although we dominated the race, we had to scramble across the line. It’s something we can step on from though – I can’t complain, I’m definitely happy with the result.”

Wynne-Griffith added: “Overall, we’re happy to get the job done. It’s good to get the first race out of the way and be at the front of the pack. There are definitely things to work on but we had a goal and we executed it.”

After a tough heat, Jonny Walton, Jack Beaumont, Angus Groom and Pete Lambert went out with a point to prove in their repechage for the men’s quadruple sculls. They led the race from start to finish to win by almost a length and secure themselves a spot in the semi-final.

Reflecting on the race, Groom said: “That was a million percent better than the heat; we were very in control of ourselves and stuck in our own boat so we’re very happy with how we rowed it. There’s more to go, but this is a massive boost to the confidence.

“It’s our coach Paul [Stannard]’s wedding anniversary today so he said he needed a good present for his wife – hopefully we have given him one.”

Stannard was pleased with the crew’s performance, saying: “We didn’t give the performance in the heat that we had been putting out in training, but we did today.”

In their repechage, the women’s four of Sara Parfett, Emily Ford, Polly Swann and Holly Hill were locked in a battle with the New Zealand and Canadian crews for the top three spots. After the lead changed hands multiple times, the British crew crossed the line in second place to claim their place in the A/B semi-final.

Swann, who recently returned to the squad after completing her medical degree, said: “That was a really good race – hats off to the New Zealand crew. You can really tell that Olympic qualification is at stake this week because the racing’s really ferocious; you can’t rest on your laurels. This is a really good place to be though and we’re in a good position now to step up for the next one.”

With only one automatic qualification spot available for the A final, the heat for the women’s eight was predictably intense. The GB crew of Fiona Gammond, Zoe Lee, Jo Wratten, Hattie Taylor, Rowan McKellar, Rebecca Shorten, Karen Bennett, Holly Norton and cox Matilda Horn pushed the New Zealand boat hard all the way to the line, finishing up in second place to progress through to Thursday’s repechage.

Rio silver medallist Bennett was pleased with the performance: “That was a good start to the Championships for us and having an extra race in the rep won’t do us any harm. We had a great race but there’s lots to improve on so we’re looking forward to getting back out there.”

The women’s quad of Jess Leyden, Melissa Wilson, Mathilda Hodgkins Byrne and Charlotte Hodgkins Byrne put out a strong performance in a tough heat, finishing up in third place to move through to Wednesday’s repechage.

British Rowing Director of Performance Brendan Purcell said: “That was a very strong morning of racing from our big boats. The women’s four and men’s quad have refocused and reset after their heats and today showed the field the quality they possess. It’ll be exciting now to see how they can challenge for A final places in the semi-finals.

“As always, the women’s quadruple sculls is a tough event. Our quad put forward a strong race and are quality athletes who will work hard to achieve their spot in the semi-finals.

“The women’s eight put out a really strong performance against the class New Zealand eight and set their standard as one of the quickest crews on the field. The men’s eight built on their position from Rotterdam and qualified straight through to the A final, where they’ll go head to head with the German eight. I’m sure the athletes, coaches and the rest of the team are really looking forward to that battle.”

Tomorrow sees nine GB crews take on the quarter finals and repechages, starting with the women’s pair at 09:49 BST. You can watch all the races live on www.worldrowing.com.