GB Rowing Team Triumph on Final Day of 2021 European Championships
Gold for Glover & Swann in W2-, plus the men’s four, men’s 8, PR2 Mix2x and PR3 Mix4+
Story of the day
It was a successful finals day in Varese, Italy, with Great Britain winning 12 medals and leading the medal table at the European Rowing Championships. The Olympic rowers won three gold, three silver and three bronze, while the para crews came away with one silver and two golds.
Cementing her historic return to rowing in winning style was Helen Glover, who, racing with Polly Swann in the women’s pair (W2-), looked like she had never been away. The pair led the field throughout and secured a thrilling victory.
Commenting on winning the gold medal Glover said: “Coming into the race we decided that the middle 1,000m is where we really wanted to be strong, and we really felt in control during that section. Maybe that just left us missing a gear at the end, but I’m just really happy that we dug in and got the result. One big gain is by doing this race – far, far more questions would have been answered just by us winning this race. I was literally thinking today “Am I going to make it down the track?”, which is silly because I do it in training every day, but just something about racing makes those doubts come to the surface. But I’ve squashed all those down, and I can move forward in being the athlete I know I am, and also into being the athlete I want to be as well.”
She continued: “I said to my mum that if she can video the kids watching that would be great, but I don’t know if she will have managed that with the technology and with three little ones around! But that win was for Logan, Kit and Bo and I hope they enjoyed it.”
Swann added: “It’s been a long winter, so just to come out and race again – especially with Helen after we last raced together in 2013 – it feels pretty epic. I don’t think we came here expecting to win – we expected to have speed, but it’s really nice to put the cherry on top of the cake and win.”
Also picking up gold with a dominant performance were the men’s four (M4-) of Ollie Cook, Rory Gibbs, Matt Rossiter and Sholto Carnegie. Commenting on the race Cook said: “It was good. It’s our first race since the World Championships in September 2019 – so from the heats to the semi-finals to today, it was just a case of blowing out the cobwebs a bit and getting used to being on the start line again, having that adrenaline pumping through you. Hearing the buzzer go and being able to execute a race plan has been good to step through again, although there’s lots more to come still which is really exciting.”
The Men’s eight (M8+) we’re also delighted to bring home gold. Speaking immediately after the race, Oliver Wynne-Griffith said: “That felt really composed. We didn’t get out to the best start, but no one panicked and we found a rhythm. We know what worked for us from the race for lanes, and the boys just dug in. There were some really good shouts from the middle of the boat, Henry coxed it really well and kept letting us know where we were, and we just built as we went down the track. It’s nice to get a win in the first race of the season – obviously it’s been 20 months.”
“Overall, the team has done really well – the boys in the four obviously absolutely smashed it, so it just seems like everyone’s gone away and put in the hard work over lockdown and right now we’re seeing it come to fruition. Obviously, this is only the start though, and we’ve just got to keep building.”
The Para Crews set the tone at the start of the day bringing in a silver medal in the PR1 M1x for Benjamin Pritchard and golds in both the PR2 Mix2x for Lauren Rowles and Laurence Whiteley and the PR3 Mix4x for Ellen Buttrick, Giedre Rakauskaite, James Fox, Ollie Stanhope and Erin Kennedy (cox).
Commenting on being the first British Paralympic crews to win gold at a European Championship, Rowles said: “It feels incredible. I can’t quite express it in words as it’s a moment in the history books – we are now the Paralympic, World and European Champions – to hold all three titles at once is truly special. It’s everything I’ve worked on during my career, and Laurence and I have been working on – building our legacy as a duo – and ever since 2016 we knew we were capable of it. So, to go out there today and mark our moment in the history books is just the most special thing.”
Elsewhere there were silver medals for Vicky Thornley in the women’s single sculls (W1x), Imogen Grant and Emily Craig in the lightweight women’s double scull (LW2x) and the Women’s Quad (W4x) of Mathilda Hodgkins-Byrne, Hannah Scott, Charlotte Hodgkins-Byrne and Lucy Glover.
The women’s double (W2x) of Saskia Budgett and Holly Nixon, the men’s double (M2x) of John Collins and Graeme Thomas and the women’s four (W4-) of Rowan McKellar, Harriet Taylor, Karen Bennett and Rebecca Shorten all picked up bronze medals.
Summarising the day’s racing, British Rowing Director of Performance Brendan Purcell said: “It’s been a collectively outstanding performance, with many of the crews excelling in pretty tough racing conditions. We’ve got a really exciting group of coaches, stepping into key leadership roles, who have done a fantastic job across the board to instil a strong sense of belief into our rowers and they really came out all guns blazing today.”
Race by race recap
The men’s pair of Harry Glenister and Morgan Bolding got things underway for the GB Rowing Team, racing in the B final of the men’s pair. The new look crew got out in front off the start, and laid down a powerful rhythm to row away from the rest of the field and take first place.
Having secured seventh place overall in the men’s pair, Harry Glenister said: “We’re slightly disappointed obviously not to be in the A final, but we did what we needed to do today. We’ve also got the qualification regatta in a month’s time so beating some of the guys who are going to be there means we’re pretty happy with that row.”
Looking ahead to the Final Olympic Qualification Regatta, Glenister said: “We’re feeling quite confident – we’ve just got to get out training done over the next month and turn up in good shape.”
Matthew Haywood was next down the track, racing in the B final of the men’s single sculls. The Nottingham RC sculler put in a gutsy performance, rowing through the home favourite from Italy and pushing Romania and Belarus to the line to take third place.
Reflecting on his ninth place finish overall for the weekend, Matthew said: “I’ve done well, I’ve done myself proud. I’m a little bit annoyed with that race as I thought I could have done slightly better, but I wouldn’t change anything I’ve done.”
Benjamin Pritchard led the way in the A finals for the GB Rowing Team, delivering the first silverware of the weekend with a second place finish in the PR1 men’s single sculls. Looking back on a year dominated by injury and rehab, Benjamin said: “Earlier in the week I said that getting to the A final was the main aim, and here I am on the middle step! Hopefully by Tokyo I’ll be one step further up if training goes well.”
Racing in the A final of the lightweight women’s single sculls, Maddie Arlett of Edinburgh University Boat Club took a hard-earned fifth place in a highly competitive event.
The PR2 mixed double scull of Lauren Rowles and Laurence Whiteley were up next, looking to add another gold medal to their growing collection. The defending World and Paralympic Champions took an early lead, and powered away from the field to take a well-deserved first place finish.
Speaking after the race, Lauren said: “It feels incredible. I can’t quite express it in words as it’s a moment in the history books – first ever Paralympic, World and European Champions – to hold all three titles at once is truly special. It’s everything I’ve worked on during my career, and Laurence and I have been working on – building our legacy as a duo – and ever since 2016 we knew we were capable of it. So to go out there today and mark our moment in the history books is just the most special thing.”
The PR3 mixed coxed four followed suit, bringing home another gold medal courtesy of another dominant performance. Ollie Stanhope, stroke of the four, said: “It feels really good – it’s really good to cross the last one off as a crew as we’ve got Paralympic Champions on board, World Champions, and it’s nice to just get that third one in there [as European Champions].”
“I think we set a really nice rhythm off the start so it just felt relatively easy to 1km, and then the lungs started burning, but we had a really good finish as well so it’s good to have nailed that one.”
In one of the stories of the Championships, Helen Glover and Polly Swann added their gold to the GB Rowing Team’s growing tally with a commanding row in the final of the women’s pair. Speaking afterwards, Glover said: ‘“Taking the race bit by bit, the middle 1000m is what we really wanted to be strong on today, and the middle of the race felt quite in control. Maybe that just left us missing a gear at the end, but I’m just really happy with the result overall.”
“I said to my mum that if she can video the kids watching that would be great, but I don’t know if she will have managed that with the technology and with three little ones around! But hello to Logan, Kit and Bo – that was all for you so I hope you enjoyed it!”
Polly Swann added: “It’s been a long winter, so just to come out and race again – especially with Helen after we last raced together in 2013 – it feels pretty epic. I don’t think we came here expecting to win – we expected to have speed, but it’s really nice to put the cherry on top of the cake and win.”
The women’s double were next down the track, and senior debutant Saskia Budgett combined with Holly Nixon to deliver a fantastic bronze medal. Speaking after, Saskia said: “I just had no idea where we were, and in that last 750m Holly was just shouting “squeeze, squeeze!” I just had my head in the boat and pushed as hard as I could, having no idea where we were.”
“When we crossed the line I just hoped that it was enough, and we didn’t know where we’d come for ages – so finally when they said we were in third, I just burst into tears. Holly and I have been through such a journey and I’m just so happy for both of us.”
“We have so much trust in each other and just took that one right to the line, and I’m just so proud of Holly.”
“It means so much – it means everything. We’ve worked so hard this past year and in the last few weeks together, and I think this shows how much trust we’ve been putting into each other.”
“It’s such a whirlwind – this is my first senior regatta so I didn’t really know what to expect, and this is just more than I could have ever asked for.”
The men’s double matched the performance of their women’s squad counterparts, bringing home a well-deserved bronze medal in a close-run final.
Graeme Thomas, stroke man of the double, said: “We had no idea where we’d come – a classic men’s double sculls blanket finish – but we’re really pleased to get on the podium. It’s been a long time and we’ve missed out a few times, like in Linz in 2019 when we got fourth place, so to be on the right side of things is really great.”
“We’ve been going well in training and in the team speed order we placed quite highly, so we knew we had speed, but you don’t know what everyone else will be doing. You don’t know whether they’ve found speed, lost speed or whatever, so we’re just happy to be in the mix. There’s plenty to work on still, but today’s a good stake in the ground.”
“All the feelings – the nerves, the anxiety – all feel so distant when you’re in lockdown, but now it’s real and here we are enjoying it, with a smile on my face behind my mask.”
In the women’s four, the new-look crew of Rowan McKellar, Hattie Taylor, Karen Bennett and Rebecca Shorten brought home a comfortable bronze medal, racing out ahead alongside Ireland and the Netherlands inside the first kilometre and holding on confidently to take third.
It was then the turn of the men’s coxless four, which saw the return of 2019 European Champions Ollie Cook, Rory Gibbs, Matt Rossiter and Sholto Carnegie. Almost two years later, the four put in another dominant performance to claim gold ahead of a field packed with talent and experience.
Speaking after the medal presentation, Ollie Cook said: “It was good. It’s our first race since the World Championships in September 2019 – so from the heats to the semi-finals to today, it was just a case of blowing out the cobwebs a bit and getting used to being on the start line again, having that adrenaline pumping through you. Hearing the buzzer go and being able to execute a race plan has been good to step through again, although there’s lots more to come still which is really exciting.”
Imogen Grant and Emily Craig were next down the course, racing in the final of the lightweight women’s double scull. In a fast and furious 2000m, the double held off attacks from across the field to take home a silver medal, adding it to their World Rowing Championships bronze from 2019.
Emily Craig said: “I think it was actually a really good race – we talked a lot about just sticking to our race plan and doing our own thing, as that’s what is going to get us from A to B the fastest.”
“We had kind of an average heat, a good semi and felt we had another gear to give, but to be honest I’m just so gutted that we couldn’t quite pip the Italians and get the gold. But we stuck to our race plan, and couldn’t have given it any more to be honest.”
“This is our first race since 2019, and Worlds in 2019 was our first race together in this combination, so that’s really exciting. And I think the whole experience of lockdown has really bonded us as a crew – and with our coach as well, Darren – and we just have so much clarity that I know we’ll take this weekend and turn it into something incredible.”
The new-look women’s quad then had their turn to race, breaking out into an early lead alongside Germany and the Netherlands. With a strong last 750m and cool heads all round, they crossed the line in second place and take home a well-deserved silver medal.
With a successful senior international debut now under her belt, Hannah Scott said: “At the end there I can tell we were just catching the Dutch and we were just trying to get our legs down fast enough to catch them, but for our crew which has only been together a couple of weeks now, at this stage in the Olympiad, I’m pretty proud of us right now.”
“As a crew, I’ve never trusted a boat as much as I trust this one. The girls who I’m in there with – we race each other every day in practice and they’re my biggest competitors, so if we can race each other then we can race anyone out there together.”
The men’s quad then roared out of the start at 13.36 BST, taking fifth place in a tight finish. Jack Beaumont spoke about the learnings the crew will take away from the regatta: “It was a really hard race against some of the best crews in the world. For our first regatta in a long time I think we showed some positives, and now for the next training block we’ve got a lot of time to make the improvements we need to hopefully get onto the podium.”
Following up was the women’s eight of Sara Parfett, Rebecca Edwards, Chloe Brew, Emily Ford, Katherine Douglas, Caragh McMurtry, Beccy Muzerie, Fiona Gammond and Matilda Horn (cox). After a close race in Friday’s race for lanes, the eight pushed Russia all the way to the finish line but narrowly missed out on a podium finish, ultimately taking fourth place.
Beccy Muzerie said afterwards: “It was a really tough race. We said we were going to go out hard and we absolutely did.”
“It’s always nice to go home with a medal, but we turned it round from where we were on Friday. We absolutely gave it everything we could and were in the race much more than we were on Friday, so there are some real positives to take onwards and upwards from here.”
In the penultimate race of the day, Vicky Thornley took to the course in the final of the women’s single sculls. Giving everything over the 2000m course, Thornley took a silver medal and spoke of good learnings picked up for the coming Olympic season: “It’s not quite the position I wanted to finish in and it was a bit too big of a gap to be honest. I felt like there were a few mistakes, but generally I did make the changes that I wanted to make from the semi-finals. In a way that’s definitely a positive to take away, and just remembering that this is our first race of the year and we’re building through the season – so that was definitely a good step on from the semi-final and a good place to start the season I think.”
“We’ll race again hopefully in six weeks time in Lucerne, and there’s a lot of work to do between now and then, and if that’s another step on from here then that’ll be good. And hopefully more crews from outside of Europe will come and race there, so that could give a bit more guidance as to how things are before Tokyo.”
Rounding off proceedings for the weekend was the GB men’s eight, racing in the final against Germany, Romania, Netherlands and Italy. Down at the 1000m mark, the men’s eight made a move at around 1200m to row through the Germans and away from the rest of the field. Continuing to pull away from the Germans, the eight then held off pushes from Romania and the Netherlands to take home a fantastic gold medal.
Looking back on the race, Ollie Wynne-Griffiths said: “That felt really composed. Obviously we didn’t get out to the best start, but no one panicked and we found a rhythm. We know what works for us from the race for lanes, and the boys just dug in. There were some really good shouts from the middle of the boat, Henry coxed it really well and kept letting us know where we were, and we just built as we went down the track.”
“The team’s done really well – the boys in the four obviously absolutely smashed it, so it just seems like everyone’s gone away and put in the hard work over lockdown and right now we’re seeing it come to fruition. Obviously this is only the start though, and we’ve just got to keep building.”
Crews and times
|PR1 Men’s Single (PR1 M1x)||Benjamin Pritchard (City of Swansea RC / Swansea)||9:34.06||Silver|
|PR2 Mixed Double (PR2 Mix2x)||Lauren Rowles (Worcester RC / Bromsgrove), Laurence Whiteley (Tees RC / Northallerton)||8:17.69||Gold|
|PR3 Mixed Coxed Four (PR3 Mix 4+)||Ellen Buttrick (Leeds RC / Leeds), Giedre Rakauskaite (Worcester RC / Worcester), James Fox (Univ. of London BC / Peterborough), Ollie Stanhope (Molesey BC / London), Erin Kennedy (Leander Club / Wantage)||6:52.14||Gold|
|Women’s Pair (W2-)||Helen Glover (Marlow RC / Penzance), Polly Swann (Univ. of Edinburgh & Leander Club / Edinburgh)||7:02.73||Gold|
|Men’s Pair (M2-)||Harry Glenister (Leander Club / Princes Risborough), Morgan Bolding (Oxford Brookes University /Withiel)||6:35.82||7th|
|Women’s Double (W2x)||Holly Nixon (Leander Club / Enniskillen), Saskia Budgett (Tideway Scullers’ School / Acton)||6:55.13||Bronze|
|Men’s Double (M2x)||John Collins (Leander Club / Twickenham), Graeme Thomas (Agecroft RC / Preston)||6:14.77||Bronze|
|Lightweight Women’s Single (LW1x)||Madeleine Arlett (Edinburgh Univ. BC / Selkirk)||7:53.43||5th|
|Women’s Four (W4-)||Rowan McKellar (Leander Club / Glasgow), Harriet Taylor (Sir William Perkins’s School BC / Sunningdale), Karen Bennett (Leander Club / Edinburgh), Rebecca Shorten (Imperial College BC / Belfast)||6:31.27||Bronze|
|Men’s Four (M4-)||Oliver Cook (Univ. of London BC / Windsor), Matthew Rossiter (Leander Club / Newbury), Rory Gibbs (Oxford Brookes University / Marlow), Sholto Carnegie (Leander Club / Oxford)||5:56.49||Gold|
|Women’s Single (W1x)||Vicky Thornley (Leander Club / Wrexham)||7:36.17||Silver|
|Men’s Single (M1x)||Matthew Haywood (Nottingham RC / Nottingham)||7:04.42||9th|
|Lightweight Women’s Double (LW2x)||Emily Craig (University of London BC / Mark Cross), Imogen Grant (Cambridge Univ. Women’s BC / Cambridge)||6:59.56||Silver|
|Lightweight Men’s Double (LM2x)||Jamie Copus (Oxford Brookes Univ BC / Oxford), Samuel Mottram (Leander Club / Stoke Mandeville)||DNS||DNS|
|Women’s Quad (W4x)||Mathilda Hodgkins-Byrne (Reading Univ. BC / Hereford), Hannah Scott (Leander Club / Coleraine), Charlotte Hodgkins-Byrne (University of London BC / Hereford), Lucy Glover (Edinburgh Univ BC / Warrington)||6:23.24||Silver|
|Men’s Quad (M4x)||Harry Leask (Leander Club / Edinburgh), Angus Groom (Leander Club / Glasgow), Thomas Barras (Leander Club / Staines), Jack Beaumont (Leander Club / Maidenhead)||5:47.19||5th|
|Women’s Eight (W8+)||Sara Parfett (University of London BC / Rochester), Rebecca Edwards (Leander Club / Aughnacloy), Chloe Brew (Leander Club / Plymouth), Emily Ford (Leander Club / Holmes Chapel), Katherine Douglas (Leander Club / Edinburgh), Caragh McMurtry (Southampton Coalporters ARC / Southampton), Beccy Muzerie (Molesey BC / Fareham), Fiona Gammond (Leander Club / Bicester), Matilda Horn (cox) (Univ. of London BC/Windsor)||6:18.72||4th|
|Men’s Eight (M8+)||Josh Bugajski (Oxford Brookes Univ. BC / Stockport), Jacob Dawson (Leander Club / Plymouth), Thomas George (Leander Club / Cheltenham), Mohamed Sbihi (Molesey BC / Surbiton), Charles Elwes (Leander Club / Andover), Oliver Wynne-Griffith (Leander Club / Guildford), James Rudkin (Newcastle Univ. BC / Litchborough), Thomas Ford (Leander Club / Holmes Chapel), Henry Fieldman (cox) (Leander Club / London)||5:30.86||Gold|
- PR1 Men’s Single (PR1 M1x)
- Benjamin Pritchard (City of Swansea RC / Swansea)
- Lightweight Women’s Single (LW1x)
- Madeleine Arlett (Edinburgh Univ. BC / Selkirk)
- Men’s Single (M1x)
- Matthew Haywood (Nottingham RC / Nottingham)
- Women’s Eight (W8+)
- Sara Parfett (University of London BC / Rochester), Rebecca Edwards (Leander Club / Aughnacloy), Chloe Brew (Leander Club / Plymouth), Emily Ford (Leander Club / Holmes Chapel), Katherine Douglas (Leander Club / Edinburgh), Caragh McMurtry (Southampton Coalporters ARC / Southampton), Beccy Muzerie (Molesey BC / Fareham), Fiona Gammond (Leander Club / Bicester), Matilda Horn (cox) (Univ. of London BC/Windsor)
- Men’s Eight (M8+)
- Josh Bugajski (Oxford Brookes Univ. BC / Stockport), Jacob Dawson (Leander Club / Plymouth), Thomas George (Leander Club / Cheltenham), Mohamed Sbihi (Molesey BC / Surbiton), Charles Elwes (Leander Club / Andover), Oliver Wynne-Griffith (Leander Club / Guildford), James Rudkin (Newcastle Univ. BC / Litchborough), Thomas Ford (Leander Club / Holmes Chapel), Henry Fieldman (cox) (Leander Club / London)