Great Britain claim four medals at U23 World Rowing Championships

All seven crews make A-Finals with four coming away with medals to see GB finish third in the medal table

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With three crews already having progressed to the A-Finals towards the end of the week, a further four crews qualified with one crew securing gold on Saturday in Racice, Czech Republic. Racing culminated on Sunday with the remaining A-Finals taking place.The British team finished in third place in the medal table, in what has been a fantastic week of racing and a brilliant learning experience for the young squad of rowers.

British Rowing’s Chief Coach for U23s and Juniors, Peter Sheppard, reflected on a fulfilling week of racing:

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“After a challenging 18 months the U23 team didn’t disappoint and delivered some exceptional results here in Racice. It was a first for GB to have all crews in the A-Finals and then to end up top of the table for the Olympic boat classes with three gold medals and a bronze medal was outstanding.

“Each crew delivered their best performance of the regatta in their respective final, indicating their intent for the future. I am sure we will see many of these athletes challenging for senior team places in the next 3 years as we close in on Paris 2024.

“A massive thanks should go to all the clubs and their coaches who have supported and prepared this team of athletes over the last 18 months through the various lockdowns.  Without the club coaches’ support and direction the team wouldn’t have delivered these performances this week.”

The first semi-final race to take place on Saturday was that of the women’s double, with Zoe Adamson and Katherine George representing Great Britain. All six crews competing got away clearly from the start line, with the German crew crossing the 500 metre mark and the halfway mark in first position. Adamson and Geroge, both of Leander Club, managed to put their bows in front of the Romanian crew at half distance to claim second place. The battle between the two crews continued throughout the remainder of the course all the way to the finish line. The British crew had to see off a late charge from Lithuania to finish in third and secure a spot in the A-Finals.

Up next was Oliver Costley and James Catwright in the men’s double. The Greece and German crews led in the early stages of the race, the British duo racing in lane six made a move at the halfway mark to edge their bows in front of the Spanish crew in third. The Spanish responded and both crews were racing side by side at the 1500m mark. However, in a superb race to the line the British duo were able to claim third and a place in the A-Finals.

Following close behind were the men’s four of Callum Sullivan, Matthew Rowe, Henry Blois-Brooke and Iwan Hadfiled. Sullivan, who had been selected in the men’s eight, was a late addition to the crew after Dan Graham, who had raced in the heats, woke up feeling unwell on Saturday morning. Racing in lane four, the British crew had a battle on their hands with the Irish who led at the first timing point. In yet another tightly contested category, the British crew challenged the Irish boat all the way down the course. They ended up having to settle for second, that was good enough to see them through to the A-Finals.

Lauren Henry also joined in on the fun in her single scull. The Swiss and French scullers had clear water over the rest of the pack heading into the second quarter of the race, with Henry battling it out with her Dutch rival for third spot. She was able to row through the Dutch sculler and was hunting down the top two. In the final stages of the race the GB sculler made a charge for the finish line and claimed second spot.

The men’s pair of Calvin Tarczy and Douwe De Graaf raced in the first A-Final on Saturday and they didn’t disappoint. The pair secured the first gold for Britain at the Championships. Having nudged their bow ball in front of the Turkey crew at the 600m mark, the former St Paul’s students kept their lead at the 1000 metre mark and crossed the finish line in first place.

The final day of racing in Racice was full of entertainment. Yet more good weather meant beautiful flat and calm water, with only the occasional flutter of a head win which meant perfect racing conditions.

The women’s four raced in the first A-Final of the day. Amelia Standing, Holly Dunford, Lettice Cabot and Daisy Bellamy represented the British contingent. It was a quick start for all crews, but the British boat racing in lane two just led in the first quarter of the race. Along with the crew from the US, they were able to open up a half length lead over the rest of the pack. The British crew crossed the first timing point just one second ahead of the US, with Chile in third place. They were able to maintain that lead, with the US crew narrowly closing the gap in the final stages. The British crew did enough to hold off the US charge and claimed the second gold for the GB team. Holly Dunford was also able to claim bragging rights over her University of Washington teammate, Tea Cohen, who was racing in the two seat for the US. The collegiates rowed together and took bronze in the women’s 8 at this year’s NCAA championships.

Up next was the men’s four of Callum Sullivan, Matthew Rowe, Henry Blois-Brooke and Iwan Hadfield. Great Britain, Ireland and Canada were all setting a similar pace in the first quarter. The Irish crew just edged out in the lead at the 500 metre mark, with Canada behind and then Britain in lane two. The top crews began to battle it out and were able to put clean water between themselves and the British crew into the third quarter. Russia mounted a challenge in the final stages of the race, but Britain were able to fight off the challenge to finish in third and claim a bronze medal.

Reflecting on the bronze medal and racing in an international event for the first time in two years, Iwan Hadfield said:

“It’s awesome to medal and any finish on the podium isn’t a bad day! Just to get out here on the start line was half of the battle this year and I am immensely proud of how the guys dealt with the situation that has been thrown at us. It’s nice to see the lockdown training paying off!

“It was a shame we couldn’t bring the whole team out with us, we tried to do them and everyone back home proud and hopefully that came across in the racing from the whole team.”

Racing in the women’s double in lane one, Zoe Adamson and Katherine George were in a tightly fought battle with the crews from Greece, Germany, Romania and the Netherlands all jostling for the medalist positions. At the 1000 metre mark the British crew just had their bows ahead in second, but by the end of the race the Romanian crew had rowed through. The British double finished fifth in the world.

In the final of the men’s double, Oliver Costley and James Cartwright were in 5th/6th position at 500m gone. However, Costley and Cartwright were able to push through in the 2nd half of the race to finish a very creditable fourth overall

Racing in lane five in her single scull, Lauren Henry pushed South African sculler Katherine Williamson all the way down the course with only five seconds separating the two. Henry launched a charge in the final 500 metres, but it was Williamson who claimed the bronze medal. Great racing from Henry saw her finish fourth in the world.

The final race of the Championships was eagerly anticipated and it didn’t disappoint: the men’s eights. Racing for the British crew were Noah Norman, Miles Beeson, Simon Nunayon, Tobias Schroder, Felix Drinkall, Callum Sullivan, Joshua Bowesman-Jones, Michael Dalton, and they were coxed by Scott Cockle.

It was the German crew that took an early lead over the Italians. At the first timing point the British crew found themselves just out of the medals in fourth. The US narrowly took the lead at the 1000 metre mark and stretched out a two seat lead. With 700 metres to go it was still really tight between the German, Italian and British crews. The British crew were able to row through Italy to claim third. The US were still leading with 500 metres to go, with nothing separating the British and German crews in second. In the dying stages the British crew just pipped the US to the finish line to take the gold and retain their U23 World Championship title.

After the celebrations had died down, we caught up with cox Scott Cockle:

“It felt great to be racing again especially after the year everyone has had, just like riding a bike. The competition has been top tier throughout, as you saw in the final everyone had a go and we just got the better of them on the last few strokes.

“Having missed out on gold by less than a second in 2019 in the coxed four, it feels amazing to be on the other side of it after all the hard work.”

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