Rowing: Grubor ready to grab his chance in Redgrave's four

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The Independent Online
THE British rowing team, which finished second overall last year, has sent its strongest line-up of boats to contest all of the 14 Olympic events in the first of the three Krombacher World Cup regattas here this weekend.

Steve Redgrave returns for his 18th senior season, once again in the coxless four which won the inaugural World Cup in 1977.

Two weeks ago Tim Foster, a founder member of the unbeaten four, was forced to stop rowing after putting his hand through a plate glass window at a party. He has been replaced by Luka Grubor who obtained British citizenship recently after becoming the first Croatian to row for Oxford when he was picked for the 1997 Boat Race.

Since leaving Oxford last summer he has been training at Leander Club in Henley, alongside the four. It is a notable vote of confidence by Redgrave and his colleagues in the four, Matt Pinsent and James Cracknell, to pick Grubor who finished ninth in the coxless pairs trials in April, but who did well in seat races at the Docks earlier this month.

Other more senior oarsmen are scattered through the crews established at the beginning of May and were left alone, to avoid disruption, while Grubor makes his mark. They will face two Croatian fours, but the strongest challenge is likely to come from the Romanian crew which finished third in the world last year.

The best of the rest of the men's team are in the eight coached, as in 1997 when they finished fourth, by Martin MacIlroy. They will race five crews from last year's championship final and have several changes including last year's coxless pair, Ben Hunt Davis and Bobby Thatcher, as well as the 1997 bronze medallists, Ed Coode and Stephen Trapmore. They are joined by Andrew Lindsay, who finished third in the pairs trials a week after losing the Boat Race with Oxford.

The World Cup, now in its second year and fully sponsored, has pulled all the top international crews into one three-regatta series in the European summer season. In the past, team managers played cat and mouse looking for the right level of preparation and competition in several venues. Now there is no choice. Thirty-two nations, including crews from Argentina, Brazil, and Cuba, will be joined in three weeks time at Hazenwinkel and Lucerne by Australia and New Zealand and all the North Americans.

The British women's squad is expected to continue its revival under the chief coach, Mike Spracklen, after good results at Duisburg two weeks ago. The pair of Dot Blackie and Cath Bishop have been moved to double up in the eight which lost to Germany on the second day there.

In the single sculls Guin Batten who has taken several years to establish herself in the finalist class without ever breaking through into the medals is challenged by another Briton, the newcomer Catherine Grainger.