OLYMPICS / Barcelona 1992: Britain heading for gold bonanza

Click to follow
BRITAIN could be on course to win its highest number of gold medals at an Olympic Games for 36 years. The Searle brothers, Greg, 20, and Jonny, 23, won the coxed pairs rowing final yesterday to take Britain's gold haul in Barcelona to four, two short of the highest post-war total, set in Melbourne in 1956. The best performance was in 1924, when Britain won nine golds.

Although other fancied British competitors failed to realise their gold potential yesterday, the performance of the Searles gave Britain a flying start to the second week of Olympic competition. The first week had produced three British gold medals, through Chris Boardman (4,000 metres individual pursuit cycling), Linford Christie (100m athletics) and Steve Redgrave and Matthew Pinsent (coxless pairs rowing).

The performance of the Searles in beating another pair of brothers, Carmine and Giuseppe Abbagnale, was the most remarkable of the rowing regatta. The Italians, world champions seven times and twice Olympic gold medallists, led by four and a half seconds at the halfway stage, with the Searles in third place.

Urged on by their cox, Garry Herbert, the British pair won with a late surge that saw them cancel out a boat's length deficit in the last 200 metres - exceptional even by their standards.

'Everything was going black at the end,' Greg said. 'But being brothers we both switched into the same autopilot and we got moving.'

In the main athletics stadium, British athletes were generally unable to follow the magnificent lead Christie had provided on Saturday. Yvonne Murray was a disappointing eighth in the women's 3,000m final, which was won by Yelena Romanova of the Unified Team. Curtis Robb reached the men's 800m final by winning his semi-final, but Tom McKean failed after finishing only fifth.

Karen Briggs, one of Britain's leading hopes in the judo competition, failed to win a medal after injuring her shoulder in losing her bantamweight semi-final against Ryoko Tamura of Japan.

In the canoeing, Richard Fox was unable to add to the silver medal that Gareth Marriott won on Saturday. Fox finished fourth in the individual kayak slalom, missing a bronze medal by one- third of a second.

The British women's hockey team reached the semi-finals of their competition by beating New Zealand 3-2.

Vitaly Scherbo of the Unified Team became the most successful gymnast at one Olympics by taking his gold medal tally to six.

Giles Smith, page 12

Olympic reports, pages 25-28