Britain has high hopes for Olympics

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The Independent Online


reports from Tampere, Finland

The British team at the World Championships here won two gold medals and four silver medals and, almost more importantly, pre-qualified in six events for the Olympic Games in Atlanta next year.

The men's team, led by the enduring champion Steven Redgrave who, with his partner on the water Matthew Pinsent, won his fifth championship in five years, has four boats qualified.

The young double scull of James Cracknell and Robert Thatcher came in 10th overall and have great scope for improvement in a event which rewards age and experience. However, great doubles are made in heaven in that natural compatibility outweighs brute strength and clever movement. Peter Haining who, on Friday became the first man to win the lightweight single scull three times in succession, might try for an Olympic place in the double.

In October, trials will be held for the heavyweight group and successful athletes will then be split into rowing and sculling, without the possibility of switching. If Haining makes the sculling group at that point he will challenge hard for a place in the only crew likely to go to Atlanta.

The women's eight was desperately disappointed in failing to make the final after a brave row in the toughest semi-final, but they were compensated with a fine win in the small final to finish seventh overall. The eight showed precisely the grit that converts the ordinary into something better. They must resist the temptation to break the crew into small boats and go for qualification in Lucerne.

The men's eight was unlucky to draw lane one, where the cross headwind was strongest, and they were forced to spend too much to stay within a length of the leaders Germany in the first 1,000 metres. Sean Bowden, the coach who took over the crew in June, said that after half-way Garry Herbert was struggling to keep the boat in the lane as the course became more exposed to the gale.

Bowden said that the crew must gain four seconds over the winter to be within reach of a medal next year. It is a young crew which can still gain horsepower from heavyweights in the next six months." He may also gain one or two more big athletes to choose from at the October trials.

The heavy men's coxless four took a silver medal on what is, by modern standards a part-time programme. The two Searle Brothers will work part- time this winter and will then take next summer off. Provided that the dean of Charing Cross hospital allows Rupert Obholzer, a fourth year medical student, some time off and that Tim Foster is unable to find a job there is hope that the crew will go better in 11 months' time.

The lightweight men's coxless four was selected as the top boat, with the Olympics in mind, but a bronze was the summit of their expectation here with the event crowded with all the best athletes. They were off the pace throughout the race and finished a disappointing fifth. Here again, although the crew was well selected for individual strength, the vital compatibility was missing.

Results, Sporting Digest, page 15