British four make their mark

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The Independent Online
Rowing

HUGH MATHESON

reports from Tampere, Finland

The revamped British lightweight four won their opening heat at the World Championships here with handsome efficiency. After finishing fourth in Lucerne, and without a significant win throughout the summer, this crew are under pressure to perform, because they are the only lightweight outfit with a chance of racing at next year's Atlanta Olympics.

The four of Toby Hessian, Tom Kay and Steven Ellis, from last year's victorious eight, and Ian Watson, from the world-record breaking coxless four, were the first to be selected from the huge list of successful British lightweights but in contrast to the eight, packed with men who felt they might have been chosen and have been consistently the best in Europe, the four have failed to make the same mark.

Britain face stiff competition from a field of 27 in one of three lightweight events being included in the Olympic Games for the first time. They were the slowest of the six heat winners yesterday. There will be three semi- finals of six boats, each with two from each race progressing to the A and B finals respectively. Crews who reach the top 12 are guaranteed an Olympic place.

The new lightweight double of Andy Sinton and Carl Smith had a good first international race since their formation in July, finishing second to Sweden. The British were slow off the start and crabbed when they hit a pair of buoys in the third 500 metres but they closed well in the last quarter taking over two seconds from the leaders.

Smith said: "It's a strong event but we know that we could have taken the Swedes today; our sculls were geared a little lightly and we got left at the start. We can correct that, and another race in the repechage will help us more than the others."

The men's eight also opened their account in style in the fastest heat with last year's winners, the United States, and Germany. The British eight, stroked by Richard Rogers, were fastest in the second 500m, and dropped Italy in the third 500m, to secure a place in the semi-final.

Nicky Dale and Trish Corless were fourth in their heat of the lightweight double sculls, the third new Olympic event.

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