Hopes high as Britons go for gold

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The Independent Online

The lightweight women's double, Jane Hall and Helen Casey, made it a round dozen British crews through to the finals of the rowing World Championships, racing superbly yesterday to finish second in their semi-final. Although Poland controlled the race from start to finish, the British double never let them escape, and sculled strongly throughout. Caught up in a sprint finish, Hall and Casey's Achilles heel began to show as they failed to stop third-placed Canada closing the gap, but the Britons held on bravely until the line.

The lightweight men's double, Tim Male and Tom Middleton, also sculled a courageous semi-final, reaching midway only a length off the three qualification positions. They could find nothing new for the second half, however, and as the leaders moved out of touch, finished fifth.

Today is judgement day for Matthew Pinsent and James Cracknell, attempting to win two world gold medals in one day, with the coxed and coxless pairs. The feat is thought to be unprecedented, and if all goes to plan, Pinsent will finally be one up on former partner Steve Redgrave, who took bronze and gold in the same events at the 1988 Seoul Olympics.

Racing the coxed pair first probably puts paid to the chance of breaking either event's world record time, but winning is the priority, and they will save all the energy they can for the second race.

Ric Dunn, Ed Coode, Steve Williams and Toby Garbett, in the men's coxless fours, also race today as firm favourites. A gold medal might finally shake off their perpetual tag of "successors to the Redgrave crew", and bring a smile to Ed Coode's face after the disappointment of finishing fourth in the pair at Sydney.

Britain's men's lightweight eight is very good at winning silver, but this year even the competition for second place is strong. This combination is fast enough to win gold, but four other crews are also very much in the running today.

The plan is to ensure that the British keep rate and position strong right down the course, and match the best the others can throw at them in the final dash for the line. Cath Bishop and Kath Grainger, in the women's coxless pair, row their own final knowing that they need to improve on a disappointing semi-final race. They have the potential to take a medal, but no room for the slightest mistake.