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Rowing: Britons bid for medals as 10 reach Olympics

The weekend competition at Idroscalo here is full of promise for British competitors as 11 crews fight for World Championship medals over two days.

A strong following breeze blew up yesterday to flutter the flags for the first time for a week, although it is forecast to die before action starts.

Six of those who go today have medal chances - the men's pair, four, double scull and lightweight single sculler Tom Kay, and the women's pair and double. The light-weight eight is in a straight final. Tomorrow, the women's quad, men's eight and coxed four will be in action, along with the women's light pair, who are in a straight final.

James Cracknell and Matthew Pinsent's pairs looks intriguing, as the world champions and record holders have beaten the 2002 silver medallists South Africa and the Canadians this season, but have been beaten by Croatia and Italy. The Australians Drew Ginn and James Tomkins had not raced this year until they won their first race and then their semi-final here.

The coxless four of Steve Williams, Josh West, Toby Garbett and Rick Dunn have rowed better than ever here and hope to turn over the Germans, who beat them in the 2002 world championships and twice this season. But the recently-formed Canadian crew will be with the frontrunners.

Matthew Wells and Ian Lawson in the double scull are aggressive racers, who could reinforce the arrival of British men's crew sculling after a finalists' famine that ran from 1980 until last year.

Katherine Grainger and Cath Bishop have gold in their grasp in the pair, and Debbie Flood and Rebecca Romero a medal in the double sculls. The lightweight Tom Kay, with 15 years' experience to draw on, won his heat and semi-final to reach the single sculling final.

The men's quadruple scullers, lightweight four and lightweight women's double scullers yesterday all secured a place in next year's Olympics, bringing to 10 the number of British boats qualifying for Athens through these championships. This equals the number who took part in Sydney.

The 'B' finals brought mixed fortunes. Alex Beever in the single scull was fourth, one place outside Olympic qualification. But the men's lightweight four were fifth in their race, securing the last Olympic slot while the men's quad surged from sixth to third in the last 500 metres to earn a place in Athens.

Helen Casey and Tracy Langlands, who were unlucky not to be in today's final, won their 'B' final and Olympic qualification, and the women's light quad, not an Olympic boat, won their 'B' final.

There are two British crews in the adaptive events today, the sculler Robert Halliday and a coxed four of Paul Askam-Spencer, Alan Crowther, Mathew Harrison, Hugh Huddy and cox Loretta Williams.