Rowing: Cracknell cold knocks four off the pace

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The Independent Online

Just as Britain's coxless four were poised for a showdown with the world champions at this World Cup meeting, James Cracknell was confined to his room by the doctor at 6.30 yesterday morning with a head cold. Tom Stallard was parachuted into Cracknell's seat for a warm-up outing, but the boat didn't gel.

Led by the Canadians and Germans until halfway, the Czechs and Slovenians then attacked and moved through as the Brits struggled to keep straight. Two hundred metres before the line they were tangling with the buoys on the bow side and caught a small crab.

With their most dangerous opponents crippled, the Canadians controlled the race, although the Germans, third in the world last year, gave them some cause for concern by turning on a strong finish. Meanwhile, despite the latest minor problem to beset the British four, their performance in the heat and semi-final with Cracknell in place shows that a potent force for Olympic gold is more than a list of names on paper.

The stroke, Matthew Pinsent, said: "With all due respect to Tom, he hasn't got the power that James has. It's us against illness and injury and against our expectations, not us against the Canadians."

The women's team also had problems when Frances Houghton fell victim of a virus on Thursday. Sarah Winckless was the substitute, required to take Houghton's seat in the quad as well as her own in the double, and won silver medals in both crews. The pair of Katherine Grainger and Cath Bishop had little difficulty pushing the Canadians Darcy Marquardt and Karen Clark off the leading spot during the middle of their race. "We didn't have to use our finish at all," Bishop said.

The men's eight were improved in their new line-up with Ed Coode in the seven seat, but the Canadians, the reigning world champions, stretched out to a huge lead to ram home how far there is to go. The Germans gasped after the Canadians and had clear water ahead of the Dutch and British, with the former taking the bronze.

Matt Wells and Matt Langridge were a disappointing fifth in the double sculls, but Wells was reported as "not feeling at his best", although no medical condition was diagnosed.

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