Rowing: Flood and Co edge out Germans to book berth in Beijing

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The Independent Online

The women's quad became the first British crew to qualify for the Olympic regatta in Beijing next year when they won their heat for a place in the World Championships final yesterday. The top six in the world, plus the winner of the B final for rankings of seven to 12, qualify for the Olympics.

Debbie Flood, who sits in the team's No 2 seat, said: "The Olympics is our key focus. Now we can tick that box and concentrate on these World Championships and going after that gold medal."

Yesterday's performance was smooth, fast and confident. The crew are defending the world title they gained last winter after the Russians, who narrowly beat them at the championships in Eton a year ago, were forced to return their medals because of a positive drugs test.

Annie Vernon joined Katherine Grainger, Flood and Fran Houghton in the boat this season after Sarah Winckless had to stop for medical reasons. Grainger reported that her back is fine, and she is enjoying her new position where "I get to see and I get to speak".

The Chinese won the other heat in a slower time, but the British team were under constant attack from the Germans.

Two more British Olympic-class boats won their heats yesterday, the lightweight men's four and the lightweight double scullers Zac Purchase and Mark Hunter. Both are through to quarter-finals tomorrow.

The men's eight had a late substitution of Tom James for Tom Parker, who is suffering a temperature. They rowed well but allowed the Australians to slip through and send them via the repêchage route to the semi-finals.

The women's eight, the men's quad and the lightweight women's double scullers must also go through repêchages.

The lightweight women's quad qualified for its final, and the adaptive sculler Tom Aggar won his heat of the arms-only single sculls.

Today the women's pair of Beth Rodford and Natasha Page are in a repêchage, and the sculler Alan Campbell and the double scullers Matt Wells and Stephen Rowbotham are in quarter-finals.