Rowing: Germans await Pinsent's uncertain coxless four

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The Independent Online

Six British crews take part in today's finals at the World Cup, including the coxless four stroked by Matthew Pinsent which has undergone two changes of personnel, not to mention seating order, before reaching the start line of a regatta.

Six British crews take part in today's finals at the World Cup, including the coxless four stroked by Matthew Pinsent which has undergone two changes of personnel, not to mention seating order, before reaching the start line of a regatta.

The flagship of the fleet has been unsettled, 14 weeks before the Olympic regatta in Athens, first by the inclusion of Alex Partridge instead of Josh West and then by a relay of illness and injury which kept out first Pinsent, then Steve Williams and currently James Cracknell, who has a stress fracture of a rib.

The advantage of this is that whatever they achieve in Poznan, with Ed Coode subbing for Cracknell, their Olympic opponents cannot learn much. The disadvantage is that neither can coach Jürgen Grobler.

The line-up is not necessarily the final one for the Olympics, but Grobler hoped to come out of this weekend with more of a clue about potential speed than he probably will.

The coxless fours was tight in Sydney in 2000, when Pinsent, Cracknell, Steve Redgrave and Tim Foster won gold, and it is faster and just as tight now. Today will be a dust-up between the British and the Germans, who won bronze at the world championships last year when they were beaten by the winning Canadians and the old British four, from which Williams is the only survivor.

The other finalists are Denmark, Russia, Slovenia and Holland, but the big threats are absent, namely the Canadians, Australians, Americans and Italians. If this rough and ready British combination manage to beat the Germans today - and as far as one can tell, they are pretty evenly matched - then it will be the German selectors who have the bigger head-ache. But Grobler and his squad are also living in a more uncertain situation than they have been accustomed to for some years.

It is not just nail-biting time for the four, either. The eight have had Josh West and Tom Stallard included in place of Coode and Partridge and look as if they will struggle to be in the medals today, although it is looking good on the water. The new double sculling combination of Matt Wells and Matt Langridge are moving well, but the quadruple scullers, with two changes from last year, are at present lacking lustre and failed to reach the Poznan final.

The other World Cup finalists are Elise Laverick and Sarah Winckless in the double sculls, while the women's quadruple scullers and the world champion pair of Katherine Grainger and Cath Bishop are in straight finals. The lack of competition is disappointing for them, and raises the question of just what is going on when at the first important regatta of an Olympic season, four important Olympic women's events cannot muster enough entries to hold a heat. The women's single sculls, quads and eights have only four entries apiece, and the pairs six.

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