Rowing: Grainger lifts the gloom to help brilliant Britain rule the waves

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The Independent Online

British rowing rose to the top of the table in Munich yesterday, with seven medals to add to Saturday's four at the world championships. The gloom engendered when the flagship men's four bombed into fourth place on the first day of finals was lifted by the women's quadruple scullers in six minutes and 30.81 seconds of supreme sculling that took them over the line first and buried a difficult year for the women's flagship crew.

This was a fairytale ending to the pre-Olympic season for Annie Vernon, Debbie Flood, Fran Houghton and Katherine Grainger after their defeat by the Chinese in Amsterdam and Grainger's back twinge which moved her into the bow seat as a precaution in the preliminary heat. Yesterday she returned to stroke and turned in a command performance that left the Chinese bobbing in the wake and the Germans unable to catch up.

Grainger, Flood and Houghton were beaten by the Russians at Eton a year ago, only to be awarded the world title posthumously when a member of the Russian crew was caught in a dope test. "It was a struggle to come to terms with that," Grainger said. "We were primed to get it right, and it's the biggest achievement in my career."

The men's lightweight four also won gold in a cracking race led by the Italians until the British and French broke them at the end. When they were formed, the British crew announced that they aimed to put the country back on the gold standard last achieved in light fours in 1991.

Words failed their coach, Robin Williams, who was an oarsman himself in that era.

The lightweight revival continued with Zac Purchase and Mark Hunter's bronze in the double sculls, which they won from fifth place halfway along the course. Two other lightweight crews whose events are not in the Olympics won medals – silver for the women's quad and bronze for the men's quad.

The women's eight had to finish at least fifth to qualify for the Olympics next year, but they decided after 700 metres that that was not enough, and shifted gear to pass Australia, Germany and Canada and end up third behind the US and Romania.

The day was capped by the men's eight. They hung around in fifth place for half the course before moving faster than anyone for the second half. They frightened the Germans, who retained the silver medal by just over half a second.

On Saturday there was a gold medal for Tom Aggar in the adaptive single sculls, silver for the adaptive mixed coxed four and bronze medals for the men's pair and women's double scullers.

Eleven of 13 British Olympic class boats have qualified for next year, two of them winning golds and five bronzes. Four adaptive boats qualified for the Paralympics, and two medals were won in international non-Olympic events. Across the board British rowing is delivering the goods a year before the big one.

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