Rowing: Grobler facing Olympic dilemma

Perfect conditions for the finals of the British rowing trials rocked a few boats yesterday, particularly among the top end of the men's team.

Perfect conditions for the finals of the British rowing trials rocked a few boats yesterday, particularly among the top end of the men's team.

Men's chief coach Jürgen Grobler, in the absence of his benchmark pair James Cracknell and Matthew Pinsent because of the latter's illness, is faced with the fact that the remaining members of his coxless four, Steve Williams and Josh West, are only fifth in the pairs' pecking order. He has to pick crews for the first World Cup regatta in Poznan, Poland in three weeks.

The strategy announced in February is that the coxless four is the lead boat of the men's team when it comes to the attempt to win gold in Athens in August. But yesterday's result could throw its membership into disarray, as Britain's performance director, David Tanner, admitted. "This challenges the make up of the lead boat. In terms of the membership of that four there is a question mark - there has to be," he said.

Toby Garbett and Rick Dunn who came out of the four to allow Cracknell and Pinsent into it, were beaten into second place, the winners being Alex Partridge and Andy Hodge from the eight which won a World bronze medal last year. Tom James and Jonno Devlin from that boat were in third place, and Dan Ousely, paired with Tom Stallard, was the fifth man from the eight in the final and finished in fourth place.

Of the remaining three from the eight, Robin Bourne-Taylor and Phil Simmons won the B final in a much faster time than the sixth-placed Oxford students, Peter Reed and Dave Livingston, who certainly made an impact by reaching the last six and put down a marker for the future, but are unlikely to displace anyone in the Olympic line-up.

This leaves Ed Coode, world champion in fours in 1999 and 2001, who with partner Kieran West, the Olympic champion from the Sydney eight, managed only third in the B final, giving them a ranking of ninth.

Stallard stands in his way. Still, this is what these trials are for - a real test in tough racing conditions against the people you train with month in month out. "We come here to find things out," Tanner said.

On the women's side, things are clearer cut. There is no competition as lead boat for Katherine Grainger and Cath Bishop, 2003 world champions in pairs who were totally dominant. Frances Houghton won the single sculls with conviction, while surprising herself in the way she did it.

"I wouldn't have raced it like this in my dreams," she said. "Debbie Flood always leads me. When she didn't, I thought that someone else would be ahead."

Although she may be turning into a single sculler, Houghton is likely to be in a double or a quad because these boats are already qualified for the Olympics, whereas the single is not. "I think it is hard to qualify for the Olympics and then do well there," she said. "But in the future, yes."

Top men's sculler was Matthew Wells. Cracknell had a gritty weekend as a surprise entry in the singles, finishing by winning the B final.

GREAT BRITAIN TEAM TRIALS FINALS

(A finals, places 1-6; B finals, places 7-12)

MEN: Single sculls: 1 M Wells (UL) 7min 15.74sec; 2 M Langridge (Leander) 7:19.27; 3 S Rowbotham (Molesey) 7:25.41; 4 S Cottle (Leander) 7:27.64; 5 A Campbell (Tideway Scullers) 7:27.76; 6 P Gardner (Leander) 7:30.60; 7 J Cracknell (Leander) 7:29.96; 8 I Lawson (Leander) 7:33.29; 9 C Sith (OUBC) 7:33.80; 10 J Dunley (ULBC) 7:34.30; 11 S Fieldhouse (Molesey) 7:35.77; 12 P Wells (ULBC) 8:07.26. Pairs: 1 A Partridge and A Hodge (Molesey) 6:52.62; 2 T Garbett and R Dunn (Leander) 6:55.07; 3 T James (Cambridge Univ) and J Devlin (Oxford Brookes Univ) 6:56.00; 4 T Stallard (Broxbourne) and D Ouseley (Imperial Coll) 6:57.96; 5 S Williams and J West (Leander) 7:02.20; 6 P Reed and D Livingston (OUBC) 7:07.68; 7 R Bourne-Taylor (Leander) and P Simmons (Molesey) 7:06.34; 8 R Davies and H Bailhache-Webb (Oxford Brookes Univ) 7:08.22; 9 E Coode (Leander) and K West (Kingston) 7:10.51; 10 H Adans (ULBC) and S Trapmore (Notts County) 7:12.90; 11 R Smith and T Broadway (ULBC) 7:17.02; 12 J Livingston (Molesey) and J von Maltzahn (Leander) 7:30.49. Lightweight single sculls: 1 H Mackworth-Praed (Leander) 7:37.33; 2 J Stephenson (Molesey) 7;37.96; 3 N Wakefield (Leander) 7:42.21; 4 R Hoskins (Tideway Scullers) 7:43.45; 5 R Hunter (Leander) 7:45.26; Withdrew: R Chisholm (Tideway Scullers); 7 D Currie (Leander) 7:40.34; 8 P Hone (Tideway Scullers) 7:44.96; 9 P Mattick (Wallingford) 7:42.11; 10 G Shaw (Aberdeen Univ) 7:42.27; 11 S Jones (Nottingham and Union) 7:45.44; 12 T Hanna (Leander) 7:50.98. Lightweight pairs: 1 M Hennessy (Tideway Scullers) and John Warnock (London) 7:03.86; 2 B Webb and M Hunter (Leander) 7:05.29; 3 J Lindsay-Fynn and D Harte (London) 7:13.47.

WOMEN: Single sculls: 1 F Houghton (Univ of London) 8:05.49; 2 D Flood (Leander) 8:07.98; 3 A Mowbray (Leander) 8:09.27; 4 R Romero (Leander) 8:10.32; 5 S Winckless (Walbrook and Royal Canoe) 8:13.00; 6 E Laverick (Thames) 8:21.12; 7 A Vernon (Rob Roy) 8:29.44; 8 H Austin (ULBC) 8:42.28. Pairs: 1 K Grainger (St Andrew) and C Bishop (Marlow) 7:36.72; 2 B Gough (Notts County) and R Carslake (Leander) 7:46.14; 3 L Crichton and J Eddie (Univ of London) 7:48.37; 4 N Howard and K Stewart (Univ of London) 7:54.72; 5 A Knowles and B Rodford (Thames) 7:54.97; 6 A Skailes (Globe) and E James (Thames) 7:58.12; 7 N Page (Reading Univ) and A Bebington (Rob Roy) 8:0015; 8 V Myers and C Ashford (Oxford Brookes Univ) 8:05.07; 9 S Waldron and H Powell (Osiris) 8:14.88; 10 J Cook and L Tatman (Notts County) 8:27.51. Lightweight single sculls: 1 T Langlands (Leander) 8:24.14; 2 J Hammond (Kingston) 8:26.65; 3 L Greenhalgh (Wallingford) 8:31.76; 4 L Ralston (ULBC) 8:34.55; 5 H Casey (Wallingfrod) 8:34.87; 6 L Norris (Mortlake and Anglian) 8:37.66; 7 J Warren (Molesey) 8:32.18; 8 T Pollitt (Wallingford) 8:33.58; 9 S Birch (Kingston) 8:38.85.

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