Rowing: Indoor comfort for Pinsent and Cracknell

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The Independent Online

Matthew Pinsent won the British indoor championships by holding off a constant challenge from his pairs partner, James Cracknell. Given that most of the first rank of 20 machines were occupied by members of the British Olympic rowing squad, a one-two result for the pair who finished only fourth in the rowing world championships in August bodes well for their recovery to racing form.

Pinsent still has a nasty wound on the back of his right hand which required 10 stitches following an accident at home a fortnight earlier.

Cracknell has recently become a father, and his son slept through most of the thunderous din of 120 rowing machines echoing round the National Indoor Arena, Birmingham on Saturday.

Kieran West, like Pinsent and Cracknell a Sydney Olympic champion and also a silver medallist at the world championships, was third, and a further dozen squad men finished in the top 20. Tom Kay, the 34-year-old world silver medallist in the lightweight single sculls, won the lightweight open event for the second time in his career, and Debbie Flood, the only member of the women's squad to take part, won the open title from Laura Gater, of Durham University, who led for three quarters of the race.

Ever since Pinsent and Cracknell came home from the world championships there has been speculation about which boat they will find themselves in at the Olympics in Athens next summer. Since they won gold in Sydney, their pair has been designated the number one boat in the Athens target of two gold medals for the British men's team.

Jürgen Grobler, the chief men's coach, points out that the indoor championships are a yardstick for training, but not for selection. Grobler will stick with pairs as the measure of ability, and therefore as the priority boat, until May. But that may change after different combinations of pairs have been tried out in February and crews have competed at their first world cup regatta in May.

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