Rowing: Pinsent and Cracknell stake claim for Athens

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The Independent Online

The deposed world champions Matthew Pinsent and James Cracknell confirmed their Olympic intentions on Saturday by winning the third national trial by seven seconds. Such victory by no means confirms them as the coxless pair for Athens but it did enhance their prospects of being in the top boat, whatever form that takes.

Second and third behind them were the two halves of the silver-medal coxless four, while the Cambridge Blues, Kieran West and Tom Stallard, staked their claim, finishing fifth overall and ahead of all but two of the 2003 bronze medal eight. Third-placed Josh West and Rick Dunn were relieved to achieve a result, after a collision with a duck two minutes into the race sent them back to re-start.

The morning heavyweight division was shortened to less than 3km because of the windy conditions, more of a hard sprint than a long-distance trial. But the international manager, David Tanner, was confident that the full 5km would have given the same rankings.

Pinsent and Cracknell still have several tests before final Olympic selection. Even if they stay lengths ahead of their team-mates, the chief coach Jurgen Grobler must decide if they are fast enough as a pair to claim Pinsent's fourth Olympic title.

In the lightweights, the men's four and women's double who qualified for Athens at last year's world championships dominated, while Matt Wells and Ian Lawson won the men's heavyweight single sculls.

Frances Houghton and Debbie Flood took one and two in the women's single sculls, ahead of Katherine Grainger and Cath Bishop.

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