Rowing: Pinsent strokes Britain into final

The favourites were kept apart by the semi-final draw in the coxless fours at the World Cup yesterday. The Canadian world champions and the recently formed British crew won their races and set up a final this morning which is more likely to be a furious charge up the straight than the stalk through the bush of yesterday.

The favourites were kept apart by the semi-final draw in the coxless fours at the World Cup yesterday. The Canadian world champions and the recently formed British crew won their races and set up a final this morning which is more likely to be a furious charge up the straight than the stalk through the bush of yesterday.

The Canadians were behind the Germans by half a length until 200 metres from the finish, when they squeezed on enough pressure to win by a second. The British were in front after 200m and cruised along a length ahead of the Czechs and Slovenians. Matthew Pinsent let the pressure off at the end to finish a second slower than the Canadians.

While the Canadians are unchanged since they took the world by storm in Milan last year, this is the first regatta in which the British crew have turned out in their desired line-up after a series of personnel changes and injuries. Bow man Steve Williams, James Cracknell, Alex Partridge and stroke Pinsent brought a neat rhythm to their performance, which usually takes a back seat to the raw power normally characteristic of boats including Cracknell and Pinsent.

"If I were to be super-critical, there are things we could do better next time. There is a lot left for tomorrow," said Pinsent.

The other British crews had mixed fortunes yesterday, with five qualifying for World Cup semi-finals and two others reaching finals in non-Olympic events. Sarah Winckless and Elise Laverick continued their excellent progress in the double sculls with a second place in the semi-final.

Winckless is putting in a hard-working performance, as she is subbing in the quadruple scull as well after Frances Houghton dropped out with a virus on Thursday morning. That crew won their repêchage at the end of the day, so Winckless, now in two finals, will finish up pulling 6,000m further than she bargained for by the end of the regatta.

Toby Garbett and Rick Dunn were fourth in the coxless pairs. They will be hoping that the cause of this is Dunn's slow return to fitness after a virus kept the crew out of the first round of the World Cup, rather than any deterioration in the grit and fight which is the hallmark of these refugees from last year's silver medal coxless four. "It's been a harsh learning experience here," Garbett said. "It's the first time we've had three full-on races. We really need to stay focused now."

The recently formed double scull of Matt Wells and Matt Langridge also finished fourth in their semi-final. The competition is harder here than in their first races in Poznan three weeks ago.

The men's eight had no difficulty in qualifying for their final today. This crew has Ed Coode occupying the seven seat after his adventure subbing for Cracknell in the four, and has stepped up its performance in the last three weeks. The Canadians, however, will take some beating.

Helen Casey and Tracy Langlands finished third in the double sculls, the only lightweight event for women in the Olympics. The men's light four and the lightweight double scullers Hugh Mackworth-Praed and Rob Chisholm finished sixth and fifth respectively. But there was something to celebrate among the non-Olympic lightweight events when Jo Hammond qualified for the final of the single sculls, and Ben Webb and John Warnock did likewise in the men's pairs.

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