Jurgen Grobler, the men's chief coach, will rest easier in his bed after the British coxless four took no prisoners yesterday at the World Cup in Poland. Having plumped for a high-risk strategy of changing his best Olympic gold prospect from a pair to a four, Grobler and his squad have been living on tenterhooks, fuelled by seat changes between the boats, suspicion and an irritating trail of minor ailments. But the four, stroked by Matthew Pinsent, delivered a thumping headache to the Germans, crushing the 2002 world champions and finishing, within themselves, three quarters of a length in front.
It was not pretty, but it was powerful and effective. Alex Partridge, the 22-year-old in the three seat, set the tone on the start by suggesting that they gave the Germans no respect. Afterwards Partridge said: "there is a long way to go rowing-wise, but this crew has tremendous potential". Ed Coode, substituting for the injured James Cracknell, said: "nothing's going to get in the way of this crew. It was fantastic to be part of that". Steve Williams, a perfectionist and the only survivor from the crew who dogged the Germans for three years, had a smile on his face all weekend, which is a change for him, given the last few months.
Six finalists gave Britain second place to Germany in the first round of the cup. The women's quadruple scullers were a joy to see, leading throughout their race and converting the "tortoise and hare" scramble of their Saturday warm-up into a symphony of motion - "it was a bit like synchronised swimming," Rebecca Romero said. Romero had been out of the boat with a back strain until Tuesday.
The women's squad lacks the reserves of the men's squad, but is in good shape. Elise Laverick and Sarah Winckless finished fifth in the double sculls, while the world champion pair of Katherine Grainger and Cath Bishop were second to Georgeta Andrunache and Viorica Susanu of Romania, who have won two world golds in this event. They were not disappointed. "It was not our best finish," Bishop said. "We haven't worked on that yet. We have pace and the basics are good. Now we need to take control of the race."
Matt Wells and Matt Langridge won bronze in the double sculls after leading for the first 500 metres of their race, a great start for this new combination. The disappointment of the men's team was the eight, who lost the plot somewhere in the second half of their final, finishing fifth after being up with the pack. In the end the Romanians ran away with the race, which exacerbated the German selectors' problems. Their eight and four results leave them in a quandary in their search for an Olympic boat with that little bit extra.
The best single sculling result for Britain was Ian Lawson's 12th place. The final was won by 38-year-old Jueri Jaanson of Estonia, who last won the world title in 1990. Behind him were four men who have won nine medals between them in the last three years.Reuse content