Rowing: Purchase is good value in sculls win

Britain claims two gold medals as home nation makes strong start to world championships finals
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The Independent Online

A fair breeze in a following wind helped Britain's four and the lightweight sculler Zac Purchase to gold medals on the first day of finals at the World Championships yesterday, while an equipment disaster sunk Alan Campbell's chances of making an impression among a formidable line-up of scullers.

The four were masterly in their 24th race together, leading all the way and consolidating their domination by being fastest over the third quarter of the course. This shook off the American chasers and gave them enough leeway to thwart the advancing Dutch and the phenomenal speed turned on by the Germans in the last quarter. Why the Germans do not press the throttle earlier is a mystery, one that the British crew are happy to leave unsolved. Retaining a world title is a new experience for Peter Reed, Alex Partridge and the stroke, Andy Hodge, achieved in what Steve Williams, the bow man, des-cribed as "a top-class final".

Jürgen Grobler, their coach, said: "I think that was a big step in their lives. It was a great race, well under control."

The bronze won by Matt Wells and Steve Rowbotham in the double sculls was GB's first medal in a crew sculling boat in 30 years. Wells and Rowbotham, nowhere at halfway, were pushing the 2005 winners, Luka Spik and Iztok Cop of Slovenia, for silver at the line. The French scullers Jean-Baptiste Macquet and Adrien Hardy were unstoppable for the gold.

A similar result was on the cards for Annie Vernon and Anna Bebington in a blanket finish in the women's version. Just over a second separated the first four at the line, with the winners of the past four years, Caroline and Georgina Evers-Swindell of New Zealand, finishing third, margin-ally ahead of the British pair. The Australians Liz Kell and Brooke Pratley stole the gold and Britta Oppelt and Susanne Schmidt of Germany were second.

Purchase and Campbell were opposite sides of the coin. While the lightweight Purchase took "one of the hardest races I've ever done" from the front, heavyweight Campbell never mounted a challenge after the pin fell out of his right rigger at 900 metres.

Purchase relished his task and the following wind. "You sit there and the boat moves and all you have to do is stay in time with the boat," he said having lined himself up for selection in the lightweight double, an Olympic-class boat, for Beijing. Campbell was gutted: "This was not a representation of where I'm at," he said.

Campbell's race was pheno-menal, with Marcel Hacker of Germany being pipped by last year's champion, Mahe Drysdale of New Zealand, in the last few strokes. "I had doubts with 500 to go," said the Kiwi. "I'm not a strong sprinter, but at 250 I told myself to go for the line. I took two strokes too many before I stopped, and learned from the screen that I'd won."

Colin Smith and Tom James were disappointing after they had done so much to make the "pair oar" event sparkle since bursting on the scene at Lucerne in July. Yesterday they were outclassed by the big guys. Drew Ginn and Duncan Free of Australia beat the holders, Nathan Twaddle and George Drinkwater of New Zealand, for the gold.

Karen Crombie and James Roberts in the "trunk and arms only" double sculls and Shaun Sewell in the "arms only" single sculls qualified for finals today, bringing GB's total to 16 finalists. Today's finals include the men's eight, the men's coxed four, the women's quad, five lightweight crews and four adaptives.

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