Rowing: Williams drives four to world crown

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The Independent Online

Britain's coxless four were as awesome as the day was hot when they won the world title and completed an unbeaten season yesterday. They showed in front on the sound of the starter's buzzer and had clear water after 500 metres, able to survey the field behind them, though unable to lie back to do so. The greatest danger was expected to come from the Americans on their right, Olympic champions in Athens to a man, but the effective pursuit came from the Dutchmen to their left.

The Dutch, three of whom are Olympic silver medallists, refused to allow the British to get away. At halfway the gap between the leaders was narrowing, but the British bow man, Steve Williams, waited before calling for a burn with 800m left. The crew squeezed on their immense power into the headwind, digging deep rather than raising their stroke rate, and gradually opened almost a length advantage. The Dutch closed again, but ran out of water.

The British coach, Jürgen Grobler, was proud of his men, and relieved that he has produced success again in a year when almost all his stars retired. "I think it was a brilliant race," he said. "I didn't quite expect we would win it so comfortably."

The 19-year-old lightweight sculler Zac Purchase added a world silver medal to his Under-23 gold medal this year with a superb, focused performance. "This time last year I was sitting on the start at the juniors," he said. "It's a long way to come, but the journey's been great and hopefully there will be more."

The greatest disappointment was the fifth place of the double scullers Elise Laverick and Debbie Flood. Jo Hamm-ond, last year's silver medallist in the lightweight single sculls, challenged valiantly for a medal but could not sustain her push. Britain's mixed four won gold in the adaptive event for those with the use of legs, trunks and arms.

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