Sculling: Karsten and Cop reclaim titles

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History repeated itself in the Thames World Sculling Challenge yesterday, as two previous champions reclaimed their trophies, combining race experience and power to win purses of £1,000 prize money each.

The Belorussian 2000 champion Ekaterina Karsten was robbed of her usual rival when the title holder Katrin Rutchow came down with a bout of flu, but she found an unexpectedly worthy substitute in the shape of world lightweight champion Claudia Blasberg.

From the first, Blasberg was determined not to let the double Olympic champion get away and, despite giving away nearly 4st in weight, the lightweight German swapped the lead with Karsten several times in the first half of the race. At the Crossing, however, Karsten made a strong push to move in front and then moved steadily away to win by eight seconds.

The men's race was nail-biting until Hammersmith, the main action coming from previous Challenge champions Iztok Cop (2001) and Vaclav Chalupa (2000), who are now becoming old hands at this contest.

The Slovenian Cop is more than a stone the lighter and was sculling like a terrier in the first few minutes, determined not to let Czech Chalupa's superior power break him early this time.

The persistence paid off and although Chalupa took a slight lead at the Black Buoy, Cop had reversed it by the Milepost. Steering better past Harrods, Cop extended his lead despite Chalupa attempting to cut the long Surrey corner.

By Barnes Bridge the Slovenian was 15 seconds to the good and could scull steadily home to retain his title.

Thames World Sculling Challenge: (Putney to Mortlake): Men: 1 Iztok Cop (Sloven) 20min 29sec; 2 V Chalupa, (Cz Rep) 20:42; 3 A Haller (Hun) 21:25; 4 T Peto (Hung) 21:33; 5 P Haining (GB) 22:18. Women: 1 E Karsten (Bela) 21min 24sec; 2 C Blasberg (Ger) 21:32; 3 C Skricki (US) 22:10; 4 G Meredith (Can) 22:19 5 A Gill (GB) 23:29.