World's leading scullers take to the river

THE WORLD Sculling Challenge, a modern revival of the old professional championships that flourished in the 19th century, will be raced at 3.45pm this afternoon over the Boat Race course from Putney to Mortlake between men's and women's fields drawn from the top scullers in the world.

THE WORLD Sculling Challenge, a modern revival of the old professional championships that flourished in the 19th century, will be raced at 3.45pm this afternoon over the Boat Race course from Putney to Mortlake between men's and women's fields drawn from the top scullers in the world.

The winners, only released from amateur status by the international federation three years ago, will take home prize money of £1,000 each.

At the weigh-in yesterday the Czech five-times world silver medallist, Vaclav Chalups, topped the scale at 15st 7lb, while last year's winner Iztok Cop (believe it or not, a policeman from Slovenia) recorded 14st 10lb. New this year are Aquil Abdullah, winner of the Pan American Games in 1999, and Michal Vabrousek, another Czech and the winner of the lightweight sculls in the World Cup last year.

There is no British entry as only Peter Haining, three times a lightweight singles champion, would make the grade and he has opted to prepare for the British Olympic Trials in three weeks' time.

The women's race is even more distinguished, featuring Ekaterina Karsten, from Belarus, who won the 1996 Olympic single sculls before marriage and a baby took her out for 1998. She returned to win this event and the World Championships last year.

Alongside Karsten at the start is Katrin Rutschow, who finished second behind her at the World Championships and also won Olympic gold in the quadruple scull in 1996.The American Christine Collins, from the women's lightweight double scull, dropped out with flu but her partner, Sarah Garner, will start.

* There was good news for the Oxford crew ahead of tomorrow's Boat Race. Their stroke, Alex Reid, who missed Wednesday's practice with flu, will be fit for the event.

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