Haining to set the pace for Sculler's Head: Rowing

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The Independent Online
Peter Haining, three times lightweight world champion will lead off the the Sculler's Head of the River Race this afternoon. Britain's 1996 Olympic single sculler may well cast his eyes back down the field to 131 and the man who beat him two years ago, Niall O'Toole, the Irishman who preceded him as double world champion in the lightweight single scull.

The Head follows the same course as last week's Boat Race but in reverse; the scullers chase each other down, starting at 10-second intervals from Mortlake to Putney on London's Tideway. Second over the line after Haining will be Martin Kettle of Queen's Tower, who will go next week to Hasenwinkel, Belgium, for the men's sculling trials along with Colin Greenaway, starting fourth, Tony Larkman sixth and Alex Wake starting seventh.

A notable absentee is Greg Searle, the 1992 Olympic champion in coxed pairs, who is to try his hand as a single sculler after winning bronze in Atlanta in the coxless four. His coach, the New Zealander Harry Mahon, said: "Greg never considered the Sculler's Head as he wants to concentrate on the trials and then go straight into the Continental regatta circuit through the summer."

Steve Redgrave, who began as a sculler, used to race the Sculler's Head each season but now regrets that "there is so much pressure to get the national team going early that we can't fit it in. It would suit the international team members if they moved the race a month earlier. But the entry is probably full up already and they don't need us".

Meanwhile, at Holme Pierrepont, the search began yesterday for the partners who will join Steve Redgrave in his quest for a record fifth Olympic gold medal in Sydney in 2000. After winning in Atlanta, Redgrave first said he would never row again but later changed his mind. His coxless pair with Matthew Pinsent had not been beaten since early 1992 and the strain of maintaining the record ruled it out for the next couple of years, instead a coxless four is the leading option for them.

The men's squad will race a knock-out tournament to rank the pairs of oarsmen so that Jurgen Grobler, the men's chief coach, can begin to build the bricks to identify a four to race the first part of the season: "We may run several fours, ideally, chosen so that people training at different centres can get together easily. But later in the season we may form an eight for the World Championships by combining two of the fours."

Grobler welcomes the new World Cup which will for the first time bring all the teams together at Munich, Paris and Lucerne: "I am glad they are trying to bring rowing before the wider public, but coaches... will have to fix our crews for the whole regatta where before you could make some changes on the two days to find improvement."