OLYMPICS / Barcelona 1992: Redgrave coasts to fourth final

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The Independent Online
STEVE Redgrave and Matthew Pinsent yesterday cleared the last major hurdle on their route to the Olympic Championship with room to spare. Their dominance of the semi-final was complete. In the way that weightlifters raise the standard by a small increment each time for the pleasure of seeing their names repeated in the record book, Pinsent and Redgrave, showing only a small amount of the extra speed that is inside them, raised the standard of the coxless pairs rowing event.

The first time they went off, a false start was called by the umpire because the Slovene pair of Iztok Cop and Denis Zvegelj had called 'not ready' after the starter had raised his arm. They sat tight as the others went off and were recalled. This was not the correct application of the rules. At the Cologne regatta the same procedure saw the Searle brothers disqualified.

At the second call they went off fast and raced level with the Slovenes and the Germans Peter Holzenbein and Colin Ettinghausen to the 500-metre mark. Afterwards Pinsent said: 'We were going so well that Steve was already calling for a relax before the first quarter.' Because they wanted to be clear for the final sprint they pushed on through the middle of the race but had enough control to think of how to get more out of their boat, 'instead of watching for everyone else'.

In the last 250m the Germans and Slovenes closed only to be pushed back with a sharp surge which took no more than five strokes and carried Redgrave into his fourth Olympic final. As he looks forward, Redgrave is cool: 'We just have to do it one more time.' Pinsent is more wary: 'We must not get caught in the rush for the line when the others see their chance of a medal going.'

The women's double scull of Ali Gill and Annabel Eyres left themselves a huge task as they entered the last 500m of their semi-final four seconds off a qualifying place. Seeing their chance slipping away, they put in a huge effort to close on the Bulgarian double and passed them only after the last stroke had been drawn to cross the line four hundredths of a second ahead.

The women's pair of Miriam Batten and Jo Turvey have used their two races together in the heats and semi-finals to learn enough to have an outside chance of a bronze medal. In yesterday's semi-final they hung on to the world champions from Canada and so drew clear of the field. They found a pace at which, rowing stroke for stroke with Marnie McBean and Kath Heddle, they could match the Canadians for speed in the middle of the race. They let the Canadians go away after halfway and qualified with eight seconds to spare. If they prove too inexperienced on Saturday they can change that if they train for more than five weeks together.

Finland's Pertti Karppinen single sculling champion in 1976, 1980 and 1984, messed up his preparation in 1988 by going to altitude training in the wrong place and at the wrong time. He is competing here because he did not like the way he went out in Seoul. But yesterday he drew the three medallists from 1991 in his semi-final and his 39-year-old body proved unequal to the task.