Britain's rowers fire into finals

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The Independent Online

Britain's impressive list of rowing finalists swelled to eight - twice the number Team GB managed at either of the last Olympics - on another successful day in Shunyi.

Alan Campbell led the way in the single-sculls and was soon followed into the finals by the double sculls of Matt Wells and Stephen Rowbotham before the flagship men's four took centre stage.



Steve Williams, stroke Andy Triggs Hodge, Pete Reed and Tom James produced another commanding performance to win their semi-final by half a length from Australia.



The women's eight completed the set on day five of competition, finishing third to become the eighth British crew to qualify for the finals weekend.



Great Britain had equalled their efforts in Sydney and Athens last night when Olivia Whitlam and Louisa Reeve progressed from the women's pair repechage.



But Campbell improved on that record at the first attempt today, producing a late sprint to reach his first Olympic final.



The Ulsterman edged triple world champion Mahe Drysdale into third place and Greek paddler Ioannis Christou out of the reckoning in a thrilling finish.



"My first Olympic final - I am ecstatic," said Campbell, who underwent knee surgery just two months ago.



"I have been stepping it up every time. It was a step up again today. I had to do the sprint finish but it was brilliant.



"It was very close in the end. I am more than pleased with that. I would have taken any of the top three places. I am in the final and I don't care what lane I get.



The heat was won by world silver medallist Ondrej Synek. Drysdale qualified from third place and, with reigning Olympic champion Olaf Tufte also through to the final, Campbell faces tough competition for a medal.



But he vowed: "I came here with the intention of producing an Olympic performance. I am doing that now and I will produce a big one on finals day.



"Realistically any one of us can win it. I have an outside chance, the underdog's chance. But it is always better to be the underdog."



After Wells and Rowbotham had finished third in the pair - a result and performance which disappointed them - the men's four produced another controlled display to ease clear in the second half of the race after France had set the early pace.



"That was a good challenge for us because in the final more crews will stay with us for longer," said Williams.



"We have come a long way from the heat but and we'll have to step on it again but seeing where we have come from over the last three days I would back ourselves to do it."



Ireland's men's four of Cormac Folan, Sean Casey, Jonno Devlin and Sean O'Neill finished last in the semi-final and will now compete for seventh place in the men's four B final tomorrow.



The British women's eight rounded off the day by finishing third in a hard-fought repechage, to qualify for the final.



They too were disappointed with the performance, particularly a sluggish start.



But casting her mind forward to Sunday's final, Jess Eddie said: "It will be fuel to the fire."



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