Men's eight storm to final

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The Independent Online

Great Britain's men's eight stormed into the Olympic final with an emphatic victory in their heat at the Shunyi Rowing Centre.

The British crew, featuring Alex Partridge who missed out on the last Olympics through injury, finished over a length clear of reigning champions the USA.

Partridge was originally selected in the men's four for Athens but suffered a collapsed lung just five weeks before the Games and had to watch from home as Matthew Pinsent and co. won gold.

After Britain dominated their heat in Partridge's first taste of Olympic action, he said: "It is brilliant fun to be here. It is an experience you wouldn't get anywhere else.

"When you get a length up on the USA and look back on them you think 'that is such a long way!"'

World champions Canada won the other heat with Australia trailing in a distant last after their rudder broke.

Britain's men's eight victory came after the women produced an impressive performance to establish their own medal credentials, finishing second in their heat behind world champions the USA.

"That was our aim," said Katy Greves, the stroke of the boat from Henley-on-Thames.

"We have things to work on, like our start, but we know we have got raw speed. We have been working on the first half of our rave and I think it showed today."

The British women left Canada, medallists at two of the three World Cup regattas this year, a distant third with the Germans trailing home in fourth.

As winner, the USA qualified straight into the final while Britain must come through a repechage round on Wednesday - but they are in confident mood.

It has not been the easiest 24 hours, after they were left on the start-line last night when the session was postponed due to an approaching thunder storm.

It was frustrating at the time but for a crew featuring only one girl - 2004 double scull bronze medallist Sarah Wickless - who has Olympic experience, Natasha Page felt the dry-run was ultimately beneficial.

"It was hard going back home but I think we dealt with it quite well and used it to our advantage," said Page.

"It was good to use it as a dry run. We had a really good warm-up so it gave us a lot of confidence."