Poor showing puts eight under pressure

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The Independent Online
The British men's eight, who have a guaranteed place in the Olympic Games, failed twice to make the final for the top six at the Duisburg Regatta.

On Saturday this was attributed to the absence of Roger Brown from the No 5 seat with a chest infection, but it was possible that the crew were caught by surprise after their convincing victories in Piediluco. Yesterday they finished fourth in their heat behind the eventual winners, the Netherlands, but seven crews had faster times. At Lucerne in two weeks' time the pressure will be intense, and the eight must rediscover their rhythm and confidence.

In contrast the women's eight, which still has to qualify for the Olympics, progressed to the final on both days. On Saturday, they pushed Romania to set a world record of 5min 58sec as they went seven seconds faster than any British crew before.

Yesterday they were slipped in the first 500 metres and isolated from a battle for second place between the Netherlands and Canada. The Dutch, against whom the British have measured themselves this season, had a four- second lead at the line.

The lightweight men formed a young eight that finished second on Saturday by a length and a half. It was promptly boosted by four experienced champions who had contested pairs, but it failed to impress, coming second again by a slightly larger margin.

The lightweight men's four has been subject to the most detailed selection over the winter, with only Tom Kay surviving from last year, but they failed to make any mark this time. In yesterday's final, they were last for the first half until the South Africans blew up and let them up to fifth.

The British lightweight squad is overflowing with world champions after wins in the four and eight in recent years, but no selection method has been found which is objective and allows for compatibility. With the exception of a new quadruple scull, all the boats are now performing well below the potential of the squad.

The new quadruple scull, with Stuart Forbes making a comeback at 33 after five years away from the international scene, put itself on the edge of the frame, finishing four and a half seconds off first place.

The lightweight women's four, second in the world a year ago, has been revamped. On Saturday, it won convincingly in its own class, before finishing second yesterday in the openweight division.