Redgrave stays in command

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The Independent Online


reports from Lucerne

Britain finished with two gold medals, two silvers and a bronze at the international regatta here yesterday, where world champions were beaten and some key British medal winners were left trailing.

Supreme as always, however, were Steve Redgrave and Matthew Pinsent, the Olympic and world pairs champions. A ninth gold medal at next month's World Championships in Tampere, Finland, seems inevitable, barring accidents. It is an extraordinary achievement and much under-recognised.

There was also gold for the lightweight eight. Newly constituted since they won the world title last year, they were stroked by Ben Helm to an emphatic victory over Denmark. Looking even more composed than when they stole past the Danes in the dying moments of last year's race, they led from the start and were never threatened.

The lightweight four, though, had a real battle in a high-class field. With the event now upgraded to Olympic status, it has become the priority boat for everyone. Toby Hessian, Ian Watson, Steve Ellis and Tom Kay - a new combination - were fifth at the half-way stage. They moved past the Netherlands into fourth, but could manage no more, and Italy, with seven-times world champion Andrea Rae, beat the reigning world champions, Denmark, into second.

The women's lightweight pair, Alison Brownless and Jane Hall, former world champions and silver medallists in the four last year, won silver here, as did the new four.

The new women's eight lost pace in the middle of their final and were squeezed out of the medals in a blanket finish behind the fast-finishing Dutch. The British led for the first quarter, but were overhauled in the last 500 metres, coming home fifth. The men's eight could not stay with the field and finished sixth.

The Olympic coxed pair champions, Greg and Jonny Searle, hoping to improve on the world bronze medal they won last year in the coxless four with Rupert Obholzer and Tim Foster, found a final place was beyond them here, although they won the small final with their customary finishing sprintto end in seventh overall. A month at a training camp should add the necessary pace for the world championships, where a medal is certainly on the cards.

It is the end of the road for Peter Haining, the world lightweight champion, in his new double partnership with Carl Smith. "We have tried everything, but it's not going," he said, after they failed to make the last 12 on Saturday. He may now go back to the single to defend his title against the current front runner, Niall O'Toole, who won yesterday. A new double must be found for this new Olympic lightweight event, which was won by Australia in a world-record time of 6min 15sec.

The men's coxed four could not match the leaders, Germany, and finished fourth in a thin field which will certainly improve for next month's World Championships. Both lightweight and heavyweight women's scullers, Sue Appleboom and Guin Batten, and the heavyweight women's pair were small finalists yesterday, ranking eighth, 11th and eighth respectively overall.

Estonia's Juri Jaanson won a stunning men's single race packed with champions, setting a world record of 6min 37sec. But it was Germany who dominated the regatta, winning six of the 24 titles, and four silver and six bronze medals.