Rowing: British put on power to qualify for Sydney

THE BRITISH men's eight became the first crew to qualify for the Sydney Olympics by winning the repechage and taking a place in Sunday's final at the World Championships here yesterday.

The eight - Robert Thatcher, Ben Hunt-Davis, Fred Scarlett, Louis Attrill, Luka Grubor, Kieran West, Tim Foster, Steve Trapmore and cox Rowley Douglas - had the luck of the easier draw, and raced at 43 strokes to the minute for most of the first 500m, at which point they were a half length ahead of Italy and Croatia.

At 1000m they led by a full length, having maintained 40 strokes to the minute, but they slowed in the second half of the race and allowed Italy and Canada to close on them towards the finish. It was a storming row by the British crew, the only slight cloud being the fact that the Netherlands, in the other repechage 10 minutes earlier, had lowered the world best time for senior eights to 5min 22.8sec, with the British two seconds slower.

Two crucial successes came for the men's lightweights. The double scull of Tom Kay and Tim Male has promised much with two athletes of medal class strength and skill, but they have sometimes lacked the compatibility needed in the most delicate of boats.

Yesterday they were in a class of their own, with only Sweden making a challenge, and if they can reproduce that form again they might make a place in the top six final, giving them the springboard for another winter of development towards Sydney.

The four held the second of the three places going through to the semi- finals until the last gasp, when they let the Canadians through. They still made the last 12 and the chance of qualifying the crew for the Olympics, but they will probably have to beat the same Canadian crew and South Africa to do it.

Two British crews seeking Olympic qualification failed to reach the top 12. The women's lightweight double of Tracy Langlands and Jane Hall pulled back two seconds from the Bulgarians but missed out, while the men's squad were justified in competing as a building exercise in an event in which Britain has never invested time or expertise. However, to benefit, the effort must be sustained for several years to develop the skills and winning mentality.

The four go into today's semi- finals fortunately having missed Norway, who ran them close in Lucerne.

Results, Digest, page 21