Rowing: Coode to the fore in Redgrave's power play

STEVE REDGRAVE now has three weeks of rest and recuperation before travelling to Australia to begin the hard labour of preparing for Olympic Games in Sydney.

The 37-year-old has not been beaten in a World Championship or Olympic race since 1990 and has more gold medals than there are events in the Olympic rowing programme. At the World Championships in St Catharine's, Ontario, last week, others talked about the pressure of being a winner. However, Redgrave, with absolute modesty, talked of how easy it had been, once Britain's coxless four - Redgrave, James Cracknell, Ed Coode and Matthew Pinsent - got the start and the rhythm right in the final, to control the race and hold a lead large enough to snuff out any challenge in the last quarter.

Britain is the only nation to qualify via its performance at the championships for all the men's sweep oar events - the pair, the four and the eight. The 14 athletes to make those crews for the Olympics are, theoretically, all up for re-selection and any combination could emerge. But in practice the coxless four will stay the same, with only the three seat in contention.

Tim Foster held it from the moment the four was formed in 1997 and held it without challenge in 1998, only to lose his place after an operation to have a crushed disc removed from his spine in December. Coode, from the eight the year before, was tried and, after a few hiccups, succeeded.

The four operate at such a high output of raw power that, in the early days, Coode was left behind, unable to keep up when the screw was turned at the end of a hard race. But he has since shown the strength of character and intelligence to grow into the role and in Saturday's final he looked like he had been there all his life.

It was a masterful performance only matched on Sunday by, who else, but Tim Foster in the No 7 seat of the British eight, which got its nose in front of the all-powerful Americans and looked like winning Britain's first gold in the class since 1912. But the crew was unable to hang on in the final sprint and took a well-deserved silver. Yet its presence at the front was secured by the experience and guile of Foster, who has overcome his surgery and some unlikely selections to win a medal at all but two of the championships that he has contested.

The coxless pair of Simon Dennis and Steve Williams had looked the better bet for a medal but finished fifth. The two oarsmen have earned their Olympic ticket but it may be that either could form a faster pair with a different partner.

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