ROWING: McNiven's men set the pace

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The Independent Online
THE WIND has become the dominant feature in the World Rowing Championships and is expected to disturb the racing for at least the next two days. Yesterday the breeze, which had been gentle and warm for the first part of the week, became a strong cross-wind and, although four lanes on the north side of the course were regarded as fair, the races involving five or six crews were postponed to the evening.

While the programme was still in force the lightweight coxless four re- established its credentials as a boat to watch with a scorching repechage, taking apart the Canadians who had beaten them to win the small final for places seven to 12 in Lucerne. The four, which had struggled to reach the pace all season, had two seasoned medallists in Jim McNiven and David Lemon in the middle together with James Brown, who won a world silver with the 1997 eight, at bow and the new international, 26-year-old John Warnock, at stroke.

Both the British openweight eights went down in cut-throat repechage races to compete on Sunday in the small final. The men finished second to the revamped and rampant German eight and were expected to qualify for the final but lost out to Italy and Romania. It was a disappointing outcome to a season in which early success made them look like they could mount a serious challenge in Sydney.

The women's eight, who had never looked looked likely to repeat the bronze medal won in France last year, were beaten by a Canadian crew with several world and Olympic champions and by Belarus.

The men's coxed four which had finished second in Lucerne six weeks ago had endless troubles in training, losing Tony Garbett with injury and missing a week of the Varese training camp. After finishing last in their heat on Monday, they did the only possible thing and shot off quickly at the start in the repechage to take a lead, but were overwhelmed at the finish, having to settle for fourth place.

Britain lost the chance of a medal in the lightweight pair when on Tuesday night Caroline Hobson felt her back go into spasm in a trial sprint and had to call for emergency help from the team doctor. Although no announcement has yet been made, her history of back injury suggests that a recovery in time for the final on Sunday morning is unlikely.