Rowing: Redgrave spearheads Britain's medal push

BRITAIN WILL head for the Syndey Olympics in upbeat mood after finishing the World Championship here yesterday, the last before next year's games, with a gold and a silver in Olympic events and three other silver medals.

The men's four of James Cracknell, Steve Redgrave, Ed Coode and Matthew Pinsent made light of the weight of expectation and produced their best race when it mattered to dominate their final event.

Redgrave said: "We went for complete control and got it. We didn't let anyone back in and it felt easy."

He and his crew depend in part on the mystique of always seeming to have something left even after the toughest races. Their claim to an extra, always unused, gear may be truth or fiction, but what matters is that the rest of the rowing world believes they do have one. The four will start training in less than a month for Sydney and Tim Foster, who rowed at No 7 in the eight after losing his place in the four to Coode because of injury, will have his chance to win back his seat in spite of the satisfaction of taking a splendid silver in the bigger boat here.

The men's eight, of Bobby Thatcher, Ben Hunt Davis, Fred Scarlett, Louis Attril, Luka Grubor, Kieran West, Tim Foster and Steve Trapmore, who were steered by Rowley Douglas, were drawn on the edge of the course in lane six alongside the joint favourites, Russia and the United States. The Russians started slowly and after the furious first 500 metres racing into the strong headwind, the United States and Britain were in front with half a length on the field. The British hit a strong rhythm and clawed back on the United States with the same crew that has won this event for the past two years.

With six hundred metres to go Trapmore raised the rate to 38 strokes to the minute, and his crew drew past. A gold medal, Britain's first in eights since 1912, looked possible but the champions came back and put in a final 500m that was three seconds faster than the British to win by half a length.

There was controversy in the lightweight women's pair after Jo Nitsch retired from the British crew with a back injury and was replaced by Jane Hall from the double scull. Hall has had a dreadful regatta, finishing 18th and last in her event. She struck up an instant rapport with Malindi Myers and they pulled clear with the United States. Hall and Myers were in trouble with steering in the middle thousand, which was not unexpected from a scratch pair in the difficult wind.

But after a photo finish in which Britain were awarded second place, Hall protested and the umpire investigating pulled a bunch of weed from the underwater fin of her boat. The umpire ordered a rerow of the first two boats. The US officials refused and appealed to the international rowing federation, Fisa.

Results, Digest, page 11