Rowing: Redgrave steers fours to easy victory

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The Independent Online
The single certainty in World Rowing since 1991 has been a gold medal for Matthew Pinsent and Steve Redgrave. Up to a year ago they were the coxless pair which held off all boarders until after the Olympic regatta in Atlanta, when Redgrave finally admitted that at 34, age, if not the other crews, was catching up and he officially retired.

However, his partner and coach, Jurgen Grobler, knew better and enticed him back with the prospect of a coxless four with two others to share the burden and, if it turned out right, the glory. After a winter of trials James Cracknell, a junior champion in 1990 but on holiday from the medals ever since, and Tim Foster, from the Olympic bronze medal four, took the bow and No 3 seats with Pinsent at stroke and Redgrave steering and calling the race plan at No 2. That crew won on its debut at Munich Regatta, and since then the four has held off all challenges without, it is claimed, ever having to use all of its vast firepower.

Saturday was not an occasion to test that particular theory as the crew built up a one-length lead by halfway, leaving the others to scrap it out behind them for silver and bronze.

The openweight women began with the first-ever gold for British women, also in the coxless four, when a new crew had to row down a Romanian crew which had built up a seemingly unassailable lead at 500m. The four set the tone for all the British crews here, settling into a hard driving rhythm which, with the minimum of pushes and bursts, carried them through to the last quarter, where they increased the pace to finish the strongest, half a length in front.

A silver medal for the double scull of Miriam Batten and Gillian Lindsay continued the flood of success for the women's squad and was won in a stunningly gutsy race after they had been dropped into fourth place in the first quarter and, once again, had to rely on an uncompromising middle thousand to carry them back into striking distance of the leaders.

They overtook the Swiss at halfway and ground back towards the Romanians, who had hung onto the German double led by the incomparable Kathrin Boron, three times a champion in this event. The British might have been satisfied with bronze but chased Romania to the death, passing them as they crossed the line.

Greg Searle broke the mould, being the first Briton to win a single sculls medal in World Championship history - taking bronze again with a blistering finish. "I am happy, particularly for my coach Harry Mahon who has brought me through the season," said Searle. "The final was our target here, within the four year programme toward Sydney 2000, so we're a bit ahead of schedule."

The men's lightweight eight was denied gold on the line by the Australians, who led them by a length at halfway, but the disappointment was tempered by the final being their best row of the season with a crew containing five novices at this level.