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Rowing: Slovenian holds on for narrow victory

THE THAMES World Sculling Challenge, newly introduced alongside the Boat Race to produce a weekend of rowing, pushed its ancient rival into the shade yesterday afternoon with a cracking race.

The Slovenian soldier, Iztok Cop, won by two feet after four and a half miles of struggle in the worst water the Tideway could produce. Closing on him for all of the last mile was Jamie Koven of the United States, who was technically in default for missing the central arch of Barnes Bridge.

The struggle had developed from the first stroke, with Giovanni Calabrese taking an early lead and finding the best course until Barn Elms, where he began to stray to the south bank.

The Canadian Derek Porter was looking strongest and coping best with the rough conditions, but Cop hung on to him until the Mile Post before moving decisively through and taking the better line to Harrods. There Cop swung wide and led Porter way out of the stream before cutting back in and shooting Hammersmith several lengths in the lead.

Porter tightened up into the head wind and was in last place behind Stefano Basalini, the 1998 lightweight world champion, when in the worst water and where the head wind met the tide caught a crab and turned turtle.

The women's race was no less exciting, with Miriam Batten-Luke, the double sculls world champion and elder of the Batten girls, finishing a bare length ahead of her sister Guin, the single sculler. Even though she trains daily on this water Miriam managed to scrape Barnes Bridge.