Rowing: Sydney quest for Britain

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The Independent Online
THE BRITISH rowing team which has been developed through the first two rounds of the FISA World Cup this summer start racing today in the third round on the Rotsee in Lucerne, Switzerland.

The team must qualify for the limited number of starting slots at the Sydney Olympics through high placings at the World Rowing Championship at St Catherine's near Toronto in Canada in six weeks. They are leading the overall national placings in the Fisa World Cup with the men's four and pair and the women's pair all wearing the yellow jersey.

The men's four - with Ed Coode still holding out Tim Foster for the No 2 seat sandwiched between Steve Redgrave and Matthew Pinsent - have yet to face a serious challenge this year. They hear they will race Italy and the United States with new crews and may be given the chance to prove that they remain on target for a world championship win with Coode.

That will leave the men's coach, Jurgen Grobler, with the chance to leave Foster in the No 7 seat of the eight who have still to meet the stronger eight from the United States, champions for the past two years, and Australia, Italy and Russia from last year's final.

The men's pair of Simon Dennis and Steve Williams lead the World Cup after two second places. They are consistent in finding themselves in front of the pack in "A" finals at this level, but have not yet shown the technical skill to make the change of pace in the last 400 metres which kills off the other pretenders for gold. They win their points with bravado and verve but do need to row in a complementary, not contradictory, way.

The women's team, who filled all 18 places in the final of the women's invitational eights at Henley Royal Regatta last week, are back in the FISA line-up and are hoping that Henley will have provided a boost to their performance. Relative failures of the pair and double scull in Vienna were explained by their coach Mike Spracklen as "not a training problem, but a racing problem". He went on to say their new status as world silver and gold medallists hangs heavy on them.

The quadruple scull stroked by the Olympic finalist single sculler Gwin Batten have been learning their trade fast through the season, and, also fortified by a Henley win, come here with another bronze medal in their sights, although the Russian and Romanian crews will be here to push them down the order.

The British lightweight divisions of both men and women have disappointed this season, especially in the Olympic events. The athletes are undoubtedly available and training properly, but the crew combinations lack flair.

That story holds true for the lightweight women for whom Tracy Langlands and Jane Hall have struggled this year where 12 months ago they shone.