Rowing Three more for Britain

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The Independent Online
Britain's most successful rowing team in world championship history picked up three bronze medals on the second day of the finals on the idyllic Lac Aiguebelette in the foothills of the French Alps, to add to the five medals won on the first day.

With eight overall, Britain ranked second in total only to Germany, vindicating the faith of the Sports Council, which provided pounds 1.8m of lottery funding in the first year of the programme towards Sydney 2000.

In yesterday's finals the women's team took its first medal ever in the eights with a storming second half after finding itself in last place after 500 metres. Four of this crew had won gold the day before in the coxless four and were racing a Romanian eight who were also doubling up from the coxless fours.

The Romanians, Olympic champions in this event, stormed away with only Canada hanging on. The British crew were left at the back of the chasing pack but found a solid rhythm to race the middle thousand metres without any fade, drawing back fractionally on the Canadians in the last quarter to take bronze three seconds clear of Belarus.

The openweight women's team, which has only won two medals since the World Championships began in 1962, took three here with the double sculls silver on Saturday. This is mostly attributable to the galvanising effect of the new chief coach, Mike Spracklen, who has given each of them a new confidence.

He is more modest, citing the internal rivalry generated in training where the eight split into two fours and each session becomes a race. He was especially pleased that the world champion four was twice beaten in training by the other half of the eight which only formed properly 10 days before the regatta.

It was a shame that Cath Bishop, who stroked the coxless pair with Dot Blackie, dropped out with flu on the morning of the semi-finals, but typical that Spracklen reached into the eight, plucked out Francesca Zino and that the scratch pair, with just 6 kilometres of practice together, just failed to qualify for the first six final and won the small final with a length and a bit to spare.

The men's coxed four had something to prove, coming from the increasingly isolated Nottingham group and having finished fourth a year ago. The four claimed it had put on speed, with Ed Coode from Newcastle University coming into the No 2 seat, but they are still a part-time crew at a time when Fisa, the governing body, has quietly dropped the word "amateur" from its constitution.

In the early rounds France had looked strongest and had home water advantage, but it was Italy which showed in front. The British four was fifth after 500m and fourth at halfway, but stuck to its work to draw into third for the last 500m and crossed five seconds clear of the United States to take bronze.

The lightweight women's pair of Malindi Myers and Caroline Hobson had no form guide, as the six entries in this class meant that they went straight to the final without elimination heats. Australia and the United States quickly drew clear with the British pair three lengths behind after 1500m but well ahead of the chasing pack. In the last quarter Myers and Hobson, in what is now typical British fashion, closed fast to take four seconds off the leaders and with that effort the bronze.

The men's eight, which has performed well through the season, was dropped from the start of the final and was always struggling to get back on terms. But they produced the fastest last 500m to claw their way back to fourth place and beat the German crew which has led them all season.