Rowing: Warnock keeps a cool head in medal chase

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The Independent Online
THE BRITISH rowing team has put 11 crews into the finals for top six places and may well convert half of these to medals at the World Rowing Championships in Cologne this weekend.

Yesterday, the men's lightweight coxless four gave proof of its threatened arrival in the top group with a well-judged race, lying in the pack in fourth place through the first 1,000 metres before making a decisive move in the third quarter which pulled them into second, a length down on the strong and confident Australian crew which had made its move in the same place. In the last 500m they cleared the Irish, who had stuck to their task longer than predicted, and closed on Australia to record the third fastest time for the event and move to the final with just the right level of confidence.

Jim McNiven, the experienced Scot at number two, praised the stroke man John Warnock as "the coolest and most relaxed first-time international I have ever seen. It means James Brown, the bow man, who calls the moves in the race, can stick to the plan and get the best out of us."

The men's double scull of Simon Goodbrand and Colin Greenaway got involved in a real firefight of a sprint finish in their final for places seven to 12 and finished ninth overall but ahead of the Free brothers from Australia, second in the world a year ago, who dropped this time to 10th. This crew, in its first year, has set the scene for a revival of British crew sculling just in time for the run up to Sydney 2000.

The men's and women's lightweight double sculls both missed out on places in the top final in tough competition. Tim Male and Matthew Beechey guessed they were outclassed and made a blistering start in the hope of taking an unassailable lead. The tactic, brief and brave, was not enough to carry them through. For Jane Hall and Tracy Langlands, who have been in the medals in the World Cup this summer, the first 500m was their worst and they reached half way in last place before putting a strong challenge in the second thousand to finish fourth, but five seconds off a place in the final.

Today's racing will open with a medal chance for the British lightweight women's pair, with Jo Nitsch substituting for Caroline Hobson who has a chronic back injury. This non-Olympic event has an entry of only four and may soon be cut from the competition.

Shortly after, Peter Haining will attempt to show that he has come back to the lightweight single scull in style, but a record fourth win might be a step too far even for him. He is followed by Guin Batten going better than ever in the women's single and then by Greg Searle, going for a medal in a field cleaned of three of its six former champions.

The biggest final of all for British interest will be the coxless four where the reigning champions - James Cracknell, Steve Redgrave, Tim Foster and Matthew Pinsent - will be the most likely to demonstrate complete domination.