Rowing: Winning start for Redgrave

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The Independent Online
STEVE REDGRAVE began his quest for a 13th World or Olympic gold medal with a sharp win in the first round of the World Championships here yesterday.

Redgrave is competing for the third year in the coxless four with Matthew Pinsent, his partner since 1990, Ed Coode, new this year, and James Cracknell. They were chased over the last 500 metres by New Zealand but, as is now his custom, Redgrave left the call for more effort very late. When it came Pinsent, in the stroke seat, was able to push the strokes per minute to 42 and pull out a respectable margin on the line.

There was a fine win also for the men's pair of Simon Dennis and Steve Williams, who were led by the United States to half-way before demolishing them with a devastating third 500m. Greg Searle showed a welcome return to form and finished second in his single sculls heat behind the Olympic champion, Xeno Muller.

The lightweight men's eight showed briefly in front of Italy and the Netherlands up to halfway before fading to third place, while Peter Haining chased the Czech Michal Vabrousek hard to finish second.

The women's team were struggling throughout. The pair of Dot Blackie and Cath Bishop were more than a length down on the Russians for most of their race, and although they closed up at the end were unable to get in front.

The reigning world champions in the double scull, Miriam Batten and Gillian Lindsay, were fourth in their heat and will have to qualify through the repechage.

It is a characteristic of crews coached by Mike Stracklen, the women's chief coach, who was also chief coach in Canada and the United States during the 1990s, that they show immediate improvement in the first year and usually sustain the results in the second, but all except the strongest athletes suffer a decline in later years from the unrelenting workload in training.

Today the championships continue with the second day of opening heats. The two men's lightweight Olympic events, for which this regatta is the qualifying event, will both feel the pressure. But it will be a good chance for the new women's quadruple scull, stroked by Guin Batten, to prove itself after good results in the FISA World Cup this summer.

The men's eight took three second places in the World Cup but will be confronted here for the first time by the 1998 champions, the Untied States, who have not raced in Europe this season.