Rowing / World Rowing Championships: Redgrave papers over the cracks: Gold medals hide worrying shortcomings in British team as Olympics beckon

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ON THE face of it, three gold medals, one silver and one bronze looked good for Britain at the World Championships here, but, as every year since 1984, much depended on Steven Redgrave and his partner since 1990, Matthew Pinsent.

Oarsmen new to the international scene who speak little English can still say 'Redgrave' and 'awesome' - such is the reputation of the rower who spearheaded Britain's push to third place behind Italy and Germany in the final medal table.

The other two golds were won by the lightweight sculler, Peter Haining, who is an unusual blend of strength and bravado, and by the lightweight eight. These boats come from a fiercely competitive squad, who will suffer from the loss of the lightweight chief coach, Sean Bowden. He is going to California to surf.

After Redgrave, the men's team have a new coxless four with the potential to run through to the 1996 Olympics in Atlanta in medal-winning form.

With the coxed pair champions, Jonny and Greg Searle, sandwiched between Tim Foster and Rupert Obholzer, it took a long time this summer to find the right seating order, and the combination was untried before the heats here.

In the final they had a poor start, but came through to a secure a bronze medal and were chasing France for silver as they crossed the line.

However, the eight were always two lengths behind the best here and dropped to eighth place, or seventh if you allow for the disqualification of Ukraine, who had beaten them for a place in the final.

Jurgen Grobler, the British men's coach, has a huge task ahead with the eight. When the Searle brothers were in it, the eight came third in the 1991 championships. But when other countries like Denmark, who have no tradition in heavyweight rowing, can train an eight for only four weekends, come to the World Championships without a training camp, and still finish fourth, the British shortage of boat-movers with strength is evident.

Grobler must also find assistants who can disguise the lack of power with fine stylistic and technical coaching, or the medal count in Atlanta - even with the inclusion of lightweight events for the first time - will be low.

The problems are not confined to the men's events. The lightweight women's four came back after a year of struggling against injury to take a silver medal, but behind this facade there is no women's team to speak of. In the pair, Miriam Batten has now failed to rise to the occasion three times in tandem with Jo Turvey.

Results, Sporting Digest, page 43

(Photograph omitted)