SPORT-BY-SPORT GUIDE No 5: Rowing; ATLANTA '96

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The Independent Online
The Olympic target for the British team is at least two gold medals. Steven Redgrave and Matthew Pinsent, champions in Barcelona, have spent the four years since winning everything they have entered in the coxless pair and will come to the start line aware that none of the crews alongside them believe they are beatable.

It will still be close and the five seconds by which they won four years ago is likely to be reduced, but even last year when they became world champions by one and a half seconds the margin was still emphatic.

The Searle brothers, who won the coxed pair in 1992, are contenders in the coxless four this time with Rupert Obholzer and Tim Foster. Their approach is in complete contrast to Pinsent and Redgrave. The four strive for some Corinthian ideal of seeming careless, but then race with monomanic ferocity when it matters. That is, in the Olympic final only.

However, they deceive to flatter themselves. They train to a different programme and have a fresher, less world weary style to the pair. But their concentration is almost more absolute and they rise to a peak in a more risky, insecure way but their physical ability and self-belief add up to the same result.

The team have 10 boats who have qualified for the limited number of places, and one of the better chances of another medal-winning performance comes from the women's eight who failed to qualify a year ago in Finland and only confirmed their selection three weeks ago. The crew have beaten all their opponents in Atlanta in the course of this season, except the United States and Romania, who finished first and second respectively last year. The British eight are still improving and have unusual confidence, a first Olympic medal for women's rowing is a possibility.

Another late qualifier, the lightweight men's double scull of Andy Sinton and Nick Strange, might also get close enough to the leaders to allow the scent of Olympic glory to drive them to race above their early form. Double sculls are boats which defy physical analysis. Both of these men have failed at the top before and Sinton is going to his third championships with a different partner, but there was a look about them when they qualified at Lucerne in June to convince the sceptics that little is beyond them.

Lightweight crews are racing at the Olympics for the first time and while there is plenty of World Championship form to judge, the chance of Olympic medals has intensified the events even more.

The men's lightweight four have not found the form expected of their physical talent, and have no decent results this year, but if they can release their talent, a third-place bronze is within reach.

GREAT BRITAIN SQUAD: MEN: Coxless Pair: S Redgrave (Leander), M Pinsent (Leander). Coach: J Grobler. Coxless Four: R Obholzer (University of London), J Searle (Molesey), G Searle (Molesey), T Foster (University of London). Coach: S Gunn. Eight: M Parish (Cambridge University), J Walker (Molesey), A Story (Leander), R Hamilton (Leander), R Brown (Notts County), P Bridge (Leander), B Hunt-Davis (Leander), G Smith (University of London). Cox: G Herbert. Coach: S Bowden. Heavyweight Double Scull: J Cracknell (Leander), R Thatcher (Leander). Coach: T O'Neill. Heavyweight Single Scull: P Haining (Auriol Kensington). Coach: M Forbes-Thomas. Lightweight Coxless Four: D Lemon (Notts County), J McNiven (Notts County), T Kay (Notts County), B Helm (London). Coach: J Grobler. Lightweight Double Scull: N Strange (London), A Sinton (Notts County). Coach: N Howe. Reserves: C McLennan (rowing heavyweight), M Harris (rowing heavyweight), G Pooley (sculling heavyweight), S Ellis (rowing lightweight), N Gardam (rowing lightweight), S Lee (sculling lightweight).

WOMEN: Women's Heavyweight Eight: A Stapleton (Thames), L Eyre (Royal Chester), D Blackie (Thames) K Pollitt (Thames), M Batte (Thames), C Bishop (Marlow), J Turvey (Tideway Scullers), A Gill (Upper Thames). Cox: S Ellis. Coach: B Mason. Women's Heavyweight Coxless Pair: K MacKenzie (Thames), P Cross (Molesey). Women's Heavyweight Single Scull: G Batten (Thames). Coach: M Forbes-Thomas. Reserves: S Walker (rowing heavyweight), G Lindsay (rowing heavyweight).

Hugh Matheson

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