World Rowing Championships: Slow-starting British pull away for three golds: Pinsent and Redgrave set trend with fourth pairs title after giving ground to fast-starting Germans

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The Independent Online
THE British team took three gold medals in the World Championships here over the weekend which, with a silver and bronze, placed them second to Italy in the medal table. But the winners all came from behind and between them led for only a few strokes of the regatta.

British training regimes are devoted to huge endurance and the race patterns to steady rhythmical work in the middle of the course, with all the spare energy thrown into a final sprint. In the fast tail- wind conditions, some left it too late.

Matthew Pinsent and Steven Redgrave took their fourth pairs title with a devastating last 500 metres when they passed the Germans, Peter Holtzenbein and Thorsten Strepplehoff, who had used the fast conditions to build a three-second lead. They hung dead level for a tantalising 10 strokes before the sheer strength of the British carried them through.

Peter Haining, the Scottish lightweight, was the only sculler to retain a title, though this was made more likely by the disqualification of Silken Laumann, the women's champion in 1993, for making two false starts in her race. The start rigmarole has been revised to prevent crews anticipating and squeezing off the start. But this has proved unworkable, with false starts called in almost all races.

Haining was looking forward to the race because while the wind suited Niall O'Toole, his Irish rival, it gave him the chance to prove his worth in the most threatening conditions. O'Toole went out fast and led by a length, but when Haining moved it was with a commanding 250 metres of 'power through the feet' which took three seconds off the Irishman and made the Scot only the third man to repeat wins in the single.

He will go for a third title next year, while also finding a partner for the Olympic double scull. Haining will scull either with Carl Smith, from the lightweight eight, or a heavyweight, where the scope in Britain is limited.

The lightweight eight, a new combination of old hands, were full of the sort of cool that can race with a beautiful, almost automatic, rhythm. This allowed them to give the Danes half a length at 1500m knowing that when they turned the screw they would have the strength to come past at the end. It worked only on the last two strokes, but after their win no one was surprised or prepared to admit that they might have left it too late.

The women's lightweight four, who came together for the first time this season in the Commonwealth Games, also planned to come from behind and were still lying fourth 200m from the finish. But, closing all the while on the United States, a stirring sprint saw them through to second place. Their silver was only a disappointment when measured against their 1993 winning standard.

The habit of starting slowly and then being obliged to drive back through the field was taken to an extreme by the coxless four. With the Searle brothers sandwiched between Tim Foster and Rupert Obholzer, they were dropped by over a length off the start. Greg Searle said: 'It was more important to us to get the rhythm right to go well in the middle 1,000m.'

After crossing 500m in last position, the four settled to their rhythm and passed Slovenia but still lost a further second to France and Italy. In the second half, though, they got the reward for their steadier start and sliced through the back markers, taking three seconds off the field to close into the bronze medal position. The lead, however, was too great and while for the last 250m they were poised to go through France for the silver, they were held off.

The strong wind, meanwhile, had pushed Italy to a world record of 5min 48sec. The conditions did not favour the British, who thrive on longer races, and the four will go back into the selection melting pot through the winter. As a proven combination of different talents, though, they should be reformed in the summer and be given the chance to run through to Atlanta.