Seven medals including gold for the men's and women's pairs was an excellent result for the British in the second round of the World Cup here in the rowing stadium built for the 1972 Olympic Games. Several crews found better form, the new men's eight had a happy christening, and the team is placed second in the Cup and second to Germany overall after two of the three rounds.
Cath Bishop and Katherine Grainger's revived partnership in the pair has taken them to the top in the five weeks since Bishop returned to rowing after an 18-month retirement, and James Cracknell and Matthew Pinsent had a much happier weekend than that of the first round in Milan, where they were beaten by both Croatia and Italy.
"We were doing a lot of wheel-spinning in Milan," Pinsent said. "Today we had better rhythm. We made no fundamental changes, just played to our strengths of power and getting more length in the stroke." Cracknell rated yesterday's performance when they led all the way and ran in five seconds ahead of the Czechs, Adam Michalek and Pter Imre, as "nine out of 10" for the middle 1,250 metres of the course. "We weren't really rowing together in Milan," he said. "We've moved on a lot in certain respects." Pinsent's favourite song blared out over the water at the finish: "We are the champions."Neither of the crews who beat them three weeks ago took part here, but the Croatians, Niksa and Sinisa Skelin, who withdrew at the last minute because of illness, will challenge them next week in the Goblets at Henley.
Bishop and Grainger's poor start enabled them to try what they had achieved in training, squeezing more power from their strokes instead of raising their rating. They moved through the field at 34 strokes to the minute until they were second after 500 metres and leading by halfway. They commanded the race and then provided a nail-biting finish as the Belorussians made a strong challenge in the last 200 metres. "We were told to make rowing more of a spectator sport, so we made it more exciting," Grainger said. They are confident that there is something left in the tank for when they meet the formidable Romanians and Canadians who were not in Munich.
The coxless four gave the German world champions a fright when, they caught up a length in the final 300 metres, only to miss gold by a quarter of a second. The fact the British were last after 500 metres pinpoints where the trouble lies. Starts are their Achilles heel: if they can start right, nobody will be able to answer them.
Rebecca Romero and Debbie Flood's second place in the double sculls showed real advance since their first race three weeks ago. The German winners and the Belorussian bronze medallists each carried an Olympic champion, both of whom were winning medals before the British women learned to scull. They knew that they have to be on terms with them, because last year's world champions and runners-up were not present. The only blight on their day was both being bitten by a wasp immediately after the race.
In the men's double sculls, Ian Lawson and Matt Wells also flew, coming from low down in the order to challenge the Czechs for gold and pip the Slovenians for silver in a photo-finish.
Helen Casey and Tracy Langlands won bronze in the lightweight double sculls in a strong field, and the men's eight also took bronze. The coach Steve Gunn said "It's a good first step in the eight's campaign this season, but that's all it is. We've got to get the other steps right."
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