Racing at the World Championships was delayed for five hours when an electric storm turned the streets here into rivers yesterday morning.
Fortunately, the afternoon crosswind was weaker than on previous days. Of nine British crews in heats, one qualified for finals on Sunday and two for semi-finals on Friday, with the rest going to second-chance repêchages tomorrow.
The British team had their first setback when Luka Grubor, the Olympic champion, slipped in his hotel bathroom and jarred his back. Simon Fieldhouse took his seat in the coxed four, which contains two other gold medallists from the Sydney 2000 eight, Steve Trapmore and Kieran West, and the Cambridge oarsman Tom Stallard.
Fieldhouse's introduction appeared seamless as the four, coxed by Christian Cormack, won their heat to qualify for Sunday's final. They beat their pursuers from Germany by a comfortable two seconds after a row which was "not too adventurous" in the words of their coach, Tim Foster, who had his share of sudden injury difficulties when he was in the Sydney Olympic champion four. "Luka's situation is one I am used to, so he got some sympathy," Foster said.
Fieldhouse, 26, is a former under-23 international who rowed with Matthew Pinsent for a few days at the pre-Championships training camp in France when James Cracknell had a cold, and has also sat in the four. If Grubor's injury is short-term, he may regain his seat in the boat for the final.
The women's quadruple scullers suffered in a tough draw. Belarus took first place from Germany in a photo-finish, with Britain trailing six seconds behind in third place.
Ned Kittoe and Nick English returned the fastest time of the day in the lightweight pairs to qualify for a semi-final, and the men's eight finished third behind the Americans in a fast time.
Britain's men's and women's lightweight double scullers have medal prospects. Helen Casey and Tracy Langlands were comfortably first to reach the semi-final, while Tim Male and Tom Kay's second place sends them to tomorrow's repêchage in a keenly-contested event. They could not catch the Poles Tomasz Kucharski and Robert Sycz, who are Olympic champions and 2001 world silver medallists. The Italian men's lightweight quad moved like lightning in the first 500 metres to deprive the British of first place.
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