Rowing: Britons are brought back down to earth


Hugh Matheson
Monday 22 July 1996 23:02

The glories of the first day for the British crews at the Olympic regatta on Lake Lanier gave way on the second to some grim truths when the four contenders finished last or second last in their opening heats.

Usually one crew will qualify from the heat direct to the final or semi- final with the remainder to progress through the repechage. As a result crews will decide early on that they cannot win and will work on saving energy for the next round allowing others to take the psychological edge as well as a day off.

Among yesterday's casualties were two potential medal-class boats. The men's lightweight double scull, Andy Sinton and Nick Strange , had a tough draw. After 500 metres they was narrowly in front but in the next quarter the whole field swept past them and they were just under three seconds off the lead at half-way. Thereafter, a direct place in the semi-final was out of reach. Strange has a rib injury and has been out of the boat for a week, and probably wanted to avoid further risk.

The women's eight has not beaten the United States and Romania this year but have the chance of a bronze if it can stay ahead of Canada and Germany, both of whom were in the same heat. Ali Gill the stroke admitted afterwards: "We had a terrible start." They dropped six seconds in the first quarter and finished 15 seconds off the pace in the slowest time of the day.

The men's eight had a bad result starting in lane one against the world's best this year, the Netherlands. They had the advantage of some shelter from a slight cross head wind and lost half a length in 20 strokes which had extended to a length after 500 metres but they plugged away and overtook the Ukraine while the Dutch spreadeagled the field.

The men's lightweight four, with three former world champions, has emerged from a strenuous selection procedure out of one of the toughest lightweight groups in the world, but has not combined to show the pace its pedigree suggests. When it lost a length at the first quarter mark they cruised to the repechage where they will have to beat one of Ireland, Austria and Spain, all of whom was faster yesterday.

Competitors in the single sculls events are unhappy about the miniature television cameras attached to the stern of each boat. Officials are considering whether to retain the 2lb cameras, remove them or just switch them off. The camera does not present such a problem in the bigger boats.

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