GB Rowing’s squad at the first world cup of the season took, numerically, its biggest medal tally of all-time with nine golds, a silver and a bronze from 16 starters in today’s finals.
Even as the GB Performance Director David Tanner lifted the world cup trophy, the squad was aware that bigger challenges will be afoot when more and stronger nations enter the fray at the next two editions.
Today, though, was a time to celebrate some unique achievements.
The new men’s four were winners on their debut run-out whilst the men’s pair of Pete Reed and Andy Triggs Hodge were gold medallists as they launched their new project in the men’s pair by holding off a strong South African pair to win.
Matthew Wells and Stephen Rowbotham were involved in a nail-biting finish to win gold from a strong field in the men’s double scull whilst Anna Bebington and Annabel Vernondoubled up successfully to win gold in the women’s double and quadruple scull – the latter alongside Katie Greves and Beth Rodford – as did Olivia Whitlam and Louisa Reeve in the women’s pair and eight.
There was a significant performances here from the men’s quadruple scull who took a silver. “This is the first complete crew from our own talent identification scheme to win a world cup senior medal and I like the way they are doing things”, said David Tanner GB Rowing’s Performance Director of the crew coaches by Mark Earnshaw.
“Overall, of course, I’m very pleased with what has happened here. There are many more boats to come in later regattas but in the events where here where there was a strong field, it showed that our top boats are in form”.
The GB men’s eight added a bronze to the final tally in the last race of the regatta, meaning
that only the three lightweight crews – of the leading GB crews by event – departed Spain without a medal in their luggage but, as new line-ups, they too showed their potential to progress.
The next world cup takes place in Munich from June 19-21st.
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RACE REPORTS (in order of racing)
Anna Bebington and Annabel Vernon took an early advantage over the field in the women’s double scull final, creating a third of a length lead over Belarus after 250m. By the 750m mark they had gone a length ahead whilst GB’s second-ranked crew of Beth Rodford and Katie Greves were back in sixth but still in touch with the pack.
Poland began to challenge at the half-way mark tracked by Italy, whose duo are known to have a fast finish. Indeed it was the Italians who took second in the charge to the line ahead of the Belarussians but neither could touch Vernon and Bebington who took GB’s first gold of the day with Rodford and Greves coming sixth.
“I really love racing in the double and it’s great to start the season in a fast boat”, said Bebington after the race.
Vernon said: “We knew that we had enough to win, the last 100m was comfortable”.
Not to be outdone by their sculling counterparts, Olympians Louisa Reeve and Olivia Whitlam held off a determined challenge from Russia with whom the swapped the lead on occasions today to take gold in the ensuing women’s pair in 7:27.00. They had built a lead at 1500m and controlled the race in the final 300m from there. Mind you, Whitlam sneaked a look over her shoulder with 8 strokes to go – perhaps to see wether the line would come sooner. The GB U23 pair of Monica Relph and Jacqui Round can also take heart from their performance here in finishing fifth. They were in contention with the pack throughout and held their pace at the end.
“It’s our project from last year and it feels good to carry it forward”, said Whitlam.
“Yesterday we were only third with 500m to go and we had to sprint for the line. So today we wanted to get a good start and focus on going harder in the middle of the race”, added Reeve.
Relph and Round, meanwhile, both talked of the significant benefit for an U23 pair to soak up the experience here. Relph said: “When we race we want to do as well as we can and we did today but we’ve learnt a lot”. Round added: “We had a really good row today even though we finished fifth. We are on a massive learning curve and we have made several changes already”.
Peter Reed and Andy Triggs Hodge were hot favourites to take gold in this, their debut regatta as a pair at world cup level. Today they were in the lead early but perhaps not as far ahead as they might have liked with South Africa their main challengers.
“Our first 500m wasn’t as good as yesterday’s semis”, said Hodge. “But we knew we could move at 1000m and we got into our cadence and squeezed it on home. It felt good. It’s great to be part of an exciting new project but there are other big challenges from other nations so it will be exciting”.
Reed said: “Andy and I both have big engines and we are mentally tough and I didn’t feel very much pressure today. The South Africans are a classy crew and they stayed with us longest today but we felt comfortable in the last 450m”.
Matt Wells and Stephen Rowbotham had talked of Croatia and Italy having good doubles into today’s final but it was France’s lead boat, carrying Beijing medallists in the men’s quadruple scull, who were the in-form opposition. They led by a second at the half-way point.
By 1500m the British duo, Olympic medallists also, had closed the gap to just 0.3 of a second. In one of the best quality and closest fields Rowbotham and Wells went eyeball to eyeball with the opposition in the final 150m and took the verdict by a whisker at the line in a finish that had the crowd on its feet.
Six hundredths of a second gave GB the victory with France in second and Croatia third.
“We knew the French would be good today and, at breakfast, Jurgen (Grobler – GB Rowing Head Men’s Coach) leaned over and told us to watch them”, said Rowbotham. “We also knew that our boat class is one of the toughest because there are medallists from all over the world. Today we felt confident. I know it looked like we were coming back into it at the end but I was just waiting for Matt’s (Well’s) call for the sprint to the line.
GB’s newly-formed men’s four have some wise heads on board who are already the owners of Olympic silvers. Today they had built a long lead by the halfway mark and by 1500m were more than a length up on their nearest challengers – the Czech Republic. Roared on by the crowd Beijing silver medallists Matt Langridge, Alex Partridge, Rick Egington and newcomer Alex Gregory stormed through the final 300m to win in style today.
Stroke Matt Langridge said: “We’re a new four and we all want to improve on what we’ve done before. Alex (Partridge) called a great race today and we got into our rhythm well”.
“It’s good to be racing again”, said Ric Egington. “We’ve only been together for a while and we’ve even made big improvements whilst we’ve been here. It’s been quite an interesting few weeks”.
With five golds having gone before her on the course, Katherine Grainger, three-times Olympic silver medallist, might have felt the pressure if she hadn’t been in her racing zone. Trying the single scull at world cup level for the first time this year, Grainger was in the lead at 500m over Brett Sickler of the USA and by 1000m had stretched that lead to two seconds. With three-quarters of the race behind her, Grainger had built a four second gap. On the outside meanwhile Sweden put in a big push on the American with the home favourite Nuria Asensio Dominguez of Spain also finishing well.
On the line though, it was victory to Grainger in 7:56.40. Frida Svensson of Sweden was second and Spain became a popular visitor to the podium in third place.
“I’m over the moon. I wanted to try the single as a personal test but I didn’t dream of winning. It wasn’t the strongest field but you can only race the people who are here. I’m ecstatic to have won. I could not have asked for more”, said Grainger.
Alan Campbell got away to his habitual rocket-like start in the men’s single scull. He knew he had serious opposition to contend with in twice and reigning Olympic champion, Olaf Tufte of Norway, as well as the man who pipped Campbell by one place in the Olympic final – Tim Maeyens of Belgium.
Campbell held the pace and led by just over a second at halfway. Maeyens and Tufte swapped the front position in the chase behind him. At times Campbell has been caught in the final 500m by racers as experienced as Tufte. Not this time, though, he powered through the final sprint, leaving Tufte to take second and Maeyens third.
“The Olympics was a tough time for me and I’m hoping for a better season. I need to show my form in every regatta. Each one is a personal test for me”, said Campbell afterwards.
Expectations of the lightweight women’s double scull were not quite as high going into the next race as all the preceding boats. Brought together in the last 10 days because of injury to Hester Goodsell, Sophie Hosking and Andrea Dennis had already proved their mettle by reaching the final. They, like all the women in this sector of the GB squad, are seeking to push the bar higher.
Today the GB duo were fourth at the halfway point and held their poise and rhythm in the final 500m battle to take fourth, finishing strongly in a race that was won by Germany, with Spain second and Canada third.
Canada led out the final of the lightweight men’s double scull with Italy chasing them closely and France in third. By the halfway mark Great Britain were still in contention in fifth but seemed to have left themselves too much to do.
Paul Mattick and Rob Williams are a new combination for GB in this boat class in 2009. At 1500m they were up to fourth but four seconds down on the lead, which had now passed to eventual winners Italy. Canada were second and the GB boat squeezed on the pace to try and catch the second-ranked of two French entries in this event but did not have enough left in the final 200m. Mattick and Williams are both talented and determined athletes who will have been disappointed with that outcome.
GB’s lightweight men’s four are a fresh mix. Only Chris Bartley has previously raced at world cup senior level before. All have come through GB Rowing’s world class start talent identification scheme which is funded by the lottery and sponsored by Siemens.
Today they were holding onto fourth place after 400m of their final. Italy, Germany and Denmark were neck and neck at the head of the race. By the halfway point the Germans had created a one second cushion and the GB boat had slipped back to fifth ahead of Spain. Nothing separated the leaders with the second-ranked Italian boat now surging into a narrow lead at 1500m.
GB locked into their own battle with Spain, were fifth still and were strong at the finish to hold onto that creditable place in 6:55.05. Denmark’s final burst afforded them victory in 6:44.37 with Germany second and the second ranked Italian boat third.
The GB quartet that lined up for the final of the women’s
quadruple scull final had already tasted victory today
through Vernon and Bebington’s win in the double scull
in a final in which Rodford and Greves were fifth.
All four’s previous efforts did not seem to have dimmed their edge as they surged into an early lead and had four seconds on Italy by 500m, six seconds by halfway and eight seconds at 1500m. Even the spectators’ commentator on-site was suggesting they might like to take it all a little easier.
In a small field, the GB quartet ploughed on mercilessly and took the victory in 7:26.44. The Netherlands overhauled Italy in the final 250m to take second in 7:32.18.
“It’s always going to be tough doubling up and we had a hard race in the double scull earlier. But we had to put that behind us and refocus”, said Rodford. “We had our recovery strategy in place”.
“It was really tricky conditions at the start of that race with the waves coming up over the boat. So we only really relaxed and got into the rhythm in the middle of the race”, said Bebington.
“Once we settled on that good rhythm we didn’t really need to wind it up in the last 500m”, said Greves. “We were a lot better today than yesterday”.
Vernon said: “It was much more difficult conditions than earlier in the day, very windy and choppy which made it very hard work”.
The GB men’s quadruple scull also made a podium finish today, taking silver in a tight finish with Olympic champions Poland.
This was a great result for the combination of Sam Townsend, Bill Lucas, Marcus Batemanand Charles Cousins and once more testament to the sport’s talent identification and development system.
“It’s my first medal at senior level so I’m really happy”, said Townsend afterwards. “It was windy and the conditions were tricky but that doesn’t matter now”.
The quartet were third at the first official marker after 500m and made their move up into second before halfway. In the final 500m they looked strong and began a serious challenge to the leaders, Poland.
“We had some patchy moments earlier but in that last 500m we had a clear run at it and started to ramp it up”, said Lucas. “We thought we might get the Poles”.
“We tried to keep the shape of the stroke in the boat”, added Bateman. “We’re a new crew and we were disappointed with the number of entries but Poland, being an established crew, were a real test for us”.
Cousins said: “It was hard work in the conditions and a bit scrappy at times. I could see that we were closing on Poland and every time that Marcus made the call we responded”.
Meanwhile, doubling up was a theme throughout the women’s squad as the women’s eight, featuring the earlier winners of the women’s pair here, Olivia Whitlam and Louisa Reeve, took up the challenge of a two-boat final with Poland. It was a race that GB dominated from start to finish winning by 17 seconds.
“We had to be on the ball from the start today because of the tricky conditions”, said Jo Cook. “We were keen to get as big a margin as we could”.
Alice Freeman added: “It’s good to get two races in. We gelled well as a crew and although it’s a bit tough to race just one other crew, we focussed in our own boat which was good”.
Lindsey Maguire said: “It was really great to race in my first senior world cup. Often in a race you are in a big pack at 500m so we had to just focus on what we were doing as though we were in that kind of race”.
Whitlam said: “Conditions had changed during the day which made it harder. We wanted to put together a good race and concentrate on rowing our own race. So we didn’t approach it any differently to a six-boat final”.
O’Connor the cox said: “It was quite a tricky start as it was very choppy but once we settled into it, we picked up well. it was a good start to the season”.
Jennifer Farmer, making her senior world cup debut said: “It was a bit like a baptism of fire as the conditions were very difficult. Parts of the race felt really good and it was great to win my first world cup race”.
Reeve said: “It was quite a different race to yesterday’s seeding race. We stepped up quite a bit more. It was hard doubling up. I felt it my legs”.
Jess Eddie said: “We’ve done some really hard training and there are more good things to come. There are quite a few new girls in the boat so it has been a good experience for them. It was good to get the first race of the Olympiad under our belt. It is a really great time to be part of the GB team, we are a very close team”.
Natasha Page said: “It was loads better than yesterday. Caroline, our cox, did a really good job to motivate us. It’s a really good experience but there’s a long way to go”.
GB’s men’s eight are a completely different line-up to the crew that won Olympic silver last year. Today this debutante line-up battled Italy at the front of their race. They led at 500m and 1500m but fell back to third in the final blast to the line. Italy were winners in 6:02.74 whilst Poland were second, emerging into silver medal position with a well-timed final 250m and GB finished in 6:05.02.
“The first half of the race today went really well”, said James Clarke who has stepped up from last year’s lightweight to the open weight squad this season. “We learnt a lot from both yesterday and today and we’ve got a lot to build on”.
James Orme said: ‘Hopefully, we can hold off the Poles next time. We just didn’t have the speed towards the end”.
James Foad said: “We are still a young crew and we’ve got a lot to learn. We just ran out of steam today in the second half”.
Mohamed Sbihi said: “We had a much better race than yesterday. I’m now looking forward to the next world cup because although it’s nice to win a medal it was the wrong colour today”.
Tom Solebsury said: “We’re not far off where we need to be. We were more aggressive today than yesterday”.
Tom Ransley said: “It was OK today – better than yesterday. It’s still nice to win a medal in my first world cup”.
Cox Phelan Hill said: “It was pretty bumpy conditions at the start today but we’re used to that back at home”.
Tom Burton said: “I really concentrated on what was happening in our boat so I wasn’t completely aware of what was going on around us”.
Tom Wilkinson said: “We went out hard today to put ourselves in a good position and it worked”.
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1. Louisa Reeve/Olivia Whitlam (GREAT BRITAIN) 7:27.00
2. Mayya Zhuchkova/Alevtina Podvyazina (Russia) 7:29.09
3. Samanta Molina/Enrica Marasca (Italy) 7;35.41
4. Marie Le Nepvou/Stephanie Dechand (France) 7;37.81
5. Monica Relph/Jacqui Round (GREAT BRITAIN 2) 7:40.17
1. Jo Cook/Jennie Farmer/Alice Freeman/Lindsey Maguire/
Olivia Whitlam/Loiusa Reeve/Natasha Page/Jess Eddie/
Caroline O’Connor (cox) GREAT BRITAIN 7:10.42
2. Poland 7:27.03
1. Katherine Grainger (GREAT BRITAIN) 7:56.40
2. Frida Svensson (Sweden) 7:59.69
3. Nuria Dominguez Asensio (Spain) 7:59.89
4. Brett Sickler (USA) 8:00.04
5. Nienke Groen (Netherlands) 8:29.28
6. Roxane Gabriel (France) 8:45.26
1. Annabel Vernon/Anna Bebington (GREAT BRITAIN 1) 7:07.88
2. Laura Schiavone/Elisabetta Sancassani (Italy) 7:10.06
3. Julia Michalska/Agata Gramatyka (Poland) 7:12.62
4. Magdalena Fularczyk/Natalia Madaj (Poland 2) 7;17.34
5. Beth Rodford/Katie Greves (GREAT BRITAIN 2) 7:19.40
6. Anastasiya Fadzeyenka/Katsiaryna Shilupskaya (Belarus) 7:23.10
1. Katie Greves/Beth Rodford/Anna Bebington/Annie Vernon
(GREAT BRITAIN) 7:26.44
2. Netherlands 7:32.18
3. Italy 7:33.97
1. Peter Reed/Andy Triggs Hodge (GREAT BRITAIN) 6:31.70
2. Shaun Keeling/Ramon di Clemente (South Africa) 6:33.85
3. James Dunaway/Derek O’Farrell (Canada) 6:38.02
4. Nikola Stojic/Goran Jagar (Serbia 1) 6:39.48
5. Nikolas & Apostolos Gkountoulas (Greece) 6:40.17
6. German Chardin/Dorian Mortelette (France 1) 6:48.17
1. Alex Partridge/Ric Egington/Alex Gregory/Matthew
Langridge (GREAT BRITAIN) 6:06.54
2. Czech Republic 6:09.63
3. Greece 6:10.48
4. Spain 6:12.55
5. France 1 6:15.52
6. Croatia 6:16.40
1. Italy 6:02.74
2. Poland 6:04.28
3. Tom Wilkinson/James Foad/James Orme/Tom Burton
Mohamed Sbihi/Tom Solesbury/Tom Ransley/James
Clarke/Phelan Hill (cox) (GREAT BRITAIN) 6:05.02
4. Netherlands 6:07.96
1. Alan Campbell (GREAT BRITAIN) 7:05.66
2. Olaf Tufte (Norway) 7:07.80
3. Tim Maeyens (Belgium) 7:09.52
4. Angel Fournier-Rodriguez (Cuba) 7:15.60
5. Stanislau Shcharbachenia (Belarus 1) 7:16.67
6. Ioannis Christou (Greece) 7:29.59
1. Matthew Wells/Stephen Rowbotham (GREAT BRITAIN) 6:23.98
2. Julien Bahain/Cedric Berrest (France 1) 6:24.04
3. Martin & Valent Sinkovic (Croatia 1) 6:24.43
4. David Sain/Damir Martin (Croatia 1) 6:29.00
5. Samuel Stitt/Glenn Ochal (USA) 6:33.26
6. Jean-Baptiste Macquet/Adrien Hardy (France) 6:35.94
1. Poland 6:27.48
2. Charles Cousins/Marcus Bateman/Bill Lucas/Sam Townsend
(GREAT BRITAIN) 6:27.93
3. Canada 6:33.89
4. Russia 6:37.09
1. Anja Noske/Marie-Louise Draeger (Germany) 7:27.17
2. Teresa Mas de Xaxars/Ursula Grobler (Spain) 7:29.30
3. Lindsay Jennerich/Sheryl Preston (Canada) 7:32.92
4. Andrea Dennis/Sophie Hosking (GREAT BRITAIN) 7:35.07
5. Magdalena Kemnitz/Agnieska Renc (Poland 2) 7:38.68
6. Traintafyllia Kalampoka/Christina Giazitzidou (Greece) 7:42.49
1. Denmark 6:44.37
2. Germany 6:46.10
3. Italy 2 6:47.73
4. Italy 1 6:51.52
5. Bob Hewitt/Stephen Feeney/Chris Boddy/Chris Bartley
(GREAT BRITAIN) 6:55.05
6. Spain 6:56.74
1. Marcello Miani/Elia Luini (Italy 1) 6:59.29
2. Douglas Vandor/Cameron Sylvester (Canada) 7:01.57
3. Brice Menet/Pierre-Etienne Pollez (France 2) 7:02.23
4. Rob Williams/Paul Mattick (GREAT BRITAIN) 7:05.98
5. Maxime Goisset/Stany Delayre (France 1) 7:09.84
6. Tommaso Sacchini/Davide Babboni (Italy 2) 7:12.06
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(club/home town/d.o.b in brackets)
WORLD CUP, BANYOLES, SPAIN
Olivia Whitlam (Agecroft/Warrington/16.09.85)/Louisa Reeve (Leander Club/London/16.05.84)
Katherine Grainger (St Andrew BC/Aberdeen/12.11.75)
Double scull – two boats
Annabel Vernon (Marlow RC/Wadebridge/01.09.82)/Anna
Bebington (Leander Club/Leek, Staffs/13.02.83)
Katie Greves (Leander Club/Oxford/02.09.82)/
Beth Rodford (Gloucester RC/Burton-on-Trent/ 28.12.82)
Katie Greves (Leander Club/Oxford/02.09.82)/
Beth Rodford (Gloucester RC/Burton-on-Trent/ 28.12.82)/
Anna Bebington (Leander Club/Leek, Staffs/13.02.83)/
Annabel Vernon (Marlow RC/Wadebridge/01.09.82)
Alice Freeman (Wallingford RC/Oxford/06.09.78)/
Jennie Farmer (Molesey BC/Isleworth/26.03.85)
Jo Cook (Leander/Nottingham/22.03.84)/
Lindsey Maguire (Wallingford/Edinburgh/15.01.82)/
Olivia Whitlam (Agecroft/Warrington/16.09.85)/
Louisa Reeve (Leander Club/London/16.05.84)/
Natasha Page (Reading Uni BC/Hartpury/30.04.85)/
Jess Eddie (Uni of London BC/Durham/07.10.84)/
Caroline O’Connor (Oxford Brookes Uni BC/Ealing/25.04.83) (cox)
Additional U23 Pair
Jacqui Round (Nottingham RC/St Neots/01.07.87)/
Monica Relph (Nottingham RC/Cambridge/15.01.88)
Peter Reed (Leander Club/Nailsworth, Glos/27.07.81)/Andy Triggs Hodge
(Molesey BC/Hebden, N.Yorks/03.03.79)
Matt Langridge(Leander Club/Northwich/20.05.83)/Richard
Egington (Leander Club/Knutsford/26.02.79)/Alex Gregory (Reading
Uni BC/Wormington/11.03.84)/Alex Partridge (Leander Club/Alton, Hants/25.01.81)
Tom Wilkinson (Leander Club/Reading/04.07.85)/
James Foad (Molesey BC/Southampton/20.03.87)
James Orme (Leander Club/Colchester/01.04.84)/
Tom Burton (Leander Club/Barton-le-Clay, Beds/24.05.80)/
Mohamed Sbihi (Molesey BC/Surbiton/27.03.88)/
Tom Solesbury (Isis BC/Petts Wood, Kent/23.09.80)/
Tom Ransley (Cambridge University BC/ Ashford, Kent/06.09.85)/
James Clarke (London RC/London/31.12.84)/
Phelan Hill (cox) (Leander Club/Bedford/21.07.79)
Single scull – two boats
Alan Campbell (Tideway Scullers/Coleraine/09.05.83)
Ian Lawson (Leander Club/Otley, W Yorks/04.03.77)
Matt Wells (Leander Club/Hexham, Northumberland/19.04.79)/
Stephen Rowbotham (Leander Club/Winscombe, Somerset/11.11.81)
Charles Cousins (Reading Univ BC/Cambridge/13.12.88)/
Marcus Bateman (Leander Club/Torquay/16.09.82)/
Bill Lucas (Reading Univ BC/Kingswear/13.09.87)/
Sam Townsend (Reading Uni BC/Reading/26.11.85)
Laura Greenhalgh (London RC/Oxford/02.09.85)
Andrea Dennis (London RC/Oxford/03.01.82)/
Sophie Hosking (London RC/Wimbledon/25.01.86)
Adam Freeman-Pask (Imperial College BC/Windsor/19.06.85)
Rob Williams (London RC/Maidenhead/21.01.85)/Paul Mattick
(Leander Club/Frome, Somerset/25.04.78)
Bob Hewitt (Tees RC/Scarborough/27.04.87)/
Stephen Feeney (London RC/Coleraine/12.05.85)/
Chris Boddy (Tees RC/Stockton-on-Tees/16.11.87)/
Chris Bartley (Leander Club/Chester/02.02.84)
Mens quadruple scull put in a significant performance: Picture: Peter Spurrier