British Rowing at the Olympics

XXVIIth Olympics
September 2000
Christopher Dodd reports from Penrith Lakes
especially for the Rowing Service
Olympic Reports Back on top - Sunday September 17th 2000

Phew, that was a relief. The only result that had to be was delivered by the British four in fine style on the flat lake at Penrith. They went off the blocks, took the lead quickly from the charging Slovenians, went through the 500 marker with the Australians still in third, went through the 1000 marker with the Australians in second, added another second's advantage by the 1500 marker, and opened clear water in front of an Australian crowd with 200 metres to go. Now that's the four we're used to, and they have found themselves again.

They were not alone. Ed Coode and Greg Searle in their new seating order with Greg at stroke did the same, holding off repeated challenges from Matthew Long and James Tomkins, who after the euphoria of their win in Lucerne in mid-July with Long in for Drew Ginn as sub, are now learning to row together. What with Long having to change sides to row with Tomkins, this is not the dream pair that first appeared on the Rotsee.

Meanwhile, Coode and Searle have had time to bond in the boat after, as Searle said at their press conference, "Ed came from a fast-moving boat and I came from a slow-moving one. We had to learn to row together."

Matthew Pinsent began the four's press conference early because doping control had summoned him to "piss in a pot". "We are back to the four who know we can win the Olympics," he said. "It was important to show ourselves that Lucerne is not the way we row." The stroke man also dispelled the importance of history. "Our individual histories don't matter. Rowing is a combination of the individual and the team. We have to help each other to win. Motivation matters to me, but history doesn't." After he went to do his duty, Tim Foster and James Cracknell confirmed his line although they had arrived later, while the mature man of the crew did not show at all - but it was definitely him in the boat.

The pair asserted that neither was bothered about who sits where, and that the European competition season with Coode sitting at stroke followed by the switch were both good moves in their preparation. Searle's interpretation was that with him in bow he could distract Ed with chatter, while with himself at stroke Ed could follow him, "which he's very good at" - all delivered with one of those smiles that captivates every woman I know.

Let's not get over-excited. "This is only the heats," said one Jurgen Grobler. Semi-finals for the four and pair are on Thursday. The rest of the Sunday starters repechage on Tuesday. Matthew Wells had a terrific initiation to Olympic sculling with second place to Derek Porter of Canada. Other heat winners were Waddell of NZ, Hacker of Germany who saw off Chalupa of the Czech Republic, and Olympic champion Mueller of Switzerland. The women's singles heat winners were equally predictable (and seeded): Karsten, Neykova, Sonia Waddell and Rutschow-Stomporowski, whose newly extended name has not quite defeated the Olympic results sheets.

Sadly, Dot Blackie and Cath Bishop saw nothing of the fine race by the four crews ahead of them vying for the one qualifying place in their heat of the pairs. Francis Houghton and Sarah Winckless lacked fire as well.

Now for another sleepless night preparing for the men's eight and the women's quad.