British Rowing at the Olympics

XXVIIth Olympics
September 2000
Christopher Dodd reports from Penrith Lakes
especially for the Rowing Service
Olympic Reports Dark horses fail at the first hurdle. September 18th, Group B heats.

Remember the Croatian eight in the first round of the World Cup who ran wild and opened everyone's eyes? They did it again on Monday when they overhauled coach Mike Teti's Americans on the second day of the Olympic regatta at Penrith Lakes, sending the world champions of 1997, 1998 and 1999 to the repechage on Wednesday.

The Americans have not appeared on the regatta circuit this season - well, they've all got businesses to run or banking to attend to around the Princeton training base. Just like they didn't appear on the regatta circuit last year or the year before. Teti's style, and that of his crews, has been to emerge at the world championships and hoist the title. But this time it may not work: they were not only beaten by the Croats, but they took on that ragged googliness at the end of the race that indicates loss of rhythm, pain in the limbs.

It's too early to write them off, of course. It is also too early to write off the Australians who won the other heat over the British. The Aussies got a flying start and held it all the way, levelling the score between these two to two all. The difference between the two heats, though, is that the Aussies were faster than the Croats and the British were closing the gap in perfect formation when the line arrived a bit premature.

"That race was the kick up the backside that we needed," said bow man Andrew Lindsay. The stroke, Steve Trapmore, said that they had a bad start, that it was there own fault, and that they know what to do about it. They will get through Wednesday's rep as will the Americans. Then it will be a shit-or-bust final, just what we would all like to see. The relevant times are (heat 2) Australia 5:32.85, GB 5:34.47, Canada 5.38.48; (heat 1) Croatia 5:33.33; US 5:35.70; Netherlands 5:36.42.

The conditions for the second day of rowing were perfect - sunshine, calm, whiff of cross breeze for odd moments, but nothing, thankfully, to trouble the FISA fairness commission, despite John Boultbee's claims that the windometer which he procured for this regatta recorded 7.1 metres per second on Sunday. Questioned closely about this, he revealed that this reading was obtained only by holding the gauge up to his vehicle's air conditioning unit.

For Brits - and there is an army of them hollering here - the other cheering performance of Monday was the women's quad, in their first race since Gillian Lindsay came in from the double and Sarah Winckless joined Frances Houghton there. If any crew is going to achieve the goal of Britain's first Olympic medal for a women's' crew, this is it. Fancied are the Russians (now with the 1997-98 singles champion Irina Fedotova on board) and Germans, who duly won heats.

The Germans were fast and possibly unassailable, but the Brits held on to the Russians in the other heat, and looked good doing it. More power to there elbow, and a bonus that they have to go through a rep on Wednesday because they need the race practice. They said so themselves. They also said, through Lindsay, that "it's so exciting that we are up there and we could be going home with an Olympic medal." Hear, hear.

Romania are a street ahead in the women's eights, winning their heat by more than two lengths clear water and in a time five seconds faster than the Dutch who were in a close race with the Canadians and Americans. Britain were third for much of the way behind the Romanians, but finished fourth. On paper the final result looks like six or seven. However, this boat under Miles Forbes-Thomas has improved by leaps and bounds, so pray for a terrific rep.

Tom Kay and Tom Middleton also face a repechage in the lightweight double sculls after finishing fourth in their heat, won by Pascal Touron and Thibaud Chapelle of France. All is not yet lost after Middleton stepped into the crew to replace the injured Tim Male during the British team's Gold Coast training camp. The Italians were way ahead of the rest in winning time. Other heats were won by Poland and Australia.

The saddest sight of the Olympic regatta the Danish lightweight four, Olympic champions in 1996 and world champions ever since, finish last in their opening race. Early this season injury to Poulsen forced this unbeaten crew to take a substitute on board, but they have not had time to find their flying feet to attempt retention of the Olympic title. It was also sad to see the much-fancied Irish crew finish last in their heat.

Heat winners in the lightweight women's pairs were Germany, US and Romania, and in the men's quads Germany, Australia and Italy, with a further six crews qualifying for semi-finals.

Tuesday sees reps for Alison Mowbray, Matthew Wells, Dot Blackie and Cath Bishop in the pair and Frances Houghton and Sarah Winckless in the double.