British Rowing at the Olympics

XXVIIth Olympics
September 2000
Christopher Dodd reports from Penrith Lakes
especially for the Rowing Service
Olympic Reports Eight and quad storm into finals

Let's hear it for the eight. And let's hear it for the quad. On a fourth day little breeze, strong sunshine, blue skies and Olympic expectation on the lake out west in Penrith, a glorious amphitheatre for a regatta, two British crews enhanced their medal prospects in style.

Not since 1912 has a British eight won an Olympic or world title. That is the statistic that Lindsay and Hunt-Davis, Dennis and Attrill, Grubor and West, Scarlett and Trapmore and coxswain Douglas are trying to put an end to. After Wednesday's reps they are more firmly in the medal frame than the world champions who piped them at St Catharines last year, the Americans.

The British qualified by taking clear water at 750 and never letting the chasing Italians make much impression. The Russians in third made little and, sadly, the Dutch with Niko Rienks still occupying the stroke seat that he sat in for Olympic victory in Atlanta four years ago, making none at all.

The main point is that the Yanks were in a photo-finish with the Romanians which perhaps both could have done without, by the time that it was clear that the Canadians were not going to catch either of them. The verdict went to the ragged looking Americans by one fiftieth [2/100ths] of a second, but in a time five seconds slower than the unchallenged Brits. The final line-up is Australia and Croatia as heat winners, GB and US as rep winners, and Italy and Romania as rep runners up.

Asked to describe the difference between their heat and rep, a representative of the British eight told reporters: "Well, we came second in the heat, and first in the rep." I will spare you further banalities: at any given moment in Sydney some bushy-tailed competitor is saying "My plan is to go out and row/jump/run/cycle/ride my own race," or "At the end of the day/when push comes to shove, I am here to do my best."

The answer to the question is that they got a better start in the rep, they think they rated a bit higher and rowed a more aggressive race, in keeping with their approach, and that of their coach, Martin McElroy, to "power off the start and try and maintain power and length" (Hunt-Davis). Louis Attrill said that he's been around the eight for four years and never once has he heard the word "stride". So there.

Anyway, all the best for a good one on Sunday, and likewise to Guin, Gillian, Katherine and Miriam who sculled like a picture in only their second race together since Gillian Lindsay took the 2 seat after Sarah Winckless's rib bounced her into the double. The elder Batten sister, Miriam, in her last year after 15 on the team, said that Lindsay brought a lot to the crew, including racing experience (and her presence makes it a truly 50-50 Anglo Scottish boat). They beat the other qualifiers in their rep, Denmark, by the same margin of 5 seconds as the other rep winners Ukraine earlier in the regatta.

This makes the final pecking order Germany (Olympic winners since the introduction of the 4x for women in 1988), the other outright heat winner Russia, and then Ukraine and GB with nothing to choose. Denmark and the US also start on Sunday. "We can give it our absolute all, maybe more than we know we're capable of," Grainger in the No 3 seat says. Here's hoping they will.

The GB women's eight, not unexpectedly, were eliminated, finishing fifth in a repechage from which four boats qualified for the final. Never mind, eh? It is a great shame that they did not get a shot at the final, but their brave attempt and the support afforded them by coach Miles Forbes-Thomas, Thames RC and a clutch of other clubs and well-wishers has proved a point.

Tom Kay and Tom Middleton missed a place in Friday's semi-finals of the lightweight double sculls when they finished third to the 1996 Olympic champions Markus and Michael Gier of Switzerland and the Greeks Vasileios Polymeros and Panagiotis Mikliotis. This crew did well considering that Middleton came into it recently when Tim Male was injured at the Gold Coast training camp.

Now for a trip to Bondi Beach and the beach volleyball. On the other hand, this may have to be delayed because I hear there are some tasty races on Thursday. For your edification and interest, I give you Available Outcomes win-only odds on gold medals for a selection of crews:

Men's coxless fours (in semi on Thursday): GB A$1.50, Italy 3.25, Oz and NZ 7.00, France 13.00.
Men's pair (in semi on Thursday): GB and Oz joint favourites at 2.25; Yugoslavia 3.50; France 11.00; South Africa 34.00.
Men's single sculls (semis on Thursday): Waddell 1.18; Mueller 4.00; Hacker 6.00.
Women's single sculls (semis on Thursday): Rutschow-Stomporowski 2.00; Karsten 2.40.
Men's eights (final on Sunday): Oz and US joint favourites 2.50; GB 3.50; Croatia 5.00.
Women's quads (final on Sunday): Germany 1.40; Russia 2.50; Ukraine 11.00. GB not quoted.

Copyright Christopher Dodd 2000