British Rowing at the Olympics

XXVIIth Olympics
September 2000
Rachel Quarrell commentates, watching the TV coverage from Sydney.
Olympic Reports Champions on show in the semi's - September 21st 2000

Live-written stroke-by-stroke coverage of some of the Group A semi-finals.

Men's single scull, semi-final 1 Waddell versus Porter, the Kiwi world champion (and world record holder) against the canny Silver Surfer from Canada. Waddell dominating from the off, in a take-no-prisoners mood and aware of the need to post a good time to send a reminder to Xeno Mueller in the other semi-final. Ivo Yanakiev from BUL and Egelmeers (NED) scrapping behind Waddell and Porter, who skulk along at the front of the field. Waddell looking solid, relaxed, powerful, every inch a champion: Porter having to strain a little more to keep up. Wells (GBR) trailing at the back of the pack, follows Smith (USA) steadily along, both still in touch, but not enough to claim finals spots. Yanakiev has pulled ahead of Smith, Egelmeers and Wells, now not troubled in his qualification for the A final. 200 metres to go, and Porter's giving it a good go, clearly intent on reminding Waddell that he has to take the rest of the field seriously, since Porter's not going to be challenged for second place. Over the line, Waddell breathing a little heavily as he stops, but not unduly distressed, looking calm: mission accomplished. Porter, Yanakiev, then the other three. Britain's Matthew Wells, in his first international championship in this boat, puts in a spirited final dash to the line and overhauls Don Smith of the USA to finish a creditable fifth behind Egelmeers.

Men's single scull, semi-final 2 Second half of this event has Olympic champion Xeno Mueller of SUI, who rollicks out to a first-off lead, closely chased by Latvian Reinholds, and Marcel Hacker of Germany. Hacker's looking impressive, holding close to Xeno's heels, but at 750 gone Mueller has the rate up to 39 for a prolonged push, obviously keen to shake the German's overlap. Behind, Jaanson (EST) is closing fast on Reinholds, and nips a rapid push-let in which takes him past at the mid-way mark. Frustrating not to be able to see the leaders at this point, as there are at least two mini-races going on in this semi. Jaanson still moving, now keen to catch the top two and challenge them, which helps him drop the back three out of the running for the A final. Here we go, seeing the leaders, and although Mueller's still in front, by 1500 gone, and looking very smooth, he's having to shift on a little to stay in front of Hacker, who himself is being pressed now by Jaanson. The Swiss champion's comfortably going to take first place, doing just enough to hold it, but German Hacker's sculled an excellent semi-final and shown classy speed at this level. Jaanson (EST) third, Reinholds (LAT) fourth decides the last A-final spot.

Men's coxless pairs, semi-final 1 Brits Coode and Searle off to a slow start in the first strokes, and their French rivals also slow behind a quick South African beginning, but the British wind changes that completely around, and off they go like trains into first place. Through 500 GBR maintain the position, steadily inching out a controlling lead in the field. During the second quarter the French are moving strongly through, and get to second position before the half-way mark, but look to be under considerable pressure to hold it against a challenging pack. GBR stick in another little push and reel their lead out to nearly clear water, while behind them the South African pair put the French under the cosh again. This brings FRA back towards GBR, and back into contention for the lead place. 200 to go, will the famous Searle "Hampton push" come into action, the rate goes up to 42, but the French are ambushing them hard. CAN getting back towards RSA to try for the third place. 100 metres to go, GBR jump up again, dead levelled by FRA, they cross the line in tandem, and the French get the race, on the nod. Greg waves appreciation of a great race to the French pair, but shakes his head: the big super-weapon is not quite in top gear yet, and the final will be even harder. Behind them, RSA and CAN have a photofinish, which puts the South Africans through to the final: a fantastic result and race for them.

Men's coxless pairs, semi-final 2 AUS, SLO, USA, GER, YUG, ITA all vying for places here, and the Yugoslavian pair set their stall out immediately, USA responding well and AUS picking up steadily through the first 500 metres. USA slide steadily through the Yugoslavians here, and the general race pace appears to slow a little, as AUS also pick their way through, into second place. 1200 metres and USA put in a push at 36.5, but AUS are reeling them in, and in a lane nearer the crowd, which will matter to the home pair. YUG also no slouches, just a few feet down from the Australians, and GER fighting hard to try and get back into a qualifying place at 500 to go. This is very similar to the previous race, with the leaders being pressed by battles going on further behind them, and being stalked by an experienced pair throughout the race, vulnerable in the final stages. 400 to go, AUS chonk solidly and unsurprisingly through into first place, and YUG press a now-fading USA pair hard while nothing GER can do will bring them back into contention. A delighted crowd applaud wildly to see their hero Tomkins so obviously back on form with a canny and commanding race.

Men's coxless fours, semi-final 1 In order down the lanes: GER, USA, FRA, GBR, SLO, ROM. So, was the heat a fluke or can the Redgrave four maintain its invincibility once again? Very quick-rating starts, SLO rapidly away, GBR winding to what looks like 50, and for the second time today the British wind-up takes them in front before the point where most crews would stride. This being international 2000-metre racing, of course, the crews maintain the pace for longer, and it's only a little before 500 metres that the leading British four drops the race to 36. SLO and USA vie for second place, just a length down on GBR as the crews pass 750 metres gone, and then the Brits tickle the rate up for a few strokes, moving out another couple of feet before 1000 metres point. SLO have the edge over USA by half a length, FRA holding position in fourth just a length down on SLO. It's still a tight field, despite the British dominance, but they are looking smooth, stretched out and relaxed, controlling the situation with ease. 1400 gone, USA still can't get themselves past the Slovenians, and as before with the pairs, this battle brings both crews closer to the leading four, so GBR squeeze it on another touch to assure themselves they're still in control. 200 to go, GBR still at 37, SLO chasing at 43, closing in, but it doesn't force much of a sprint from Great Britain, although Pinsent looks somewhat startled to see them so close. Half a length verdict between GBR and SLO, with USA beating FRA out of the qualification, and nobody's been watching GER and ROM at the back. The camera lingers on a slow-mo replay of the British crew for half a minute: forget the hype, these guys are rowing superbly together, not a muscle out of place, beautifully synchronised. That piece of footage will be one for the coaching archives for several years.

Men's coxless fours, semi-final 2 According to the world's press, this one's the harder semi. EGY, AUS, ITA, NZL, NOR and YUG in lane order. Quickest off the blocks is Italy, and despite a fast first few strokes NZL quickly drop off the pace, with YUG and EGY also behind. AUS again in a lane close to the crowd (that's lucky then folks) up in third place, and by 500 metres Norway, the world record holders, have strongly shifted up to first. EGY in the lane next to them pressing hard, but the real contenders are AUS and ITA a couple of lanes away. Nearing 1000, ITA push through NOR and drag the Aussies with them, NZL struggling hard in fourth. ITA look extremely determined, pass the first rank of crowds at 750 to go and now several seats up on AUS as NZL close hard on the fading Norwegians. Last 400 metres, ITA are only just holding on to their lead against a strong AUS surge, lifted by the home crowd. NZL clear NOR and AUS pass ITA with 300 to go, then ITA respond again, up goes their rate to 42, AUS lift to 44, ITA to 43.5, over the line alongside. AUS get the verdict by what is described as 0.28 seconds but looks more like 0.02, ITA get second spot behind them, with NZL having paced it well and burnt off NOR to get the last A-final place. And the times compared with GBR? Well, the Brits rowed 6:02.38 over 6:04.07 for SLO, with AUS taking 6:02.23 and ITA 6:02.31 (we thought that margin was smaller) once the confirmed times are in.