FIFTEEN Leander athletes returned with medals from the first World Cup regatta of the season in Sydney, Australia, where the
FIFTEEN Leander athletes returned with medals from the first World Cup regatta of the season in Sydney, Australia, where the warm weather provided welcome relief from the winter chills at home.
It wasn’t just the established favourites who brought home the glory, as new Leander GB recruits helped the team to third place in the medal table behind Australia and New Zealand.
The first gold of the finals came from Leander’s Polly Swann and her partner Helen Glover of Minerva Bath, the Olympic champion in women’s pairs. Heather Stanning, Glover’s partner at London 2012, is now on duty with the British Army. But Swann, who missed Olympic selection following a back injury, stepped up to the mark and the new GB combination were unstoppable in beating the USA to the line.
Britain’s second win came with a first-ever gold in the men’s quadruple scull, in which Leander’s Charles Cousins competed with Sam Townsend of Reading University, Bill Lucas of London RC and Graeme Thomas of Agecroft.
After a neck-and-neck battle with New Zealand through the first half the GB men broke clear at 1,300m and crossed the line three seconds clear of the field. “We may not be race-ready this early in the year but we are fit and sometimes your fitness can take you through. We just have trust in Jurgen’s training programme,” said Cousins.
With Mark Hunter and Zac Purchase taking a back seat after the London Games Richard Chambers and Adam Freeman-Pask stepped into the lightweight double to record GB’s third gold of the regatta.
Leander’s Chambers was a silver medallist in the four at the 2012 Olympics — an event that Reading University’s Freeman-Pask attended as a reserve.
In the third 500m the British duo moved into the lead and looked strong as they crossed the line from China in silver.
“Even though not everyone’s here and it will get tougher we still beat the guys who were fifth at the Olympics today and that shows we are up there with some of the best,” said Chambers.
Chief coach Jurgen Grobler had put all his heavyweight superstars in the men’s eight, which included Leander gold medallists Pete Reed and Alex Gregory. The crew duly delivered, moving out to a length advantage at halfway and going on to win despite a strong final 500m from the Americans.
“That was definitely our best race so far,” said Leander cox Phelan Hill, who steered the GB eight to a bronze medal last year at the Olympics.
“I am really proud of what we have achieved,” said double Olympic gold medallist Pete Reed. “When we went to the start we thought a medal would be good and a gold would be a miracle.” Alex Gregory added: “The gold was a great end to a tremendous three-week training camp.
“It’s been a great event and the sunshine has been wonderful.” Leander’s other medallists included Chris Bartley, Chris Boddy and Jono Clegg who took silver in the lightweight men’s four, and Frances Houghton and Vicky Meyer-Laker, who won bronze in the women’s doubles. Rowing fans now have to wait almost three months for the second World Cup regatta of the season, to be held a little closer to home on the Olympic Lake at Eton Dorney.