LEANDER athletes returned triumphant from the World Championships in France, where 16 of the club’s rowers
LEANDER athletes returned triumphant from the World Championships in France, where 16 of the club’s rowers won medals and the GB team qualified 12 crews for next year’s Rio Olympics.
The climax of the regatta was reached in the final race on Sunday when the GB men’s eight beat their arch-rivals, the German Olympic champions by just 0.18 sec.
The crew, including Leander’s Matt Gotrel, Pete Reed, Alex Gregory, Will Satch and cox Phelan Hill, wrote a new chapter in British rowing history when they completed the hat-trick of successive world golds for GB in this event.
“It’s the first time in a while that I had my doubts before a race,” said Reed.
“The data from the heats showed that it was so, so close. I am speechless. That was tough. It felt like a full-out sprint.”
Hill said of the Jurgen Grobler-coached crew: “The guys were immense in that last 500m. We wanted to hit the start and put ourselves in the mix in the first 500m before building on that.”
The para-rowing coxed four won gold for a third successive year, setting themselves up for the best possible defence of their Paralympic title next year in Brazil.
Leander’s Pam Relph, the only surviving member of the gold medal London four, was joined by Grace Clough of Nottingham, Dan Brown of Upper Thames, James Fox of UL and their Leander cox Oli James.
In a thrilling final, where the USA pushed them all the way down the 1,000m course, just 0.26 sec separated the crews at the line. The four’s gold meant that GB has been unbeaten in this event since 2011. “Truth be told, I didn’t think we’d got it until 15 seconds after the line and GBR came up on the screen,” said Pam Relph.
Oli James added: “This time was a different experience for us. I felt them breathing down our necks. Credit to them. We can use the close race for next year. We have to push on now for next year.”
There were silver medals for Molesey’s James Foad and his Leander partner Matt Langridge in the men’s pair, where the final was dominated yet again by the World and Olympic Champions, Eric Murray and Hamish Bond of New Zealand.
Leander’s Will Fletcher and Richard Chambers gave the home-crowd favourites Stany Delayre and Jeremie Azou of France a run for their money before taking second ahead of the defending world champions South Africa and the 2013 world champions, Norway. A bronze came from the men’s four of Scott Durant of Oxford Brookes, together with Leander’s Al Sinclair, Tom Ransley and Stewart Innes. In a punishingly hard final the Italians won the sprint for the line, jacking the rate up to 45 and overhauling the leaders inside the last 100m. The GB crew were doubly pleased with the podium finish after being called up late to the squad.
In the non-Olympic boat classes there was a silver medal for the recently assembled women’s four, coached by Jane Hall and including Leander’s Karen Bennett, Lucinda Gooderham and Holly Norton, along with Becca Chin of Agecroft.
The GB women’s eight, with Leander’s Katie Greves, Lou Reeve, Vicky Meyer-Laker, Ro Bradbury, and cox Zoe Toledo, fell short of a medal by just a second behind Canada in a race won by the USA with New Zealand taking silver.
“It was our primary goal for the regatta to get a Rio slot so we are really pleased with that,” said De Toledo. “But we are disappointed on missing out on the medal by so little.” Despite disappointment in not winning medals for the open men’s double scull of John Collins and Jonny Walton of Leander, and the lightweight men’s four of Jono Clegg (Leander), Mark Aldred (London), Peter Chambers (Oxford Brookes) and Chris Bartley (Leander), the crews gained satisfaction from having qualified their boats for Rio.
The GB men’s quadruple scull of Graeme Thomas, of Agecroft, and Sam Townsend, of Reading University, with Leander crewmates, Charles Cousins and Peter Lambert, finished outside the medals. The crew, which had been plagued by injury, produced a storming second half in their final, but could not catch the leading trio, headed by Germany.
GB’s medal tally in France was five golds, nine silver, and a bronze compared with four golds, four silvers and two bronzes in Amsterdam a year ago.
It was enough to top the 2015 medal table, with New Zealand second and Germany third.