GREAT BRITAIN topped the medal table at the European Championships in Belgrade last weekend, when Leander’s Alex Gregory and Polly Swann helped the men’s four and women’s pair to gold.
After missing the first World Cup Regatta in Sydney, a full British team attended this year’s Europeans as a curtain raiser to the international season, and all eyes were on the new crews as well as the established favourites.
Jürgen Gröbler had placed his fastest men in the new-look GB four and they duly delivered, taking the gold medal with ease and establishing a new European best time in the process.
Leander’s Alex Gregory had teamed up with Molesey’s Moe Sbihi, George Nash and Andrew Triggs Hodge and already had a full-length lead after 500m before crossing the line more than four seconds clear of Greece in second place.
“It’s really exciting. I am really enjoying racing with these guys and being a part of this,” said Gregory.
Leander’s second gold medal performance came in the women’s pairs, where Polly Swann reprised her world championship title race last year with Helen Glover of Minerva Bath.
Having set a European Championships best time in winning their heat they started as pre-race favourites and lowered the Championships best time again with a five-second margins ahead of Romania.
“It’s the beginning of the season and it’s good to get a win under our belts,” said Swann. The GB haul also included four silver medals and two bronze, with second places for the men’s quad, the lightweight men’s four and pair and the women’s eight.
Leander’s Charles Cousins and Peter Lambert, with Agecroft’s Graeme Thomas and Sam Townsend of Reading University were unchanged from the men’s quad line-up which took bronze in Korea. After sitting in fourth place with 500m to go they raised their game to take silver behind Ukraine.
“I am really pleased with that. It would have been nice to have won it but that’s how it goes,” said Cousins.
“All credit to Ukraine with what’s happening in their country for them to come out here and do that was amazing,” added Lambert.
After a searing performance in their heat, the lightweight men’s four, which included three Olympic silver medallists on board, were among the favourites on the start line.
The British quartet were second at halfway and held off the French challenge to cross the line behind Denmark.
“We got right into a strong rhythm and did our plan well but we needed to be a bit quicker off the start,” said Bartley.
Leander’s Jonno Clegg and Sam Scrimgeour of Imperial College led the Swiss European champions at 1500m in the lightweight men’s pairs final but a sprint for the line by Niepmann and Tramer saw them retain gold, just a canvas ahead of the new GB combination.
A strong showing in Friday’s heat, where they placed first, set up the GB women’s eight for a straight path to the final, where they met Romania, the reigning European champions.
The British crew, stroked by Leander’s Lou Reeve, pressed hard for the lead but had to be content with silver.
“We got out of the blocks really well, and were coming back on the Romanians at the end,” said their cox, Zoe de Toledo.
Leander’s bronze medallists in Belgrade were all on board the men’s eight which squeezed home just 0.6 seconds clear of Poland in the closest medal fight of the regatta.
The race was won by the German Olympic champions with silver going to Russia, now coached by Marlow’s Mike Spracklen.