Tuesday, 18 December 2018

Leander athletes all set for Olympic finals

AS the Olympic rowing events move towards this weekend’s climax hopes are high that the GB team, including 26 Leander athletes and coaches, will secure yet more medal success in Rio

AS the Olympic rowing events move towards this weekend’s climax hopes are high that the GB team, including 26 Leander athletes and coaches, will secure yet more medal success in Rio.

Highlights of the Olympic rowing events have so far included the qualification of the British men’s and women’s eights for the finals, but the story that has grabbed the headlines is the surprise appearance of Jack Beaumont in the GB men’s quad.

The Leander athlete, who suffered a serious injury at training camp in Portugal last winter, had resigned himself to missing the Games entirely. But his steady recovery was enough to earn himself a slot as non-travelling spare athlete for the British team.

That all changed when Beaumont got a phone call from Sir David Tanner, the team manager, and within 24 hours he was on a plane to Rio to take the place of Graeme Thomas, who had been ruled out for medical reasons.

The event was especially memorable for Peter Beaumont, Jack’s father, himself a former GB Olympian in the men’s eight, who flew out to Rio with his partner to witness his son’s success. Fourth place in Saturday’s opening heat forced the crew into Monday’s repechages where they sculled the race of their lives to qualify for the Olympic final.

The racing schedule has so far been plagued by wind and rain, with Sunday’s and Wednesday’s racing written off completely. But once the wind has settled, British crews have been able to exert their dominance.

The GB men’s four, with Leander captain Alex Gregory at bow, took an early lead in their heat as they aim to continue the unbroken run of success in which GB win gold in this boat class at every Olympics since Sydney 2000. “I feel like a pressure valve has been released,” said Gregory. “It’s been a lot of waiting but it was good to get the job done.”

The GB women’s eight paced their heat to perfection to break through a New Zealand lead in the final 500m to win and take a place in Saturday’s finals, where they will be joined by GB’s men, who followed up with a commanding performance to win their eights heat and set up another head-to-head with Germany at the weekend.

Speaking of reaching their final Pete Reed said: “We have put in a lot of hard work over the past two months and I think it’s beginning to show.” In the lightweight men’s double scull Leander’s Will Fletcher and Richard Chambers secured their semi-final slot with second place behind South Africa.

Tuesday’s racing also marked a return to form for Olympic champion Katherine Grainger and her double sculls partner, Vicky Thornley, who raced to second place in their semi-final to secure a place in today’s (Thursday’s) final.

Four more Leander athletes, rowing in the men’s pair and men’s double, also moved into the finals. Al Sinclair and Stewart Innes, European silver medallists, said that they could improve on their men’s pair heat and they did. Taking second place today they looked strong in a perfectly paced final that saw them put in a strong middle section.

“It was all about getting the job done, especially to halfway, and then we are pretty pleased with what we did from there,” said Innes.

Jonny Walton partners John Collins in the men’s double coached by Leander’s Mark Banks. “We knew we would need to go somewhere we had never been in practice,” said Walton after their semi-final, in which they stayed pacey and strong to come home third in a race won by the Croatian world champions.

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