EIGHTEEN Leander athletes returned with medals from the World Cup regatta in Poznan, Poland, where a silver
EIGHTEEN Leander athletes returned with medals from the World Cup regatta in Poznan, Poland, where a silver medal in the double sculls helped place GB second in the medal table behind New Zealand.
While there were gold medal performances from the established favourites, Leander’s Jonny Walton and John Collins produced the surprise of the regatta, with a silver in the men’s double sculls.
Having taken the position as early leaders they kept up a relentless pace and only in the final 200m did New Zealand come through to win ahead of GB with France third.
It was a remarkable step forward for the GB double, now in their third season together under the tutelage of Leander chief coach Mark Banks.
Speaking after gaining his medal, Collins said: “Once it was a case of simply trying to make the A final — now we are in the hunt for medals. The start are slowly aligning.”
Walton added: “It’s all about being sassy about how we get to the final and then today we focused on all those processes that we knew and have done so many times and that would get us there. So good to have done this now.”
The final of the men’s eights produced yet another showdown between the GB world champions and the German Olympic gold medallists. The British crew were eager to make up for defeat at Lucerne, where they finished out of the medals, but with a fully recovered Pete Reed back in the boat they went neck-and-neck with Germany in the hunt for gold.
With both boats well clear of the chasing pack the Germans squeezed into a narrow lead to take the line just a canvas clear of their rivals.
Leander captain Alex Gregory added yet another gold to his tally in men’s fours with Moe Sbihi, George Nash and Constantine Louloudis. They led through all the timing points and had a length over the Australians by mid-race and never let go, while Italy, masters of the flying finish, were second. having pipped Australia on the line.
Speaking after the race Gregory said: “That was the first time this season that we have moved into our race rhythm and felt what we have felt in training. Now we go away to training camp where none of life’s distractions interfere and we can be totally focused.”
The men’s pairs final had added spice with two GB crews in contention, not only for medals, but also Olympic selection. Leander’s Al Sinclair and Stewart Innes, the European silver medallists, were up against the New Zealand world and Olympic champions as well as their fellow GB athletes Nathaniel Reilly O’Donnell and Mat Tarrant.
The Kiwis Eric Murray and Hamish Bond led from the early stages with Sinclair and Innes tucked in third with Australia intervening.
The Leander men were overlapping the Kiwis until the Australians blasted through to take silver with the two GB crews in a photo-finish for bronze and fourth. The verdict went to Sinclair and Innes, but their Olympic selection has yet to be ratified.
Commenting after the race Sinclair said: “It’s been a tough week with impending selection. That is as pressurised as I have felt. Stewart did a great job and I’d like to think we did ourselves justice.”
Katherine Grainger and Vicky Thornley finished fifth in the women’s double sculls final.
Leander’s Thornley and Grainger re-established their partnership in the double scull after missing out on a place in the GB’s women’s eight for the Rio Olympics.