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Last Updated: Monday, 28 August 2006, 08:45 GMT 09:45 UK
Rowing passes the test

By Martin Gough

Great Britain's rowers went into the 2006 World Championships looking for signs of hope two years before the Olympics in Beijing.

Officials at Eton's Dorney Lake, on the other hand, were looking ahead to the 2012 Games in London.

After the first full running of rowing's annual showpiece in the United Kingdom for 20 years, both can be very happy.

SUCCESS ON THE WATER

After winning three Olympic medals in Sydney in 2000 and four in Athens two years ago, Britain have set their sights on three medals in Beijing in 2008.

Rowbotham and Wells
Rowbotham and Wells took bronze in the double
They were disappointed to miss out on gold in the women's quadruple sculls by a matter of feet but achieved their target of three Olympic-class medals.

The men's coxless four took another step out of the shadow of Steve Redgrave and Matthew Pinsent as they won their 24th successive race and second world gold.

And there are encouraging signs from the sculling side, where Britain normally lag way behind their European counterparts.

Stephen Rowbotham and Matthew Wells took bronze in the double - an event where Great Britain have not taken a world gold in 29 years.

And Alan Campbell has had a good first year in the single, even though he suffered equipment failure in his final.

"Great Britain have a history of rowing and that's probably come from Oxford and Cambridge [universities]," said Rowbotham.

"The history isn't there [in sculling] so we don't have an event that we always dominate, like the four and to some extent the pair.

"Alan showed [his ability] in the first World Cup regatta in Munich and if he's going that well and I'm not that far behind him, why can't I do it?"

Zac Purchase won gold in the lightweight single and impressed Redgrave with his "star quality", although he will have to move to an Olympic-class event, probably the lightweight double, by 2008.

And had their late surge gained them another few feet in the final to take third, Annie Vernon and Anna Bebington, would have gained a reward for an outstanding first season in the double.

Great Britain will not stick rigidly to their crew line-ups and could easily move one or both of the double if they think it will make the quad faster to ensure gold.

ACCLAIM OFF THE WATER

One of Eton College's aims was to give the school first eight somewhere to train away from the capricious River Thames, but they have much more than that in Dorney Lake.

Sir Steve Redgrave
There are little tweaks we'll make going forward but as a championships it's been fantastic from day one

Sir Steve Redgrave
Honorary president, 2006 WRC
Steve Williams, the bowman of the GB coxless four at his eighth World Championships pronounced this one of the best venues he had been to.

Lord Coe, chairman of the London 2012 Organising Committee, was one of the spectators, safe in the knowledge the Games could start at the venue tomorrow.

"This is one of the key test events en route to an Olympic Games," he said, adding that London's bid was greatly helped by its arena for rowing and canoeing.

"Of all the venues that we were able to offer and show either completed or at design level, the international federation were probably as complimentary about this facility as any."

Action at Dorney Lake, with rain clouds looming
Dorney Lake gained plaudits despite the poor weather
Barcelona's Olympic lake offered few vantage points for spectators in 1992; Athens was so windy that events had to be held in the early morning for safety reasons.

But Eton, like the venue for the Sydney Olympics, is a purpose-built lake with its area for spectators like a horseshoe around the final 500m, guaranteeing a wall of noise.

But infrastructure has been equally impressive, from the transport links from local railway stations to the team of volunteers who helped the event run smoothly.

Redgrave, honorary president of the 2006 World Championships, said lessons had been learnt about the positioning of grandstands and a few other small issues.

"There are little tweaks we'll make going forward but as a championships it's been fantastic from day one," he said.

"There was a bit of concern earlier in the week with the weather. [The water] has been quite choppy but it's been fair, and that's what the rowers will remember.

"The spectators and volunteers have been absolutely fantastic - there have been so many people putting in so much work."

ON THE WATER IN 2012

Of those who won medals on Dorney Lake, just three are over the age of 30, so a return here in six years time is a real possibility.

Zac Purchase with his gold medal
Purchase has been singled out for his star quality
"In depth we're very strong at the moment. It's too difficult to start looking to 2012 because everything's being geared up to Beijing," said Redgrave.

"Some of those boats are very young and will be able to carry on to 2012.

"Zac Purchase, for example, got a fantastic gold medal. Now we've got to find him a doubles partner to push for medals not just in Beijing but in 2012 as well."

By then, Vernon and Bebington or Rowbotham and Wells, or any other combination from this youthful group, could trip as easily off the tongue as Redgrave and Pinsent.



SEE ALSO
Find out where to start rowing
19 Oct 05 |  Rowing


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