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Great Britain top medal table at World Championships

World Rowing Championships 2010
Venue: Lake Karapiro, Waikato, New Zealand Dates: 31 October - 7 November Coverage: Live action & highlights on BBC TV, Red Button and online (UK only)

Great Britain take gold in the women's double scull

Fifth world gold for GB in double scull

By Martin Gough

Veterans Katherine Grainger and Greg Searle won medals as Britain topped the World Championships medal table for the first time in Karapiro, New Zealand.

Grainger's gold in the double scull with Anna Watkins was GB's fourth in able-bodied events - and for the first time two were won by women's crews.

Searle won his first world medal since 1997 with silver in the men's eight.

Men's double Matthew Wells and Marcus Bateman were also second, while the British women's eight were fourth.

Great Britain finished the event, 21 months from the start of London 2012, with four gold medals, four silvers and a bronze from the 14 Olympic-class events, plus a gold and silver from Paralympic events.

Germany won five golds in able-bodied categories but four of those were in events that are not part of the Olympic programme.

GB's dejected men's double scull team

Homeboys NZ chase down GB at the death

Arguably none of the squad wants Olympic gold more than Scot Grainger, 34, who considered retirement after the disappointment of winning a third successive Olympic silver in Beijing in 2008.

In their new combination this year, she and Staffordshire native Watkins - who won bronze in Beijing in 2008 and world silver in 2009 in the double scull - have dominated all season.

And Sunday was no different as they moved clear of the field by the half-way mark and were 5.67 seconds ahead of Australians Kerry Hore and Kim Crow, with defending champions Poland third.

Despite her years of success, Grainger said the joy of victory was still as great as ever.

"Every one is very special and very individual," she said. "I'm hugely proud of this one, this is the most successful season I've ever had, so it just keeps getting better."

"It's always a bit of an honour to come in as favourites, it shows we've had a very successful season so far.

"We always felt there were going to be some surprises within the field so we definitely didn't come into it complacent. We really got ourselves up for the best race we could put out there."

Watkins said it was a great feeling to be able to enjoy the moment of winning her first world title, rather than having to battle right to the end.

It's a step in the right direction, it's not gold yet, but step by step we're moving up the field

Greg Searle

"We got into our rhythm and we just felt in control," she said. "It was so enjoyable, you can't help but row your best when you're enjoying racing as much as that."

Eighteen years after winning Olympic gold in the coxed pair in Barcelona, and a year after announcing his decision to return from a 10-year retirement, Searle went one better than the bronze he won in a single scull 13 years ago.

With his Molesey club-mate Mohammed Sbihi - who was born in 1988 - in the seat behind Searle, the GB eight pushed defending champions Germany right to the line.

They succumbed by the length of a boat canvas but were a half-length up on Australia to give the 38-year-old Searle another world silver to add to the one he won in a four in 1995.

"We raced really well," said Searle . "I'm very proud of what we've done as a team together. It's a step in the right direction, it's not gold yet, but step by step we're moving up the field.

"We've been on the podium every time this year and I know how special that is. I love racing and I love this feeling that we have now.

"It's a very special thing that for most people only comes around once in a lifetime and it's lovely to get a second bite."

Fellow silver medallists Wells, 31, and Batemen - a new partnership this season, nicknamed the Hogwarts Express as a nod to the redhaired Weasley brothers in the Harry Potter films - led for much of their race.

GB's men's eight team working hard for their silver

Searle's 'magnificent eight' take silver

But in the final 200m they could not match the searing pace of Kiwis Nathan Cohen and Joseph Sullivan, who took their stroke rate up to 44 per minute to win by three-quarters of a length.

European champions Cedric Berrest and Julien Bahain, who beat the Brits twice this season, were more than four seconds back in third.

Wells admitted that the home support may have helped New Zealand pip Great Britain to victory.

"We thought we had it all the way down for 75/80% of that race," he said. "Unfortunately, when we were coming in and going through our big gears, the Kiwis just had a little bit more than us and maybe that's down to their home crowd.

"Although you do block it out of your head when you're racing in it, I think today they got to us."

Great Britain's women's eight - coxed by Caroline O'Connor - won the World Cup series this year but several top crews missed much of the European season.

They briefly took third place from Olympic silver medallists Romania but missed out on bronze by half a length in the final sprint as the United States defended their world crown in dominant fashion.

"We weren't good enough today and that's just life," said a tearful Olivia Whitlam. "You go away, back to the drawing board and try to edge some speed out of it."



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