Flagship four holed by Australia in Munich as Britain settle for three golds
Sunday, 17 June 2012
June 17 - Britain's hopes of winning a fourth consecutive rowing Olympic gold in the coxless four at the London 2012 Games have dipped following a defeat by Australia in the World Cup at Munich, the final regatta before the Olympics get underway.
Britain's flagship four, beaten by Australia in the semi-finals, were unable to defeat them in the final too and had to settle for silver on a day when golds were provided by the women's double scull of Katherine Grainger and Anna Watkins, the women's pair of Helen Glover and Heather Stanning and the men's lightweight four.
There was also a setback for the men's eight, against a field missing the Canadian Olympic champions and German world champion crews, they could only finish third in a race won by Poland.
And reigning Olympic champions Zac Purchase and Mark Hunter could only manage sixth in the lightweight double in what was the last big regatta before the London 2012 Games, with their race being won by New Zealand rivals Storm Uru and Peter Taylor (pictured).
Commenting on the defeat of the four – comprising Alex Gregory, a member of last year's world-title winners and three of the four who took Olympic gold in 2008 in Andy Triggs Hodge, Pete Reed and Tom James - five-times Olympic champion Sir Steve Redgrave told BBC: "I'm not that shocked, I thought the Aussies looked really good three weeks ago.
"It's very, very close to call and it can go either way over the next five weeks.
"They have to get in their minds how they're going to row that race.
It's the second and third 500s where the Australians are killing our guys - they've got to be more in the race in that middle period.
"They've got to be more determined, more gutsy, to stay in there."
There were bronze medals for the women's eights, the women's quadruple scull and Alan Campbell in the single scull as Britain topped the medals table for the 2012 World Cup series.
Glover and Stanning (pictured below) will be firm favourites in the women's pair after dominating the World Cup circuit and claiming their third win in Munich, beating world champions New Zealand by two lengths.
"We wanted to perform well here to prove that we had made progress since Lucerne", Stanning said.
"It was great to win here on my birthday.
Helen and I love racing together and working together and it's the last world cup of the season so today's win was quite emotional for us."
Grainger and Watkins (pictured) have not lost since coming together in the women's double two years ago and remain on course to end Grainger's run of three successive silver medals at Olympic Games.
Australians Kim Crow and Brooke Pratley were racing for the first time this year after an injury to Pratley and set an impressive time in the semis, but in their first ever meeting the Britons laid down a strong marker in Sunday's final by taking charge at halfway.
"That was a cracking race," Watkins said.
"The ones where you are pushed are always the most satisfying to win.
"The Australians put in a fast time earlier this week so we knew we had to bring our 'A' game out to play today."
On Purchase and Hunter, Redgrave commented: "They're a very experienced crew and coach; it's really about getting their minds right.
"They are reigning Olympic and world champions, they have a lot of pride and they'll be fighting, but you can't class them as favourites now."
The Olympic lightweight men's four crew of Pete Chambers, Rob Williams, Richard Chambers and Chris Bartley gave one of the best displays of the day as they beat Australia by a length for their first gold of the year.
The British four (pictured) won the first World Cup meeting in Belgrade when the Australians were absent, and narrowly beat them in Lucerne last month, but the Australians - William Lockwood, James Chapman, Drew Ginn and Joshua Dunkley-Smith - took charge of the race at the halfway point.
"Ninety nine per cent of the race was so much better than our semi, where they got a long way ahead of us," Gregory said.
"Today we held on a lot better.
"I think where we need to improve is our cruising speed, and our ability to change that cruising speed when we need to, but I'm very, very pleased and positive about that race."
Hodge added: "We found a different rhythm today and that was a lot better, I think we have learnt a lot here and we can take that away to training camp in the next six weeks."
June 2012: Aussies impart "kick up the backside" for Britain's flagship four at Munich World Cup
June 2012: Largest ever British Olympic rowing team unveiled with 48 named for London 2012
May 2012: Flagship four break world best at Lucerne World Cup rowing regatta
May 2012: Exclusive - Rowing gold medallist predicts glory for Team GB at London 2012
May 2012: Flagship four win as British rowers earn 12 medals from 12 finals at opening World Cup in Belgrade