altJUNE 26 - BRITAIN announced 11 rowing crews for Beijing today, with a 12th crew to be announced later.


The realistic chance of medals is four, while the optimists' medal count would be seven.




The team is spearheaded by the coxless four of Tom James, Steve Williams, Peter Reed and Andy Hodge, whose silver medal in the World Cup last weekend signals progress in recovery from injury, and the quadruple scullers Annie Vernon, Debbie Flood, Fran Houghton and Katherine Grainger, world champions for the last three years.


Grainger, a silver medallist in Sydney 2000 and Athens 2004, said: "It's going to be a tough event but we're going there with the aim of winning. 


"Olympic gold is the only one missing from the set."


Flood, another member of the women's quadruple scullers that was second in Athens, said: "I am looking forward to the Olympics but it also comes with a lot of pressure.


"I have been training for 11 years of my life for that one six minute final and everything rests on that.  There is only one aim and that is to win a gold medal."


Williams, the only remaining member of the coxless four that won in Athens four years ago, said: "Everything is very intense now.


"Each crew in our event is moving towards the top of its game.


"That's what they've been building up to for the last four years. 


"I don't think the men's four has been this competitive since as far back as 1996."


Four other strong sculling crews are named - the lightweights Zac Purchase and Mark Hunter who are unbeaten this season, the heavyweight double Matt Wells and Stephen Rowbotham who have won two medals in the World Cup, double scullers Louise Laverick and Anna Bebington who won last weekend's World Cup regatta, and the single sculler Alan Campbell who is among the top six in the world but is currently recovering from injury.


Purchase said: "Beijing is going to be an amazing event - a real eye opener about world sport.


"Being my first Olympics, I have to make sure that I don't get too distracted by all the new sights and sounds.


"I'm looking forward to it immensely. I'm sure there will be a lot of pressure to perform, but that is just going to make it more exciting."


The men's eight has been named in the line-up in which it won gold in Poznan, but the pair which is drawn from the eight's group of athletes is left open for further trials at next week's training camp.


The contenders are Tom Solesbury, Tom Parker, Robin Bourne-Taylor and the sculler Alex Gregory.


The aim, said chief coach Jurgën Grobler today, was to enter a pair who could also slot into the eight seamlessly in the event of injury.


The remaining two oarsmen will be travelling spares who will not enjoy full accreditation.


A women's eight will be formed from nine named rowers, the ninth becoming a spare.


The lightweight scullers Hester Goodsell and Helen Casey, the men's lightweight four and the heavyweight pair who qualified for the Games last week, Louisa Reeve and Olivia Whitlam, are also named.


Britain has an outstanding Olympic record in rowing in modern times, winning golds every time since 1984.


The British medal count since 1900 is 21 golds, 15 silvers and seven bronzes.


But it is the first time since 1980 that Britain's rowers will have gone into an Olympics without either Sir Steven Redgrave and Sir Matthew Pinsent, who, between them, won nine gold medals, but are now both retired.


David Tanner, who will lead the rowing team in Beijing, is still optimistic of a good show, though.


He said: "The Olympic Games bring out the best in every athlete whatever the sport.


"Everyone will be trying to peak at the right time on the right day, including the Chinese hosts who have emerged in the last four years to be a formidable force in our sport.


"We go to Beijing confident but aware of the size of the task ahead."


Simon Clegg, the Team GB Chef de Mission, said: “I am delighted that the BOA will take 43 rowers in 12 boats to the Beijing 2008 Olympic Games - the largest Team GB contingent since 1992 and reflective of the nation's recent increased strength in depth in this traditionally strong sport for us at the Olympic Games.


"I am sure the athletes – a mix of first time athletes and experienced rowers - will be looking to continue their recent World Cup medal winning performances out in Beijing.”