The independent voice of rowing in Britain

Multi-tasking on the Rotsee

Posted by rowingvoice on May 28, 2012

Anna Watkins and Katherine Grainger salute the crowd                                Photograph:  Peter Spurrier/Intersport Images

Lucerne, Sunday 27 May 2012

I spent most of my time watching people with two oars, the multi-tasking sector of rowing. And exhilarating it was, too. The men’s and women’s quads were an extreme contrast. If there wasn’t six weeks of waiting before rocking up at Olympic Dorney, you could give the women’s gold to Ukraine now. They had time to take in the sights of the Rotsee, so dominant were they – the same crew but in different seats as won in Belgrade three weeks before. The Germans, who once dominated this event for generations, were about three lengths back and the rest, including the Brits, were fighting it out for the colour bronze.

The men’s quads were totally different. Whereas Olympic champions Poland were off the pace and world champions, Australia, who had a substitute stroke on board, were relegated to the B final and beaten there by the Brits, there was a right old race for glory up at the front. Croatia, who won the first round and are into the fourth year of their ensemble, robbed the flighty Russians of the gold medal. Then the Germans robbed the Russians of the silver medal and the Estonians nearly got the bronze. This event is hot. The British quad looked a lot smoother in the B final than in the semi that sent them there.

In the lightweight doubles, Zac Purchase and Mark Hunter seemed to be fooling around in the semi-final, doing enough to qualify but dropping to a cruise in the last quarter of the race. ‘We’re trying something new,’ they said, but when they flat lined in the final it was clear they were not fooling around. ‘It’s our Lucerne curse,’ Hunter told us. Zac had a minor bug that took them a step back. Apologies to all watching, said Hunter. But better to happen now than in a few weeks’ time.

At the sharp end the Canadians led the charge and then faded. Former world champions Uru and Taylor (NZ) looked set fare, but it was the French Delayre and Azou who took gold, with veteran Danes Rasmussen and Quist behind the Kiwis in third place.

The women’s lightweights was a struggle all the way, Sophie Hosking and Kat Copeland making their lives harder by getting entangled with the buoys at halfway, a mistake you can’t afford to make at  this level.  The medals went to the Chinese, Kiwis and Greeks, with the Brits beating the Americans in a battle for fourth.

Watkins and Grainger had a good day in the open double. They lead all the way and held off a German attempt at ruffling them that went badly for the Germans in the end. The Poles beat them. This was the sort of race that the British crew yearned for; a race where things were not as easy as they have been, but a race that they could control.

Five seconds separated the finalists in the men’s doubles, with GB’s Lucas and Townsend at the wrong end of the spectrum. However, these guys are on a learning curve, and the order in this race changed often. The French emerged on top but could not sustain it, being overhauled by Germans with a couple of hundred metres to go and then near the line by the Aussies. Slovenian vets Spik and Cop were also there or there about.

Which brings us to the singular multi-taskers, the ones with no friends to help them. In the women’s race Australia’s Kim Crow was all set for gold until she crabbed near the end, and Zhang of China went through. Knapkova the Czech finished third behind Crow, with Azerbaijan’s Mustafayeva also in the scrap.

Nobody crabbed in the men’s race, another contender for the single sculls hall of fame. Alan Campbell led at the first marker, Ondrej Synek at the second, Mahé Drysdale at the third, and Synek again at the line. Campbell’s start was blistering, but he couldn’t find his finish. ‘Hugely disappointed, to be truthful,’ he said. ‘I didn’t have the legs in the second half.’ Angel Fournier Rodriguez, the enormous Cuban and relatively a new kid on the block, went past the struggler in the last quarter to claim the bronze medal. Synek judged his race superbly, eking past Drysdale passing the last few lines of orange buoys. A race worth crossing the world to see. Especially from Cuba.

Christopher Dodd

Also read:  Dare and flair rescues a patchy day in Switzerland
GB team results summary


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