The independent voice of rowing in Britain

Norwegians nail it at last (M2x final Munich)

Posted by rowingvoice on June 21, 2012

All it takes in the men’s doubles is a slightly under-par performance, and you’re punished with fifth or sixth.  For a while in the Munich final it looked to be going France’s way, Cedric Berrest and Julien Bahain making their highly effective push through the field in the middle of the field, but they lost their way during the final sprint and dropped back.

Norway’s Nils Hoff and Kjetil Borch have sneakily turned into the surprise of the world cup season in the men’s doubles.  Second in both their opening heats in Belgrade and Lucerne, but vanishing to the semis after finishing fourth, they got it right in Munich, winning heat, semi and in the final covering every move made by any crew to claim gold.

The Norwegian duo have been on the scene for two full Olympiads and very rarely won anything, but managed to outgun no fewer than three sets of former world champions in the final.  Signs of the green shoots of improvement were seen in the silver-medal performance of the reigning world champions from New Zealand, Nathan Cohen and Joe Sullivan, whose desperate dash to close on Norway was the third-fastest 500m of the entire race and much better than Lucerne.

Apart from Norway the only double which went faster than the Kiwis over a single split was the relatively young British pairing of Bill Lucas and Sam Townsend, hampered by some unidentified handbrake in Lucerne but nearly back to what the GB selectors see as their potential this weekend.  This time they led to the first mark, were second behind the Norwegians to the next two, but faded marginally at the end as the more experienced Germans Eric Knittel and Stephan Krueger were towed through by New Zealand for bronze.  A bit more in the legs and Britain might be medal potential.

“We’ve got a lot to do in our sprint finish, it’s not functioning as well as it did earlier in the year,” said Lucas afterwards.  “It’s disappointing today, but we know it’s do-able.  We definitely want to get on the podium and get as far up it as possible.”  He confirmed that he doesn’t have a recurrence of the breathing problems which dogged him at GB’s April trials.

The world of the men’s doubles has been fascinatingly close and varied for the last three years, and the smart money’s on something special at the Olympics.  Medical issues for Luka Spik and David Crawshay meant that neither the Slovenian nor Australian double started the B-final in Munich, but both must be dangerous contenders come London.  Perm six from six to guess who will end up with what:  there are shed-loads of former champions gunning for this gold.

Rachel Quarrell

Gold Norway, silver New Zealand, bronze Germany; GBR, FRA, ARG.


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