The independent voice of rowing in Britain

Semi relationships and awesome foursomes

The score between the British and Australian heavyweight fours is 2-1 to Oz (two victories in Munich, one loss in Lucerne). Now there is the tantalising prospect of drawing level  if the Poms beat the Convicts in the semi-final into which they were both drawn by an inopportune flick of jury chief Patrick Rombaut’s coin.  If this should not turn out to be the case, the Australians will burst with confidence for Saturday’s last show-down.  But if the British win, and assuming both qualify, the final would be the decider.

“We go out to win every race, this one won’t be any different,” said GB bow-man Alex Gregory, echoing a mantra the other father of a boy named Joshua, Australian Drew Ginn, routinely utters.  Tapered to the limit, itching to race each other, it will be a surprise if pride does not spur on both fours to try and add another victory to their season.

The question is, though, why would either crew bust a gut to beat the other in a semi-final , unless the challenger’s final place is threatened?  Jimmy Tomkins who rowed with Drew Ginn in the Australan foursome that won the Olympic in 1996 in Atlanta, says that the semi was just an irritant on the way to the final. They didn’t bother to finish more than third, ‘and we almost came to blows after it.’ So an irritant the semi was, but the final added more Aussie gold to that earned in Barcelona in 1992.

Since ’96, of course, the coxless four has been the province of the Poms, with wins in 2000, 2004 and 2008. hence the friendly rivalry has helped to fuel the whingers from Down Under who have been complaining about the GB team having their own hotel and private water transport to Dorney Lake and moaning that the roar of the crowd is biased toward the Brits and putting Aussie rowers off their stride. Dear oh dear, surely not.

Barney Williams, who was in the Canadian boat that lost to the Brits in Athens by the width of a maple leaf, is uncertain if racing the main opponents in the semi would have made a difference. ‘Why would you go out to beat them if you were certain of qualifying?’ he asks. There could only be one reason, which he is sure both coaches are aware of. ‘If the likely weather conditions are thought to affect the final, they could race for the best lane.’ But that apart, the final is the thing.

 Christopher Dodd


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