Tangeum Lake, Chung-ju, Korea, 25 August – 1 September 2013
Click here for lists of all the GB athletes competing in Korea
When the GB men’s eight won the World Championship gold medal for the very first time, it marked the climax to a successful week for Leander athletes in Korea. Despite three Olympic golds to their credit in the event since 1908, Great Britain had never before won the world championship title.
But chief coach Jurgen Grobler yet again pulled off a master stroke, placing all the top medallists from London 2012 in the same boat, and coaching them to perfection following a disappointing fourth place in Lucerne.
GB may not have finished top of the medal table in Korea – that honour went to Italy, followed by Australia, with GB in third place – but fourteen Leander athletes returned with medals, marking a solid first step on the next four year cycle to Rio 2016.
The men’s eight included three Olympic champions from the 2012 four – Alex Gregory and Pete Reed from Leander, together with Molesey’s Andrew Triggs-Hodge, and Olympic bronze medallist Will Satch in the stroke seat. After 250m, GB were a canvas down on the German Olympic champions, but stroke-by-stroke they inched up to a canvas lead and by halfway, they had taken half a length lead.
With memories of the Olympic final still fresh in spectators’ minds, the crowd held their breath, expecting a German response, but it never reached fruition, as the GB boat powered on to a memorable victory. “It is great to be part of history. It’s pure elation but also relief as we went across the line” said Leander’s Dan Ritchie.
Pete Reed added: “We are part of history now in the British eight. Not just the result but the performance backed up the result and the history. It was a pleasure and privilege to be part of it”. Will Satch described how the seat-order changes since Lucerne had made a difference.
“I had all the confidence in the world in the boys. To do that in the middle of the race, the bulk of the race was really nice. Now we have shown we can do it, now we need to bed that in if we do an eight again but we’ll have to see”.
“We are up for this all week. I am absolutely thrilled. I have some fabulous memories that I can share in the future with these guys.
Helen Glover and Polly Swann went to the line for their first World Championships final together in the women’s pairs and came away with the title.
Olympic champion Glover, of Minerva Bath RC, and Swann, of Leander, had had an unbroken run of success this season, with three World Cup gold medals to their credit.
Together they were first to the 100m and responded hard and fast when the USA briefly led at 500m, moving out to a length advantage on the Americans, to create the perfect conditions from which to control the second half.
Polly Swann put her head in her hands as she crossed the line.
“I really couldn’t quite believe it. It feels fantastic to be world champions. I think we raced that pretty well and put in a few good pushes when it mattered” she explained afterwards.
In the lightweight men’s four Leander’s Will Fletcher and Jono Clegg, together with Reading University’s Adam Freeman-Pask won places to compete alongside Chris Bartley who won the world title in 2010 and was an Olympic silver medallist last year at Eton Dorney.
With the British supporters in the grandstands roaring them on, the British quartet picked up the pace to take the bronze medal behind Denmark and New Zealand.
“For the three new guys, it is just amazing at their first World Championships in an Olympic boat. It’s been hard work but it’s been a pleasure to be with them and work with them” said stroke Chris Bartley.
Croatia, Germany and Estonia made the early pace in the men’s quadruple scull final, but GB began to show at halfway. As the Croatian world champions cruised to gold the Germans found enough to hold on for silver with GB winning an unprecedented bronze.
“We just kept calm even though there was a bit of pressure on us. Everyone just knew what we had to do and as a new crew it’s a first medal for a British quad, I’m just happy” said their stroke, Leander’s Pete Lambert.
The Chambers brothers, Richard and Peter, were both silver medallists in last year’s four, but have been racing the lightweight double this year for the first time. In a gut-busting final the Coleraine duo went off sharply to lead before the Italians took up the baton as the race moved through 350m gone. Norway went with them and the GB and Swiss boats kept in touch just behind.
As the second-half pressure piled on the GB double took bronze behind winners Norway and second-placed Switzerland who both overtook Italy in the final phase.
Twice Olympic silver medallist Frances Houghton and Vicky Meyer-Laker, a 2011 European finalist in the women’s eight, raced the all-Leander women’s double scull, the boat in which Anna Watkins and Katherine Grainger took gold at last year’s Olympics.
With two World Cup medals behind them this season, including gold at Eton Dorney, hopes were high for success on Korea. But it was the Lithuanians who dictated the race pace, going onto win ahead of New Zealand and Belarus, GB slipping to fourth.
“We really put ourselves out there and we just didn’t have that for the whole of the 2000m. We did everything that we said we wanted to do and that wasn’t possible for the whole seven minutes” said Frances Houghton.
A reshuffled crew order in the GB women’s eight brought added zest their performance but with the US Olympic champions making all the running the crew had to work hard to stay in the mix for medals. Despite moving up to fourth in the final 500m they could never overhaul Canada, who took bronze behind Romania, with the USA winning gold.
“We had a pretty blinding finish, So it’s just a case of working on the middle in the future” said their cox, Leander’s Zoe de Toledo.
As the rowing season reaches its annual climax it has been announced that 27 Leander athletes will compete as members of the GB team at this year’s World Championships, to be held in three weeks’ time in South Korea.
Among the heavyweight men it’s the eight where chief coach Jurgen Grobler has decided to concentrate all his big guns, but another crew reshuffle means that Olympic bronze medallist Will Satch, fully fit after hip surgery earlier in the year, now occupies the stroke seat.
Behind him the formidable line-up includes Olympic champions Alex Gregory and Pete Reed, with their fellow gold medallist from the four, Molesey’s Andy Triggs-Hodge, moving from stroke to the 6 seat. Together with Leander’s Dan Ritchie and Tom Ransley at bow and 2, and Phelan Hill in the cox’s seat, the crew are hoping to regain the form that saw them win the Grand at Henley before missing a medal place the following week in Lucerne.
There were few other surprises at the team announcement on Thursday, where three-times World Cup winners Polly Swann of Leander and Helen Glover of Minerva Bath were confirmed to race as the women’s pair. The two athletes have melded seamlessly into a world-beating combination, coached by Robin Williams, architect of Glover’s Olympic gold last year when she partnered Heather Stanning.
The women’s double features veteran Frances Houghton, partnered by Vicki Meyer-Laker, who won a gold medal in front of their home crowd at Dorney, while Vicky Thornley, coached by Jane Hall, contests the women’s single.
Four Leander athletes retain their place in the women’s eight, including Sarah Cowburn, Lou Reeve and Katie Greves as well as cox Zoe Toledo.
The heavyweight men’s four is unchanged from the crew that won the Stewards’ Challenge Cup at Henley, with Leander’s Al Sinclair at bow.
Every crew found the going tough at the final World Cup regatta of the season, none more so than the Chambers brothers, Pete and Richard, racing together in the lightweight double after their silver medal success last year in the lightweight four. A straightforward gold in Sydney was followed by silver at Eton Dorney, but then France and Italy made their first appearance, forcing the Chambers into third place at Lucerne.
The lightweight four includes Leander’s Will Fletcher, Jono Clegg and Chris Bartley, together with Adam Freeman-Pask of Reading University, and the final Leander lightweight at the worlds will be single sculler Jamie Kirkwood, who recorded a personal best at Lucerne, and was unlucky to miss a medal by just 0.43 sec.
The men’s quad includes Leander’s Charles Cousins, the sole survivor from crew that reached the Olympic final, with Diamonds winner Pete Lambert at stroke, and in the women’s event the GB entry, which includes Monica Relph and Ro Bradbury, will be looking to improve on the tenth place they earned at Lucerne.
Meanwhile Relph’s sister Pam, a Paralympic gold medallist last year in the mixed fours, is back in action as a member of the new look crew, coxed by Leander’s Oli James, who took another gold medal together at the Eton World Cup in June.
Leander chief coach Mark Banks has swapped his athletes in the men’s double, where Matt Langridge now occupies the bow seat with London’s Bill Lucas at stroke.
The GB international team has spent the last three weeks at different training camps in Europe. The women and lightweight men opted for their usual stay at Breisach, north of Basel on the river Rhine, while the heavyweight men retreated to the mountainous isolation of Lake Silvretta in the Austrian Alps.