Sensational performances from Leander scullers Tom Barras and Vicky Thornley saw them spearhead a clutch of medals for Great Britain at the world championships in Florida.
Silver for Olympian Thornley in the women’s single sculls was the climax of the season for the European champion, while bronze for Barras in the men’s event put him firmly among the world’s elite after his first year as a senior.
Great Britain’s success in Florida kicked off with silver for Leander’s Ed Fisher in the lightweight men’s quad, where he raced with Edinburgh University’s Gavin Horsburgh, Peter Chambers of Oxford Brookes, and Zak Lee-Green of Agecroft. The crew were edged on the line by France, who clinched gold by just 0.17 seconds with Greece back in third.
Paralympic champion James Fox went on to his fourth world title in the mixed coxed fours in winning GB’s only gold medal of the regatta. The four, which included Molesey’s Oliver Stanhope, Grace Clough pf Nottingham, Giedre Rakauskaite of Worcester, and their Molesey cox Anna Corderoy, crossed the line 23 seconds clear and broke their own world’s best time in the process.
Then followed intense drama as a late change in the all-Leander GB men’s quad saw Agecroft’s Graeme Thomas coming in to stroke the boat for an injured Pete Lambert. The crew, which included John Collins, Jonny Walton and Jack Beaumont, had been hotly tipped for gold but, despite the substitution, they finished behind Lithuania.
“We came here knowing we could win gold so there is some disappointment but mainly we’re delighted to win a medal Luckily we’ve got the strongest spare in the world in Graeme and we couldn’t have asked for more of him” said Collins.
There was another surprise when the GB men’s four, coached by Jurgen Grobler and with Olympic champions Will Satch and Moe Sbihi on board, finished third in their final behind Australia and Italy.
The young women’s quad of Leander’s Beth Bryan, Holly Nixon and Jess Leyden, with Mathilda Hodgkins-Byrne of Reading, were also on the podium with a bronze medal. The Netherlands and Poland took gold and silver but an excellent second half from the British crew took bronze ahead of Germany and the USA.
“I knew that if we stayed focused we would come through as we practice that last 750m and it worked for us in the heat” said Bryan.
But it was the final day of racing last Sunday that provided the climax to the regatta as Thornley and Barras both finished on the podium.
In the women’s singles the 29-year-old former equestrian finished behind Jeannie Gmelin of Switzerland, who won the gold, with Magdalena Lobnig of Austria in bronze.
“I’m really happy with that. If you’d have said at the start of the season that I would come away from the Worlds with a silver medal I would have taken it. This is right up there for me and after the Olympics this is my best result” said Thornley afterwards.
Next up was Barras, who beat the 2017 World Cup winner Robbie Manson and the Rio Olympic silver medallist Damir Martin to claim bronze behind Ondrej Synek of the Czech Republic and Cuba’s Angel Fournier Rodriguez.
“It’s just absolutely incredible. I never believed any of this was possible before the regatta started” he said afterwards.
“The guys out there are incredible, they’re like gladiators, so to be mixing it with them in my first season here is an amazing achievement. Hopefully with Jurgen’s programme I can carry on improving and be right in the mix in 2020” he added.
Despite having won a total of seven medals, the second highest among the competing nations, Great Britain’s single gold meant finishing eighth in the medal table behind league leaders Italy.
More than thirty Leander athletes have been selected for the GB senior team that will contest this year’s World Championships, to take place in Sarasota-Bradenton, Florida, at the end of next month.
As well as several established Olympians the team includes eleven Leander athletes who will don a senior GB vest for the first time, having been drafted into the GB team in the wake of several post-Rio retirements.
The men’s four, coached by rowing supremo Jürgen Grobler, remains unchanged from the crew which won gold at Lucerne last month. Olympic champions Will Satch and Moe Sbihi are joined by Oxford Brookes’ Mat Tarrant, a reserve in Rio, as well as Leander’s Matt Rossiter, a newcomer to the senior system. The four men first came together for World Cup in Poznan, where they won silver, before going on to win at both Henley and Lucerne.
Also unchanged is the all-Leander men’s quadruple scull, in which Jack Beaumont, Jonny Walton, John Collins and Peter Lambert won gold in Poznan before another triumph at Henley three weeks later in the Queen Mother Challenge Cup. Silver in Lucerne means they now move towards the World Championships full of confidence at their chance of another medal.
In the single sculls European champion and Olympic silver medallist Vicky Thornley is back in action after winning two World Cup silver medals alongside her gold from Racice earlier this season. Meanwhile her clubmate Tom Barras races the men’s single – the event which he contested at U23 level last year in Rotterdam.
Leander’s Karen Bennett has been brought back into the women’s eight, the event in which she won Olympic silver last year in Rio. Despite a strong early season showing in the women’s pair with Holly Norton the selectors evidently feel they can help boost the eight to greater things following silver in Poznan and bronze in Lucerne.
The men’s eight sees the return of Olympic champion Tom Ransley following an appendicectomy, while the crew is also strengthened by Olympic finalist Al Sinclair from the men’s pair.
Leander is represented in both lightweight double sculls, with London 2012 champion Kat Copeland teaming up once again with Emily Craig of University of London in the women’s event, and Sam Mottram racing with Oxford Brookes’ Jamie Copus in the men’s double.
The relegation of the lightweight men’s four out of the Olympic programme for 2020 mean’s that GB will enter a lightweight quad in Florida. Ed Fisher is he sole Leander representative in the crew, alongside multiple world and Olympic medallist Pete Chambers of Oxford Brookes, Gavin Horsburgh of Edinburgh University and Zak Lee-Green of Agecroft.
The selection battle for the women’s quad scull is still ongoing, with Jess Leyden’s recovery hopefully continuing in time. Leander’s Beth Bryan and Holly Nixon have already been named for the crew, together with Reading’s Mathilda Hodgkins-Byrne, who partnered Leyden to the U23 doubles title last year in Rotterdam.
The men’s pairs are an all-Leander affair in Sarasota, where Tom George and Tom Jeffery get their first race together in the coxless division, while Tim Clarke and Tom Ford will rely on the services of Oxford Brookes’ Harry Brightmore to steer them to success in the coxed event.
The Paralympic boat classes sees Leander’s Rio gold medallist James Fox anchor the new-look mixed coxed four, the event in which GB has been dominant since the introduction of rowing to the Paralympic programme in 2008.
“Once again it is pleasing to see so many Leander athletes among the GB team at the world championships, including those for whom this is their first senior vest” said Leander chief coach Mark Banks.
“Their selection is testament to the hard work undertaken by our coaches, and all those who help Leander continue in its work as the main feeder club for the GB international team” he added.