Great Britain's rowers dominate first World Cup event in Belgrade

Rowing World Cup, Belgrade

Coverage: Extended highlights on BBC Two, 7 May from 1130 BST

Great Britain began the Olympic season in style with four gold medals on the final day of the opening World Cup meeting of the year in Belgrade.

Leading London hopes in the men's four, women's double and men's lightweight double all won their events.

GB won four golds, six silvers and two bronzes in Olympic classes in Serbia.

However, a number of top boats from Australia, New Zealand and elsewhere will make their debuts at the second World Cup in Lucerne later this month.

Analysis

  • Men's four: "They looked very good and put down a big marker. They looked like a crew rowing together, whereas previously they were two pairs in a four. Even in the course of this regatta they came on tremendously. On home water with packed grandstands, they're going to rip the water up."
  • Grainger & Watkins: "They've got bags of World Cup medals, they've won the World Championships, whether they were going to win by three lengths or ¾ length in Belgrade didn't matter for me - they won and looked good. I'm completely convinced it's more a psychological battle in the last 500m of the Olympic final for them. That's the unknown."
  • Purchase & Hunter: "These guys are quite something. They've had a trouble-free winter, free of injury and illness, so they're coming into the year stronger than ever. Just look at Zac when they blast off the start - no-one's told him he's a lightweight. I can't see anybody beating them."
  • Men's eight: "They've changed sides as well as positions and they raced against the three-times world champions in Germany - they did a fabulous job. I think they ran out of puff but they raced the world champions to 1750m, and they can make that up. And Constantine Louloudis was injured, I'm looking forward to seeing him in the stroke seat."

"It couldn't be a much better start to our Olympic campaign," GB performance director David Tanner told BBC Radio 5 live. "I think it's probably a little bit above my expectations, to be honest. It's great."

World Championships silver medallists Helen Glover and Heather Stanning got Britain off to the perfect start on a hot day in Belgrade with a dominant gold in the women's pair.

Katherine Grainger, hoping to finally land gold in London after three Olympic silvers, and Anna Watkins maintained their unbeaten double sculls partnership but were pushed surprisingly close by Germany, with strong pairs to join the competition in Lucerne.

The men's four then produced a powerful display, the combination of Olympic champions Pete Reed, Andrew Triggs Hodge andWelshman Tom James along with world champion Alex Gregory showing considerable improvement from their performances on Friday and Saturday.

However, Triggs Hodge says there is more to come, telling 5 live: "By no stretch of the imagination is that a done deal.

"If we raced that at the Olympics we'd be out of the door. We've had a pretty tough few weeks and I'm really pleased we were able to put the best bits together here. We can look to Lucerne and do some things in the next few weeks."

The third of GB's top London hopes continued the run of success as world and Olympic champions Zac Purchase and Mark Hunter took it out from the front to win gold in the lightweight double.

Germany continued their three-year unbeaten run in the men's eight but the new-look British crew took silver after leading at halfway, before the world champions powered away in the closing stages.

"We knew we had to take it to the Germans," said Greg Searle, the 40-year-old 1992 Olympic champion returning for another Games in London.

"We knew we had to take it out hard and we did, and it's the first step in a new way to race for us. In the eight, you can't afford to wait for glorious finishes - you have to take it on."

Key dates

  • 25-27 May - World Cup II, Lucerne
  • 6 June - Olympic squad announced
  • 15-17 June - World Cup III, Munich
  • 28 July - Start of Olympic regatta

Only four British crews remained unchanged from last year's World Championships as coaches Jurgen Grobler and Paul Thompson look to maximise their chances of Olympic medals this summer, and there were a number of very strong performances by new combinations.

The young duo of George Nash and Will Satch won silver in the men's pair, Sam Townsend and Bill Lucas matched them in the double sculls, and Sophie Hosking and Katherine Copeland also took silver behind world champions Greece in the women's double sculls.

The GB men's lightweight four was another line-up to suggest they could challenge in the summer with a silver medal, although the victorious Denmark boat looked unstoppable for gold.

Alan Campbell won Britain's fifth silver of the day in the single scull behind Czech Republic, with five-time world champion Mahe Drysdale of New Zealand set to begin his season in Lucerne.

There were bronze medals for the women's quad and the women's eight, with the latter only able to manage third out of four finalists in a race that was missing the world leading Americans and Canadians.

"It was pretty frustrating today, to be honest," Jess Eadie told 5 live. "We came out here with a bit of a depleted crew but we thought we could put a good show on and win that gold, but I think our inexperience as a crew showed through.

"I personally thought we'd do a lot better than that."

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