Medal target achieved a day early for GB
According to GB oarsman Jack Beaumont, “There is never a dull day in the men’s quad”. He might as well have said “in the GB squad” as a tumultuous day ended with gold, silver and bronze despite a last-second substitution in a top crew.
The men’s four hid for as long as possible the fact Rio champion Will Satch was back and ready to race. Despite regaining their strong strokeman, the four admitted afterwards it had been an even more disrupted year than we realised. In the end, bronze, with Poland snapping at their heels, was the sort of victory not always acknowledged by Britons who yearn for gold.
“It was a broken winter, not ideal, and we are on the way up, that’s the positive,” said Moe Sbihi. “We gave it our all.” The sight of the Union Jack on the ‘wrong’ flagpole, with Australia and Italy celebrating gold and silver beside them, will give the men motivation for winter training.
Instead, it was the quad, originally hoping to mount a serious challenge to European champions Lithuania, who found themselves needing a race delay and quick substitute when stroke Pete Lambert’s back began to twinge badly at the end of their warm-up.
Double sculler Graeme Thomas had said good luck to them and was sitting in the grandstand when he realised his phone was buzzing with messages and calls to report for duty. “I dropped my water bottle, room key, everything was flying out the bag, and ran to the pontoon. I changed into my kit, and we went. It wasn’t pretty, I just powered it down the course, the guys were so calm and cool. They stuck to their plan, and I just had to keep rowing.” After starting slowly, Lithuania duly took the gold, but Britain’s quartet performed heroically, passing Holland and fending off Estonia to take an extraordinary silver. For Thomas it was vindication a year after he had to drop out the Rio Olympics due to illness.
The women’s quad has not been in a world final since the 2010 crew won gold, but this time put together a mature race which brought a welcome bronze. By contrast, the new para-rowing four’s world best time and gold by 10 lengths was undramatic, but with the other three, achieved GB Rowing’s UK Sport medal target with a day of racing yet to go.
Silver service: The men’s quad team took second place at the World Championships