Issue 102 - October 1997
World Junior Rowing Championships, Hazewinkel, August 6-10
'Hard as nails,those two'.So said Mark Banks,the Chief Junior Coach, when James Di Luzio of Mortlake Anglian just pipped Matthew Wells of Queen Elizabeth H.S., Hexham, in the single sculls at the National Schools this year. Banks decided to put the two together in a double scull for the Junior Worlds. It paid off, and, coached by Hounslow police physical instructor Darren Whiter, the duo won Britain's first junior gold since 1992, and, incidentally, went one better than Steve Redgrave, who, in a double with Adam Clift, won a silver when the Juniors were last held in Hazewinkel in 1980.
Pre-final predictions seemed pretty clear. Australia, huge and tough, looked favourites, just, and had beaten Britain in the semi-final when the other five qualifiers - Britain included - were separated by less than a length. The Australians duly led into a head wind, but Di Luzio and Wells hung on in second place, put in a push at 1,000 metres which pressurised the Aussies, and then swept ahead in the last 500 to win with clear water.
The Union Flag was raised again two hours later on the bronze flagpole when the British men's eight, coached by Bruce Grainger and smaller than most of their rivals, produced a great finale. Romania were hot favourites, but the British led at 500 metres and were just inches behind the favourites at 1000. A scheduled spurt in the middle went well, but the fancied Americans, rough but tough and including all their strongest athletes, had edged second. At 1750 the British looked 'heavy', but stroke Ed Russell raised them again but the silver was lost by just over a canvas.
Britain's other medal hope crew, the women's pair of Isabel Walker and Frances Houghton, missed out with a fourth place. Hopes were high after an amazing first heat when the Scottish/English duo had a poor start, but took the lead at 950 metres before Walker caught a dreadful crab. Flat on her back, with water coming into the skewed boat, some elders feared 'deja vu' since Kate Panter and Belinda Holmes, in the same event in Belgium in 1980, capsized in the final. The 1997 crew recovered, and set about chasing the French and Italians, now a good two lengths ahead. An amazing last 500 sprint saw the British go first and qualify directly for the final. The Germans looked set for gold, and were, while Britain, Poland and Canada looked destined to fight for the silver and bronze. Britain again got away to a poor start and never reproduced the fire they showed after their Thursday mishap.
The women's coxless four, a late selection, and the men's coxed pair, the team's spare men, justified their inclusions by reaching their finals and both finishing fifth. The only two boats in the seven boat team who failed to reach the final six were the men's coxless four and quad scull. Both were tough, high entry events and the coxless four did well to reach the semi-final stage with a good repechage row. Fourth in the semi relegated them to the petite finale where they finished fourth. The quad suffered last minute changes when Robert Howgego went sick and Ed Bedingfield was flown out at the last moment. They finished fifteenth out of 25 entries.
© Copyright M. Rosewell, 1997.
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