North West rowers take next step in selection for 2012
Date published: 13 March 2012
Manchester rower Graeme Thomas emerged as a late contender for 2012 with an impressive performance at the GB rowing trials alongside established medal hopes from the North West.
Thomas finished fifth in the men’s single scull final while Cheshire World Champions Ric Egington and Tom James staked their claim for places in the men’s sweep squad with fourth in the open-weight men’s pair and Warrington’s Beijing Olympian Olivia Whitlam rowed to third place with partner Emily Taylor from Lincoln in the women’s pair.
The rowers now have further testing before the crews for the first World Cup event of the 2012 season are announced on April 4 – with seven places up for grabs in the men’s sculling squad, 14 for the open-weight men’s sweep squad and 10 in the open-weight women’s sweep squad.
GB Performance Director David Tanner predicted that the weekend’s racing in the GB Rowing Team Senior Trials would be the most competitive ever seen at a Trials and that is how it turned out to be.
Thomas turned heads finishing third in his heat on Saturday ahead of GB squad member Charles Cousins and then produced the giant-killing performance of the day, winning his repechage in front of another member of last season’s GB quadruple scull, Tom Solesbury.
The 23-year-old Manchester University student from Preston is part of GB Rowing’s START talent identification and development programme, sponsored by Siemens, at Agecroft Rowing Club, and was invited to take part in the final senior trials after shining in earlier tests.
Egington and James won their heat to qualify direct for final of the men’s pair ahead of selection rivals Alex Partridge and Alex Gregory but the two “Alex’s” proved stronger on Sunday, finishing second behind winners Pete Reed and Andrew Triggs Hodge.
“It’s nice to get the job done”, said Reed. “It’s been a special win for me today as it marks two Olympiads with wins at final Trials and I’ve got to give big credit to “Hodgey” [Triggs Hodge], he’s a massive strokeman”.
Northwich’s World Champion Matt Langridge withdrew from the men’s pair event due to illness after missing out on a place in the final to Greg Searle and Tom Ransley in a tense repechage on Saturday.
The Olympic course showed itself off in the sunshine as Katherine Grainger beat her world champion women’s double scull partner Anna Watkins to wrest back the crown she lost to Watkins last year.
Alan Campbell reigned supreme for the eighth time in the open men’s single scull but there were surprise winners of the lightweight men’s and women’s single sculls in Adam Freeman-Pask and Kat Copeland – the latter having joined the senior squad after winning the world U23 title last year.
Earlier in the today’s racing, Helen Glover and Heather Stanning kept to the script by powering to victory in the women’s pair from team-mates Jess Eddie and Louisa Reeve.
“We’ve had some outstanding and very close racing today (Sunday). That tells us that the depth in the squad is really, really strong”, said Tanner.
“We had a few of our top guns missing in the lightweight men’s squad but apart from that I think our rowers have shown that we can really step up for this Olympic season.
“Also, we’ve seen that the venue has delivered. We’ve had good weather and we’ve had a lot of British public here today and that support has been exceptional. I think we have all got the feeling and the message now that the Olympic Games are close and we will and can step up to them and having our Olympic trials here finishing in the sunshine has been just the starter we needed for the 2012 season”.
Tanner also commented on the outstanding support given to the squad by the National Lottery and Siemens, the GB Rowing Team’s High Performance Partner and said: “Many in the crowd will have bought their lottery tickets this week and we really appreciate the massive backing the public are giving us through the Lottery”.
Great Britain’s two adaptive men’s single scullers – aiming for a place at the first world cup of the season but also with an eye on this year’s Paralympic Games – went head-to-head in their own Trials at the squad’s training centre at Caversham today. Tom Aggar, the reigning Paralympic Champion beat Andy Houghton by six seconds.
“The Trials have gone well and the squad can now prepare for the Varese International Regatta”, said lead adaptive coach, Tom Dyson.
If you have been inspired by the weekend’s rowing trials why not take a trial of your own. More information on the GB Rowing Team’s Nation on Trial initiative at www.nationontrial.org
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