Herbert Made to Order for Piece of Eight

A LASTING image of the Barcelona Olympics was Garry Herbert, cox to the Searle brothers, weeping on television as the national anthem was played at the medal ceremony. Four years after the trio snatched victory from the Abbagnale brothers Greg and Jonny have found seats in the coxless four and, the coxed pair having been removed from the Olympic program, Herbert is now calling the strokes for Britain’s eight.

‘I order people around, which is what I like to do, what I was born to do,’ says Herbert, a barrister waiting to start his pupillage after the Games.He has spent the year as the right-hand man to the coach Sean Bowden, pursuing the squad on their twice-weekly cycle rides round Berkshire in a four-wheel drive to rescue the punctured and the stragglers.

‘When I get back in the boat I bring two dimensions,’ Herbert says. ‘What I see through Sean’s eyes and what I see in the boat. Sean is the biggest rhythm and technique man among the coaches I’ve ever had. Every lift and every power stroke on the ego has been monitored and every piece timed so that we can see our progress.’

The work is paying off on Lake Lanier as the eight showed by keeping on terms with the Canadians and Australians for most of their heat yesterday. With this year’s outstanding crew, the Netherlands, powering to the fastest time of the day while Britain was in fourth place, it may not have looked that impressive, but Bowden was pleased. He said: ‘We have to start a bit faster in Wednesday’s repechage, but it was a good row, especially in the middle part. Garry plays the best role that anyone can play, which is to stay positive all the time.’

The eight is now the only Olympic boat that carries a cox. ‘I’m one of only 10 people who can compete in the Olympics in this seat,’ Herbert says. ‘I want it just as much as the guys who go out there in the winter slogging up and down the Henley Reach.’

The second qualifying place for Sunday’s final went to the United States, coached by Steven Redgrave’s old coach Mike Spracklen. They have come well after a poor season and beat the Germans by a 1.5sec for the qualifying place.

The British women’s eight had a rotten row, summarized by Annemarie Stapleton in the bow seat: ‘We had a crap start, got dumped, and never got into a rhythm.’ The Romanians, world-record holders, won the race, with the world champions, the United States, losing the final qualifying place in the other heat to Belarus.

Nick Strange and Andy Sinton led their heat of the lightweight doubles at 500 meters but finished last. Sinton complained about the wash from the official motor boats that was making life difficult in the outside lanes. Strange and Sinton also spent a night in the athletes’ rest tent after running foul of the transport system back to the village.

The lightweight four were well off the pace, finishing 15 seconds behind the Danes. Repechages for all yesterday’s events are tomorrow.

The scullers Guin Batten and Peter Haining, the women’s pair and the men’s double scullers take part in repechages today. It is not known if Guy Pooley or James Cracknell will partner Bob Thatcher in the double. Cracknell did not row in the heat on Sunday because he has tonsillitis.

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