FATE seems to have decreed that Britain’s best crews will never meet to decide who receives the nomination for the Olympic coxless pairs. The world champions Steve Redgrave and Matthew Pinsent won the domestic argument against the Searle brothers Jonny and Greg this weekend in Essen, but not in the same races, and their victory was a pyrrhic one.
They were beaten on both days by the Slovenian crew Iztok Cop and Denis Zvegelj who, in Yugoslavia’s colors, were runners-up to the Leander crew in the World Championships last year. This result sets back Redgrave’s chances of adding a third gold medal to his Olympic tally in August and throws into murkier light the two wins he and his partner took in Cologne a fortnight ago.
The Slovenians were juniors only two years ago and are the only pair to have beaten Redgrave and Pinsent for two years – except for the Searles, who did so in trials before Easter. As if to underline the pressure, the Slovenians lost yesterday’s final by a shave to Peter Holzenbein and Colin von Ettinghausen of Germany.
The Germans missed Saturday’s final after colliding with Silken Laumann, the world sculling champion from Canada. They suffered shock, but their boat rode over Laumann’s outrigger and severely gashed her leg, breaking a bone in her ankle and tearing muscle and nerve tissue.
Her British coach, Mike Spracklen, said: ‘There is very little chance of her rowing in the Olympics.’ Two pins have been put in her leg and she will have to spend another week in the hospital in Germany.
The Searles, meanwhile, rowed a bad heat on Saturday, clashing with a buoy instead of finding a good rhythm and losing to the 1991 bronze-medal winners Karl Sinzinger and Hermann Bauer, of Austria. Yesterday Greg had a sore throat and the crew did not start. Perhaps Mark Lees, the performance director, should put both pairs in a four.
Lees has other problems. The British eight finished second to the German world champions on Saturday but in the absence of Spracklen’s much-fancied Canadian crew. The Canadians returned yesterday to finish second and Britain did not qualify. The irony is that the University of London, 1 1/2 seconds slower in third place on Saturday, did get through the heats yesterday, finishing fifth.
The coxless four of Richard Stanhope, Richard Phelps, Rupert Obholzer and Jonathan Springfield improved from fourth on Saturday to third yesterday. The coxed four failed on Saturday and a different combination finished fourth yesterday.
The women’s team fared better in this large regatta on the Baldeneysee. Annabel Eyres and Ali Gill have recovered from injury and won the double sculls yesterday. The eight had an impressive row in a new line-up with Kate Brownlow, from the 1991 silver medal lightweight four, in the stroke seat.
The four were also well up with the pack. The lightweight four won on Saturday before Anna-Marie Dryden caught a cold and kept them out of yesterday’s final. Tonia Williams of Notts County has replaced Brownlow in this crew.