Britain's rowing fortunes are reviving. The green shoots of success seen at early-season races flourished further at the European Championships in Munich this weekend where the team took six golds, three silver and one bronze medal against decent competition. After consistently strong and smart racing, the team topped the table at a major championships for the first time since 2017 (not counting the Covid-impacted 2021 Europeans).
There is a sense that a new chapter is well underway, the bitterness and dejection on view from some athletes during Tokyo last summer gone. In its place is a 'let's get on with the job' attitude, anchored in unity and an attention to detail constantly questioning how to improve performance.
Clearly the handful of strong non-European rowing nations were absent, but that's always the case here so while September's World Championships in the Czech Republic will be much tougher, the Munich results are a good sign. The best comparison is with 2018, a similar multi-sport August European championships, where Britain could only achieve 12th overall: four medals and no golds, albeit without para-rowing events.
"We've done well here but must not be complacent", said performance director Louise Kingsley. "Feet very firmly on the ground and even the crews that won have got things to learn, things to develop. For us it's what we do in six weeks in Racice. It's a step along the way, we mustn't get over-confident, cocky or greedy."
Given that even the winners came off the water talking about how to row better, this is not likely. Men's coach Paul Stannard aimed to rebuild confidence by bringing away as many medals as possible, which his three sweep crews achieved, claiming a silver and two golds: the pairs silver after being baulked by Romania will merely make Tom George and Ollie Wynne-Griffith hungrier. The scullers finished lower but they have had a very tough season and it was encouraging that the men's quad produced a strong fourth in Munich after coming last in Lucerne last month.
Congratulations to the #GBRowingTeam for an amazing performance at the European Rowing Championships in Munich! 🏆
The team topped the medal table with 10 medals: 6 gold, 3 silver and 1 bronze 🥇🥈🥉
See the full breakdown of today’s results 👇https://t.co/QsKpZ1CrFj pic.twitter.com/TCqdd5glHM
— British Rowing (@BritishRowing) August 14, 2022
New women's coach Andrew Randell has changed the balance of intensity in a refreshed training programme. The oarswomen report feeling strong and ready to race, shown by gold for the four, silver for the pair and another silver doubling up into the eight, each against at least two tough opponents.
The stars of Sunday's show though were the scullers, victory for experienced hands Emily Craig and Imogen Grant in the lightweight double being matched by an exhilarating first win for a senior British women's quad since 2010. The utterly reliable para-rowing crews claimed gold and bronze to bump the total further.
In 2018 the paltry Europeans haul heralded an equally patchy show at the 2018 Worlds and later the Tokyo Olympics. Back then the British team could not match the rest of Europe even with the non-Europeans absent. This time they outdid them, which is a start. Australia, New Zealand, the USA, Canada and China pose tough challenges, but the British team has now rediscovered enough mojo to win some of those battles too.