Team GB rowers send Olympics warning at European Championships

Team GB rowers send Olympics warning at European Championships

Helen Glover and the new-look Team GB women’s four will be tough to stop at the Olympics, according to British rowing bosses.

The double Olympic champion is zeroing in on her target of being the first British mum-of-three to win a medal at the Games. Glover won her first major title since returning to rowing with gold at the European Championships, laying down a fearsome marker with less than 100 days to go until Paris 2024.

The 37-year-old combined with new partner Esme Booth, the returning Sam Redgrave and stalwart Rebecca Shorten to deliver a dominant victory in Szeged, Hungary.

“We’ve been working towards this combination for two years,” said chief women’s coach Andrew Randell, whose athletes are some of over 1,000 on UK Sport’s National Lottery-funded World Class Programme, allowing them to train full time, have access to the world’s best coaches and benefit from pioneering medical support.

“I think we’ve found the best mix of power, technique and fitness that we’ve got. It’s going to be a very difficult four to beat this summer.”

Upon Glover’s return to the fold, the women’s four experimented with combinations in 2023, winning European silver and World Championship bronze. It now looks radically different from the crew that were crowned world champions in 2022, with Heidi Long and Rowan McKellar no longer in the boat.

"Gold was definitely what we were after but it was also the most composed I've ever felt in a race," said Glover. "I've got a lot of confidence in our crew and I had this sense that it was still a learning progress and even mid-race I thought, ‘this is interesting in terms of the big picture’.”

Shifting, strong winds made for tricky conditions but the GB Rowing Team enjoyed a fantastic weekend overall, finishing top of the medal table with eight golds, one silver and one bronze. It came after a brutal winter of training that saw a historically bad winter of British weather batter their Caversham base, leaving it flooded for two months.

It forced rowers to dig deep and coaches to adapt their methods. No longer could they cycle down the towpath to shout advice and encouragement at crews. Non-ambulant Paralympic athletes had to be lifted a long distance onto the submerged pontoon.

“We could still get the miles in but it’s been exceptionally disrupted and really awkward,” said Australian Randell, used to slightly different conditions Down Under. “We were able to get away on a camp for two weeks but I don’t know what we’d have done without that.

“I don’t know how anyone survives the winter in the UK. The girls have got to go out wearing seven layers, they do a lap, they take a layer off. I’m amazed they can train under four layers of clothing. The constant grind in the cold has got to have an impact and it makes them very mentally tough. Maybe I'm just soft!"

GB returned from Hungary with eight titles and it would likely have been nine had the all-conquering lightweight women’s double not been broken up. Imogen Grant and Emily Craig have swept all before them since finishing fourth at the Tokyo Olympics but Craig was ruled out of this regatta due to injury. Olivia Bates stepped in to partner Grant and they finished fourth.

“We’re trying out a new boat at the moment and it’s quite stiff,” explained Randell. “Emily had a back spasm at the end of the first run on the day we arrived. She has a bit of a history there so rather than push it, we’ve sent her home to recover. I’m very confident she’ll be fine.”

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