OLLIE Wynne-Griffith stormed to birthday pairs glory with Tom George at the first World Cup Regatta of the year in Belgrade.
Ollie and Tom
Fellow Welshman Harry Brightmore also steered the men’s 8 to gold, while PR1 City of Swansea RC sculler Benjamin Pritchard took silver and men’s singler Graeme Thomas bronze.
Tokyo 8s medallist Wynne-Griffith and 2022 Cambridge Boat Race crew mate George led from start to finish to take the men’s pairs gold.
They headed Wales GB trials regatta champions Josh Bugajski and Matt Aldridge by 1/4L through the 500m mark and had nearly a length at half-way from Serbian duo Martin Mackovic and Milos Vasic.
And the lead was 1 1/4L at 1500m, now from Spain’s Jaime Canalejo Pazos and Javier Garcia Ordonez.
The chasing pack pushed hard in the closing stages, but the GB duo held on to beat Spain by just over 1/2L in 6mins 19.91 secs, with the Serbs third and Bugajski and Aldridge swallowed up in sixth but only 2L off the top spot.
Birthday boy Wynne-Griffith said: “It’s been a good step in the season.
“It’s quite nice to know that you’re learning whether it’s good or bad. It’s really fun.”
There were only three boats in the men’s 8s, but Brightmore’s GB crew totally dominated their Dutch and Chinese rivals, coming home some 4L clear of the Netherlands in second in 5.33.38.
The PR1 men’s single sculls final was closely fought all the way down the track with Welsh Rowing-supported Pritchard finishing in second just over a length behind Australian Paralympics silver medallist Erik Horrie and fellow Brit Callum Russell in bronze.
Benjamin Pritchard (pictured left)
The Welshman led through 500m, and although the Aussie had the lead by a few feet at half-way, Pritchard pushed him to the line to finish in 9.43.36.
“To share the podium with Callum, your mate as well as your teammate, is incredible,” he said afterwards.
“He’s not just a teammate, he’s a genuine friend. So, to be up on the podium with Erik in the middle of us as well – I think the three of us have got some good camaraderie and whilst we’re friends outside of racing, it’s definitely enemies on the course.
“That’s what I love about PR1 rowing, you can be great friends but great rivals as well.”
In the final race of the day, former Wales Home Countries singles champion Graeme Thomas battled to bronze 3L down on German world champion Oliver Zeidler, who had 1/2L to spare over the Netherlands’ Melvin Twellaar.
Diamonds Sculls champion Thomas just held off GB U23 star Callum Dixon by 3/4L for third final and said: “I’m just happy to be here and happy to have medalled.”
WR graduate Tom Barras and his GB quad scull disappointingly failed to qualify for the final, but bounced back to win the B final.
The Tokyo Olympic medallist, joined by Harry Leask, Seb Devereux and Sam Meijer, led all the way to come home 1L up on Belgium in 5.55.90.
British Rowing Director of Performance Louise Kingsley, who rowed for Wales in the 1986 Commonwealth Games, said: “It’s great to top the medal table but we’re realistic that there’s a long way to go this season.
“We’ll see our crews shaping and evolving as we go through the season, and I’m sure we’ll see other crews from the rest of the world coming in.”
GB are not attending World Cup II in Poland, but will next be racing in front of a home crowd at Henley Royal Regatta, which has attracted a record entry.
Photos British Rowing and Detlev Seyb/MyRowingPhoto.com/World Rowing.