WELSH rowers checked out in the Czech Republic with a world championship gold, silver and three bronzes.
Harry Brightmore’s GB men’s 8 were unstoppable leading from start to finish, while Tokyo Olympic silver medallist Tom Barras stroked the men’s quad to a season-best second.
(Harry Brightmore centre front)
Ollie Wynne-Griffith took third in the men’s pair with Tom George, while Graeme Thomas battled to a brilliant bronze in the men’s singles, matched by Ben Pritchard in the PR1 sculls.
Brightmore had the best seat in the house at cox as the GB 8 hit the 500m mark 1/4L up on Australia and the Netherlands.
The lead was just over 1/2L at half-way, and nearly a length with 500m to race, where the D utch launched a fierce final charge to close the gap to 1/2L on the line, Gb winning by 1.1secs in 5.24.41.
Brightmore said: “The first minute or so I was really calm and quiet. We knew we just wanted to stick to our race plan and not get caught up with what was happening around us.
“We had a great start, and when it came to about two minutes in, getting into the middle of the race, I gave a call to the guys, ‘let’s get some work on’.
“We started to eat away a gap that we hoped no-one could catch.
“Credit to the guys, who put absolutely everything in in that first three-quarters.
“We were clinging on for dear life at the end there but we managed it.”
(Tom Barras, left)
Welsh Rowing and Cardiff University product Barras, Matthew Haywood, George Bourne and Harry Leask produced a superb final row that took them within 0.89secs of gold behind Poland.
GB were third through half-way, just 1/3L back from the Poles and 1/4L from early front-runners Italy, and then turned on the after burners to burst into silver in the third quarter.
And pushing for the line they crossed just 1/3L behind gold and 2/3L up on the Italians in 5.40.97.
Former Wales HCI singles champion Thomas left the likes of Greek Olympic champion Stefanos Ntouskos and Norwegian world gold medallist Kjetil Borch in his wake as he took a brave bronze in the men’s singles.
(Graeme with his Bronze Medal)
The three-time world quads medallist hit the half-way mark in fourth and then squeezed past New Zealand’s Jordan Perry to give chase to German front-runner Oliver Zeidler and Dutch European champion Melvin Twellaar.
With the Kiwi still just a 1/4L down at 1500m and pushing to get back on terms, Thomas lifted for the line to hold off the challenge, closing to an overlap on Twellaar in silver and just over a length on Zeidler in gold, with a 0.8 sec cushion to Perry in fourth as the Brit crossed in 6.51.44.
““A bronze in this event is like a gold. I don’t feel like I’m a big superhero athlete. It took everything I had to get there,” he said.
“I’m physically spent, and, to be honest, I’m pretty emotionally spent too.
“People say single sculling is a lonely game, and it can be at times, but I had every coach who has ever coached me out there in my mind, and every sculler I’ve ever rowed with in my mind, and I was just thinking about all the little things to try and eke out as much out of myself I could.”
Wynne-Griffith and George came into their final hoping for gold, but found themselves trailing the fast-starting Romanians and Spanish early on.
The gap on the two frontrunners was over a length at half-way with both Serbia and Australia breathing down their necks.
The Serbians were still just feet back with 500m to race, but the Brits then raced away to finish clear water in front, closing to within 3/4L of the Spanish in silver and 1 1/4L of the Romanians in gold, crossing in 6.30.86.
Tokyo 8s medallist Ollie admitted afterwards: ““At the start of the season, we’d have been very pleased with this result, but obviously the goalposts move.
“A dream becomes a goal, a goal becomes an expectation, and if you don’t come away with a gold medal there’s work to do.
“It’s a solid result but it’s not the standard that we’ve set ourselves.”
The men’s four dominated their final from start to finish to win gold by a length, but sadly for Welsh cap Matt Aldridge, he was consigned to watching from his hotel room after suffering illness.
Replacement David Ambler paid tribute to him by saying: “He’s been crushing it all season and has been working hard all year in this crew, so it’s a tough thing to be ill.
“The result is a reflection of his work in the crew throughout the year.”
(Ben Pritchard in action)
City of Swansea RC’s Ben Pritchard headed Ukranian Paralympic PR1 singles champion Roman Polianskyi by feet in second at 500m, and was still very much in the mix in third at half-way less than a length off the lead.
He couldn’t quite get back on terms, but crossed for bronze in 9.11.90 just 3L back on Polianskyi and a length down on Italy’s Giacomo Perini who led well into the final quarter.
“Right now, I’m disappointed I couldn’t get through Perini but I’m really happy with a medal,” said the Welshman.
“It’s the first medal for PR1 men’s in GB since 2015 at a world champs, and I’m happy that we’re starting to get back on to the podium at these big events.
“Hopefully we can use this now to springboard towards Paris.”
(Ben with his Bronze Medal)
GB finished top of the medal table and British Rowing Director of Performance Louise Kingsley, who rowed for Wales in the 1986 Commonwealth Games said the performance built on early-season success at the Belgrade and Lucerne World Cups as well as the European Championships.
“It’s been fantastic to come here and demonstrate the standard that we’re at,” she said.
“We never stop. The team is in a good place, the team behind the team is in a good place.
“We’ve definitely got one eye on Paris, we can’t sit here and rest on our laurels. Looking at the crews across the Championships, there’s still plenty we can work on,” Louise added.
She also thanked the work of the coaching and support team, saying: “The athletes wouldn’t be here without all of those people. It’s been a massive team effort here.”
Full results at https://worldrowing.com/event/2022-world-rowing-championships