Will England enjoys more success on the water

Will England enjoys more success on the water

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First published in Sport by

WILL England and his Great Britain eight bravely battled to a highly creditable fourth at the World Junior Rowing Championships as near sinking conditions hit their medal hopes.

A brutal headwind, which turned the six-lane Hamburg course into a sea, added a full two minutes to the normal 2,000m race time in Sunday's final.

And with lanes four to six most sheltered from the elements, producing a podium finish from lane one was always going to be a big ask for the Monmouth School rower's crew.

Indeed, aware of the unfair conditions, the organisers stacked everything against a GB medal by reversing Sunday’s lane order to put heat winners Germany and Holland in the most protected lanes five and six, while 18-year-old England's boat as sixth and final qualifiers were relegated to the worst lane.

Despite the disadvantage, England in the stroke seat - last year's Monmouth School Head Boy - took the GB eight off as if their lives depended on it, and hit the first 500m mark in third 2/3L behind leaders Germany and just two feet behind the Dutch.

But as the crews hit rougher water and waves began to break over riggers and into the boat, GB suddenly found themselves in a battle for survival, as the two leaders moved clear and Italy moved into a clear third, surging past the Brits to go 3/4L ahead in third by half way.

And at the 1500m mark, there were effectively two separate races, with just over a length covering Germany, Holland and Italy in gold to bronze and a similar distance covering GB, Spain and France in fourth to sixth in the less favoured lanes more than 2L behind.

And in the final run in, with water flying everywhere, the distances grew, with nearly 20 seconds finally covering the field on the line as winners Germany took a full seven minutes 39 seconds to cover the 2,000m distance, some 40 seconds behind the usual winning time for the single sculls.

Holland took silver 1L back with Italy in bronze another 1 1/4L down. England's boat placed fourth 11 seconds further back, 1L up on France and Spain in fifth and sixth who were split by two hundreds of a second.

Finishing fourth a place off the medal podium was doubly disappointing given the farcical nature of the conditions, but was still a creditable result by England and his crew.

Things could have been different if they had qualified directly through their heat, where GB missed out on a top two qualifying position finishing third to Holland and Italy and had to go through the repechage, where a dramatic last gasp surge led by strokeman England secured the final qualifying slot in second from Serbia.

As the sixth and final qualifiers, when the weather worsened, it was indeed an ill wind that howled down the Hamburg course for GB, blowing their medal hopes off course.

School coach Robin Fletcher said: "It was really unfortunate that the conditions were so unfair, but Will can be really proud.

"He's had a fantastic career with us at Monmouth School rowing club and has demonstrated to our younger members of the club that competing at the highest level is achievable."

He added: "He's been a superb talisman of the club and worked incredibly hard to gain these rewards. He is an athlete of the highest standard and I hope this is just the start of an exciting rowing career. We wish him the best of luck."

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