Comebacks and openings in store at the GB Rowing Team Senior Trials

Katherine Grainger, racing in a single scull and seeking a ninth career title, is amongst over 140 rowers who go to the start line this weekend at The GB Rowing Team Senior Trials in Belgium.

The event helps determine world cup and World Championship squad pecking order and, this year, offers a significant opening for rowers within “Start”, the GB Rowing Teams’ talent pool to race the sport’s big guns as thKatherine Grainger will go for a ninth career title at this year's trialsey battle for places in the senior squads en route to 2012, or if that target is too early, for Rio 2016.

So the Trials could be a big opportunity for rowers like Moe Sbihi, Heather Stanning, Erica Bodman, Anna Railton, Gemma Akers, Jenny Farmer, Helen Glover, Karen Bennett, Dave Marshall, Ben Rowe and Zak Lee-Green all of whom have been supported by or emerged from “Start”, the GB Rowing Teams’ talent identification and development programme, which is lottery-funded and sponsored by Siemens.

They will be seeking to join illustrious graduates of the scheme such as Devon’s Bill Lucas, Staffordshire’s Anna Watkins (formerly Bebington) and Cambridge’s Charles Cousins all of whom went onto world u23 medals before graduating to world senior level.

Watkins will race in the single scull against fellow Olympic medallists Grainger, Leeds’ Debbie Flood and Annabel Vernon, of Cornwall amongst others at the weekend.

“With so many world and Olympic medallists in the women’s group, the Trials are always tough. It’s only after they are out of the way that you can start to think about the season ahead”, said Grainger.

Meanwhile Grainger’s counterpart in the open men’s single scull, Alan Campbell, from Coleraine, will be looking to extend his run of five consecutive wins.  Campbell will relish the thought of this coming season as it culminates in a World Championships in New Zealand, home of Mahe Drysdale who so narrowly pipped him to the World Championships title last year in Poland.

Yorkshire’s Andrew Triggs Hodge and Gloucestershire’s Pete Reed have each won five titles apiece so far in the men’s pair. They did  not row together in 2009, when Hodge tried the single, nor in 2004 as Reed had not yet won a place in the senior squad.

“I have a strange, masochistic excitement about the GB Rowing Team Trials”, admitted Pete Reed. “I’ll be racing for my 6th straight win in the men’s pair and there is always a huge amount of pressure surrounding the event. Jürgen [Grobler – the men’s chief coach] wants to see a strong performance and racing your team mates is always so mentally tough. I know we have got serious fire power and experience on our side so I’m sure we can deliver something special”.

“It’s good to see such a mix of young and established rowers racing each others. The GB Rowing Team Senior Trials always have an edge to them.  With so many Olympic and world medallists in the squad they produce good quality racing every time”, said GB Rowing Performance Director David Tanner today.

The GB Rowing Team Senior Trials, at the Bloso Centre, will also witness a number of comebacks.

Returning from a post-Olympic fallow year are: Welshman Tom James, winner of men’s four gold in Beijing; Coleraine’s Richard Chambers, a 2008 Olympic finalist and 2007 world champion in the lightweight men’s four, and Flood, Olympic silver medallist in 2004 and 2008 and several times world champion.

Olympic lightweight men’s double scull champion Zac Purchase, of Tewkesbury, who will also see Belgium as a chance to test himself as he comes back from a 2009 season vetoed by illness. He will not have the opportunity, though, to race his Beijing crew-mate Mark Hunter who is a last-minute withdrawal from the trials on medical grounds.

On the comeback trail after a somewhat bigger break is 1992 Olympic gold medallist Greg Searle, from Marlow, who started rowing again late last year after a nine-year gap. He took his Olympic gold in 1992 with his brother Jonny and cox Garry Herbert and
will race in the open weight men’s single scull.

Devon’s Marcus Bateman and Bill Lucas together with Charles Cousins, of Cambridge and Sam Townsend, from Reading, were on the verge of significant things last season before their world championships men’s quadruple scull campaign was derailed by injury and illness. They all compete in the open men’s single scull with Hexham’s Matt Wells and Somerset’s Stephen Rowbotham, 2008 Olympic bronze medallists who will wish to overwrite memories of a less than perfect 2009 season.

“This is where the Olympiad really starts”, said Rowbotham.  “After last year’s disappointing outcome it’s about building results over the next three seasons and the Trials are a great chance to test how quick you are”.

The men’s pair field contains a seam of potential riches for men’s chief coach Jurgen Grobler. Alongside Reed and Hodge, world silver medal winners last year, the entrants include Henley’s Alex Partridge and Alex Gregory, from Gloucestershire, as well as Northwich’s Matt Langridge and Knutsford’s Ric Egington who together took world championships men’s four gold in 2009. Tom James enters the fray with Cambridge’s Tom Ransley whilst others from last year’s men’s  eight squad form another five strong pairs.

The leading lightweight men’s squad will be split across the sweep (one oar) and sculling (two oars) events.  That means that Richard Chambers teams with Chris Bartley whilst Chris Boddy competes with Adam Freeman-Pask in the open men’s pair. 

Last year’s lightweight men’s double scull pairing of Frome’s Paul Mattick and Maidenhead’s Rob Williams return to the course where Williams beat his team-mate by just 0.2 of a second to take the lightweight men’s single scull title last year. Both will face a challenge this year from returning Olympic gold medallist Zac Purchase and some close quarter racing is predicted.

“The competition in the lightweight squad is fierce. That’s good news as we are all pushing each other on. We’ve got Zac Purchase and Mark Hunter back in the squad this year which adds to the picture”,  said Williams.  “The Trials is a time to test out our strengths in race conditions before the season begins in May.  Based on training, I’m sure the races in Belgium will be close”.

Paul Thompson, GB chief coach for women and lightweights, will preside over an open women’s single scull and pairs squad in Belgium who are fresh from training in Varese at the GB Rowing Team’s camp there.

Gloucestershire’s Natasha Page, Bournemouth’s Alison Knowles, and Durham’s Jess Eddie are among the more experienced of the group after emerging into the senior squad in 2005.  Londoner Louisa Reeve and Warrington’s Olivia Whitlam, will be a tough act to beat in the women’s pair.

The field this year also features Vicky Thornley, racing with Natasha Page.  Thornley was identified into the sport by UK Sport’s Sporting Giants’ Scheme and has now graduated from three years in “Start” to the  full senior women’s squad.

The GB Rowing Team’s lightweight women’s squad made strong progress last year, taking world cup gold and  World Championship silver and bronze.  Andrea Dennis and Hester Goodsell look set to contend for the title this year in the absence of Sophie Hosking and Laura Greenhalgh although they will need to beware of  Jane Hall and Steph Cullen as well as Kat Copeland, former world junior championships finalist who missed out last year at the Trials through injury.

The weekend will also be the focus of GB Rowing Team Trials for the adaptive rowing squad and a full list of  invitees will be issued later this week by the GB Rowing Team.

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Single scull

Debbie Flood (Leander)
Katherine Grainger (St. Andrew)
Franki Jus-Burke (Thames)
Franki Sanjana (Mortlake)
Katie Solesbury (Leander)
Emily Taylor (Durham University)
Annabel Vernon (London)
Anna Watkins (Leander)
Mel Wilson (Imperial College)
Erica Bodman (Reading University)
Ro Bradbury (Jesus College)
Rachel Gamble-Flint (Yarm School)
Vicky Meyer-Laker (Nottingham)
Anna Railton (Cambridge University)
Monica Relph (Nottingham)
Ruth Walczak (Molesey)

(Bow Side/Stroke Side)

Gemma Akers (Reading University) / Rachael Jefferies (Leander)
Jo Cook (Leander) / Lindsey Maguire (Wallingford)
Jess Eddie (University of London) / Alison Knowles (Thames)
Jenny Farmer (Molesey) / Jacqui Round (Leander)
Helen Glover (Reading University) / Heather Stanning (Army)
Zoe Lee (Sport Imperial) / Leonora Kennedy (Imperial College)
Natasha Page (Reading University) / Vicky Thornley (Minerva Bath)
Olivia Whitlam (Agecroft) / Louisa Reeve (Leander)
Jenny Arnold (Durham University) / Jessica Budgett (Durham University)
Karen Bennett (Clydesdale) / Imogen Evans (Rhwyfo Cymru)
Lottie Howard-Merrill (Imperial College) / Polly Swann (Glasgow/Edinburgh University)


Single scull

Marcus Bateman (Leander)
Alan Campbell (Tideway Scullers)
Charles Cousins (Reading University)
Brendan Crean (Agecroft)
Bill Lucas (Reading University)
David Marshall (Reading University)
David Read (Leander)
Steve Rowbotham (Leander)
Greg Searle (Molesey)
Sam Townsend (Reading University)
Matthew Wells (Leander)
John Collins (Reading University)
Andrew Corrigan (Newcastle University)
Mason Durant (Newcastle University)
Ed Ford (Newcastle University)
Jack Hockley (Leander)
Stewart Innes (Durham University)
Vincent Johnson (Reading University)
Nick Middleton (Leander)
Jonathon Walton (Loughborough University)
Karl Hudspith (Oxford Brookes University)/

(Bow Side/Stroke Side)

Tom Broadway (Leander) / James Clarke (London)
Matthew Langridge (Leander) / Richard Egington (Leander)
Cameron Nichol (Molesey) / Henry Pelly (Cambridge University)
James Orme (Leander) / Tom Solesbury (Molesley)
Alex Partridge (Leander) / Alex Gregory (Reading University)
Tom Ransley (York City) / Tom James (Molesey)
Peter Reed (Leander) / Andrew Triggs Hodge (Molesey)
Nathaniel Reilly O’Donnell (University of London) / Dan Ritchie (Herne Bay)
Moe Sbihi (Molesey) / James Foad (Molesey)
Alan Sinclair (Leander) / Nick Clark (Leander)
Ben Smith (Molesey) / Charles Burkitt (Oxford University)
Tom Wilkinson (Leander) / Tom Burton (Leander)
Chris Boddy (Leander) / Adam Freeman-Pask (Imperial College)
Richard Chambers (Leander) / Chris Bartley (Leander)
Frazer Brent (Molesey) / Ben Bathurst (University of Bristol)
Andy Holmes (Molesey) / Will Satch (Leander)
Lewis Knollman (Oxford Brookes University)/Ertan Hazine (Wallingford)
Stuart McCluskey (Durham University) / Philip Congdon (Durham University)
George Nash (Cambridge University ) / Fred Gill (Cambridge University)
Jonathan Rankin (Imperial College) / Henry Goodier (Imperial College)
Oliver Staite (Oxford Brookes University) / Nick Baker (Oxford Brookes University)
Rory Sullivan (Imperial College) / Simon Steele (Imperial College)
Matt Tarrant (Oxford Brookes University) / Chris Abraham (Oxford Brookes University)
Alex Torbica (University of London) / Geoff Reading (University of London)



Single scull   

Chloe Aitken (Mortlake)
Stephanie Cullen (London)
Andrea Dennis (Reading University)
Hester Goodsell (Reading University)
Kelly Limond (Strathclyde Park)
Ruth Sander (Mortlake)
Nicola Spencer (Nottingham)
Anna Townsend (Mortlake)
Kathryn Twyman (Oxford University Women’s BC)
Imogen Walsh (Clyde)
Charlotte Burgess (Reading University)
Katherine Copeland (University of London)


Single scull

Simon Barr (Leander)
Alex Cawthorne (London)
Bob Hewitt (Leander)
Ross Hunter (Leander)
Oliver Mahony (London)
Paul Mattick (Leander)
Zac Purchase (Marlow)
Rob Williams (London)
Joshua Butler (London)
Peter Chambers (Oxford Brookes University)
Jonno Clegg (Leander)
Carl Delaney (Nottingham University)
Iain Docwra (Heriot-Watt University)
Will Fletcher (Durham University)
Dave Jones (Leander)
Jamie Kirkwood (Imperial College)
Zak Lee-Green (Agecroft/Manchester University)
Michael Mottram (Reading University)
Ben Rowe (Tees)
Sam Scrimgeour (Glasgow/Strathclyde University)
Jamie Watson (Durham University)


Caroline O’Connor (Oxford Brookes University)
Zoe De Toledo (Leander)
Henry Fieldman (Imperial College)
Phelan Hill (Leander)
Max Gander (University of London)