Five medals for GB at European Rowing U23 Championships

In their best-ever result at U23 level, 21 of the 30 GB rowers racing in Kruszwica came home with a medal last weekend

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The U23 men's eight cross the line to win gold (c) Jamie Wilton

At the European Rowing U23 Championships in picturesque Kruszwica, Poland this weekend the GB Team returned with two gold medals, one silver and two bronze medals to finish behind Romania and Italy on the medal table, in a competition where 19 out of 30 nations collected medals.

Delighted with the team’s performance over the weekend, Pete Sheppard, GB Rowing Team’s Chief Coach for U23s and Juniors, said afterwards: “In all this young team, who in many cases were making their international debuts, excelled to produce GB’s best-ever set of U23 Europeans results.

“They delivered what they had been demonstrating in training back in the UK.”

GB had never won a gold medal at the European Rowing U23 Championships, first held in 2017, but this year’s event ended on a high with GB crews taking two stunning golds in the last three races of the final day.

“It was a really good learning experience, and it was good to get my first gold international medal”

With a slight cross tail wind on the Kruszwica course, the first crew to win gold was the men’s double scull of Nathan Hull and Callum Dixon, coached by Helen Brown from Twickenham WCS. The duo dominated their heat on Saturday and then led the A final and the more favoured Greek crew from early on in the race to win comfortably on the line.

After both athletes missed July’s World Rowing U23 Championships because of a Covid contact issue, this was very much a just reward for Hull and Dixon.

Hull said: “It was a really good learning experience, and it was good to get my first gold international medal, so I’m very pleased to see progression as I went to this event two years ago. I’m really happy.”

In the final race of the Championships, the men’s eight, coached by Hugo Gulliver (ULBC), matched tough opposition from Romania and Germany by ensuring their middle 1,000m of was always quicker than their opposition. They kept the pressure on to lead Romania over the line by about three-quarters of a length.

Earlier in the day, Olivia Bates put in a gutsy performance in her first international competition for GB, narrowly missing out on the gold medal in the lightweight women’s single sculls event. The Notts County RA sculler, who is coached by her club coach Dec Gamble, was overhauled in the last few strokes by Austria’s Lara Tiefenthaler, to win silver.

The final two medals – both bronzes – were won by the men’s coxed four, coached by Gen Bailhache-Graham (ULBC), and the women’s four who are coached by Olympic silver medallist Richard Chambers (OBUBC).

Sheppard said: “Both crews delivered solid performances where they stuck to their race plans to live with the pace of the more favoured crews early on, establishing a comfortable lead over the fourth-ranked crews.”

The other crews in the A final were the men’s pair who finished fourth and the men’s quad who finished sixth after unfortunately catching a buoy early in the race that saw them drop from a strong position in the pack in the first 500m to last.

The women’s double won the B final to finish seventh overall at the beginning of the day, while in the women’s single, Holly Dunford had to withdraw from her B final owing to injury.

With many of the team able to return in 2022 as U23s again, they have been able to use this opportunity as a springboard to demonstrate their potential for selection to the U23 World Championships Team next season.

In a year with few racing opportunities, this weekend’s event has also provided those who will be too old for U23 selection in 2022 with a further competition experience as they look to make the step up into the senior team in the coming few seasons.

Reflecting on a weekend of high-quality racing, Sheppard said: “All in all, the European Rowing U23 Championships has proved to be an exciting way for coaches and athletes to sign off the season after all the challenges everyone has seen in 2021.”

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