“It’s good to be back”, said British Rowing’s performance director Louise Kingsley, as the team’s best world championships signalled a triumphant return to form. GB rowers bring home seven golds, one silver and four bronzes from the Czech Republic, all but two in Olympic or Paralympic categories. As well as the first Olympic-class titles in any event since 2016, it was the first time Britain has won four world golds within 90 minutes, and the first time one GB crew has claimed three world victories between them.
“We felt that the rest of the world would probably step on perhaps more than they have done here,” said Kingsley. “We’ve been pushing hard back at home but it’s just been fantastic to come out and actually demonstrate the standards that we are at. We never stop. It’s great to take the moment and enjoy the atmosphere. The team is in a fantastic place and the team behind the team is in a fantastic place.”
The men’s eight led Sunday’s charge, capping an unbeaten season and banishing forever the ghosts of Tokyo with an expertly timed run to gold, while Graeme Thomas hit new heights in his long career with bronze in the men’s single. The eight justified their favourite status by nosing out of the field early, consolidating the slight lead with a powerful push after halfway. The Dutch challenged hard but the British had already taken enough distance to hold them off. “I think we knew that would be the hardest race of the season and it definitely was”, said James Rudkin. “I’m really proud of it.”
Graeme Thomas has spent most of his time in crew boats, narrowly missing a medal in Tokyo. Seven years after last making the World Championships podium he reached it again. It was his best solo race, battling the entire way down the course to hold onto German and Dutch leaders Olli Zeidler and Melvin Twellaar, while fending off the worrying speed of New Zealand’s sculler. “My debut season in the single, I’m absolutely overjoyed”, he said. “I’m physically spent but emotionally spent as well, because I never really had the belief that I could compete in this.”
The day before had heard ‘God Save the King’ sung four times, twice in succession for the women’s and men’s fours, then again for lightweight double scullers Emily Craig and Imogen Grant. All three crews looked unbeatable, both women’s crews taking and holding early leads, while the men’s four wrote another chapter in the book of how to beat Australia by outrowing them in both technique and strength.
The multiple-gold winners were the mixed para-four. Ed Fuller, Ollie Stanhope, Francesca Allen and Giedre Rakauskaite split into men’s and women’s pair to win non-Paralympic category golds on Friday, before merging into the four again for gold and a world best time on Saturday, coxed by Morgan Baynham-Williams standing in for regular Erin Kennedy. On Sunday Ben Pritchard added para-single bronze in an astounding race which put him closer to Ukraine’s Paralympic champion than he has ever been. The men’s quad claimed silver, and the men’s pair and women’s quad bronze medals.