NZ lightweight four closer to Games spot

IAN ANDERSON
Last updated 05:00 08/05/2012
POWERING HOME: The New Zealand's men's lightweight four, from left, Duncan Grant, Graham Oberlin-Brown, James Lassche and Curtis Rapley on their way to winning the B final in Belgrade.
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POWERING HOME: The New Zealand's men's lightweight four, from left, Duncan Grant, Graham Oberlin-Brown, James Lassche and Curtis Rapley on their way to winning the B final in Belgrade.

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New Zealand's men's lightweight four had their hopes boosted ahead of the "regatta of death" but the men's eight have their work cut out to make the London Olympics.

The Kiwi lightweight four won their B final at the opening World Cup rowing regatta of the year in Belgrade, Serbia, on Sunday night (NZ time).

Their victory put them seventh overall and indicated they may be on track to qualify for the Olympics when they contest the cut-throat qualifying regatta at Lucerne, Switzerland, which starts on May 20.

However, the eight has ground to make up on its challengers for a place at the Games after finishing well down the field last week.

New Zealand failed to qualify a men's eight for the Games at the 2011 world championships in Bled, Slovenia, leaving them just one opportunity this year, while the lightweight four was assembled over summer to chase an Olympics berth. The lightweight four needs to finish in the top two in Lucerne among those countries not qualified, while the eight has to win their showdown against other crews yet to qualify, including the United States, Czech Republic, China and possibly France, who were sixth in Belgrade.

The lightweight four of Curtis Rapley, James Lassche, Graham Oberlin Brown and Duncan Grant were disappointed not to make the A final in Belgrade but quickly reset their goal to win the B final and that target became easier when Italy chose not to contest the race.

New Zealand led throughout to win in 5 minutes 59 seconds, which was a better time than that recorded by A final victors Denmark, who saw off fellow medallists Great Britain and China.

"Even though we're a little disappointed that our main race competition, Italy, was a no-show, we maintained our main focus to have an even better race by building on our performances in the heats and repechage, and to win the B final," Grant said.

"We did both. We led the race from start to finish and increased our lead through each 500m marker of the race.

"This first World Cup regatta has been a good start in our buildup to the Last Chance Olympic qualification regatta in Lucerne ... but the next two weeks of training in Belgium and Switzerland are going to be critically important for increasing our boat speed and chances at this `do or die' regatta."

The eight of Richard Harrison, Fergus Fauvel, Tobias Wehr-Candler, Hamish Burson, Ian Seymour, Ben Hammond, Adam Tripp, David Eade and coxswain Ivan Pavich finished third in their three-crew heat and were fifth in their repechage. Coach Dave Thompson, who is also in charge of the lightweight four, may have to find new speed in the next couple of weeks for a boat that looked highly promising when fifth in the 2010 world championships at Lake Karapiro.

The men's four was the other Kiwi crew to contest the regatta, with the rest of the New Zealand squad for the Olympics heading overseas shortly to prepare for the second World Cup regatta of the year, starting in Lucerne after the Olympic qualifying event.

Troubled by injuries, the four altered its seating for the B final, with Jade Uru moving to the three seat behind stroke Sean O'Neill, but it didn't pay dividends for the Kiwis as they finished fifth for 11th spot overall.

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- Waikato Times

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