Records tumble at British Indoor Champs

Indoor rowing legend Graham Benton celebrated turning 40 by smashing the world 40-49 men’s heavyweight record at the 22nd British Indoor Rowing Championships in Cardiff. The Tideway Scullers powerhouse brought the crowd to its feet at the Sport Wales National Centre as he closed in on Nik ‘Big Bird’ Fleming’s 2009 benchmark of five minutes at 57.5 seconds. And, splitting 1.28.1 and rating 31, Benton – who still holds the British men’s open championship record of 5:42.5 –  shaved a full 5.1 seconds off his Mad rowing teammate’s world mark, crossing the 2,000m finish line in 5:52.4 to land the 40-44 title in the fastest time of the whole day.

“I had to get old to have a crack at a world best, but I’ve finally done it,” he smiled. “I’m really pleased. I thought I could do it with the times I was doing in training, but I felt as weak as a kitten in the warm up. I genuinely felt like it wasn’t going to happen. But once I got going, I got onto a good strong rhythm and knew I was in a good place at half way to attack it and take the record down.

“My plan was not to see 1.30 on the split – I think I slipped for a couple of strokes, but pushed it straight back down to 1.29, lifting for the finish. It’s 10 seconds off my PB set in 2007, but I was training full-time then, now I’m just doing six hours a week,” added Benton, whose best time is just 0.2 seconds down on Olympic superstar Matthew Pinsent’s 2004 British benchmark.

A total of 442 competitors raced at the event, held in Wales for the first time, in conjunction with the Welsh Indoor Championships. Men’s Open winner was Q-Power’s Paul Buchanan, 39, in 6:07.5, while Andy Jones of Taff Attack took the 30-34 crown in 6:06.9. Fastest lightweight man in 6:19.1 was Tideway Scullers’ 35-39 winner Tim Male, who set the British lightweight record of 6:07.2 an incredible 16 years ago. Fastest woman was Mad team Open heavyweight winner Anna Lewis in 7:02.5, closely followed on time by 30-34 winner Jo Hill from Wrekin in 7:04.7.

As well as Benton’s world, British and championship records, another four championship and one British record fell.

London RC’s Jim Brownlow, 80, lowered the men’s 80-84 heavyweight championship and British records by 11.2 seconds taking gold in 7:50.8, while Durham ARC’s Gill Prescott lowered the women’s heavyweight 55-59 championship mark by 4.7secs winning in 7:23.3.

Sub 7’s Richard Steventon from Maesperthi in West Wales took 9.9secs off the men’s 60-64 championship record taking gold in 6:32.7, and clubmate Marjorie Roome in the women’s equivalent event lowered her own championship best by 4.3secs winning in 7:46.3, missing her British record by just half a second.

There were near misses on the record front for Bideford men’s lightweight 50-54 winner David Byrne (6:37.9) by just 0.2secs, Q-Power’s 30-34 women’s lightweight winner Clare Busst (7:11.4) by 0.7secs and Sub 7’s 55-59 heavyweight men’s winner Richard Cheeseman (6:23.9), who was 2.6secs off rugby legend Andy Ripley’s 10-year-old record. Oldest racer was Seaford’s Weston Towler, 85, who covered the 2km in 9:02.4.

Full results at http://therowingcompany.com/birc/results.

Nick Hartland

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