GB trialists set benchmark in GB Rowing Team First Assessment at Boston

Rowers took to the rowing machine and the water over the weekend at the GB Rowing Team’s First Assessment. Martin Gough reports


Jack Burns on his way to winning the M1x time trial (c) AllMarkOne

Imogen Grant was the sole Olympian in action as the GB Rowing Team began their three-year build-up to the Paris 2024 Games with the first long-distance trial in Boston, Lincolnshire, this weekend.

Last summer in Tokyo, Grant finished fourth in a thrilling lightweight double sculls final, missing out on a bronze medal by one hundredth of a second with her partner Emily Craig.

With Olympians exempt from this trial, though, Cambridge University fifth-year medical student Grant was the only one who chose to take part in the 5km time trial on the River Witham.

She duly demonstrated her pedigree, winning the women’s lightweight singles by 22 seconds from Olivia Bates of Nottinghamshire County RA – the fastest Under-23 candidate – in 19 minutes 44.93 seconds.

Grant wrote on Instagram: “I was in such a pain hole by the end – exactly how you should cross the line. Coming second overall was better than I expected, but I’m really pleased I’ve proved to myself I can still perform while studying.”

Peter Sheppard, Chief Coach of Under-23s and Juniors, pronounced himself happy with the first trial of the season, after a day of sun and wind in Lincolnshire.

“It was a good first trial,” he said. “It’s really important that everyone has a benchmark early in the new season and for new people to have an opportunity to show themselves.

“There wasn’t a standout performance – no one won by a significant margin. The new cohort of athletes we have invited to currently train at Caversham all performed at the front of their disciplines.”

Several of the weekend’s leading performers represented Great Britain last summer as part of the “Project Paris” plan to give more experience to younger athletes, with just three years until the next Olympic Games.

Lola Anderson and Jack Burns, both raced in single sculls at the World Cup regatta in Sabaudia, Italy, last June – Anderson winning a bronze medal – and they both finished top in their respective categories in Boston.

Anderson continued her successful year, finishing 20 seconds ahead of Leander club-mate Georgina Brayshaw in 19 mins 43.89 secs. Brayshaw and Kathryn Mole of Leeds RC replicated the top three from the Wingfield Sculls on the Tideway last month.

Anderson, 23, learned to row at Surbiton High School and is a graduate of Newcastle University. She followed her summer World Cup medal with victory in the Princess Royal Challenge Cup at Henley Royal Regatta. Vwaire Obukohwo from the Twickenham World Class Start centre was the fastest U23 athlete in the single sculls.

Representing Leander and Edinburgh University, 27-year-old Burns won the men’s single sculls by six seconds from Sebastian Devereux in 17 mins 24.52 secs. Callum Dixon, a member of the World Class Start programme at Twickenham RC was the top Under-23 athlete in seventh place.

It was also a Leander Club one-two in women’s pairs as Samantha Redgrave and Esme Booth won by 18 seconds from Lauren Irwin and Alice Davies. Leander athletes featured in the top seven crews, including the fastest U23s, Grace Dening-Smitherman and Abigail Topp, in seventh spot.

Harry Glenister and Oliver Wilkes – from Leander and Oxford Brookes University respectively – were the fastest men’s pair while Swiss senior international Barnabé Delarze was in the third-placed boat.

Delarze, who finished fifth in the double scull at the Tokyo Olympics, is studying for a masters in Business Administration at Oxford University. Although ineligible for selection, he teamed up with fellow student David Ambler to finish just 0.2 seconds behind second-placed Freddie Davidson and Sam Bannister of Brookes.

Another Oxford University combination, James Forward and Henry Pearson, were the best U23 crew in sixth. Sheppard admitted that the absence of athletes studying at American universities may have affected the depth of the pair’s trials for both the men and women.

In the lightweight men’s singles, Jamie Copus made the most of another Boston experience to win by 13 seconds from Edinburgh student Dale Flockhart, in a time of 17 mins 46.05 secs. A fortnight ago, Brookes’ sculler Copus completed at the Head of the Charles Regatta in Boston, USA, finishing second.

As usual, the format of this first trial saw athletes complete a 2km ergo test at Boston’s Haven High Academy on Saturday before the water test on Sunday.

Returning Olympians will be back in action for the next trial, an invitation-only affair at the GB Rowing Team’s Caversham base on 18 December, with invitations being extended to the best performers from this weekend as well.

Those achieving the 5km ergo standard in January will return to Boston for another water trial in February.

Sheppard added: “We’re only six to eight weeks into a new season so hopefully people will reflect on these results, go back home and get another three plus months of solid winter training accumulated before the February Trial.”

Click here for the full results.