Road To Rio: North-East rower underlines his potential with World Championship medal (From The Northern Echo)
For details on how to contact our editorial and commercial departments, click here
Road To Rio: North-East rower underlines his potential with World Championship medal
IT is never too early to lay down a marker for Olympic selection, and while the 2016 Games in Rio de Janeiro might still be three years away, Chester-le-Street’s Will Fletcher underlined his growing potential as he claimed a bronze medal at the World Rowing Championships in South Korea at the weekend.
Fletcher, who attended Park View School and is a member of Tyne Rowing Club, was part of the men’s lightweight four crew that finished an impressive third behind Denmark and New Zealand.
The 23-year-old marked his arrival on the senior scene with a silver medal at last year’s European Championships, a post-Olympic regatta that enabled the British selectors to run the rule over some of the most talented youngsters emerging from the development squad.
Having been selected for his maiden World Championships alongside Adam Freeman-Pask, Jonathan Clegg and Chris Bartley, Fletcher helped the British lightweight four record a surprise semi-final success.
A strong start to the final enabled them to claim the lead in the opening 250m, and while they briefly dropped out of the top three, they recovered to overhaul the French crew to claim a bronze medal that helped take Great Britain’s World Championships tally to two golds and five bronzes.
“I’m a bit shocked at what happened to be honest,” said Fletcher, who studied at Durham University and continues to coach with the University’s Boat Club when time allows. “To get a bronze at a senior World Championships is amazing from where we were a few months ago.
“We had a race plan and went off nice and hard, which was the idea all along. We got into our rhythm, but everyone else came back fast and after that it was a case of clawing them back to get back in the top three.”
Britain claimed an Olympic silver medal in the lightweight four last summer, but head coach Jurgen Grobler opted to split up the Olympic boat in order to promote some of his most talented youngsters into the senior set up.
It remains to be seen whether the new-look crew remains intact next summer, but with three members of the four having stepped up from the development ranks at the start of the season, a bronze medal is an excellent achievement after just one year of competition.
“We’ve really been playing catch up all year because there are crews with a few more years of experience over us in those boats,” said Bartley, who was the only member of the four to have competed in last year’s Olympic final. “For the three new guys, it is just amazing at their first World Championships in an Olympic boat.”
Durham’s Jess Eddie and Richmond’s Zoe Lee narrowly missed out on a medal as they finished fourth in the final of the women’s eight, but there were plenty of positives to take given the crew’s disrupted summer.
The order of the boat was still being changed mid-regatta, and while the reigning Olympic champions USA comfortably added the world title to their Olympic success last summer, GB were in the mix for a medal throughout a closely-contested final.
They eventually finished in fourth behind Romania and Canada, and will hope to carry their momentum from the second half of the season into next year’s racing.
“We had a very good training camp in Breisach, and you could see with every training block that we were moving forward,” said Lee, who studied at St Francis Xavier School in Richmond and Queen Elizabeth College in Darlington before learning to row at Oxford University.
Yarm’s Tina Stiller finished third in the B final of the women’s quadruple scull, and ninth overall, alongside Rosamund Bradbury, Monica Relph and Lucinda Gooderham.
Durham’s Nathaniel Reilly-O’Donnell was part of a new-look men’s four that claimed a fifth-placed finish in their final.
The crew contained none of the rowers who claimed Olympic gold in the four last summer, as a number of Britain’s strongest rowers were moved to the eight, which made history by becoming the first British men’s eight to claim a world title.
Rowing with Mat Tarrant, Scott Durant and Alan Sinclair, Reilly-O’Donnell helped the four make a reasonably strong start to their final, but they dropped out of medal contention in the second half of the race as the Netherlands came through to claim gold.
Northumberland’s Jamie Kirkwood finished eighth overall in the lightweight single scull, finishing second in the B final behind Canada’s Nicholas Pratt. The Cambois rower missed out on a place in the A final by less than a second despite this being his first full season in the senior ranks.
Comments are closed on this article.