KAT COPELAND claimed the first World Cup gold medal of her career as the British rowing squad claimed four titles in the French leg of the series yesterday.
Olympic champion Copeland, who is from Stokesley, teamed up with Imogen Walsh in the final of the lightweight double scull and celebrated her second major medal of the summer after winning bronze at the recent European Championships.
Britain had two boats in the World Cup final, and Copeland and Walsh finished four seconds clear of team-mates Eleanor Piggott and Charlotte Taylor as the British team claimed a one-two.
Copeland and Walsh were down in fifth after the opening 500m, but timed their race perfectly to surge ahead shortly after the halfway mark and eventually win with a bit to spare.
“It’s beautiful here with such a great atmosphere, and I feel like this was a general move up,” said Copeland, who has returned to the international arena this year after taking a 12-month break following her Olympic success at London 2012.
Walsh added: “It just felt really satisfying. To win a race in which you have also rowed well feels very good.”
North-East duo Jess Eddie and Zoe Lee were also among the medals as their women’s eight finished third in their final.
Eddie, who is from Durham, and Lee, who hails from Richmond, were part of a much-changed crew from the European Championships, and in a race that saw the USA stage a sensational finish to overhaul Canada, Britain held off stiff competition from China to finish third.
The result was a decent enough return given the strength of the competition, but still left room for improvement ahead of the World Championships in August.
“Frustration is an exciting emotion to have at this point,” said Lee. “We can see what we need to achieve and we know how to get there.”
Eddie added: “Elise Laverick (former GB Olympian) said to me before leaving the UK that we should remember that we won a medal here in 1997, so we had something to live up to.”
Durham’s Nathaniel Reilly-O’Donnell was a member of the men’s eight that claimed a silver medal behind the United States.
Reilly-O’Donnell has only recently moved into the eight, and after surging into second place behind the Americans at an early stage of yesterday’s final, the British crew repelled pushes from Poland and Belarus to claim silver.
Yarm’s Tina Stiller finished fifth in the final of the women’s quadruple scull, while Chester-le-Street’s Will Fletcher teamed up with Northumberland’s Jamie Kirkwood to finish third in the ‘B’ final of the men’s lightweight double scull.