DURHAM’S Nathaniel Reilly-O’Donnell secured by far the biggest win of his career as he helped Britain’s men’s eight win a gold medal at the World Rowing Championships in Amsterdam.
Having narrowly missed out on a place at the 2012 Olympics, Reilly-O’Donnell confirmed his status as one of the most improved open-weight rowers in the country as he helped Britain’s eight lift the world title in arguably the most prestigious event at the World Championships.
The 26-year-old, who started rowing at St Leonard’s School in Durham at the age of 12, teamed up with Mat Tarrant, Will Satch, Matt Gotrel, Pete Reed, Paul Bennett, Tom Ransley and Constantine Louloudis to finish ahead of Germany and Poland in a keenly-contested final.
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The win caps a fine season for the eight, who have maintained a steady improvement through a campaign that has also seen them win a bronze medal at the European Championships and a silver and bronze medal on the World Cup stage.
Having failed to qualify automatically from their heat, the British eight had to progress through a repechage to make the final, but Reilly-O’Donnell feels the extra race played a pivotal role in their victory.
“We could not have delivered that performance last week,” said the North-Easterner. “I know it sounds strange to say it, but we needed that repechage. We needed another race as a crew.”
The British eight was only third after the first 500m of yesterday’s final, but a strong second quarter left them marginally ahead at the halfway stage. Germany overhauled Poland to emerge as their closest rivals in the final 500m, but the British crew held on to win by six tenths of a second.
The women’s eight, which featured Durham’s Jess Eddie and Richmond’s Zoe Lee, was unable to match the heroics of the men, finishing sixth in its own final.
There was no surprise to see the United States and Canada filling the first two finishing positions, but there was intense disappointment among Britain’s women that they were unable to challenge China for the bronze-medal slot.
“We’re all really disappointed because I don’t think was representative of our best,” said cox Zoe de Toledo. “If we’d gone out and delivered our best race at the same time, that would have been different.”
Olympic champion Kat Copeland teamed up with Imogen Walsh to win the B final of the lightweight double, but that was scant consolation after they had surprisingly failed to finish in the top three of their semi-final.
The British team finished the World Championships with a total of ten medals – four golds, four silvers and two bronzes – and the nation’s elite competitors will now have a break before returning to action in the British Championships in October.