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Brits thrill Lucerne crowd

Britain's Cracknell (left) and Pinsent won an historic double Keystone

There may not have been too much for Swiss patriots to celebrate on Saturday, but at an international level the first finals day at the world rowing championships offered the 14,700-strong crowd plenty of entertainment.

Easily the most popular athletes on Saturday were Britain’s James Cracknell and Matthew Pinsent who celebrated an historic double victory, winning both the coxed and coxless pairs with just two hours separating their two races.

“It was pretty amazing,” Pinsent told swissinfo afterwards. “There was relief more than anything else, because I wasn’t sure we’d done it when we crossed the line. We always knew it was going to be tough and two hours between the races was the absolute maximum limit.”

Pinsent had earlier admitted that he felt like having a “stamping fit” when he saw the tight schedule arranged by the Lucerne organisers, but in the end the British men were able to rise to the challenge – just about.

Incredibly both races had to be determined by a photo finish with the coxless second race proving particularly close. The winning declarations saw Cracknell and Pinsent take gold on each occasion though, at the expense of Italy (coxed) and Yugoslavia (coxless), prompting mass applause from the grandstands.

“The photo was so tight you could hardly see (the difference),” Pinsent grinned. “It shows that we only just had enough, didn’t we? So it was a brilliant day, really brilliant.”

But if the photo finish hadn’t been able to separate the two boats, would the British pair have been up for a re-race?

“Oh yeah!” laughed Cracknell. “I think we’d have preferred another race more than the Yugoslavians. It’s always hard being a length up (as the Yugoslavians were) and being rowed down. We always treated it as a race that would start up again halfway through, but we certainly didn’t plan on being a length down halfway.”

The Lucerne schedule may not have made things easy for the British pair, but Cracknell had no reservations about the pleasure of rowing on the city’s world famous Rotsee lake.

“It’s known as the greatest rowing venue,” he nodded, “because it’s so consistently still and it’s got nice warm water which makes for fast times. And the Swiss really like their rowing so we get massive crowds like today, so it just makes a really special day.”

Olympic bronze medalist Kathrin Rutschow-Stomporowski of Germany was also enjoying a special day on Saturday after comfortably winning the women’s single sculls, over a boat-length ahead of World Cup runnerup Joulia Levina of Russia.

After dominating the event all season, hot favourite Ekaterina Karsten of Belarus had to settle for third place, the double Olympic and world champion ending up almost two lengths behind Rutschow-Stomporowski.

Saturday’s lightweight single sculls brought a double celebration for Ireland with Sam Lynch and Sinead Jennings winning gold in the men’s and women’s finals.

by Mark Ledsom, Lucerne

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SWI - a branch of Swiss Broadcasting Corporation SRG SSR