Stallard's crew cruise into Olympic eight final

PUBLISHED: 14:55 11 August 2008 | UPDATED: 22:08 26 October 2009

Poznan, POLAND, GBR M8+,  Race for lanes, move away from the start area. at the 2008 FISA World Cup. Rowing Regatta. Malta Rowing Course on Saturday, 21/06/2008. [Mandatory Credit:  Peter SPURRIER / Intersport Images]
Crew, Bow - Alex PARTRIDGE, Tom STALLARD, Tom LUCY, Richard EGINGTON, Josh WEST, Alastair HEATHCOTE, Matt LANDGRIDGE stroke Colin SMITH and cox Acer NETHERCOTT

Poznan, POLAND, GBR M8+, Race for lanes, move away from the start area. at the 2008 FISA World Cup. Rowing Regatta. Malta Rowing Course on Saturday, 21/06/2008. [Mandatory Credit: Peter SPURRIER / Intersport Images] Crew, Bow - Alex PARTRIDGE, Tom STALLARD, Tom LUCY, Richard EGINGTON, Josh WEST, Alastair HEATHCOTE, Matt LANDGRIDGE stroke Colin SMITH and cox Acer NETHERCOTT

Peter Spurrier/Intersport-Images

TEWIN rower Tom Stallard helped steer the Great Britain men s eight into the Olympic final in Beijing. The British crew emphatically won the second heat to book their place in Sunday s medal showdown at Shunyi. They beat reigning Olympic champions America

Caversham, Great Britain, Tom STALLARD, GB Rowing media day at the Redgrave Pinsent Rowing Lake. GB Rowing Training centre. Tue. 29.04.2008  [Mandatory Credit. Peter Spurrier/Intersport Images]

TEWIN rower Tom Stallard helped steer the Great Britain men's eight into the Olympic final in Beijing.

The British crew emphatically won the second heat to book their place in Sunday's medal showdown at Shunyi.

They beat reigning Olympic champions America by nearly four seconds to put down a marker for the final.

Canada won the opening heat but in a slower time, making GB favourites for the gold.

Caversham, Great Britain, Acer NETHERCOTT, GB Rowing media day at the Redgrave Pinsent Rowing Lake. GB Rowing Training centre. Wed 30.04.2008  [Mandatory Credit. Peter Spurrier/Intersport Images]

Stallard, whilst pleased with the boat's performance, rightly raised a note of caution.

"I'm sure that people will raise their games in the final," said the 29-year-old former world coxed fours champion.

On paper, Britain had a difficult heat with only the winners automatically qualifying for the final.

However, Stallard and the rest of the crew pulled off an awesome victory.

After lightning had postponed the start of their medal quest on Sunday, the GB crew almost effortlessly cruised into the final with a stunning win over the USA, hosts China and Germany.

Stallard, ninth in the same boat at the Athens Olympics four years ago, had previously stated in the WHT that the Team GB eight were on the path to a medal, and if today's performance is anything to go by that will be gold.

Like paper boats sliding across a summer's paddling pool, the bows of the men's eight race boats sliced backwards and forwards through the TV camera shot at the start of their heat, hiding the sheer effort of the first 25 strokes.

Less than half a second split the top three boats at the 500 metre mark with the USA and China barely ahead of the British eight.

Only world silver medallists Germany were trailing.

Then, with 650m gone, the British flew out of the pack and moved to lead the USA by three-quarters of a length, with China in third and Germany still fourth.

The blonde head of Alex Partridge seemed to spearhead the GB attack in the bow seat and, in the stroke seat, Colin Smith's relatively small frame set the pace.

Between them sat Tom Stallard, who is soon to start work with McLaren F1, Tom Lucy, Richard Egington, Josh West, Alastair Heathcote, and Matt Langridge.

All of them listening to the commands of former Broxbourne School pupil Acer Nethercott, the cox.

With three-quarters of the race behind them, the crew, coached jointly by

Mark Banks and John West, seemed to have the race track to themselves and they won by over a length from the USA with China in third.

In contrast to the excited hubbub all around them, the crew subsequently remained totally toned-down.

"It was a good, solid row," said Nethercott.

"Our coaches have done a fantastic job with this crew since the Lucerne World Cup in June.

"That was our last true test against the rest of the world and we knew we weren't up to speed, so they have been taking us forward technically."

Only Partridge, who missed the Olympic

Games four years ago through illness, permitted himself a moment of excitement.

"It's brilliant fun being here. It's like an experience you would never get anywhere else.

"When you are a length up on a crew like the USA and you are looking back at them it seems like an awful long way."

The women's eight were also a close second to world champions America in their heat and the performances of both GB crews delighted team bosses.

"The two eights produced exceptional performances today," said David Tanner, Team GB's rowing team leader.

"I believe that we have never qualified the men's direct to an Olympic final and our women now have all to play for after showing a great improvement since the last world cup."

Team GB now has three boats in finals, five in semi-finals and three still to race repechages.

RESULTS

Men's Eight

Heat 2

1 Alex Partridge/ Tom Stallard / Tom Lucy / Richard Egington / Josh West / Alastair Heathcote / Matt Langridge / Colin Smith / Acer Nethercott (cox) 5:25.89

2 USA 5:29.60

3 China 5:35.09

4 Germany 5:37.56

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