World Rowing Championships: GB rowers still have work to do
Britain's rowers hit the top end of their Olympic class medal target, securing six medals at the World Championships at Amsterdam.
The men's quad and pair showed promise with silver medals while the lightweight men were disappointed with bronze.
London 2012 champion Katherine Grainger, two-time Olympic gold medallist James Cracknell and 1992 Olympic gold medal-winning cox Garry Herbert believe that it's a strong result for the team, which is the best funded British Olympic sport.
However, they say there is still work to be done.
|Great Britain's Olympic class medals|
|Gold: Women's pair, men's eight and men's four|
|Silver: Men's pair and men's quad|
|Bronze: Men's lightweight four|
In April, men's head coach Jurgen Grobler decided to break up his world title-winning men's eight and make the men's four - a boat in which GB have won gold at the last four Olympics - his priority once more.
Alex Gregory, Moe Sbihi, George Nash and Andy Triggs Hodge were moved to the four and since then, have won the European title and two World Cup golds before adding the world title to their resume on Saturday.
"The men's four look phenomenal," said Cracknell. "I think they're probably better than the last two British Olympic men's four crews. They're leading from the front and lived up to their status as the men's side's top boat."
Grainger added: "They had a responsibility to win and they delivered. They were never really threatened and with a performance like that, they have got to be pleased."
While that result was expected, the same cannot be said for the men's eight. Britain was defending the title, which they won for the first time last year, but the crew featured five changes.
Grobler has struggled to find his perfect combination all season, with various formations struggling to make an impact against the class-leading Germans.
But in two tough three-week training camps preceding the World Championships, Grobler was able to stick with the same combination of Nathaniel Reilly-O'Donnell, Matt Tarrant, Will Satch, Matt Gotrel, Pete Reed, Paul Bennett, Tom Ransley, Constantine Louloudis and cox Phelan Hill.
And on Sunday, helped slightly by a favourable lane draw in blustery conditions, the eight defied their own expectations - Louloudis and Reed said it was a shock - to defend the title. The men's pair of James Foad and Matt Langridge won silver behind the dominant New Zealand duo of Hamish Bond and Eric Murray, who won their sixth world title.
"The men's pair rowed well, but they were up against the best crew ever," said Cracknell. "However, on the positive side, they are a clear second."
Perhaps the most promising crew on the men's side is the quad of Graeme Thomas, Sam Townsend, Charles Cousins and Peter Lambert, who missed out on gold by less than 0.1 seconds.
Grainger said: "I expect them to win that event at some point. They have moved on hugely in the last two years and made an enormous breakthrough by winning Britain's first world medal in the class last year with bronze.
"You can see the belief it has given them. They are almost world champions, just a tiny step behind - but that hunger will give them the belief to push on in the winter. They know it's realistic to believe they can win gold."
The men's lightweight four of Mark Aldred, Peter Chambers, Richard Chambers and Chris Bartley are another encouraging crew, having secured bronze.
"They're in the ball park," said Cracknell. "But they will be disappointed because they were in the race for gold. However, they put themselves at the sharp end and it's not until 2016 that the golds everyone wants are handed out."
Olympic champions Heather Stanning and Helen Glover continued their unbeaten run as a pair as they won the world title on Saturday with ease to maintain their position as the women's team's top boat.
"They got the world record and that's a very cool thing to have because it means you're the fastest pair in the world ever," said Grainger. "Now they need to keep pushing but when you're breaking records, it shows you're going in the right direction."
However, the rest of the women's squad failed to win a medal, with Herbert describing their "under performance" as a "real frustration".
The women's eight made it to the final, but finished sixth while the lightweight double of Kat Copeland and Imogen Walsh, who were favourites for gold, and women's quad didn't make the final.
"The hurt Kat and Imogen felt is clear," said Grainger. "It's a horrible place to be. I've been there before and it took me months to come to terms with the disappointment on that scale.
"But they are strong characters and showed they have speed by winning two World Cup gold medals this season. Now they need to look at what went wrong and then rectify it. There is still time."
Herbert added: "There is work to be done on the sculling side. We've always had medals in those events, even if they're not gold. They need to improve because you can't just dine out on the pair's success."
Grainger has yet to decide whether she will return to rowing, having taken a break from the sport following her success in London, but she must decide by 22 September if she wants to attempt to race in Rio.
Herbert added: "The team needs Katherine Grainger back. She hasn't committed herself yet - but if she does she can race the double and then you have two strong gold medal chances for the women - along with the pair - and everything else will be a bonus."
|World Rowing Championships medal table - includes para and non-Olympic events|
|New Zealand: Gold: 6, Silver: 2, Bronze: 1. Total: 9|
|Great Britain: Gold: 4, Silver: 4, Bronze: 2. Total: 10|
|Australia: Gold: 2, Silver: 3, Bronze: 3. Total: 8|
|Germany: Gold: 2, Silver: 3, Bronze: 3. Total: 8|
|Ukraine: Gold: 2, Silver: 0, Bronze: 0. Total: 2|
|USA: Gold: 1, Silver: 4, Bronze: 2. Total: 7|
Grainger, Cracknell and Herbert all agree that six Olympic class medals is a good return - but all add that overall the squad is still a work in progress and more needs to be done.
For Rio, Britain's rowers have a target of between five and nine medals, which they need to hit to secure their funding for the next cycle.
"I think we will be there or thereabouts that number in Rio," said Cracknell. "But we need a couple more nailed-on certainties. The men's four and women's pair are the only boats in that position."
Grainger added: "Apart from the women's pair, there are changes across all the boats since London so they need time. There is a sense that we're not quite there yet.
"Although there is only one World Championships left, where they will qualify the boats for Rio, it is not time to panic. There is still a lot of time."