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Pinsent expecting gold strike in Welsh rowing.

Byline: GARETH GRIFFITHS

OLYMPIC legend Matthew Pinsent believes Welsh rowers could be on for a record haul at London 2012.

Wrexham trio Tom James, Chris Bartley and Vicky Thornley are all realistic medals hopes this summer and Pinsent believes they could provide a return of two golds and a silver. The three will line up at the Olympic trials at Eton Dorney this weekend, alongside rising Carmarthen prospect Zak Lee Green.

"Wales could come back with two golds and a silver so it could be a good games as far as the Welsh rowers are concerned," said four-time Olympic champion Pinsent.

Defending Olympic champion James is set to lead the way with a possible place in the coxless fours boat he claimed gold in Beijing four years ago.

His build-up has been hampered by injury, illness and a recent heart condition called atrial fibrillation which ruled him out of a training camp in South Africa in January.

But James has been given the all clear and now back in training and battling for a place in British rowing's blue riband boat.

James enjoyed an all conquering 2011 alongside Richard Egington, Alex Gregory and Matthew Langridge in the British boat which culminated in the World Championship success in Slovenia last September.

But there is speculation Pete Reed and Andrew Triggs Hodge, who joined James in the Beijing gold medal winning crew, could be included in the four again in London.

Since China, Reed and Hodge are still considered by some to be Britain''s leading oarsmen, have competed in the pairs and endured a period of frustration failing to overhaul the all-conquering New Zealand crew of Hamish Bond and Eric Murray.

Coach Jurgen Grobler has yet to officially finalise his selection plans with 14 places divided between the eights, fours and pairs with the contenders lining up in pairs this weekend where James will team up with Langridge.

"It is not uncommon for rowers to be in this situation where they are not quite sure what is happening," said Pinsent.

"It is important they carry on individually and get themselves in the best shape they can.

"With trials coming up they need to impress the coach and prove they are right to be in the top boat.

"You can't win a place outright at the trials but you are in trouble if you had a bad day.

"Last year's World Championships results were extraordinary with a gold and two silvers.

"GB need to win at least one Olympic gold and three medals in total from the mens heavyweights although I am not sure where Jurgen is going to put the pair in the pecking order.

"It is not good for him to have his two best athletes on paper not winning gold, but the four he might consider putting that pair in, are winning.

"It is difficult to tell a quartet you have not put a foot wrong but you are not carrying onto the Olympics.

"That is why he is chief coach and paid to make those decisions.

"But Jurgen has a track record of not compromising. "If you start mixing between the three, you could end up with three silvers which would be a disaster."

Pinsent believes James can still make the coxless fours.

"Tom is an outstanding oarsman," added Pinsent.

"He is not the biggest and others pack more of a punch but technically he is superb.

"He might not be in the top six on the machine but you are going to put him in because of his boat ability.

"The difference he has made to the World Championship gold four since he returned after taking a couple of years off can be seen because his presence in the crew makes things smoother.

"I can't see him being outside of the top six athletes but what crew he is placed in is not my call."

Meanwhile, Bartley and Thornley won 2011 World Championship bronzes in the lightweight four and women's eight respectively.

Pinsent believes Bartley will be disappointed with that medal colour after relinquishing the world title they won in 2010 and thinks that regret could inspire Britain to gold in London.

"As defending world champions they would have felt that was a disaster," he added.

"They will be looking to win in London but it is very small margin between first and sixth in their event.

Pinsent also believes Thornley and the women's eight will improve their World Championship performance by one place.

"They had a bronze in Bled," added Pinsent.

"I can't see them winning the event but they could get a silver."

CAPTION(S):

* Tom James is targeting a place in the coxless fours boat in which he claimed gold four years ago
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Title Annotation:Sport
Publication:Western Mail (Cardiff, Wales)
Date:Mar 9, 2012
Words:788
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