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Rowing: Welsh rowers are simply oarsome at Belgian regatta.

COMMONWEALTH sculling champion Kirsten McClellandBrooks and the men's lightweight quadruple scull gave the Welsh rowing squad a storming start to the season.

Both picked up two golds each and propelled Wales to the Victor Ludorum for best team at the Belgian International regatta in Ghent.

With lightweight double scull Paul Rees and Paul Harvey also winning, the Cardiff Bay-based squad took five golds, three silvers and five bronzes at the two-day event. McClelland-Brooks - Wales' first-ever World Cup winner at the Lucerne Regatta in Switzerland last year and the Great Britain sculler at the World Championships in Seville - beat off the challenge of Dutch sculler Ellen Nellisen to land gold by two lengths on day one.

And the lightweight Trellech flyer then scored a double by the same margin ahead of Sabine Lijesen, of Peterborough, with Nellisen back in third on day two.

The men's lightweight quad of Sean Sinclair, Richard Young, Richard Hoskings and Paul Hone were also red hot, pulling off a shock defeat of a crew of Nottingham-based GB internationals by a length and a half on day one, and heading Portugal for gold again on day two.

The quad then came within a length of taking the heavyweight title, just missing out to French club Rouen, while lightweight double Rees and Harvey stormed home to head Argenteuil of France by a quarter of a length in the 72kg class.

In their new pounds 15,000 racing shell, sponsored by the Cardiff-based MEM group, the men's lightweight eight took bronze first up, and then silver when they beat the Dutch composite by feet with Portugal a length out in front.

Paul Turner from Chester also took bronze behind Mayens (Belgium) and Burton (Holland) in the heavweight single sculls, while Jon Macdonald also won bronze in U23 singles.

Sally Orr, also from Chester, beat the Portuguese sculler to third in the U23 women's singles and Cardiff-based students Joe Hewitt and Dan Rowse missed out on gold to Limburger (Germany) by a fraction in the U23 pairs.

Double victory for McClelland-Brooks means the 31year-old part-time nurse is firmly back on track for a GB slot at the World Championships in Milan in August.

Last year, after victory in Lucerne and the Commonwealth championships in Nottingham, she hoped to challenge for a medal as the GB single at the worlds, but struggled to shake off the effects of gastric flu and only made the semi-final.

At the GB trials last month in Belgium, with seven places up for grabs in quad, double and single, she placed eighth overall in the petite final - a setback after going fifth fastest in the heats and narrowly missing out on a top-two qualifying slot for the six-boat main final.

But now the regatta season has started, she is back to speed and should be capable of making an impact when the World Cup series starts.
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Title Annotation:Sport
Publication:Western Mail (Cardiff, Wales)
Date:May 19, 2003
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