Belfast Telegraph

Ulster ace Holly's World bid in motion after thriller

By Steven Beacom

Enniskillen's Holly Nixon and her Great Britain crew have reached the final of the quadruple sculls at the World Rowing Championships after one of the most exciting races in the history of the event.

There was some high quality action in Florida yesterday as the biggest regatta of the year began, but nothing matched the drama of the first heat of the women's quadruple sculls.

Entering the race Nixon and her team-mates Jess Leyden, Beth Bryan and Mathilda Hodgkins-Byrne knew that only a place in the top two would guarantee them a spot in the final later in the week.

As the finishing line approached it became a three way battle between Poland, USA and GB. The Poles held on to win with Great Britain and USA so close together that a photo finish was needed.

Much to the delight of Fermanagh woman Nixon, Leyden, Bryan and Hodgkins-Byrne they were given the verdict. The official times showed just how close it was.

First placed Poland were timed at 6 minutes 26.73 seconds with runners-up GB coming in at 6:27.87 and the third placed American crew at 6:27.88. How tight was that? By 0.01 second GB had beaten USA and qualified! What a boost for the Portora Boat Club member and her pals, who earlier this year took bronze in the Europeans.

Meanwhile Nixon's Northern Ireland compatriot Joel Cassells faces a race in tomorrow's repechage to reach the final of the men's lightweight pair.

Coleraine native Cassells, along with partner Sam Scrimgeour, competing for Great Britain, finished in the runners-up spot behind Irish duo Shane O'Driscoll and Mark O'Donovan in yesterday's heat.

The way O'Driscoll and O'Donovan performed in their first race in Sarasota suggests they are odds on favourites to claim success this week.

Cassells and Scrimgeour, who were champions of the world in this event in 2015, were over five seconds behind their Irish counterparts, but almost two seconds ahead of the third placed Italians.

The British pair remain confident that they can make the final later this week believing should they get there a place on the podium in the non Olympic class is theirs for the taking.

It's a big day for 2012 Olympic silver medal winner Peter Chambers from Coleraine in the lightweight quad sculls.

He is the most experienced of the British quartet and will be looking to use that knowledge to inspire his crew members to come up with a dynamic display.

Belfast lady Rebecca Shorten is in the GB women's eight crew. They will start their quest for glory later this week.

Belfast Telegraph

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