Rowing World Championships: Great Britain retain men's eight title in Belgrade

Great Britain's rowers added a gold in the men's eight and a bronze for Benjamin Pritchard in the PR1 men's single sculls on the final day of the World Championships in Belgrade.

The women's eight were fourth in their final but that was enough to clinch an Olympic spot, which meant Great Britain qualified nine boats for the Paris Games and four for the Paralympics.

With six gold, one silver and two bronze, Great Britain finished second behind the Netherlands in the medals table in the Serbian capital.

The regatta came to a climax with the final of the men's eight.

Despite pressure from the rest of the pack, Great Britain defended their title, becoming the first country to be junior, under-23 and senior world champion in the boat class.

The crew of Rory Gibbs, Morgan Bolding, Jacob Dawson, Sholto Carnegie, Charlie Elwes, Tom Digby, James Rudkin, Tom Ford and cox Harry Brightmore pulled away in the second half of the race to take gold ahead of the fast-finishing Netherlands and Australia, with the performance also clinching an Olympic place for the British team.

'We did exactly what we set out to do'

"We knew that everyone had pretty close times in the heats through the first couple of markers, so we tried to stay as calm as possible, not let it fluster us," said Brightmore.

"We were actually just really happy to sit there.

"Once we knew we were still in the race, we just tried to twist the knife a bit more. We set out and did exactly what we set out to do.

"There's always stuff to improve on and our coach will no doubt find about five things that we could have done better."

Aughnacloy rower Rebecca Edwards represented Great Britain at the Tokyo Olympics
Aughnacloy rower Rebecca Edwards helped the Great Britain women's eight secure an Olympic spot as they finished fourth in their final

The women's race was a battle not only to finish first but to avoid finishing last and missing out on that Olympics place.

Natasha Morrice, Rebecca Edwards, Lauren Irwin, Karen Bennett, Esme Booth, Emily Ford, Hattie Taylor, Annie Campbell-Orde and cox Henry Fieldman were vying for the top three throughout with five crews in contact on the line.

In the end, Romania took gold ahead of USA with Australia pipping Great Britain for bronze.

"I think ultimately the biggest aim was to qualify the boat for Paris," said County Tyrone woman Edwards afterwards.

"So on the positive side, to be right in the mix and to have the boat qualified. There's a lot to work to be done there and move forward for next year. So that's exciting.

"I guess there is probably a little tinge of disappointment. Fourth is obviously the worst place to finish. When you go out there and you leave it all out there, and it's not enough, it is a bit disappointing."

Pritchard secured his second successive world bronze in PR1 men's singles scull with the podium positions unchanged from last year as Ukraine's Roman Polianskyi took gold ahead of Italy's Giacomo Perini.

Irish duo earn double sculls bronze

Ireland added to their medal tally with a bronze for Banbridge's Philip Doyle and Daire Lynch from Clonmel in the men's double sculls behind the Netherlands and Croatia.

"I think we can try and use this momentum and I think the mental resilience within this crew going through winter will be top notch and we just need to push on and be realistic," said Doyle.

"Stay injury free, stay healthy and keep the goal in mind but it's better to be on the offence than the defence and today we were on the offence at the end."

The Irish finished the championships with two gold and two bronze medals and qualified six boats for the Olympics and one for the Paralympics.