Lightweights make history as GB U23s win gold and silver

The GB Rowing Team won a first-ever men’s quadruple scull gold medal at U23 level as the lightweights stormed to a historic victory at the 2016 World Rowing Championships in Rotterdam, the Netherlands.


The lightweight men's quad with their gold © Peter Spurrier/Intersport Images

Hugo Coussens, Oliver Varley, Matthew Curtis and Gavin Horsburgh produced a performance of great maturity as they overcame a concerted challenge from Germany before pushing through to take the title.

Coussens, Varley and Curtis were all making their debuts at World Championships level, while Horsburgh was stepping up to the U23 ranks after being part of the quad that won a first-ever gold for GB at last year’s World Junior Championships in Rio.

“To be part of another GB crew to make history is just amazing,” said Horsburgh, who celebrates his 19th birthday on Friday. “Tunnel vision – that’s what we’ve been saying all week, focus on our own race, and thanks to the powerhouses in our boat we were able to push through.”

The men’s four of James Johnston, Tom George, James Rudkin and Lewis McCue went within four-tenths of a second of winning another gold moments later but had to settle for silver.

The men's four with their silver medals

Hot sunshine and a gentle breeze made for perfect conditions on the Willem-Alexander Baan course and it was a blistering race, with both Austria – who took gold – and GB going within two seconds of a championships-best time.

It was a second successive silver in the four for Johnston and McCue, who said: “It was a great race and we put everything out there, it just wasn’t quite enough. Austria were the better crew on the day, well done to them”

The women’s four narrowly missed out on a podium place, while both the men’s coxed four and lightweight women’s quad slipped out of medal contention in the latter stages of their finals.

Friday will see the U23 championships conclude with seven more GB crews going for medals in the afternoon.

Sam Mottram goes in the lightweight men’s single at 2pm BST, followed by Mathilda Hodgkins-Byrne and Jess Leyden in the women’s double at 2.30pm BST.

The lightweight men’s four of Ed Fisher, Ben Reeves, Alistair Douglass and Jonathan Jackson race at 3pm BST and the men’s quad – Harry Leask, Rowan Law, Harry Glenister and Andrew Joel – compete at 3.45pm BST.

The women’s and men’s eights race at 4pm BST and 4.45pm BST respectively, either side of Tom Barras in the men’s single final at 4.15pm BST.

The morning session sees three GB crews racing in the Junior World Championships – there are quarter-finals for the men’s double and men’s quad, plus a repechage for the men’s pair.

Open All

Race Report

Hugo Coussens, Oliver Varley, Matthew Curtis and Gavin Horsburgh had looked the class acts in the lightweight men’s quadruple scull field this week, dominating both their heat and semi-final.

They didn’t have the final all their own way but the manner of their victory – mature and composed under pressure – was perhaps even more impressive.

GB were expecting Italy to provide their main challenge but it was the Germans in lane one who went out hard, powering half-a-length clear at the midway point.

It was the first time this week that the GB crew had found themselves trailing but they remained focused on their own race and when Horsburgh in the stroke seat called for a push with 750m to go, his crew-mates responded.

The lead was quickly wiped out and now there was no stopping the Brits as they continued to surge away from Germany, who just managed to hold off a late challenge from Italy for silver.

It was a first-ever gold for a GB U23 quad – open-weight or lightweight – and another moment of history for Horsburgh, who won a breakthrough quad title with Britain at the 2015 Junior World Championships.

“To be part of another GB crew to make history is just amazing,” he said. “We didn’t really expect to have to row through anyone, we thought we’d be ahead, but tunnel vision – that’s what we’ve been saying all week, focus on our own race, and thanks to the powerhouses in our boat we were able to push through.”

Curtis said: “It was hard. We got off to a good start as always but the Germans went out really hard as well. We just stuck to our plan and that brought us through in the end. It’s only the second time I’ve ever rowed through anyone!”

Varley added: “I thought the Italians would go hard at the start but it turned out to be the Germans. With about 750m to go it was like an elastic band snapped and we just propelled through the field.”

Coussens said: “We’ve said over and over this week that we weren’t going to worry about any other crew, it was all about what we did over those two kilometres. We had trust in our own speed.

“We have to say a big thanks to our coach, Colin Williamson. He is getting married in a couple of weeks and has had to sacrifice a lot of his summer to work with us – hopefully that made it worth it!”

Moments after the quad received their medals, the men’s four of James Johnston, Tom George, James Rudkin and Lewis McCue went within four-tenths of a second of winning another gold for GB in a pulsating final.

They had powered through the field to win their heats and semi-finals but couldn’t quite catch the front-running Austrians this time in a rapid final race of the day.

Sitting fourth at the halfway stage, the GB crew made their customary charge in the third 500m to push past the United States and Germany. Easily the quickest boat on the water, they were clawing Austria back with every stroke as the British fans roared them on but the leaders just managed to hold them at bay.

Stroke McCue, who also won silver with the four last year, said: “I’m a bit disappointed not to get the gold but it was a great race and we put everything out there, it just wasn’t quite enough. Austria were the better crew on the day, well done to them”

It was also a second silver in the four for Johnston, who added: “We just left ourselves with a little too much to do. We know we have a really strong second ‘k’, we showed that in the semi-final, but it wasn’t quite enough this time.”

George said: “It’s mixed emotions. All credit to the Austrians, it was a really good race and we were only a couple of seconds short of a world-best time but maybe we could have stepped it up a bit earlier. There was just four-tenths of a second between gold and silver but that’s top-level sport, the margins are so small.”

Rudkin added: “I’m really proud of what we did, we couldn’t have given any more. It was a very fast race and the pace was really hard but we were able to put in a really strong middle ‘k’ and that was about as quick as we could have gone, we just ran out of water.”

Racing in the first A final of the U23 Championships were the GB women’s four of Lauren Kedar, Saskia Budgett, Harriet Taylor and Rowan McKellar.

They had booked their place by coming through a hard-fought repechage on Monday, taking second spot in a thrilling photo-finish, but they were narrowly edged out of the medals on this occasion.

With the United States setting a blistering tempo – they went on to take gold in a new U23 world-best time – the British four found themselves off the pace in the first 500m.

They began to move through the field and had passed fast-starting Germany by the halfway mark. McKellar, a silver-medallist in the pair last year, called for another push in the third 500m and GB were now closing rapidly on the tiring Netherlands crew who had slipped behind Romania.

However, the Dutch dug deep to make one final kick in the closing stages and that was just enough to keep the Brits at bay, with just half-a-second separating them from a podium place.

The men’s coxed four of Rory Gibbs, Matthew Aldridge, Michael Glover, Christopher Heywood and cox Harry Brightmore had finished runners-up to Australia in their heat before controlling their repechage to secure their place in today’s A final.

And it was Britain and Australia who again set the pace in the early stages of today’s final, holding the advantage at the 500m mark after getting off to flying starts.

Australia began to pull away but GB stayed composed in the second quarter to maintain their edge over the chasing pack. New Zealand and Italy were eventually able to push through and went on to overhaul the leaders during a stunning sprint finish.

Gibbs, Aldridge, Glover, Heywood and Brightmore tried to go with them but the pace was too much and they had to settle for fifth place after being pipped on the line by France.

It was a similar story for Mary Wilson, Susannah Duncan, Ellie Lewis and Maddie Arlett who put themselves firmly in contention for a medal in the lightweight women’s quadruple scull final before being caught in the closing stages.

They had been the first GB rowers this week to secure a final spot after finishing runners-up to Italy in Sunday’s heat and got off to an excellent start today, making the early running along with Switzerland.

Italy found their stride in the second 500m and went on to win gold in a new world-best time but GB were moving well and sat in bronze-medal position with 500m to go.

However, they were coming under fierce pressure from Germany and China and, despite digging deep for one final push, were not able to hold on for third place. France also caught them on the line but it had been a fine effort from the GB crew, who more than played their part in a well-contested final.

The women’s quadruple scull of Flo Pickles, Kyra Edwards, Georgia Francis and Lucy Burgess were runners-up in an entertaining B final to place them eighth overall.

New Zealand got off to a storming start and were more than a length up after 750m but GB moved up a gear and started closing the gap, stroke by stroke. The lead was down to half a length with 500m to go but the Kiwis dug deep to keep the charging Brits at bay.

The men’s pair of Oliver Hines and Graham Ord had to withdraw from their B final due to illness.

Race Results

(Events featuring GB Rowing Team crews only. For full results –


1. Kendall Brewer/Gia Dooan/Regina Salmons/Sarah Dougherty (USA) 6:27.28

2. Ana-Maria Simion/Alina Ligia Pop/Madalina Heghes/Diana Mihai (Romania) 6:32.94

3. Hermijntje Drenth/Eline Feitsma/Ymkje Clevering/Veronique Meester (Netherlands) 6:33.53

4. Lauren Kedar/Saskia Budgett/Harriet Taylor/Rowan McKellar (GREAT BRITAIN) 6:34.76

5. Anna-Maria Brendel/Bea Bliemel/Annemieke Schanze/Stella-Izabell Bleich (Germany) 6:38.26

6. Aliaksandra Yukhnovich/Yana Tsupa/Anastasia Siamionava/Kseniya Ramanouskaya (Belarus) 6:39.78


1. Florian Walk/Gabriel Hohensasser/Christoph Seifriedberger/Ferdinand Querfeld (Austria) 5:50.20

2. James Johnston/Thomas George/James Rudkin/Lewis McCue (GREAT BRITAIN) 5:50.60

3. James McAnallen/Thomas Clyma/Hugo Elworthy/Thomas Jenkins (New Zealand) 5:53.90

4. Michael Colella/Cuyler Hamilton/Brooks Reavill/Avery Reavill (USA) 5:54.73

5. Olaf Roggensack/Rene Schmela/Wolf-Niclas Schroeder/Paul Gebrauer (Germany) 5:56.31

6. Dumitru Mariuc/Neculai Aniculesei/Danut-Viorel Rusu/Alexandru-Cosmin Macovei (Romania) 6:07.86

Coxed four

1. New Zealand 6:08.50

2. Italy 6:09.34

3. Australia 6:09.93

4. France 6:12.92

5. Rory Gibbs/Matthew Aldridge/Michael Glover/Christopher Heywood/Harry Brightmore (cox) (GREAT BRITAIN) 6:13.10

6. United States 6:15.48

Quadruple scull

1. Paola Piazzolla/Asja Maregotto/Allegra Francalacci/Giorgia Lo Bue (Italy) 6:27.28

2. Lara Eichenberger/Fabienne Schweizer/Serafina Merloni/Pauline Delacroix (Switzerland) 6:29.04

3. Sophia Krause/Samantha Nesajda/Katrhin Morbe/Leonie Neuhaus (Germany) 6:34.64

4. Shuting Du/Yuanyuan Lu/Yelan Wang/Shasha Feng (China) 6:35.32

5. Julie Pignot/Anna Piveteau/Diane Albrecht/Marion Colard (France) 6:40.54

6. Mary Wilson/Susannah Duncan/Madeleine Arlett/Elisha Lewis (GREAT BRITAIN) 6:40.65

Quadruple scull

1. Hugo Coussens/Oliver Varley/Matthew Curtis/Gavin Horsburgh  (GREAT BRITAIN) 5:53.15

2. Julian Schneider/Elias Dreismickenbecker/Jonas Felix Weller/Philipp Grebner (Germany) 5:54.68

3. Alfonso Scalzone/Edoardo Buoli/Davide Magni/Gabriel Soares (Italy) 5:54.74

4. Alexander Watson/Patrick Keane/Vlad Tyminskyi/Aaron Lattimer (Canada) 5:55.96

5. Fintan McCarthy/Shane O’Connell/Stephen O’Connor/Colm Hennessy (Ireland) 5:57.67

6. Oskar Svensson/Filip Nilsson/Bo Axel Ekros/Martin Johansson (Sweden) 5:58.19


1. Benedikt Mueller/Johannes Rentz (Germany) 6:46.59

2. Paschalis Konstantas/Thomas Karamitros (Greece) 6:53.22

3. Oliver Hines/Graham Ord (GREAT BRITAIN) DNS

Quadruple scull

1. Alexandria Kerr/Hannah Osborne/Georgia Allen/Amy Mills (New Zealand) 6:35.32

2. Flo Pickles/Kyra Edwards/Georgia Francis/Lucy Burgess (GREAT BRITAIN) 6:36.59

3. Mingna Kuang/Xiaoman Liu/Jing Chen/Kaifeng Huang (China) 6:37.09

4. Alina Nesterenko/Anna Maltseva/Kateryna Dudchenko/Lesya Gerasymchuk (Ukraine) 6:38.82

5. Julia Sesler/Alison Nordell/Madeleine Wanamaker/Marlee Blue (USA) 6:43.97

Crew List

U23 World Rowing Championships, Rotterdam, The Netherlands, August 21-28, 2016

(Listed bow to stroke; club, hometown, date of birth)



Lauren Kedar (Oxford Univ Women’s BC/Reading/13.08.95)

Saska Budgett (Tideway Scullers’ School/Acton/21.09.96)

Hattie Taylor (Sport Imperial BC/Sunningdale/14.02.94)

Rowan McKellar (Broxbourne RC/Glasgow/24.05.94)

Coaches: Lauren Fisher & Mathilda Horne


Charlotte Hodgkins-Byrne (Univ of London BC/Hereford/08.10.96)

Alice Bowyer (Reading RC/Hilldale/26.02.97)

Emily Ford (Newcastle Univ BC/Holmes Chapel/08.11.94)

Chloe Brew (Plymouth ARC/Plymouth/14.09.95)

Holly Hill (Isle of Ely RC/Gossington/23.01.94)

Maddy Badcott (Oxford Univ Women’s BC/London/15.06.95)

Anna Thornton (Nottingham RC/Nottingham/19.07.97)

Heidi Long (Marlow RC/Chalfont St Peter/29.11.96)

Sasha Adwani (cox) (Newcastle Univ BC/Oxford/27.06.96)

Coach: Lauren Fisher & Mathilda Horne

Double scull

Mathilda Hodgkins-Byrne (Reading Univ BC/Hereford/01.10.94)

Jessica Leyden (Leander Club/Todmorden/22.02.95)

Coach: Dan Moore

Quadruple scull

Flo Pickles (Gloucester Hartpury/Cheltenham/02.11.96)

Kyra Edwards (Nottingham RC/Nottingham/12.08.97)

Georgia Francis (Imperial College BC/Newbury/18.08.94)

Lucy Burgess (Agecroft RC/Swindon/27.04.94)

Coach: Peter Lee


Oliver Hines (Imperial College BC/Kingston-upon-Thames/18.01.94)

Graham Ord (Edinburgh Univ BC/Hamilton/23.02.95)

Coach: Stuart Whitelaw


James Johnston (Leander Club/Henley-on-Thames/26.08.94)

Tom George (Leander Club/Cheltenham/22.09.94)

James Rudkin (Newcastle Univ BC/Litchborough/07.07.94)

Lewis McCue (Robert Gordon Univ BC/Aberdeen/26.12.94)

Coach: Brian Young

Coxed four

Rory Gibbs (Oxford Brookes Univ BC/High Wycombe/03.04.94)

Matt Aldridge (Oxford Brookes Univ BC/Christchurch/11.03.96)

Michael Glover (Oxford Brookes Univ BC/Burnham/03.06.95)

Chris Heywood (Molesey BC/Ascot/29.05.94)

Harry Brightmore (cox) (Oxford Brookes Univ BC/Chester/01.07.94)

Coach: Colin Williamson


Calum Irvine (Edinburgh Univ BC/Aviemore/07.05.94)

Oliver Wynne-Griffith (Leander Club/Guildford/29.05.94)

Matthew Benstead (Molesey BC/Twickenham/06.05.95)

Tim Livingstone (London RC/Putney/06.12.95)

David Bewicke-Copley (Eton College BC/Lutterworth/21.09.97)

Sholto Carnegie (Leander Club/Oxford/28.02.95)

Robert Hurn (Leander Club/Glasgow/26.01.95)

Arthur Doyle (Univ of London BC/London/07.12.96)

Ian Middleton (cox) (Cambridge Univ BC/Oxford/27.06.95)

Coach: Pete Sheppard

Single scull

Tom Barras (Leander Club/Staines/07.01.94)

Coach: Clive Cooper

Quadruple scull

Harry Leask (Leander Club/Edinburgh/16.10.95)

Rowan Law (Leander Club/Nottingham/01.12.96)

Harry Glenister (Leander Club/Princes Risborough/02.07.95)

Andrew Joel (Leander Club/Windsor/08.06.95)

Coach: Ross Hunter

Quadruple scull

Mary Wilson (Wallingford RC/Nottingham/08.04.94)

Susannah Duncan (Exeter Univ BC/Aiguebelette, France/13.05.97)

Maddie Arlett (Edinburgh Univ BC/Selkirk/07.06.94)

Ellie Lewis (Agecroft RC/Marlow/14.04.94)

Coach: Richard Tinkler


Ed Fisher (Leander Club/Nottingham/16.04.94)

Ben Reeves (Oxford Brookes Univ BC/Wilmslow/10.05.94)

Alastair Douglass (Molesey BC/Shepperton/22.06.95)

Jonathan Jackson (Leander Club/Henley-on-Thames/02.06.95)

Coach: Franz lmfeld

Single scull

Sam Mottram (Leander Club/Stoke Mandeville/14.11.94)

Coach: Clive Cooper

Quadruple scull

Hugo Coussens (Durham Univ BC/Henley-on-Thames/07.07.96)

Ollie Varley (Newcastle Univ BC/Durham/06.12.95)

Matthew Curtis (Edinburgh Univ BC/Durham/14.10.95)

Gavin Horsburgh (Edinburgh Univ BC/Lochwinnoh/26.08.97)

Coach: Colin Williamson


Lightweight men’s four – Hugo Coussens/Oliver Varley/Matthew Curtis/Gavin Horsburgh

Men’s four – James Johnston/Thomas George/James Rudkin/Lewis McCue

Contact Info

For background information about the The GB Rowing Team contact the Press office via or 07831 755351

For picture requests please contact:

GB Rowing Team website, including full rower biogs:

Follow us on