Leicester rower Jonathan Walton impresses on senior stage at European Championships
Leicester rower Jonathan Walton was part of the GB Rowing Team which won its best-ever haul of five medals at the European Championships in Italy as the team's development crews carried on the success of their Olympic and Paralympic team-mates.
Walton, 21, from Loughborough Students Rowing Club and his crew-mates in the GB men's quadruple scull narrowly missed out on a place in the top six but won their B final on Sunday to finish seventh overall at the competition on Lake Varese and kick start a record day for the squad.
The women's and lightweight's squad won five of GB's nine medals at London 2012 and in Italy continued to make the podium with 21-year-olds Caragh McMurtry and Olivia Carnegie-Brown winning silver in the women's pair, before doubling up in the women's eight to win a dramatic last-gasp bronze medal.
The lightweight men's four, featuring Olympic reserve Adam Freeman-Pask and stroked by 23-year-old Jonathan Clegg, won silver in beautiful conditions and two more GB crews made the medal podium winning bronze against Olympic opposition - the lightweight women's double scull of Imogen Walsh and Ruth Walczak and the lightweight men's double of Chris Boddy and Mikey Mottram after a photo finish.
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There were also an excellent results for 23-year-old single sculler Graeme Thomas and 2012 World U23 Champions Kieren Emery and Matthew Tarrant, both 22, in the men's pair with fourth-place finishes against experienced opposition.
The men's eight finished fifth in their 'A' final but were just two seconds off the gold-medal crew from Poland.
None of the GB Olympic rowing squad raced in Varese, with the European Championships again reserved as an opportunity for younger members of the GB Rowing Team to gain competition experience against a field from a record 36 countries - many of whom raced at London 2012.
"It was an exceptional team result and although some crews got medals it is about the overall squad performing and across all disciplines we covered ourselves with real credit. These are a very strong set of results, better than we have ever done before," said Pete Sheppard, Team Manager and Lead Coach of the lottery-funded GB team in Varese. "It shows the strength of the development squad going forwards towards Rio.
"All the team stepped up. The men's team were very close to the medals and narrowly off the gold-medal times. All the crews put themselves on the line today and they all performed to what we've seen them do in training at what was a very well organised event.
"It's what the team do next in the next four years that matters though. This has been a useful experience but it's what they do next that is crucial."
For now, McMurtry and Carnegie-Brown were delighted their plan to race two events paid off.
"I was very happy to get the opportunity to double up, I think we were both really professional in the way we handled it," said McMurtry.
Carnegie-Brown added: "I see it as the beginning of the next four years. It's great to carry on the women's results from the Olympics and we kept it really exciting with several close races."
Among the medals were a number of rowers from the GB Rowing Team's Siemens-sponsored START talent ID and development programme, such as 22-year-old Claire McKeown from the programme's Glasgow centre and 19-year-old Yasmin Tredell who was identified by the Evesham centre and is now part of GB's high performance programme at Oxford Brookes University.
The long selection process for the 2013 season starts all over again from the start of October with a number of the European Championship team hoping to secure places in the senior squad for the world cup series which comes to Eton Dorney on June 21-23 and the 2013 World Championships in Korea.
Follow the selection process via: www.gbrowingteam.org.uk