Britain’s rowers delivered an emphatic statement of Paris intent with a string of memorable World Championship displays in Belgrade.
Six medals arrived in Olympic classes, four of which were gold, while nine boats secured their places on the start line in the French capital next summer.
After a week which saw the British squad finish second in the medal table, here’s a look back at the best bits from the Serbian capital…
QUAD SCULLERS BREAK DUCK
Britain had not won a World Championship gold in the women’s quad sculls since 2010 going into the weekend but Lauren Henry, Hannah Scott, Lola Anderson and Georgie Brayshaw put that right in style.
The quartet edged out Netherlands and Olympic champions China in the final to justify the quiet confidence with which they entered the race and Scott has no plans to stop here.
“We have shown we can deliver on the day and we are not getting ahead of ourselves,” said the 24-year-old from Coleraine.
“This gives us the confidence and belief we can do it on a world stage and we are all hungry for more.”
MEN’S CREWS DEFEND CROWNS
The men’s four and the men’s eight went in with targets on their backs having each taken home gold from Racice 12 months ago and both crews showed their ability to deal with expectation.
The four, made up of Matt Aldridge, Dave Ambler, Freddie Davidson and Oli Wilkes, came under early pressure from the USA, Netherlands and New Zealand in the final but hit the front by the halfway point and never looked back.
The victory was particularly sweet for Aldridge, who missed last year’s final after testing positive for Covid.
“It's good, it feels like this was a long time coming,” he said.
“A lot of pain is going through my legs but it's all good – this is what we do it for.”
The following day, it was the turn of the men’s eight to retain their crown as Jacob Dawson, Rory Gibbs, Sholto Carnegie, Morgan Bolding, Charlie Elwes, Tom Digby, James Rudkin, Tom Ford and coxswain Harry Brightmore delivered the goods.
The European champions were beaten by Australia in a recent World Cup regatta in Lucerne but turned the tables in Belgrade with a dominant display which saw them lead home the Netherlands by more than a second.
“We learned a lot from the last World Cup,” Gibbs said. “There are a lot of races in a season and we were wilting a couple of months ago but we have really pulled our socks up in the last few weeks.
“The job is not quite done, we have the Olympics next year, but for now we will celebrate this win and build towards next season.”
CRAIG AND GRANT REMAIN FLAWLESS
Lightweight double scullers Emily Craig and Imogen Grant have not been beaten since missing the Olympic podium by a whisker two summers ago and kept that record intact with something to spare in Belgrade.
The British pair led from start to finish and, ominously for the chasing pack, will have even more time together next year with Grant having recently completed her degree in medicine.
“The photo finish from Tokyo is printed off and on my living room wall,” Craig said.
“It's not a negative anymore, it's a look how close we were in incredibly trying circumstances.
“We're now at the point where we've had two exceptional seasons together and a wealth of experience that those six minutes 50 seconds in Tokyo in 2021 pale into insignificance compared to what we’ve done since.”
BEST OF THE REST
Tom George and Ollie Wynne-Griffith claimed silver in the men’s pair, while the women’s four of Rowan McKellar, Heidi Long, Helen Glover and Rebecca Shorten battled to bronze.
Emily Ford and Esme Booth, meanwhile, made history by becoming the first British women to qualify two boats for the Olympics at the same regatta – doing so in the pair and the eight.
VIEW FROM THE TOP
British Rowing performance director Louise Kingsley said: “It has been a fantastic weekend.
“Last year’s World Championships were exceptionally good but we left those thinking 2022 was a slightly unusual year, being a year one combined with year two post-Tokyo.
“This year, we came into the Championships with world order a bit more back to normality, bigger nations coming up and more competition.
“To produce the medals we did in the way we produced them is very positive.
“Getting those [Olympic and Paralympic] slots is really important. We’ve qualified really well and we haven’t just scraped into those spots, we are hunting medal spots in most of them. That will be really motivating for them over the winter.
“We are in a really good place. There are definitely areas to work on but we are really looking forward to Paris.”