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Britain's golden wonder!

MATTHEW Langridge stopped off at home between world championships on Wednesday.

MATTHEW Langridge stopped off at home between world championships on Wednesday.

He travelled from Duisburg in Germany to Lausanne in Switzerland via London and Northwich such is the hectic life of a young man who, according to the expectations of his sport, is on the verge of becoming a star.

Already he is Britain's national junior and senior single sculls champion and most recently he conquered the world.

He is now routinely referred to in rowing circles as the next Steve Redgrave.

It seems an unfair burden on his young albeit broad shoulders, but one he is getting used to. Even the television programme on which he was featured during his fleeting visit home compared him to Britain's Olympic legend.

Matthew's unique success at the World Junior Championships where no Brit, not even Sir Steve, has ever previously won so much as a bronze led him straight into the squad for the senior event at Lausanne.

He was only reserve, but he joined the likes of Olympian Matthew Wells, whom he ran desperately close this year and Redgrave's crewmate Tim Foster, whom he has roundly beaten.

Nothing, though, matches being world champion when he has time to consider his achievement, that is.

'It feels pretty good,' he said. 'It has not quite sunk in properly yet.'

Matthew started the final well but was overtaken by Australian Scott Brannan and both had to be wary of German Harald Heller, who finished third.

He said: 'I was not worried. The race went to plan. We knew the Aussie would be quick around the halfway mark and I was ready for it.

'It was a great feeling. Listening to the national anthem, that is what made it real. But everything happened so quickly I didn't have time to get emotional.

But his coach Paul Rafferty, and a band of clubmates who travelled to Duisburg, all confessed, with voices still hoarse from shouting him on, to shedding a few tears.

Having passed maths at A-level at St Nicholas RC High School, Matthew will now take a year out to consider his career or university options. But in the distance he sees the Athens Olympics.

Whether to persist as a sculler the most demanding of the rowing disciplines or to seek a place in a crew-boat are his choices on the water.

'I want to stick with sculling. It is hard, but most rewarding when you cross the line first.

'I'd like to be at the senior world championships next year, but I would not have a realistic chance of a medal. The jump in standard is too big. Maybe the year after.'

Matthew, of London Road, was not the only Northwich rower at the championships.

Sian Murray, 17, of Frida Crescent, Castle, stroked a quad into the final and emerged with great personal praise.

British coaches credited her drive as the reason the crew exceeded all expectations.

Sian, a Sir John Deane's College student, said: 'Just being there was a fantastic experience.

'The training seemed to go on for ever and all we wanted to do was race. And then it was over and you were left expecting something else to happen. It was too quick.

'Now I have got think what I want to do. I'd like to think I can make it. I think I've got it in me. I am too old for the juniors next year, so I may take my time and then target the under 23s. I need to be a lightweight, but have only got to lose 3kg.'

Matthew and Sian were honoured with a small party at Northwich Rowing Club on their return on Wednesday. Matthew, uncomfortable with the personal attention and an ovation from his clubmates, was so modest he actually left his medal at home.

Chairman Kevin Jump said: 'That is the kind of lad he is. But he'll have to bring it down it is the closest any of us will come to one.

'What he and Sian and the four other girls who also represented their country this summer have done is a vindication of our perseverance with the junior section.

'It has taken a lot of effort and money to the detriment of other sections and our commitment has not been popular with everybody.

'But what Matthew achieved is the absolute. It is the purest of disciplines. Eights and fours might be more exciting, but his win cannot be bettered.

'It took us a while to spot the talent in him, but we have other lads showing the same potential.

'It is not just about Northwich, but northern rowing. That we have the coaches and talent to produce a world champion in a southern orientated sport is magnificent.

'We have spent the money on juniors and they have produced the results. Hopefully, Matthew will provide an incentive for the whole club.'

Matthew was at the seniors in Lausanne for the experience.

'I was told beforehand if I got a medal of any colour, I would be going,' he said.

So he left Germany for London to make arrangements for his second world championships in a week, managing just 36 hours at home first.

He is now on holiday and it may only be this week that he finally grasps what he has achieved.

A clubmate summed up Matthew's Herculean achievement by saying:

'He should think of the television shots of the Earth from outer space and then think that is what he is the champion of an entire planet.'


David Holmes
Chief News Reporter
David Norbury
Mike Fuller
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