Golden four backed by two bronzes
Each TeamGB medal was forged in the heat of a dramatic battle of close finishes. None more so than the men’s four. The GB quartet of Tom James, Steve Williams – returning to the fray once more having won gold in Athens – Peter Reed and Andy Triggs Hodge were within 220m of defeat behind the Australians who had led throughout the race. But that’s when they dug deep and found another level to draw alongside their foes with 200m to go.
"We got a sniff then that we might do it", said Williams in reflection of that moment. "What happened next was beyond skill it was something primeval".
The GB bow broke through the ranks and went on to win in 6:06.57.
"This is something no-one can take away", said Tom James. "I can’t believe how happy I am".
"The best thing is that we’ve done it. It was hard work, lots of hard work and some blood, sweat and tears especially in this last season when we have been on the ropes", added Peter Reed talking of a season interrupted by injuries within the crew.
Both doubles came close to snatching upgrades on their bronzes which in themselves were hard-fought and deserved. Only two tenths separated Elise Laverick and Anna Bebington from silver in their women’s double final which was won by New Zealand just one hundredth of a second ahead of Germany who had earlier led the race throughout.
Perhaps the margins weren’t quite so close in the men’s double scull where Steve Rowbotham and Matt Wells hunted down the Australian leaders throughout the first two thirds of the race only to be beaten in the final sprint by the Estonians. Just 1.5 seconds divided the three medal crews at the finish with Australia holding on to take line honours.
Alan Campbell‘s Olympic Games ended today when he was fifth in the men’s single scull. In different circumstances this might have been a significant disappointment for him. In reality, after knee surgery and missing weeks of training, Campbell was philosophical. "I’m empty but not decimated", he said. "Actually it’s quite difficult to know what to feel". This was a race won by Olaf Tufte of Norway who seems to know how to peak when it matters most. Ondrej Synek of the Czech Republic was second with world champion Mahe Drysdale, diminished here by a stomach bug, in third.
Before the medals began to flow there was another significant GB performance today when Louisa Reeve and Olivia Whitlam, a newly-established women’s pair at senior international level, raced their first Olympic final. They were in contention for much of the first half of the race before dropping back. The experience of racing at this level will have done them a power of good and built for the future. Romania took gold with China in silver and Belarus in bronze.
PREVIEW OF TOMORROW’S FINALS
Lightweight men’s double scull
TeamGB’s lightweight men’s double scull of Zac Purchase and Mark Hunter, the current world championships bronze medallists, will line up as favourites to win today’s final. They are unbeaten this season through three world cups and the earlier rounds here. Their main opponents are likely to be Greece, silver medallists four years ago and world silver medallists last year, although beaten by the British duo here, but Italy, Denmark and China could also prove a threat with Cuba providing a relatively unknown ingredient. Purchase and Hunter came together for the 2007 racing season. Purchase previously won world championship medals in the lightweight men’s single scull whilst Hunter was in a double scull with James Lindsay-Fynn.
Lightweight men’s four
TeamGB’s lightweight men’s four are the reigning world champions having taken their title in Munich last year in August. They have not had the best of seasons since taking an opening world cup silver on the same Munich course on which they won their world title. According to crew member Paul Mattick the combination have not been afraid to try "some new things" this season but have now gone "back to basics". They came through a tough semi-final which included the 2007 world silver and bronze medallists plus Olympic champions, Denmark, who have come back to form just at the right time and probably start today’s race as favourites.
Women’s quadruple scull
If previous form is any guide, this final should boil down to a sizzling battle battle between TeamGB, as the reigning world champions, China, who won the world cup in Lucerne this year and Germany, the nation who has won every Olympic title since the event was added to the programme in 1988. TeamGB beat Germany in the heats to qualify direct to the final whilst China won the opposing heat. "We know that this will be a tough final and that no-one will roll over for us. That is what we train for", said Debbie Flood in anticipation. "We are expecting the final to be a complete stroke by stroke battle down the course. We have got to give it everything if we are to achieve the result we want", added Grainger.
The USA will start this final as favourites to win. They are the reigning world champions. Romania took silver a year ago in Munich whilst GB were bronze medallists after a roller-coaster season. 2008 has also been a period of mixed fortunes for the GB women’s eight. In the final here they will be looking to replicate the fast start they achieved in the heats to put themselves in contention for the latter stages of the race. Romania are the reigning Olympic champions whilst the Netherlands were bronze medallists four years ago.
TeamGB qualified for this final with a stand-out performance in the heats and have moved into the potential medal consciousness here. On more established form the Canadians, as current world champions, must take pole position. The USA are reigning Olympic champions and the Dutch have a strong history of men’s eight racing having taken silver four years ago.
1. Georgeta Andrunache/Viorica Susanu (Romania) 7:20.60
2. Wu You/Gao Yulan (China) 7:22.28
3. Yuliya Bichyk/Natallia Helakh (Belarus) 7:22.91
4. Lenka Wech/Maren Derlien (Germany) 7:25.93
5. Juliette Haigh/Nicola Coles (New Zealand) 7:28.80
6. Louisa Reeve/Olivia Whitlam (GREAT BRITAIN) 7:33.61
1. Georgina & Caroline Evers-Swindell (New Zealand) 7:07.32
2. Annekatrin Thiele/Christiane Huth (Germany) 7:07.33
3. Elise Laverick/Anna Bebington (GREAT BRITAIN) 7:07.55
4. Li Qin/Tian Liang (China) 7:15.85
5. Megan Kalmoe/Ellen Tomek (USA) 7:17.53
6. Miroslava Knapkova/Gabriela Varekova (Czech Republic) 7:25.09
1. Tom James/Steve Williams/Pete Reed/Andrew Triggs Hodge
(GREAT BRITAIN) 6:06.57
2. Australia 6:07.85
3. France 6:09.31
4. Slovenia 6:11.62
5. Czech Republic 6:16.56
6. Germany 6:19.63
1. Olaf Tufte (Norway) 6:59.83
2. Ondrej Synek (Czech Republic) 7:00.63
3. Mahe Drysdale (New Zealand) 7:01.56
4. Tim Maeyens (Belgium) 7:03.40
5. Alan Campbell (GREAT BRITAIN) 7:04.47
6. Lassi Karonen (Sweden) 7:07.64
1. David Crawshay/Scott Brennan (Australia) 6:27.77
2. Tonu Endrekson/Juri Jaanson (Estonia) 6:29.05
3. Matt Wells/Stephen Rowbotham (GREAT BRITAIN) 6:29.10
4. Rob Waddell/Nathan Cohen (New Zealand) 6:30.79
5. Jean-Baptiste Macquet/Adrien Hardy (France) 6:33.36
6. Luka Spik/Iztok Cop (Slovenia) 6:33.96
BEIJING RACING TIMETABLE
Sunday 17 August:
Lightweight men’s double and four
Lightweight women’s double
Men’s and women’s quadruple scull and eight
NB – subject to change. Please see Beijing 2008 website
for up to date information.