Team GB rowing success is something to be proud of
I was unsettled a few weeks ago to read that secretly Britain expected, and worse, almost hoped for failure, for expecting failure seems to be our national past time. Not able to take the strain and publicity of showing off our talents and succeeding, we as a nation breathe a collective sigh of relief when we don’t quite make it, preparing ourselves to give a nonchalant shrug and a placating smile into our glasses as we dodge the eye of fame once again. This I believe to be nonsense, for our crowds during the Olympics were the backbone to our athletes and their encouragement and jubilation goes to show what a strong and proud nation we have become through the medium of sport.
Such an impressive haul of medals this year goes to show just how serious Britain is about sport, no longer willing to lurk in the shadows of such sporting giants as China and America. We are ready once again to blow the dust from the cabinet and proudly display our victories. As well as a wealth of other medals across the board, rowing arguably pulled in their fair share and more so, as they took that first glorious gold.
Our watery successes gave our rowers the opportunity to prove their strengths outright; this is a country that picked up 6 medals in the previous Beijing Olympics, leaving them hungry to blow this target out of the water and strive for more wins. There is no doubt that this particular sport enjoys some quite extensive funding, but they have proven themselves worthy of maintaining a high level of financial support, as they quickly became the face of British sport in the Olympic period.
Heather Glover and Heather Stanning took the first gold for our country on Wednesday in their phenomenal performance in the women’s pairs, followed by Katherine Grainger and Anna Watkins snatching up another in their double sculls. The first pair took the lead early on in the 2000m stretch at Eton Dorney, managing to maintain distance between themselves and their competitors throughout and crossing the line at 7 mins, 27.3 seconds. A hint of a smile could be seen on the face of Glover as they approached the 250m mark, obviously aware of the quite substantial space between them and the other boats. They have more than proved that the decision for them to row together less than 4 years ago was the right one and continue to give inspiration to anyone wishing to take this sport up at any stage of life. A former PE teacher, Glover only began rowing in 2008, quickly rocketing in the sport to become a national golden girl, along with army Captain Heather Stanning. The first woman to receive gold at a rowing Olympic event is indeed something to be shouting about.
Grainger and Watkins pulled ahead from the beginning of their double sculls race, creating a nail-bitingly tense race between themselves and Australia, close on their heels throughout the 2000m stretch. However, they held them off, pulling almost a length ahead at the 1750m mark and they quickly settled into their stride. The race was pulled off with style, launching both women from silver medallists to the prestigious gold. The gold medals just kept on coming, as men’s four, made famous by Sir Steve Redgrave, gave an unbeatable performance. Pete Reed, Andy Triggs Hodge, Tom James and Alex Gregory’s time of 6 minutes, 3.97 seconds was truly a great result and was proudly watched by Sir Redgrave, who issued hearty congratulations to the team post-race. Similarly Katherine Copeland and Sophie Hosking were certainly going for gold from the start, as they dominated the 2000m length from their initial push and maintained their strength and rhythm perfectly; a gold thoroughly well earned.
Brothers Richard and Peter Chambers, Rob Williams and Chris Bartley took home silver in the lightweight men’s four, in one of the toughest races seen thus far in the Games. The final 100m saw them almost push ahead, just getting ready to steal the Gold, but South Africa’s Thompson, Brittain, Smith and Ndlovu gave an almighty surge and just stole the victory from underneath them. Despite our boys’ disappointment, they can be happy in the knowledge that they fought a hard in a very difficult race, not helped by the difficult wind conditions, and achieved fantastic success. Team GB's other silver came in the men’s lightweight doubles, which had to be restarted after a rocky start, in which a seat came off in the British boat. Undeterred, Zac Purchase and Mark Hunter seemed even more determined to right this race after that initial blip. They rowed with the grace and gritty determination that we have now come to expect of our rowers, and their silver was just another piece in this ever expanding jigsaw of British Olympic successes.
Brits Will Satch and George Nash clutched their bronze medals with ecstasy, having fought a hard race in the men’s pairs, beaten by very little in a sprint finish from France, who took silver and an exhausted Alan Campbell was helped to the podium by Sir Steve Redgrave to claim a thoroughly well-deserved bronze medal for Britain in the men’s single sculls. Having been moved to a different lane just before the Finals, he was placed in lane 3, which is affected by crosswinds and thus adds pressure to an already difficult race. A World Championship medallist, with a silver and two bronzes under his belt, this is indeed a brilliant achievement for sculler Campbell. The other Bronze was taken by the men’s eight, whose attack in the first half seemed to suggest they may be pipped for silver, or even gold. However, the favourites, Germany, gave them a battle, with both boats often level with one another, yet eventually they took the victory from us Brits in the final 1000m, with Canada pushing long and strong to cross the line with a silver.
From these results it is obvious that Britain’s tactics have been carefully honed and they have launched themselves off from their winning performances at Beijing to give themselves even more to shout about. Attitudes appear more mature and there is a steel-edged resolve to grab at opportunities in this year’s Olympic rowing that may possibly have not been there before. Not only did they take nine medals, but they often took them miles ahead of the competition, giving the others little else to do but drift in their wake. Our waters have made history and long may this continue into the future. Britain, take a bow, for the world is finally sitting up and taking notice.