London 2012: GB mixed coxed four win Paralympic gold

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The GB mixed coxed four won Paralympic rowing gold on home water at Eton Dorney to end an emotional day on a high note.

The ParalympicsGB rowers had qualified all three crews for the medal finals but there was a shock start for the team and the crowd when reigning World and Paralympic Champion Tom Aggar finished fourth, outside the medals, in the Arms and Shoulders only single scull behind China, Australia and Russia.

The Trunk and Arms mixed double of Army Captain Nick Beighton and Sam Scowen – who only started racing together last year – produced a great performance to also finish fourth, just two-tenths of a second behind the USA in bronze, with the Chinese double winning gold and France silver.

Then came the four. Their German rivals set a new World Best Time of 3:15.91 in the heats and took the lead in the final.

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But the British crew of Pamela Relph, Naomi Riches, David Smith, James Roe and cox Lily van den Broecke reeled them in and hit the front just before they started passing the grandstands for a memorable, raucous finish to the Paralympic regatta.

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Race Report

Tom Aggar went to today’s start line knowing that he had a fight on his hands with Huang Cheng of China in the arms-only men’s single scull.

Huang had previously set a new world best mark of 4:45.02 in the heats.

Russia’s Aleksey Chuvashev took the lead off the start, tracked by Huang with the Chinese overhauling him at halfway.

Aggar, still in contention and only half a canvas down on the lead, was in third with Erik Horrie of Australia pressing him hard.

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Regular watchers of Aggar were unfazed at this point knowing that the second half of the race is normally his strength. Today, though, the defending champion’s trademark finish was not enough to claw back Huang who went on to take gold in 4:52.36 with Horrie coming through to take silver and Chuvashev taking the bronze. Aggar finished fourth in a time of 4:58.08.

“I’m devastated,” said Aggar. “Going in I was the favourite on paper and had great preparation but when I asked for more today it just wasn’t there. The standard has moved on massively and I just wasn’t myself today.

“I will be back. I’m a fighter through and through.”

For Londoner Aggar it meant the end of an unbeaten streak in major finals since 2007 and shows the way that rowing is increasing in competitiveness since the sport made its Paralympic debut four years ago.

Britain’s mixed double scull of Captain Nick Beighton and Sam Scowen reached today’s final by winning yesterday’s repechage.

China and France were favourites to take gold or silver and, as predicted, they shared the honours at the line with China crowned as champions after leading from 300m onwards.

Behind them a three-way battle emerged between the USA, GB and Australia with Oksana Masters and Rob Jones just pipping Scowen and Beighton at the line.

Beighton, who was injured whilst on active service in Afghanistan with the British Army who have subsequently supported his rowing career with the GB Rowing Team, said: “It’s bitter sweet. We are so proud of what we have achieved. We have worked so hard. You always aim for the top and we gave it everything. You win some you lose some. When you put it all in perspective we’ve achieved a huge amount.”

Scowen, who learnt to row on this very course at Eton-Dorney, said: “I didn’t expect to get to a Paralympic final but I’m gutted to miss out on a medal by such a small margin.”

Britain, Canada and Germany are acknowledged as the recent super-powers of the mixed coxed four on the world rowing scene.

Britain took gold at last year’s World Championships in Bled and again in this year’s world cup at Munich.

Today the British quartet of Pamela Relph, Naomi Riches, Dave Smith and James Roe with cox Lily van den Broecke went to the start just as a watery sun broke through the earlier grey skies and drizzle.

For the British crowd starved of a medal to cheer until that point, this might have seemed like a good omen.

Germany got off to a flyer and led to halfway but the British boat hit back around the halfway mark to take the lead.

Would the German’s be able to come back? They applied the pressure but the GB boat responded to take a half length lead and go onto win in 3:19.38. Germany were second and the Ukraine took third.

Relph said: “I am completely overwhelmed. I can’t believe that this season is over and we did exactly what we needed to do. I am blown away by the crowd and so proud of my crew.”

Van den Broecke added: “We had an equipment failure in the warm-up when the speed coach (equipment showing the stroke rate) went in the water, so we couldn’t manage the full warm-up. I can’t believe how proud I am of this crew for keeping everything together. This is two years’ work and it’s incredible.”

Smith said: “This is the best day of my life. It is going to take a long time to sink in. We have worked so hard and massive thanks to the National Lottery.”

Riches said: “I just heard somebody say the words: ‘You’re a Paralympic Champion’.

“We choose to be athletes and now all the moments of pain, and the hours of training have been worth it.”

Roe said: “The race all seems a bit of a blur. We had a few interruptions on the way to the start but kept our focus and stuck to the plan. We had confidence in what we could do.”

After collecting their medals on the podium the coxed four enjoyed a row past to salute the fans in the stands while Frank Sinatra’s ‘My Way’ sounded out over the loud speakers.

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Race Results

RESULTS
2012 Paralympic Games
Eton-Dorney: Events featuring British rowers only.
Full results: www.worldrowing.com

Arms & shoulders single scull (ASM1x)

1. Huang Cheng (China) 4;52.36
2. Erik Horrie (Australia) 4:55.85
3. Aleksey Chuvashev (Russia) 4:55.85
4. Tom Aggar (GREAT BRITAIN) 4:58.08
4. Park Jun-Ha (Korea) 5:02.22
5. Luciano Luna de Oliveira (Brazil) 5:05.37

Trunk & arms mixed double scull (TAMix2x)

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1. Lou Xiaoxian/Fei Tianming (China) 3:57.63
2. Perle Bouge/Stephane Tardieu (France) 4:03.06
3. Oksana Masters/Rob Jones (USA) 4:05.56
4. Nick Beighton/Sam Scowen (GREAT BRITAIN) 4:05.77
5. Gavin Bellis/Ross Kathryn (Australia) 4:06.17
6. Daniele Stefanoni/Silvia de Maria (Italy) 4:09.39

Legs, trunk and arms mixed adaptive coxed four (LTAMix4+)

1. Pamela Relph/Naomi Riches/Dave Smith/Jame Roe/Lily van den
Broecke (cox) (GREAT BRITAIN) 3:19.38
2. Germany 3:21.44
3. Ukraine 3;23.22
4. China 3:23.43
5. Italy 3:27.91
6. USA 3:30.06

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PARALYMPICSGB CREW LISTS
(listed bow to stroke with club/home town/date of birth)

Arms & shoulders single scull (ASM1x)

Tom Aggar (Royal Docks RC/London/24.05.84)

Coach: Tom Dyson

Trunk & arms mixed double scull (TAMix2x)

Nick Beighton (Guildford RC/Shrewsbury & Yateley/29.09.81)/
Sam Scowen (Dorney BC/Wokingham/29.10.87)

Coach: Tom Dyson

MIXED

Legs, trunk and arms mixed adaptive coxed four (LTAMix4+)

Pamela Relph (Leander Club/Aylesbury/14.11.89)/
Naomi Riches (Marlow RC/Harrow/15.06.83)/
David Smith (Molesey BC/Aviemore/21.04.78)/
James Roe (Stratford upon Avon BC/Stratford upon Avon/28.03.88)/
Lily van den Broecke (cox) (Headington School BC/Oxford/08.01.92)

Coach: Mary McLachlan

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