Eights excel as GB tops Rio medal table
The GB eights brought the Rio 2016 Olympic regatta to a glorious conclusion as they won gold and silver in the space of 30 minutes on another truly Super Saturday.
The men found the form that had made them World Champions for the past three years as they produced a phenomenal performance to dominate their final from the first stroke to the last.
That came just minutes after the women’s eight had produced what is fast becoming a trademark charge through the field in the second half of the race to go from last to second, claiming silver in a thrilling photo-finish.
It was another moment of rowing history on the Lagoa, being the first Olympic medal won by a British women’s eight, and helped to ensure that GB finished top of the Rio 2016 rowing medal table with three golds and two silvers.
Andrew T Hodge and Pete Reed both became triple Olympic Champions with their success in the men’s eight, while Matt Langridge completed his set of Olympic medals after silver in 2008 and bronze in 2012.
“I’m proud to have been in such a crew,” said Hodge. “The eight is a wholly team event and we worked for each other.”
Reed added: “I’m just thinking about how grateful I am to our coach and to the crew. They are just the most amazing bunch of guys and that was a big, big race.”
Jurgen Grobler, the Chief Coach for Open-weight Men who has now led 12 GB crews to Olympic gold, said: “It’s just fantastic what the guys did. They matched the coxless four and it’s been a wonderful day. It’s wonderful for British Rowing, it’s wonderful for our sport.
“In the last four years we have developed winning athletes, medal athletes, podium athletes. We knew we had a good bunch of guys to win the eight as well and I feel so good for them, there is a good mix between older and younger ones.”
It may have been a first Olympic medal for a women’s eight but it was a third silver for Frances Houghton who, like Katherine Grainger, was appearing at a record fifth Olympic Games for a British female rower.
“This fifth Olympics has been really great,” she said. “We’ve really tried to make sure we’ve had a good time. Even before the race we sat around and we were laughing and joking together.
“Sport can be so much pressure but at the same time, sport is supposed to be fun and a great experience. It’s something you do that you enjoy and you pursue because you like to be challenged.”
Jess Eddie, fifth with the eight in both 2008 and 2012, dedicated the success to the British women rowers who had been part of the programme during the past two decades.
“We’ve worked so hard to get here and it’s not just us, we did that for every single woman who has rowed in the eight for the past 20 years – you know who you are, you helped us get over this line.”
Sir David Tanner, Team GB Leader for Rowing, said: “With three outstanding golds and two superb silvers, our 26 rowing medallists have done TeamGB proud at these Olympics. 26 rowers will be returning home having achieved their dreams here in Rio. To be top of the rowing medal table for the third successive Olympics is something to be truly proud of.
“Well done to our rowers and the outstanding Coaching and Team Support staff, not only out here in Rio but those at home who backed us all the way.”
Click on the expanded boxes below for full race reports, reaction and results.
No British women’s eight had ever won a medal before at an Olympic Games but Katie Greves, Melanie Wilson, Frances Houghton, Polly Swann, Jess Eddie, Olivia Carnegie-Brown. Karen Bennett, Zoe Lee and cox Zoe de Toledo have been determined all season to end that wait.
After winning European Championships gold in May, plus silver and bronze on the World Cup circuit, they demonstrated their medal-winning potential on the biggest stage of all with an impressive victory in the semi-finals.
That meant they lined up in the centre lanes alongside the powerhouses from the United States, bidding for a third successive Olympic title. However, it was the Canadians – third to Britain in Monday’s heats and qualifiers via the repechage – who got off to the strongest start.
The GB eight were at the back of the field at the 500m mark and, as the Canadians continued their all-or-nothing charge, remained in sixth place at the halfway stage.
But there was no sense of panic. Throughout the season, the GB have begun to move around the 1,250m mark and that was the case again today as they stuck firmly to their game plan.
With total belief in themselves, their crew-mates and their cox, the eight began to cut through the field and, following a sensational third 500m, they had surged up to second place and were closing on the all-conquering United States at the front.
The Americans rose to the challenge to hold onto the lead but now the threat came from the fast-finishing Romanians. The British fans were on the feet as the eights crossed the line together, GB getting the nod for silver in a photo-finish by one-tenth of a second.
Houghton, winning a third Olympic silver medal at her fifth Games, said: “I’m so proud of the girls. We just really trusted the way we decided to row, we really trusted the people around us and believed in ourselves and that was it. The rest was inevitable.
“I did what I wanted to do and rowed the best I could and I know all the girls did the same. I’m just really proud of them.
“It’s not only about us nine girls. There was a group of 14 who came into the team at the beginning of the year. For every single one of those girls we were carrying that today.”
Greves, who finished fifth in the eight in 2008 and 2012, said: “I think this year I believed it could happen. Since the first time we stepped into the boat together we knew how good it was. When you think of how strong the likes of Lou Reeve, Donna Etiebet and Vicki Meyer-Laker are but couldn’t get in the boat, that gave us the belief we could do it not just for ourselves but for them as well.”
Eddie, who was also in the eight in 2008 and 2012, added: “I don’t think it has really sunk in yet. I wanted to make today feel just like a regular training piece, I can get too excited and I wanted to quash that. I told the girls they would be a moment in the race when they had to make it happen and we did.”
Wilson said: “I think we always believed we could do something special but we were careful not to put expectations on our ourselves. I think James [Harris] is a brilliant coach, he has made the whole project come together and managed nine very strong personalities.
“It’s really surreal – it hasn’t hit home yet. It’s just been an incredible, emotional journey. We’re so ecstatic for the silver but the whole project has been so enjoyable that it just tops it off really. It’s a brilliant feeling.
“We definitely knew we could do it and I suppose that is pressure. But it also means we’re in a position where we are going fast and we knew that. So the pressure was outweighed by the confidence that we could do it.
“I felt really relaxed on the start line for some reason and I don’t often feel like that. It was because we knew what we were going to execute, we knew it was good, and I knew we were going to deliver it.”
Carnegie-Brown, who came into the sport through the GB Rowing Team Start programme, said: “I think you can see we are more than the sum of our parts. I don’t think I can explain the emotions right now in a way that does it justice. The nine of us have been through all the trials and testing this year and proven we are worthy of a medal.
“Sometimes we’ve raced before and we haven’t been in a privileged position where it’s been possible to do it. It’s almost like you’ve gone out there to see if you can.
“But today we knew we could do it and to me that was quite a calming thing. We just had to follow our processes, which we knew we’d done since Europeans, all in training, all in our practice races.
“If we delivered something we knew we can do, then we would do well and that’s exactly what we just did. I knew we wouldn’t be up there early but that’s the beauty of our racing, that we’ve produced this year, we can move through.”
Fellow Start graduate Bennett, who only earned her seat in the eight this season, said: “I was absolutely gone after that race but it was brilliant. You train your whole life and sometimes things don’t go well but it’s all been worth it.”
Zoe Lee added: “We got in the boat as this combination, in these seats, just before the Europeans and honestly the first session was awesome, it just really clicked. All of us knew it was something special at that point.”
Polly Swann, a former World Champion in the pair, said: “To be honest, with 500m to go I thought we were going to win. I just absolutely believed in every single stroke that we had what it took. The silver medal is incredible – these girls are strong, they’re sassy, they’re inspirational and I’m just so happy to row with them.”
Cox de Toledo added: “I am really proud of the girls, they kept their heads and executed everything I asked them to do. It is a really nice feeling having this medal around my neck, it’s quite shiny!
“The thing I’ve been really impressed by about this crew the whole way is they hold their heads no matter what and they respond really well to me. I could see what was going on with the crews around us and I was pretty confident that some of those crews were doing too much.
“I knew we had a really strong rhythm and I knew what our last 1000m could do, so I had absolutely no doubt that we were going to go through – even when we were last.”
The men’s eight of Scott Durant, Tom Ransley, Andrew T Hodge, Matt Gotrel, Pete Reed, Paul Bennett, Matt Langridge, Will Satch and cox Phelan Hill were looking to complete a golden Olympiad in the men’s race, the GB eight having won the World title in 2013, 2014 and 2015.
A powerful heats victory showed they were very much back to their best and they built on that in today’s final by completely dominating the race from start to finish.
Defending champions Germany were expected to be provide another epic challenge, as were the Netherlands, but Britain had no intention of getting involved in a scrap and by 500m they were already three-quarters of a length up.
Satch in the stroke seat called for another big push in the second quarter and his crew-mates responded, pounding out a fierce rhythm to move clear of the chasing pack.
Germany and the Netherlands tried to respond but the British eight were able to rise to their challenge and went on to win in convincing style, securing a first Olympic gold for the GB men’s eight since Sydney 2000.
Hodge, who collected his third gold after wins in the men’s four in 2008 and 2012, said: “I’m proud to have been in such a crew. The eight is a wholly team event and we worked for each other.
“Each of my medals has had its challenges, I can’t separate this one from others. I’m equally proud of them. To bring out a gold on such a fantastic stage as this is incredible.”
Reed, also now a triple Olympic champion, said: “I’m just thinking about how grateful I am to our coach, Jurgen, and to the crew. I’ve never been so ready for an Olympic Games before, we’ve never been so ready for an Olympic Games before. They are just the most amazing bunch of guys and that was a big, big race.
“It has been a massive fight, not just in the last couple of hours, it’s been going on for months and years. We fight tooth and nail and credit to the guys either side (Germany and Netherlands) for making it so hard.”
After silver in 2008 and bronze in 2012, Langridge finally completed his medal collection and said: “I feel this has been a long time coming and it feels a bit surreal to finally to be an Olympic champion. It’s been great to win silver and bronze in the past but this is the moment it’s always been about for me, to stand in the middle of the podium and listen to the national anthem. Third-time lucky and it’s all worth it.”
Ransley, a bronze-medallist in the eight in 2012, added: “I could see it was working exactly how we wanted from the first stroke. As the metres fell away and they weren’t coming back on us I knew we had it.”
Satch, a pairs bronze-medallist at London 2012, added: “For us in GB we are such a strong team, having people coming up behind us and pushing us, having two double Olympic Champions in the crew. These are all the things that can come together and on race day we got to do it.”
Gotrel said: “On the day it counts we got it right. Germany have been a fierce crew to compete against all season.”
Fellow Olympic debuant Durant added: “In 2000 we watched the eight win and that inspired a lot of us to take up rowing and everyone aspires to be the same. It’s surreal that we have done it.
“Our race plan was to focus on what we’ve been doing. We have not had the easiest of seasons and tried to not focus on everything that everyone else was doing. We got a good first stroke and then it all came good from there.”
Bennett said: “That was a really tough race. Before it, your nerves are going mental and some of the things you’re thinking about are so bizarre. As soon as you get to the end, it’s just incredible – thank you so much to all those people who put up with me. We’d also like to thank the National Lottery for supporting us the whole way.
“This is eights racing, you have no clue what is going to happen on the day. People have to get themselves up for it, the nerves, the excitement. We haven’t been saving anything. We raced as hard as we could in Brandenburg and Poznan and today was no different. Today was our day in the race but it’s not been like that all year.”
Cox Hill said: “That was absolutely fantastic. It’s so different to four years ago. Today we just controlled it from the start. We’ve always had the raw speed in training and today was about delivering that. These guys were absolute gladiators.”
Alan Campbell was forced to withdraw on medical advice from the men’s single B final with vertigo brought on by a head cold that he head been nursing since Wednesday morning.
“We’ve been trying to hold this off since Wednesday morning, sport is like that some times – it’s just a question of unfortunate timing”, said the London 2012 bronze-medallist from Coleraine, who had clearly raced under par yesterday in his semi-final.
(Events featuring Team GB crews only. For full results – www.worldrowing.com)
1. United States 6:01.49
3. Romania 6:04.10
4. New Zealand 6:05.48
5. Canada 6:06.04
6. Netherlands 6:08.37
2. Germany 5:30.96
3. Netherlands 5:31.59
4. United States 5:34.23
5. Poland 5:34.62
6. New Zealand 5:36.64
1. Natan Wegrzycki-Szymcyzk (Poland) 6:47.95
2. Juan Carlos Cabrera (Mexico) 6:50.02
3. Rhys Grant (Australia) 6:51.90
4. Abdel Khalek Elbana (Egypt) 6:54.94
5. Nils Jakob Hoff (Norway) 7:02.66
6. Alan Campbell (GREAT BRITAIN) DNS
Team GB crews: 2016 Olympic Regatta
(Crews listed from bow to stroke with cox and with club, hometown and date of birth)
Helen Glover (Minerva Bath RC/Penzance/17.06.86)/
Heather Stanning (Army RC/Lossiemouth/26.01.85)
Coach: Robin Williams
Katie Greves (Leander Club/Oxford/02.09.82)/
Melanie Wilson (Imperial College BC/London/25.06.84)/
Frances Houghton (Univ of London Tyrian Club/Oxford/19.09.80)/
Jess Eddie (London RC/Durham/07.10.84)/
Olivia Carnegie-Brown (Oxford Brookes Univ BC/Henley-on-Thames/28.03.91)/
Karen Bennett (Leander Club/Edinburgh/05.02.89)/
Zoe Lee (Imperial College BC/Richmond/15.12.85)/
Zoe De Toledo (Leander Club/London/17.07.87) (cox)
Coach: James Harris and Paul Thompson
Katherine Grainger (St Andrew BC/Glasgow/12.11.75)
Alan Sinclair (Leander Club/Inverness/16.10.85)/
Coach: Rob Dauncey
Alex Gregory (Leander Club/Wormington/11.03.84)/
Mohamed Sbihi (Molesey BC/Surbiton/27.03.88)/
George Nash (Molesey BC/Guildford/02.10.89)/
Constantine Louloudis (Oxford Univ BC/London/15.09.91)
Coach: Jurgen Grobler
Scott Durant (Oxford Brookes Univ BC/Lancaster/12.02.88)/
Tom Ransley (Leander Club/Ashford/06.09.85)/
Andrew T Hodge (Molesey BC/Hebden/03.03.79)/
Matt Gotrel (Leander Club/Chipping Campden/01.03.89)/
Pete Reed (Leander Club/Nailsworth/27.07.81)/
Paul Bennett (Univ of London BC/Leeds/16.12.88)/
Matt Langridge (Leander Club/Northwich/20.05.83)/
Will Satch (Leander Club/Henley-on-Thames/09.06.89)/
Phelan Hill (cox) (Leander Club/Bedford/21.07.79)
Alan Campbell (Tideway Scullers School/Coleraine/09.05.83)
Coach: John West
Jonny Walton (Leander Club/Leicester/06.10.90)/
John Collins (Leander Club/Twickenham/24.01.89)
Coach: Mark Banks
Sam Townsend (Reading Univ BC/Reading/26.11.85)/
Angus Groom (Leander Club/Glasgow/16.06.92)/
Peter Lambert (Leander Club/Maidenhead/03.12.86)/
Charlotte Taylor (Putney Town RC/Bedford/14.08.85)/
Kat Copeland (Tees RC/Ingleby Barwick/01.12.90)
Coach: Paul Reedy
Chris Bartley (Leander Club/Chester/02.02.84)/
Mark Aldred (London RC/Birmingham/18.04.87)/
Jono Clegg (Leander Club/Maidenhead/14.07.89)/
Peter Chambers (Oxford Brookes Univ BC/Coleraine/14.03.90)
Coach: Hamish Burrell
Richard Chambers (Leander Club/Coleraine/10.06.85)
Coach: Darren Whiter
Team GB medals at the Rio 2016 Olympic Games
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