Trust Britain’s rowers to get the host nation out of a hole.
Rowing has long been the country’s consistently performing sport at the Olympics, winning a gold medal at every Games since 1984, and the women’s pair ensured that run continued in London yesterday.
Under intense pressure — Britain’s two princes, William and Harry, were in the crowd — Helen Glover and Heather Stanning won the women’s pair at an atmospheric Dorney Lake, establishing a huge early lead and ultimately winning by a length from Australia. New Zealand took the bronze.
Not only did the win end Britain’s agonizing wait for gold after four barren days of Olympic action, Glover and Stanning also became the first women to win rowing gold for Britain after decades of dominance by men’s crews.
It was truly a landmark win, in many respects.
“I want to collapse, I’m so overjoyed,” said Stanning, who is an officer with the British army.
After crossing the line, Stanning leaned back into the lap of Glover and punched the air. They then cupped their mouths in disbelief.
After all, they were spares for the country’s eight boat only two years ago.
“If I can do it, take the chance,” Glover said.
“In not just rowing, but anything,” she added.
Before receiving their medals, they raised their arms together and jigged on the spot with beaming smiles. With the medals around their necks, Glover began to cry.
After gold-medal hopes Mark Cavendish and Lizzie Armitstead (both cyclists) and the diving pair of Tom Daley and Pete Waterfield all failed to top the podium for Britain over the opening four days, the focus had turned to Glover and Stanning.
They broke the Olympic-best time in the heats and are unbeaten this year, so they were tipped to easily win the final, and it looked as if they would run away with it after taking a lead of 3.42 seconds after 1,000m, then stretching that to 5 seconds from second-placed New Zealand at the 1,500m marker.
As they raced along the packed the grandstands in the final 300m, the Britons visibly tired, but they were too far ahead to be caught. A smile even broke from Glover.
“I don’t even remember smiling as I never ever thought we’d got it,” she said.
The US were only 0.2 seconds behind New Zealand at the line in fourth.
The victory for Glover and Stanning could begin an unprecedented medal rush for the host nation at Dorney Lake across the four days of finals.
Two more golds could come from the women’s double sculls (Katherine Grainger and Anna Watkins) and the lightweight women’s double sculls (Sophie Hosking and Kat Copeland).
Taiwanese athletes in action
WEDNESday, AUG. 1
Men’s doubles Group A
Cai Yun and Fu Haifeng of China defeated Fang Chieh-min and Lee Sheng-mu 21-19, 21-13. Fang and Lee advanced to the quarter-finals.
Mixed doubles Group D
Xu Chen and Ma Jin of China defeated Chen Hung-ling and Cheng Wen-hsing 21-16, 22-20. Chen and Cheng were eliminated.
Women’s singles round-of-16
Li Xuerui of China defeated Tai Tzu-ying 21-16, 23-21.
Cheng Shao-chieh defeated Gu Juan of Singapore 21-18, 21-10.
Men’s singles sculls
Wang Ming-hui finished 1st in semi-final F and he progressed to final E.
Berengere Schuh of France defeated Lin Chia-en 6-5 in the round-of-16.
Viktor Ruban of Ukraine defeated Chen Yu-cheng 6-0 in the round-of-16.