Britain won two Olympic gold medals in 20 minutes on Dorney Lake yesterday, as the men’s four beat their fierce rivals Australia in the race of the regatta and the women’s lightweight double took the medal in front of 30,000 screaming fans.
Confirming their position as the strongest rowing nation in the world, Britain powered off the start in their men’s four final, which had been dubbed an “Ashes” clash on a par with the cricketing rivalry between the two countries.
The commanding performance followed days of tough talking from the Australian boat and gave Britain a fourth consecutive win in the men’s four, and took the host nation’s medal tally on the course to seven, making it the most successful Olympic regatta for the country in modern rowing.
The win by just over a second also denied Drew Ginn the chance to become the first Australian to win gold in four Olympic Games.
Twenty minutes later the tally went to eight medals with four golds, one silver and three bronzes as Katherine Copeland and Sophie Hosking rowed through the favorites to win by a length.
The duo were in utter disbelief and looked up at the big screen to confirm their win after they crossed the line before hugging each other and standing up in the boat to accept the applause.
Ginn had used the build-up to the Games to try to heap the pressure on the British men’s boat, saying they would be scared of racing against the Australians.
Instead, the British boat surprised the fast-starting Australians by matching them from the off and then pulling out a slight lead by the 250m mark.
They then held on to that lead with a display of powerful rowing which allowed them to respond to anything the Australians could throw at them.
As the two crews went over the line the British threw their arms in the air before collapsing into their boat and blowing kisses to the crowds and pumping their fists.
The Australians, in contrast, fell back into their boat and held their heads in their hands. The two crews then congratulated each other on the side of the lake minutes after the race.
“We’d been under a lot of pressure to carry on the coxless-four tradition and we’ve done it, this is wonderful,” Britain’s Alex Gregory told the BBC. “My son will be able to take the medal into school and say: ‘My dad’s an Olympic champion.’”
For the third day out of four the sound of the British national anthem then echoed across the lake as British rowing fans belted out the anthem in support of their rowers.
Meanwhile, Mahe Drysdale took gold for New Zealand in the men’s single sculls.
Drysdale finished in 6:57.82 and silver went to Ondrej Synek of the Czech Republic, who finished the final with a time of 6:59.37. Northern Ireland’s Alan Campbell won bronze for Great Britain in a time of 7:03.28.
In the men’s lightweight double sculls, Denmark finished with a time of 6:37.17 to claim their first gold medal of the games. Britain won the silver with a time of 6:37.78 and New Zealand won the bronze with a time of 6:40.86.