British Rowing at the Olympics

XXVIIth Olympics
September 2000
Rachel Quarrell reporting live
from TV coverage of the Olympic finals
Olympic Reports Saturday September 23rd 2000

All the reporting here is in reverse order, and was updated real-time every 30 seconds, automatically

M4- medal ceremony
The British four has spent longer than usual out of the boat on the launching rafts, being interviewed by their national TV reporters, but now they have got back in the boat, and returned to the medal rafts, in front of the grandstands. Here come the medals, and HRH Princess Anne the Princess Royal is going to present them to the British champions. Juan Antonio Samaranch is also waiting. Vast applause, Cracknell with the Union Flag round his neck, they get presented to the crowd. Princess Anne gives Steve his medal first, another cheer, then the others. Tim kisses his, Matt holding it tight and smiling his head off. Denis Oswald, the FISA President, gives them flowers and then Samaranch comes up. He has something in his pocket, a solid gold Olympic pin for Redgrave, to commemorate the record number of golds in an endurance sport. Then the silver medallists, Italy. They're over the moon, grinning like maniacs. Princess Anne presents their medals, and on to the disappointed Australians. And here's the British national anthem. The four have their arms round each other as they listen: James, Steve and Tim singing, Matt with his eyes squeezed tight shut, savouring the moment. This is the moment when it becomes real. And now the party begins.

Men's coxless fours, M4-
The fours are on the start, getting ready while the medal ceremony finished. A slight wind is up, vaguely cross-tail, not strong. Lane order: USA, SLO, GBR, AUS, ITA, NZL. No Norwegians, world record time holders. No French, who looked so good on paper. But a fistful of dangerous, talented, powerful crews. The British four looks slightly edgy, with the exception of Redgrave, calmly looking round. A crowd shout for the Aussies as they are introduced, and the Italians give a grin. Second to go: call over. Off! Aussies at 52, GBR 47 a few strokes later, Slovenia looking quick but Great Britain, as they did in the earlier races, move out straight away. Not much in it, all the crews within a single length of water. GBR still at 40 as they pass 250 gone. AUS have second, by now half a length or so. GBR at 38 coming to 500, nearly 2/3 lengths up. It's 0.88 seconds lead over the Australians as they cross the marker. Looks like AUS are hardening slightly, GBR tickle the rate up. Cracknell looking round at the other crews, keeping an eye out. Midway mark, Italy shifting through AUS, now in seocnd. GBR have the same lead, 2/3 length or so. No, it's closer, the parallax was distracting, it's 0.46 seconds at midway. Some big sprinting beginning, will the Italians try and do what the French boys pulled off earlier? GBR do seem to be back out to 1/2 length. 500 to go, the lead is a second-ish. Here goes Pinsent, raising for the finish. I can't take rates and type, GBR are notching it up. ITA trying to surge but GBR moving quickly. 250 to go, ITA closing a fraction, half a length still in it. 120 metres to go, ITA still coming, GBR pick it up again, is there space enough? AUS accelerating, GBR upping it, ITA do one last mad dash but GBR get it by a tiny margin. THEY DID IT! FIVE GOLDS FOR REDGRAVE! THREE FOR PINSENT!
Matthew climbs over Tim to hug Steve, Matthew falls in, swims with the biggest grin in the world on his face. Unbelievable, and they show the replay of Matt and Steve hugging, Redgrave smiling in the boat for the first time that I can remember. A superlative effort from both Italy and Australia, but the plan of four years has come off, and it turns out they did it in what is one of the world's fastest times in the Olympic event, just a few seconds off the Olympic record. The crowd's still cheering, Jurgen being interviewed by the BBC, calling 0.38 seconds margin of victory "a big win" with a sly grin on his face. For Tim Foster, the vindication, after two major injuries and midwinter despair. For James Cracknell, the youngster, gaining his first Olympic gold and helping his boyhood hero achieve immortality. For Matthew Pinsent, still unbeaten at any Olympics, the proof that Steve was right to come back. And for Steven Redgrave, he has now rowed his way through the history books and out the other side.

Men's double sculls, M2x
And here we go again. This time it's the Slovenians hoping the race can come according to plan. Off they go, Norway off well, but all the crews tight in a pack, and it's Hungary showing first, then lane 3 (the Slovenians I think) nosing their way through. 500 gone, and SLO have edged into first, just, over HUN. SLO now looking their impressive best, sweeping loftily along, Cop and Spik leaning on their blades. Heaven only knows where they get it from, but they're sliding steadily into a clear lead, just starting to drop the other crews properly. ITA just slightly ahead of the pack in second, but nobody's going to miss this party, with GER third and NOR fourth, closely. So many heads turning, you can see them all looking all the time, to check on the opposition. HUN not quite dropping, POL are the last, and just starting to fall behind. SLO still incredibly strong, but Italy and Norway pushing through 1500 metres, and closing slightly on them. This is it, the final section, and Slovenia go up about half a gear, but Norway are heaving along, closing the Slovenians relentlessly down. Germany drop back, Italy are still being headed by Norwary, but the Norwegians can only get a few feet on Slovenia. Cop and Spik still leading, they just have to stay half an inch in front, but they'll have half a length instead. Slovenia gold, Norway an excellent silver, Italy hang on for bronze. Spik, the commentators say, is just 21, and already Olympic champion.

Women's double sculls, F2x
Here we go with the fifth race of the morning, the openweight women's double sculls. The call-over comes, ready to go. As with all sculling races, it looks slower than it really is, very smooth. USA out rapidly, but the German double leading off. GER hold the lead by a quarter of a length at 500, USA next and the Lithuanians and Dutch just a few feet back each. USA are doing well creeping up on the outside of the field: like the other races this morning nothing is happening predictably. Open water for the German double, very smooth, a big gap between the USA and, now, NED. AUS hanging in there, we're past half-way, and the fancied Romanians right out of the back, in serious trouble. Germany still hugely in front, but coming to 1500 gone it's beginning to look as if the field can close up a bit on them, so they blast off. USA still powering along, and then a vast gatp, but the USA don't seem to be closing against the German surge. NED screaming up towards second, but USA hoick the rate to avoid them, none of this affects the Germans. NED still whizzing forward, looks like more than inches a stroke, and LTU also starting to lean on the USA too. ROM start to blast, everyon'e going for it, and here's the line. Germany a hugely deserved gold, the Dutch get silver, and Lithuania pip the Americans for the bronze by a foot or two.

Men's coxless pairs, M2-
I will try to be impartial, but apologies in advance, because I probably won't manage to do it. Small hiatus due to the Kitten Olympics going on in my living room where I'm commentating from the TV. Off the blocks, the Brits got a fast start, but will they have to pay for it again as they did in the semifinal? 500 gone, and they have half a length over the YUG pair, with Searle looking round carefully to watch the competition. At the opposite edge, USA holding close, AUS a length or so down from GBR, these positions holding through 1000 metres. FRA also with AUS quite a way down, still YUG and USA 2nd and 3rd behind GBR. Can't see anyone moving yet, 750 to go, AUS finally begin to push, how much is in the tank, FRA also pushing, GBR don't seem to be responding, 600ish to go, FRA accelrating fast, hoping to do the same as the semi. A few hundred left, FRA have burnt through GBR like a knife through butter, FRA at 41, a crazy spurt with AUS assaulting GBR to grab silver place. Here go Searle and Coode, Tomkins and Long go with them, USA are also blasting, it will be four for three medals, FRA still hold on, USA look just past level for second, so three pass the line for the other two, it looks as if AUS gets past GBR on the nod. A wait, but I don't think it will be long: it was close but not like the F1x finish. FRA nearly tip over, but raced out of their skins to get that win, and USA know they have the silver. Yes, France gold, USA silver, Australia bronze and the British hopes dashed into fourth by 0.12 seconds. YUG and ITA I think for the remaining places.

Women's coxless pairs, F2-
USA sprint out hard, with the Romanians spinning their wheels, GER lagging, AUS not showing out of the pack yet. USA blowing hard, looking pretty full of lactate, and the other crews starting to come back on them. AUS Slatter and Taylor not too surprisingly in second, a few feet back, with South Africa, having a dream Games, just behind them. ROM and CAN also in the hunt: it's a close race apart from the Germans at present. USA still holding on, with just about a third of a length as they go through 900 metres, AUS pushing as they near the midway marker. RSA dragged through nicely by the Australian lift, still a pack of five and looking tight. USA pushing again at 1250 gone, it is just possible they can hold on after this frighteningly quick start, but there's a long way to go yet. ROM have edged through RSA and AUS now, but it closes everyone down on USA too: not looking good for the Americans. ROM really upping the ante, 500 to go, just three feet down, AUS lift too, CAN now clear water down on the leaders. ROM still surging, again and again, they keep lifting, keep on coming, AUS jump the rate too, ROM now in front, half a length up, AUS have pushed through the USA, 150 metres to go. AUS yelled on by the crowd, ROM still up by a half-length, USA recover space, can they get the silver back? ROM grab gold, AUS hold on for silver, USA get bronze. Fantastic stuff, a pattern race from the Romanians, and some tough blasting from both USA and AUS. The Romanian pair are doubling up into the eight as well, tomorrow. Whew! Three out of three unbelievably exciting races, and the morning has barely begun.

Women's single sculls result
Just after the men's race finishes, Karsten's win is announced, snatching gold by 0.01 seconds over Neykova, with Rutchow as expected taking bronze.

Men's single sculls final, M1x
Off like bullets, Xeno Mueller hitting 40, but Waddell levering hard to get an early edge. His black boat nosing in front through the buoys, but with the lane 1 sculler heading him briefly as they pass 250 gone. Silver Surfer Porter from Canada is lying fifth at present, but closing hard on the leaders, and cannot be ruled out. It's Jaanson in lane 1, with Hacker beside him and now being attacked by Porter, and Jaanson still heads Waddell by a smidgeon. Now Xeno is pushing through, and takes first second, then into the lead as Jaanson tires a little. Coming to 1000 metres, Waddell and Mueller pull away from the field, Porter taking over from a fading Jaanson, Hacker another half-length down in fourth. Waddell and Mueller are shadows now, both squeezing on, battling hard and a few feet in it. 700 to go, still only feet, Mueller slightly in the lead, can't see either rating higher, both heaving the finishes powerfully. Camera pans to Porter and Hacker slugging it out for bronze, a heck of a fight on both stages. 500 to go, Xeno has a foot or two, but just after the marker Waddell leans hard on the finishes, and Mueller has nothing to respond with. Waddell powers through in a phenomenal surge, fewer than 10 strokes and he's almost clear, Mueller totally outclassed, and he's going to lose his title here, even Porter now catching him up, a race for both the minor medals. Hacker hits it hard too, three in contention for silver and bronze, and they slide across with feet between them. A brilliant race from Waddell, true champion's display, Mueller keeps silver, and Hacker has nipped past Porter in the closing strokes to pinch bronze.

Women's single sculls final, F1x
Rutchow-Stomporowski off to an uneven start, trying to squeeze before the clog released her boat, then setting off properly. Karsten sweeping herself into first place within strokes, and getting out to half a length by 250 gone. Neykova holding close to her at 500 metres, both sculling in the low thirties and looking confident. Between them, Rutchow encouraged by the need to avoid their wash on either side, sitting pretty in third, and Georgina Douglas, the home hope, looking good in fourth. Neykova pushes into first around 900 out, but not getting too far past Karsten: the change gives Rutchow the chance to move up closer. Sonia Waddell of NZL out at the back on one side. 1250 gone, Neykova shovelling it in hard to break clear, Rutchow and Karsten neck and neck. Karsten slightly increases the pace, just edging through Rutchow as they reach the third marker. Karsten leans on it again, that awesome power pouring into the water, but Neykova has a good enough lead if she can maintain the pace. 200 to go, Neykova raises it to 34, Karsten sprints too, two-thirds of a length in it, closing all the time. Neykova desperate to cling on now, Karsten scents the possibility, just a couple of strokes down, still closing, still shifting. The line approaches, they cross it together, a photofinish for sure, Rutchow only another few feet down. It takes ages for them to get the result: will it be a dead heat for the first time? The scullers sit exhausted, waiting for eternity as they check and cross-check: ten minutes so far. Fifteen, and they still don't know: we have seen two different finish-pictures, successive frames I think, and you can't split these two scullers. Perhaps they really will dead-heat for the first time in rowing history, ever. Rutchow has congratulated both and wished them good luck, and after several minutes, Karsten and Neykova have also now hugged, wandering in a vacuum around the finish raft. Still nothing, the crowds doing Mexican waves, and no doubt the men's singles will be wondering about the delay. I will update higher in the page when we get the result.