British Rowing at the Olympics

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

Tonight is the turn of the A finals for Group B events, including the lightweight categories, the quads, and the eights. The commentary was written live from the TV coverage, and will remain on this page after racing is over.

Men's eights, M8+
More anthem-playing as the men's eights warm up and get settled on the start, and commentary for that will begin at half-past.. Meanwhile looking at the LM4- times, the French won in 6:01 - a few seconds slower than the British four yesterday. That gap is surely closing.
The line-up is ITA, GBR, AUS, CRO, USA and ROM in lane order for these eights. I have ROM at a staggering 50+ on the rate. Who's going in front first? GBR and CRO show initially. These two are shifting past the others with great speed. GBR have gone out as fast as they did in the repechage, but CRO are matching them stroke for stroke, just a canvas behind. It's ROM in third I think, AUS and USA are more than a length behind the leaders. GBR have a third of a length in these conditions, but CRO have plenty in hand. GBR are pushing, 750 gone, CRO begin to match it. AUS struggling to keep up, but being washed down on both sides by these leaders. CRO's push is holding them in place, GBR can't escape. The lead has been slightly eroded at half-way. Another British harden, bugger this is hard work, and this is really working. Here they go, 3/4 length lead for the Brits, but will it be enough? CRO try to respond, AUS heads going down, ROM not close enough. And GBR scent victory, they ahve 500 to go, and they're almost at clear water.1 But CRO are chasing, trying to get contact back, CRO are coming, they're surging, will there be space? A few hundred metres left, AUS raise the rate, GBR still almost a length up, AUS come through CRO, CRO dying. GBR still 3/4 length up, AUS in second, Now it's 2/3 length, there's just 100 metres left. AUS still coming, that lead goes all the time. GBR DO IT!!!!!! That's our first eights gold since 1912, more history made, my god that was a fantastic race. I'm not sure any of the commentators can really believe it. And into the water comes a mass of swimming heads, this time not wearing orange - the champions this time want Union Flags to put round their shoulders, and it's the British supporters swimming to meet them, with a mass of Aussies to celebrate their silver. Time, 5:33, 11 seconds down from the world record time (senior), in flat conditions. Great Britain gold, Australia silver, Croatia bronze, then Italy, USA, Romania.
As we were told earlier in the commentary, Harry Mahon, who has been helping various crews as "guru" for several years, had something to say to the British eight after their disappointing heat. In his role as supporting coach, he told them that rowing prettily wasn't quite enough. If they wanted to do dressage, they could get themselves off to the equestrian centre. If they wanted to win rowing races, they could stick some passion in. Martin McElroy, their primary coach, now talks to the BBC with tears in his eyes, so proud of this group he's been nurturing for months, and also getting the revenge after their defeat by Australia at Henley Royal this year. Luka Grubor, being interviewed: "We were there, they were there, looking each other in the eye, and they blinked first." Watching their race again on the BBC monitors, the entire nine are vying to say the most quotable comment about the race - nobody would guess they had been dreaming about this moment for ever, oh no.

Women's eights, W8+
This will be after the W4x medal ceremony. Hugh Matheson has just let drop, on the Eurosport commentary, that Jurgen Grobler was asked at the M4- press conference yesterday, when he last had a bad Olympic result. It turns out the last time he failed to coach a crew to gold at the Olympics (or Worlds, I think), was in the early 1970's....
Right, the women's eights are virtually ready. They're sitting back, not quite being called over yet. USA versus USA for the silver, since everybody's pick for the gold is Romania. And Canada also vying for the minor medals. Now, can the Romanian eight do the business and confirm their dominance? Forward - and off! High 40's rates, and BLR whisk out in front, NED following. BLR continue to take it forward - surely they will have to pay for this - and the full field spans no more than half a length. ROM starting to shift,leaning on their finishes, and going into the lead. BLR drop back, NED dogging them to a canvas or so. ROM push through the 1000 metres, rating 39, and you can see this taking them steadily out towards clear water. Yes, they've gone to just a couple of feet overlap, and NED matches CAN for the second position. ROM can't quite break the contact, NED determined to hold on to them. Here comes the Dutch gear-change, and it slides them away from CAN, though not making much impression on ROM. A few hundred metres to go, ROM looking unassailable, though still not clear, NED nearly a length up on CAN, but will anyone else threaten the brnoze place? ROM are now well up on the field, but NED fill that gap, the medals are decided, for sure. Romania takes gold, Netherlands silver, Canada bronze, Belarus fourth, Australia fifth and USA completely off the pace in sixth. The Romanian stroke crosses herself, her second gold medal of these Games, and the total of golds these women have won (O and W) are now in the forties.

Men's quads, M4x
Just had the W4x announced: brilliant Britain got silver, Russia bronze.
The men get off, with NED, ITA, GER, UKR vying for the lead. All the quads are close, but it's the Germans who show first in front, a few feet over the Italians. At 500 gone they've got this still, with NED hounding forwards, and AUS surging against UKR to contest for fourth place. ITA and GER stroke for stroke, and through the middle part ITA start to really move. 500 to go, ITA have 1/4 length, NED coming up close on the Germans now in second, AUS improving their place. 300 to go, ITA now out to clear water, GER trying to raise it but it's too late. NED heaving it on, getting half a foot a stroke, could get silver, NED break GER, AUS also closing but not near enough. Italy take gold, the Dutch silver, Germany bronze, Australia fourth, Ukraine fifth I think and the Swiss sixth. No, SUI passed UKR, who had to pay for trying to keep up with the top crews off the start. The Italian crew contains the youngest Abbagnale, who has just won his third gold medal (the others being '88 and '96). The delighted Dutch supporters go for their swimming celebration and mob their quad, interestingly some rather nubile young girls grabbing snogs from their heroes.

Women's quads, W4x
The women are nearly ready to go. What started quite cloudy is turning to be a sunny day, water calm and flat apart from the launch wash dying away. The call-over. The start. GBR to 44 quickly, GER beside them to 42 and sliding past the rest to take the first lead. Next to them, the Russian quad is showing in second place. USA and GBR trading bowballs in the next two places. At 500, the Germans head Russia by a very short head, GBR head USA by 0.67. All the crews sculling smoothly, Germany's stroke grimacing a little, GBR using the German pace to pull them along. 800 gone, GER lean on it and push ahead, by 1000 metres they have nearly half a length. RUS second, GBR third, and now the Ukraine through the USA for fourth. Miriam Batten, stroking GBR, looks extremely determined. Germany now out to all but a length's lead, Russia not looking very comfortable. GBR are very close to the Russians now, just 0.33 behind them, and UKR are dropping behind a little now, USA out of it. GBR move through RUS, RUS lever on it and raise the rate. GER solid for the first place, 250 to go, GBR sitting only just ahead of Russia in second place. RUS speed it up a bit, GBR have to go, RUS get it back, GBR respond again. The line approaching fast, GBR pushing, over the line! The first announcement is RUS second, but there will be a photofinish and the commentators are sure it's silver. This is the first British Olympic women's medal of any kind, ever, and the two crews wait for the verdict. Germany ecstatic at their title. It still looks, on the replay, as if the Brits have it, but who can tell. Still waiting. Still, agonisingly, waiting. Russian heads are bowed, lasting it out. It's Gillian Lindsay's birthday in the GBR quad: what kind of present will FISA give her? And it's still not come through - it will be as bad as the W1x yesterday. I'm going to update it higher on this page when it comes through.

Men's lightweight coxless fours, LM4-
The women's medal ceremony over, and the men's fours are ready to go. As one reader has pointed out to me, the lightweight and heavyweight times appear to be genuinely closing in on each other, with the semi-final times for this lightweight event being two seconds faster than those for the heavies. They're away, with initial leaders looking like AUS, FRA and DEN, but all six crews within a few feet up to 500 metres. Denmark of course officially the reigning champions, desperately trying to salvage a medal out of a disastrous year during which they lost a crucial crewmate to injury. Aussie pride looking good at 750 out, USA starting to drop out of the back, FRA keeping pace, DEN looking a little fading, and they're past the midway marker with AUS in the lead. AUS and FRA fighting it out now at the front, USA starting to barge back, ITA recovering from a poor second split, AUS pushing it as they hear the first cheers. 500 to go, and AUS have nearly 2/3 lengths of a lead, FRA lifting the rate for a dangerous-looking assault, DEN desperately trying to fight off ITA. Last 250 to go, the crowd is (as they say) going wild, FRA at 40, AUS at 41.5, ITA neck and neck with the Danes, FRA go in front, both crews heaving, DEN jump the rate, and they're over. It was, in the end, a French gold medal, Australia taking silver in front of their home crowd and looking bitterly disappointed, and Denmark magically holding on for bronze, 0.26 seconds in front of Italy. RSA fifth, and USA sixth.

Men's lightweight double sculls, LM2x
More slick lightweight starting, spinning up the rate and speeding along. Italy shifting out, Poland sliding past into a lead, and then these two moving right away from the main pack. Neck and neck past the halfway marker, and then POL making another push hard to try and break ITA. 2/3 length or so at 500 to go, POL speed up again as a surge from FRA to challenge GER for the bronze medal brings the field back towards the leaders. ITA speeding up again, POL respond, beautiful sculling from both these two crews. POL take gold, ITA silver, FRA just sscrape past GER to take the bronze, and SUI, racing to the line a few seconds later.

Women's lightweight double sculls, LW2x
I must apologise - I didn't manage to get the connection up straight away for this race, so wasn't online during it. Summary: a titanic fight between the Romanian and German doubles, with the latter taking a strong lead, being rowed down by Romania in the closing stages, and then almost coming back to take revenge. But the Romanian double's response to the pressure was superb, and they blasted across the line with just a couple of feet to spare. The USA double didn't have a chance in this pace, but took a good bronze.