British Rowing at the Olympics

XXVIIth Olympics
September 2000
Rachel Quarrell commentating on the TV coverage
of the eights heats.
Olympic Reports Staggering performances in the eights

Live-written stroke-by-stroke coverage. This format of reporting will increase during the week.

Women's eights, heat 1 GBR, ROM, AUS and BLR in this heat, and as the start gun goes, the Romanians not surprisingly blast off rapidly. A very impressive crew, strong, experienced and gutsy. As the crews settle down a little from the initial sprint, GBR shows in second, and the Australians chasing hard in third. These two fighting hard, as the Romanians draw steadily away, opening up first seats, then a length of clear water. GBR still just in second, but here come the Australians, pushing back as they move through the middle of the race, and sneaking seats past the British rowers. Into the third quarter, and the British eight is holding on in third now, staying just behind AUS, while ROM extend their staggering lead to nearly three lengths. Just 400 metres to go, and now rather unexpectedly Belarus are blasting up the field, overhauling the Brits and challenging Australia. The line is crossed, Romania a remarkable distance ahead of the pack, and surely only accident can stop them now. AUS second, BLR third, and GBR fourth, though they will be happy to have stayed on the pace for long enough to prove their competitiveness.

Women's eights, heat 2 Canada, USA and the Netherlands on show, both the Canadians and Dutch including oarswomen doubling into other events, so the winners will get a bit of a day off to help progression through the week. Rene Mjinders, coach of the NED 8+ who won gold in Atlanta with a spectacularly smooth style, has been in charge of this women's crew in orange. USA likely to be good here, but after a blanket start, the Dutch women slowly edge into the lead. No apparent rush, but they're smoothly powering away from the Americans, who just can't match them. This is quite an upset, but the USA can't do anything to get back on terms, and are in trouble from the Canadians too. NED now half a length up, and CAN have overhauled the USA by a seat, no great pushes from anyone in evidence, all just holding on. 500 to go, NED now 3/4 length to the good, and the American oarswomen are having a desperately disappointing race, struggling along in third place with no response to the Dutch speed. The Romanians from the previous heat are still the queens of this event, but on this evidence the Dutch will put up a good fight in the final.

Men's eights, heat 1 Seen as the premier event of the regatta, the men's eights rounds off racing in the second group of heats. In the first of two, the Americans are the crew to beat, gold medallists at the Worlds for the last three years, an unprecedented achievement, and now in the hunt for Olympic gold. But as they whisk off at top speed, it's Croatia putting their bowballs ahead of the field first, moving out very quickly to several seats up on the American eight. Can Croatia hang on? Nearing 500 to go, the USA have several tricks up their sleeves, but the Balkan boys are now nearly six seats up in front, still moving, going to seven, eight seats now in a staggering push, and their cox is calling for clear water. NED, ROM and ITA fall in behind, but not being dropped particularly badly by the USA, who can't get back to the front now. CRO cross the line 3/4 length up, USA flailing along behind, and the Dutch crew starting to look like their old selves of a few years ago, in third. This will be a terrible dent in confidence for the USA, the reigning world champions having to go through the repechage, but I wouldn't want to be racing them as they go for revenge on Wednesday....

Men's eights, heat 2 CAN, AUS, GBR, RUS in this heat, and the Brits want a come-back here to make up for the Aussies taking the Henley Royal Grand Challenge Cup away with them back in July. It's Kieran West's birthday, so can they give him a place in the final as a birthday present? The light goes, they're off, GBR nipping quickly at 49 and sneaking an early seat or so. But the 40-second strengthen takes the Aussies strongly up, and they draw it steadily through the first marker, Canada following and dropping GBR into third place ahead of the Russians. Nearing 900, and the Brits pushing back, nearly levelling the Canadians again, but the Australian eight still solidly in the lead. Another small harden from GBR, now the Aussies only have a couple of seats lead, and the Brits are clearly hoping to move through in the final stages of the race. But Australia hears the roars of the crowds, and ups the ante once more, getting up to 4 seats up at 500 metres to go. This exchange of views has dragged these two crews well in front of CAN and RUS, and now it looks impossible for Australia to be beaten, drawing steadily out to 2/3 length. In a final lift the Brits raise the rate above 40 to claw back one last seat, but the Australians have reaffirmed their domination, on their home ground this time. AUS first, GBR second, CAN, RUS bringing up the rear.

So this leaves the reigning gold and silver medallists, USA and GBR, both in the mid-week repechage, with Croatia and Australia rather unexpectedly in charge of the best lanes for the final. The times were quick, but not world-beating, in a slight wind. The USA team will be appalled, as their headline men's and women's crews have to take the plebs route to the final, but I'm sure this will spur them on for the rest of the week.