LONDON – Rowers Helen Glover and Heather Stanning won the women’s pair title Wednesday to give Great Britain its first gold medal at the London Olympics.
The pair, who also captured the host nation’s first ever women’s Olympic rowing gold medal, crossed the line well clear of Australia, with world champion New Zealand taking bronze.
In other finals action on the water at Eton Dorney, west of London, Ukraine took gold in the women’s quadruple sculls, with world champion Germany winning the men’s eight.
Glover and Stanning took control from the first stroke and had the race sewn up in the first quarter of the 2000m test, at one stage pulling an audacious four boat lengths clear of their rivals.
Unbeaten in World Cup races this year, the British duo started as hot favorites, having set a new Olympic record in their heat – a remarkable achievement considering Glover hadn’t even sat in a boat four years ago.
She took to rowing via a recruitment campaign by UK Sport, Britain’s national funding agency, and said: “This shows that if I can do it, and work hard, anyone can do anything.”
Recalling the closing stages, Glover added: “I don’t remember smiling because I never let myself think ‘we’ve got this’.”
Stanning is a captain in the Royal Artillery Regiment and her Army colleagues, currently on a tour of duty in Afghanistan, were among the first to offer her congratulations on a live video link up on the BBC.
The Sandhurst trained 27-year-old officer is planning to link up with her regiment in Helmand province after the Games.
Stanning, who has been on special training leave since 2010, said: “I’m ecstatic and shattered at the same time. Helen was saying ‘keep going, keep going’ at the end. We wanted to get ahead quickly and that’s what we did.
We didn’t want to give anything back.”
Beijing champion Romania proved a disappointment, coming in fifth.
While the women’s pair race turned into a procession, the men’s eight went down to the wire.
Germany and Britain, with Greg Searle, an Olympic champion in 1992 in their team, were neck and neck at the three-quarter marker, only for the Germans to surge clear in the final 500m, with Beijing winners Canada depriving the home team of second.
Ukraine’s women led from the off in the quadruple sculls, beating the hard-pressing Germany by two seconds with the United States in bronze. China, winners on home water four years ago, were fifth. — Reuters