Only gold will suffice as Hodge throws down gauntlet to rivals

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ANDREW Triggs Hodge has vowed to push himself through the pain barrier to claim the second Olympic title of his career.

The 33-year-old Hebden-raised oarsman leads the flagship men’s four into a mouth-watering final with arch-rivals Australia this morning at Eton Dorney.

The two boats have traded wins and jibes all summer long in what is a simmering, but respectful rivalry.

The British crew were victorious in Thursday’s semi-final, while Australia had the edge in the heats and won the final World Cup regatta before the Games.

The two crews have great admiration for each other’s strengths but their desire to win is far greater.

That is most evident in Hodge, for whom silver today is unthinkable.

“I am most scared about how much pain I can put myself through,” said Hodge, who will push his body to the limit.

“We are really excited for the final. Bring it on.

“Everyone has got one final in them and ours is to come.

“We have had a great week. The crowd is awesome. Being here. Being British. Being proud. It is just a huge honour.”

And his message to the Australians: “Have a good row, you guys. If we beat them then we want to beat them at their best.

“In sport, someone is always challenging, there is always rivalry and long may it last.”

Hodge epitomises the mentality of the British rowing squad, who have already claimed six medals at the Olympic regatta.

By his side in the four is his trusty sidekick Pete Reed, who also has a gold from Beijing and is even more fiesty when looking ahead to today’s race.

Ominously, the 31-year-old from Chiswick also believes the British crew have more to give. “Whatever the Australians do, we can do as well,” he said of Hodge, Tom James and Pete Gregory.

“I don’t think we’ve seen the best from Hodgey or TJ (James) and my engine is phenomenal at the moment. We have another gear.”

GB stopped the clock in five minutes 58.26 seconds in Thursday’s semi-final, beating the Aussie crew of William Lockwood, James Chapman, Drew Ginn and Joshua Dunkley-Smith by almost a second.

Reed said: “We were rowing better in the first 1,000 (metres) than in our heats, and then it was just job done. Then it was maintaining what we had to do and limiting our efficiency.

“We were maybe a second down and I only need to say one word to the crew for them to go.

“It’s my job as tactician and leader of the boat that it comes at the right time, and our gear changes come at the right time.

“My voice has to be calm and collected, I don’t want to project any panic into the boat.”

The crowds have been inspirational at Eton Dorney, their noise pulling the home crews to the line.

“We’ve heard them on the start, and we’ve seen enough racing so far to know that when the cameras are on the GB boat you can hear a roar,” added Reed. “It makes you feel alive.

“Coming into the last 500 (metres) is where the crowd makes a difference.

“Coming into the last 250, you can’t slow down when the crowd are shouting because the other crews know they are shouting for us and not them. So thanks to the crowd for supporting us so well.”

Twenty minutes after today’s men’s four final, Sophie Hosking and Stokesley’s Katherine Copeland go for gold.

The 21-year-old Copeland only took up the sport when she was 14, with her father telling her she would be good at rowing because her ‘chubbiness’ would give her more power.

Now built like a whippet, Copeland and Hosking have risen quickly to the fringes of the elite in the lightweight double sculls.

Victory today will change their lives forever, and it has all been a blur for the Tees Rowing Club representative. “To begin with, I thought my Olympics peak would be in Rio (2016), but, nothing beats this,” said Stokesley after winning their semi-final. “It’s just a big relief to be in the final, we just needed to get to the final and now we can just enjoy it.”

While the gold rush continued for Britain’s squad yesterday, a medal in the final of the men’s quad sculls proved beyond Bradford-born Matt Wells and the home crew.

The Beijing bronze medallist in the double scull finished fifth in what is his final Olympics before retirement.

“Given what has happened this year with people coming in and out of the boat we have really outdone ourselves and have given a really good performance,” he said. “I am really proud of the guys in the boat with me. I think they have done an outstanding job –not one of them bottled it, which can sometimes happen with this kind of pressure.

“Having been a part of it all feels really special and a home Games is just the perfect way to say goodbye.”