Dominant duo mean Britain still rule the waves

Great Britain's Helen Glover and Heather Stanning celebrate winning gold in the Women's Pair at The Lagoa Stadium.
Great Britain's Helen Glover and Heather Stanning celebrate winning gold in the Women's Pair at The Lagoa Stadium.
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Great Britain claimed two gold medals in the space of half an hour yesterday as their dominance of the rowing disciplines continued.

Helen Glover and Heather Stanning stormed to gold at Rio 2016, retaining their Olympic women’s pair title in style.

And then Alex Gregory, Mohamed Sbihi, George Nash and Constantine Louloudis continued Great Britain’s reign in the men’s four, bringing home gold from a fifth successive Games.

Four years on from lighting up London 2012, the unbeaten run that stretches back to 2011 of Glover and Stanning, was never in doubt on a dank morning in Brazil.

Glover and Stanning led from the outset, winning in seven minutes 18.29 seconds to become the first female British rowers to retain their Olympic crown.

Stanning said: “It’s not done until it’s done. You’ve got to cross the line first. We knew it was important to get a good start and that’s what we did.

“To be fair I think my first stroke was pretty shoddy. I was a bit slow reacting compared to what I can do.”

Glover added: “It was great, Heather was amazing.

“We’ve just got to say a massive, massive thank you to Robin (Williams) our coach. He just put that together, that is for him - four years of hard work. He’s been really ill, he’s been away from home for most of the year and he deserves to be up here with us speaking to you guys.”

Stanning said: “Without him we’d be nowhere.”

The duo embraced after crossing the line at the end of a regatta they were 1/9 favourites to win with some bookmakers.

Glover and Stanning were given a scare in the heats by the Danish crew, eventually sneaking victory by 0.16 secs, but cruised through Thursday’s semi-final.

There was a similarly dominant display from the indomitable duo in the final as they extended their unbeaten run together to a 39th race.

Cheered on by friends and family at the Lagoa, the world and European champions were 1.77secs up after 500 metres.

They were 3.58s ahead at the halfway mark and would eventually win by 1.24, seeing off a late surge from New Zealand.

Reflecting on the London Games four years ago, Glover felt this latest success was a bigger achievement.

She said: “I think it means so much more. We put an awful lot of pressure on ourselves. I’ve been so emotional this week and this is not me at all so it just means so much more to us. Immediately it was more than London.

“I know it was a home Games and there’s nothing more special but this was defending a title. This is not being good once it’s being good every day, every race. It just feels so good with all the pressure we put on ourselves. It’s pretty immense.”

And Glover refused to rule out going for a third title at Tokyo 2020, saying: “You never know, we’ve got our families to think about.”

For the men’s four, the burden of history may weigh heavy but the quartet proved they have broad enough shoulders for that expectation in Rio de Janeiro.

Gregory, Sbihi, Nash and Louloudis held off Australia to triumph by 1.83 seconds at the Lagoa.

Victory saw Gregory defend his men’s four gold from London 2012, while Sbihi, Nash and Louloudis improved on the Olympic bronzes they won four years ago.

It continued Jurgen Grobler’s run of coaching a gold medal-winning crew at every Olympics since 1972 and, most pertinently, Britain’s dominance of the men’s four that started at Sydney 2000, when Sir Steve Redgrave won his fifth and final gold medal.

There have been some nerve-wracking moments along that glorious run but the current four looked comfortable from the outset in yesterday’s final.

Just like Thursday’s semi-final, they attacked from the front and had the power to see off Australia’s attention, beating them to victory in five minutes 58.61 seconds.

Nash said: “I’ll say that was spot on. We had a good hand there. The three of these guys are the strongest rowers out there and we played a full hand today. Just an epic, epic, row.

“We knew we had to go off hard to counter the Australians in the first 1,000 (metres) and they kept challenging, but we kept answering and we always came up with the goods. That’s just what we trained for.”

Gregory revealed that waiting for the race to begin felt worse than London 2012.

He said: “I didn’t know what was happening four years ago, this one I knew what was coming and sitting on that start line it was horrible.

“Those hours this morning from our pre-paddle to coming out onto the start line was torturous.

“We just nailed that. It was our perfect race and we did it at the right time on the right day.”

Sbihi said the team were wary of the threat posed by Australia, adding: “In the last race at Poznan they challenged us at the 900/1000-metre mark so we knew it was coming.

“We had a plan and we knew at the (1,000m mark) we could step on and we did. I called it and the guys responded. It’s a fantastic crew.

“We just executed our plan right to the last word.”