The only event we had on Saturday was rowing. It included the A finals (and medal ceremonies) for the men and women’s single sculls, double sculls, coxless pairs, and the men’s coxless four.
The big race
The most exciting race of the day (for us) was the final of the women’s double sculls. Our friend Elise Laverick was racing for Great Britain with her partner Anna Bebington. It was going to be a tough race for them; while they had beaten most or all of the crews at some point or another, a couple of them had posted really strong times in the heats and reps earlier this week.
Elise and Anna seemed to get a good start, and were well in the mix in the first 500 meters. Some of the other boats seemed to take a bit of a push in the second 500 meters, which pushed them back to about fourth. But in the second half of the race China started dropping back and Elise and Anna really started going strong and put themselves in the lead pack. The last five hundred was incredible, and all three medallists (New Zealand, Germany, and Great Britain) crossed the finish line within ~2 feet of each other (0.22 seconds). Elise and Anna put in a massive effort in the last 250–500 meters to close the gap. Perhaps the best part was that in the last 500 it was clear that the top three boats had really separated themselves from the rest, and were going to be on the podium. We found out later that Elise/Anna were the quickest boat in the last 1000 meters of the race.
I was lucky enough to get tickets to the “friends and family” stand for both rowing finals days. Each country’s supporters group together, and it seems the Commonwealth countries (GB, Australia, New Zealand, etc.) have particularly big contingents, though the US group was pretty big, too. Life in the stands is fun, since so many people know each other from various rowing-related activities and events. But it also gets really messy… for the cost of one pint of beer in London, you can buy eight from the Olympics concessions stands. One GB support or another seemed to bringing a box filled with beer cups up to the stands every few minutes or so. That got interesting…
Luckily we got to meet up with Elise after the race. (Anna had to go to drug testing, which was literally taking hours. She wasn’t done until three hours after they got in.) That’s where I snapped this picture.
Other great races
Michelle Guerette from the USA took a surprising silver in the women’s single sculls event. The Belarus sculler (who had won the last three world championships, I believe) was pushed to bronze. It was an amazing performance for her, and she put in a huge push in the last 500 meters to put herself there. She was featured in a New York Times feature article on rowing earlier this year, so it great to see her success match some of the coverage of her.
The Great Britain men’s double scullers also took bronze. While Australia looked awesome in the event, Matt Wells and Steven Rowbotham look great and took bronze in style.
In a great race, the Great Britain men’s coxless four took gold. This boat has been the “flagship” of the mens rowing squad since 2000. While GB was in the pack, they weren’t leading for most of the race. They stayed near the leaders and put in one hell of a massive push in the last 250 meters to win it. The leaders up until that point (Australia) seemed to crumble once their lead was lost, and ended up losing by about half a length. It was particularly cute when the four did their row-past after the medals ceremony and the sister of the stroke-man (Andy Triggs-Hodge) jumped the fence and swam out into the lake to congratulate her brother.
The men’s single sculls race was as fascinating as ever. Alan Campbell of Great Britain got a great start and was leading early. But the lead switched several times until Olaf Tufte of Norway crossed the line first, with Czech Republic in silver and Mahe Drysdale of New Zealand in bronze. Mahe was predicted to do better, but I heard through the grapevine that he had a bit of a stomach bug earlier this week, which couldn’t have helped. Alan probably could have done better as well, but he had several weeks out of the boat this year for knee surgery. That Alan got into the A final is one hell of an accomplishment after that!