BEIJING (Reuters) - Canada earned redemption and China their first Olympic rowing gold medal on the shimmering waters of Lake Shunyi on Sunday.
In a repeat of four years ago, the Canadian men’s eight entered the Olympic regatta as world champions and favorites for the blue-riband title.
In Athens they crumbled and finished fifth. In Beijing they held on for gold in a thrilling finale to the Olympic regatta.
”Although it looked like we were ahead and in control, we were in constant fear the entire race,“ said Adam Kreek. ”We were just pushing back that fear and turning that into a positive mentality. That was the secret.
”With five strokes to go, our cox Brian said ‘five more strokes and we are Olympic champions’ and then the joy started flowing through the veins.
“Athens was never in the picture. It was all about seizing the moment. Today is an absolutely incredible day.”
China also had plenty to celebrate at last.
The hosts, who had previously only won two silvers and two bronze Olympic rowing medals, entered as strong favorites in several events after heavy investment in the sport and a couple of successful years. But by the end of Saturday’s racing they had only managed one silver.
On Sunday the women’s quad made amends by rowing through the three-times world champion British crew in the final 250 meters, backed by the lakeside roar of their home supporters.
The four girls then threw their arms in delight and wept, before being mobbed by photographers on the podium.
“In the Olympics you have to keep struggling, there is no rule that says who should win,” said Xi Aihua.
The British four, who have dominated the event in recent years, were disconsolate and sat slumped in their boat for some time before slowly helping each other out.
The U.S. had better luck in the women’s eight, finally getting the better of the Romanian crew who won in Athens and Sydney but had to settle for bronze this time.
”This is something we’ve been working for for so long,“ said Caroline Lind. ”We had an excellent start. Caryn laid down an amazing rhythm and we just backed her up.
The U.S. victory denied Romania’s Georgeta Andrunache her sixth Olympic gold medal and the title of most prolific Olympic rower. Devastated, she left in tears.
(Additional reporting by Paul Majendie, Doug Hamilton and Kirby Chien; Editing by Jeremy Laurence)