Rowers Helen Glover and Heather Stanning became the first Britons to give their host nation a gold medal at the 2012 London Olympics on Wednesday as 25,000 screaming fans cheered them to victory.
REUTERS - Britain’s Helen Glover and Heather Stanning stormed to victory in the women’s Olympic pair on Wednesday to give the host nation their first gold medal of the London Olympics in front of 25,000 screaming fans.
The win by clear water in front of members of the British royal family was also the first Olympic gold medal to be won by a British women’s crew.
The British duo had started as strong favourites for the title after dominating the international season and following their heat in which they set a new Olympic best time.
They jumped out to a length lead in the first 500 metres of the 2,000 metre course and controlled the race to win from Australia in silver and New Zealand in bronze amid deafening roars from the grandstands on the lake to the west of London.
“I was so shattered,” Stanning told the BBC. “I’m just so overjoyed - I’m talking rubbish now as well.”
Glover appeared to smile as the pair approached the finish line.
“It was probably a grimace,” she said. “I don’t remember smiling because I never remember thinking we’ve got this.”
British women rowers have won a string of silver and bronze medals in the last three Olympics but have had to wait until their home Games for their first gold since women’s rowing was introduced at the Olympics in 1976.
The 26-year-old Glover and Stanning, 27, were both products of a British recruitment programme to find tall athletes with little prior experience of rowing. They punched the air and grabbed their faces in delight as they went over the line.
The victory in the first final of the Olympic regatta could also be the first of many for the British squad as several other crews including the women’s double and the men’s lightweight four all start as favourites.
Glover and Stanning had mostly rowed under the radar in the build up to the Games, with all the focus on Katherine Grainger who is hunting for her first Olympic gold in the double scull after winning three silvers at consecutive Games.
The performance followed a stunning few years for the pair and reflected the strength of the British system, with Glover only starting to row four years ago after being picked out as someone with potential for her 178 cm height.
Stanning, at 181 cm, started two years before that. She has been given time out of her job at the army to compete at the Games but she is expected to return later this year and could deploy to Afghanistan from next year.
Date created : 2012-08-01