GB Four win Rowing gold but shock fourth for Aggar at Eton Dorney
8 months ago
Britain’s rowers claimed one gold medal from their three finals at Eton Dorney on Sunday, when Pamela Relph, Naomi Riches, Dave Smith, James Roe and cox Lily van den Broecke overcame equipment failure to win the mixed Coxed Four.
But there was a shock defeat for defending champion Tom Aggar (pictured below), whose five-year unbeaten record in Paralympic rowing came to an end when he could finish only fourth in the single Scull.
Aggar went to the start line knowing he had a fight on his hands after Huang Cheng of China set a world best of four minutes 45.02 seconds for the 1km course in the heats.
Russia's Aleksey Chuvashev took the lead off the start, tracked by Huang with the Chinese overhauling him at half way. Aggar was third, still in contention and only half a canvas down on the lead, with Erik Horrie of Australia pressing hard.
Regular watchers of Aggar were unfazed at this point knowing the second half is normally his strength. Today, though, his trademark finish was not there and Huang took gold in 4:52.36 with Horrie in silver and Chuvashev third.
Aggar, who finished fourth in 4:58.08, said he simply hadn’t felt like himself. “I’m devastated,” admitted the 28 year old Londoner after his first taste of defeat since he started rowing in 2007. “Going in I was the favourite on paper and had great preparation. But when I asked for more today, it just wasn’t there.
“The standard has moved on massively and I just wasn’t myself today. I will be back. I’m a fighter through and through.”
There was disappointment for Nick Beighton and Sam Scowen too. After winning yesterday's repechage, they had hoped to get among the medals in the mixed Double Scull but were also left adrift in fourth by strong Chinese rowers.
China’s Lou Xiaoxian and Fei Tianming led from 300m and took gold ahead of French duo Perle Bouge and Stephane Tardieu while USA’s Oksana Masters and Rob Jones pipped the British duo for bronze after a three-way battle with Australia.
Scowen, who learnt to row on the course at Eton Dorney, said: “I didn't expect to get to a Paralympic final but I'm gutted to miss out on a medal by such a small margin.”
“It’s bittersweet,” added Beighton. “We are so proud of what we have achieved. We have worked so hard. You always aim for the top and we gave it everything. You win some, you lose some. When you put it all in perspective, we’ve achieved a huge amount.”
I can't believe how proud I am of this crewLily van den Broecke
With two fourth places, it was left to the Van den Broecke-coxed quartet of Relph, Riches, Smith and Roe to bring some cheer to the starved Dorney fans.
The Britons took gold at last year's World Championships in Bled and again in this year's World Cup at Munich but knew they faced a tough race against the Canadian and German teams. As if to make their task harder, they suffered what Van den Broecke called an "equipment failure" in warm-up when their speed coach, which shows stroke rate, fell in the water.
Without their usual full preparation, GB had to come from behind after Germany got off to a flyer. The Britons responded superbly, however, and took the lead after halfway. The Germans applied pressure at the end but the GB boat held on to win by half a length lead in 3:19.38.
Londoner Van den Broecke said she was amazed at how the crew had pulled it off after their warm-up mishap. “I can’t believe how proud I am of this crew for keeping everything together,” she said. “This is two years’ work and it’s incredible.”
For Roe, who lives in Caversham, their pre-race problems meant the race was "all a bit of a blur". “We had a few interruptions on the way to the start but kept our focus and stuck to the plan,” he said. “We had confidence in what we could do.”
For Aylesbury’s Relph, it was an overwhelming experience. “I can’t believe that this season is over and we did exactly what we needed to do,” said the 22 year old. “I am blown away by the crowd and so proud of my crew.”
Smith, from Aviemore, added: “This is the best day of my life. It is going to take a long time to sink in.”
Riches, a Londoner, said: “I just heard somebody say the word Paralympic champion. We choose to be athletes and now all the moments of pain and the hours of training have been worth it.”
- For detailed results, click the Results tab at the top of the page
- For more news and pictures from London 2012, go to the ParalympicsGB website: www.paralympics.org.uk/gb