British foursome continue Redgrave’s legacy

Rowing Lightweight Fours

All British rowers live in the shadow of Steven Redgrave, one of the most revered Olympians of the modern era.

Redgrave won gold medals at five consecutive Olympic Games, his glorious career at the highest level ending with the coxless fours victory at the Sydney Games of 2000.

With Redgrave retired and another giant of British rowing in the team, Matthew Pinsent the coxless fours retained the title with a stunning row in Athens four years later.

The weight of history pressed heavily on the shoulders of the four rowers who attempted to make it a hat-trick of golds in 2008 at the Olympic Games in Beijing.

Only Steve Williams remained from the quartet which won gold in 2004, and this time Andy Hodge, Peter Reed and Tom James were his team-mates.

Where the success of Redgrave’s boats had been based on metronomic, high-velocity pace, the British crew at the Shunyi Rowing-Canoeing Park were eventually forced to rely on a lung-bursting surge in the second half of the final to secure their gold.

The team had endured an inconsistent season with Hodge and James suffering injuries which meant the first time the top four had started a race together was in Beijing.

Under the watchful eye of coach Jurgen Grobler, the four progressed serenely through the heats and semi-finals to book their place in the six-boat shootout for gold.

The main competition was expected to come from Australia, whom the British boat had beaten handsomely in the semi-finals, and Slovenia.

However nobody expected the Australian four to go out at quite the pace they did. The quartet surged to almost a boat length clear by the halfway stage and British hopes of a third straight success looked forlorn.

However a superbly timed surge cut the deficit down and with 200m to go it was clear the British momentum was going to carry them home.

As the Australian four tired, Britain made the front in the final section of the race and eventually ran out winners by over a second.

The foursome were at a loss as to explain where they had summoned the reserves of energy for the push over the last 250m, and Redgrave, working as an analyst for TV, was as proud as any of the hundreds of vocal supporters who lined the course as another British gold was secured.