Awesome Team GB leaves rest of the world behind

Zac Purchase and Mark Hunter won gold in the lightweight double sculls yesterday as Great Britain enjoyed their most successful Olympic regatta for a century and finished top of the rowing medals table. Their final tally of two golds, two silver and two bronze – which saw them finish above Australia – was completed on a dramatic day of contrasting emotions.

Purchase and Hunter ended their unbeaten season with Britain's first British Olympic lightweight medal. They were briefly led by the Italians, but commanded their own fate as usual, from the front with focus and panache. Purchase didn't have to draw his partner's attention to anything during the race. "The only call I remember making was at about 400 metres to go I shouted 'Gold'," he said. At the end, said Hunter, "Everything was burning and I was in a dark place, but I came out the other side of it smiling."

At the other end of the emotional spectrum, China won their first rowing medal yesterday, leaving the British women's quad dead in the water. Katherine Grainger drove her crew into the lead and controlled the race, the Chinese on one side and the Germans on the other, until the last 300 metres. Every move the Chinese made was answered until this point, but then the British crew was drained of its last drop of adrenaline.

Of the dozen British boats, the women's quad carried the most fervent hope of gold. Many would have sacrificed all the other medals for the first gold for a British women's crew. For Annie Vernon, Debbie Flood, Fran Houghton and Katherine Grainger, this was a gold medal lost, not a silver medal gained. They stayed on the water motionless, physically shattered and emotionally crumpled.

Sydney eight years ago and Athens four years ago had the same result for the quad, except that both occasions were joyous. Grainger won her first silver in the Sydney quad and her second in a pair in Athens. The third makes her the only British woman across Olympic sports to win medals at three consecutive games. "We think she's the best in the world," said her mother Liz at the emotional family reunion, "but silvers don't get any better." Her daughter faced the press bravely: "I'm really proud of what I've done. I'm just disappointed with the medal we got, that's all.

The men's eight were persuaded that gold was in reach by their smouldering performance in the heats. In the final, however, they did not get it quite right, and the Canadians stole enough of a lead to answer whatever was thrown at them. So there was some disappointment to cloud the remarkable progress that this eight has made since Mark Banks and John West jointly took over their coaching. "If there's any justice," said cox Acer Nethercott, "they should get medals as well." Alex Partridge, the bow man in the eight who had the misfortune to lose his seat in the Athens coxless four four years ago and the Beijing coxless four four months ago, said: "We've just won an Olympic silver medal, and I just rowed in the most enjoyable crew I ever rowed in, the best nine guys and the best two coaches. I couldn't ask for a better Olympic experience."

Saturday saw two bronzes followed by glorious gold for the coxless four. Stroke Andy Hodge likes to establish a lead as soon as possible, but this time the crew had to dance to Australia's tune for a long way. Hodge left it tantalisingly late to wind up the charge for the line, but Tom James, Steve Williams – the only man remaining from the Athens champion four – and Pete Reed went with him, and they completed a hat-trick in coxless fours which had begun in Sydney.

The double scullers Elise Laverick and Anna Bebington had the best race of their lives, winding up to a jet-propelled finish that would have had yesterday's Chinese quad begging for mercy. It certainly worried the Evers-Swindell twins, Georgina and Caroline, of New Zealand, who retained their Athens Olympic title by 1/100th after catching Annekatrin Thiele and Christiane Huth, of Germany. Laverick and Bebington, who spent the first half of the year being ill or injured, finished a fifth of a second later. Another stroke may have put them in front.

Matt Wells and Stephen Rowbotham followed this with a bronze that was almost silver in the men's event. The sculler Alan Campbell was not strong enough to stay with the single sculls leaders. Olaf Tufte, of Norway, won his second Olympic title, followed by Ondrej Synek, of the Czech Republic, and Drysdale. The lightweight coxless four and the women's eight finished fifth, the latter with two substitutes in yesterday's final due to Natasha Howard's and Alison Knowles' illness.

Suggested Topics
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Kim Wilde began gardening in the 1990s when she moved to the countryside
peopleThe singer is leading an appeal for the charity Thrive, which uses the therapy of horticulture
Alexis Sanchez celebrates scoring a second for Arsenal against Reading
Life and Style
An easy-peel potato; Dave Hax has come up with an ingenious method in food preparation
voicesDave Hax's domestic tips are reminiscent of George Orwell's tea routine. The world might need revolution, but we like to sweat the small stuff, says DJ Taylor
Japan's population is projected to fall dramatically in the next 50 years (Wikimedia)
Caption competition
Caption competition
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Day In a Page

NHS struggling to monitor the safety and efficacy of its services outsourced to private providers

Who's monitoring the outsourced NHS services?

A report finds that private firms are not being properly assessed for their quality of care
Zac Goldsmith: 'I'll trigger a by-election over Heathrow'

Zac Goldsmith: 'I'll trigger a by-election over Heathrow'

The Tory MP said he did not want to stand again unless his party's manifesto ruled out a third runway. But he's doing so. Watch this space
How do Greek voters feel about Syriza's backtracking on its anti-austerity pledge?

How do Greeks feel about Syriza?

Five voters from different backgrounds tell us what they expect from Syriza's charismatic leader Alexis Tsipras
From Iraq to Libya and Syria: The wars that come back to haunt us

The wars that come back to haunt us

David Cameron should not escape blame for his role in conflicts that are still raging, argues Patrick Cockburn
Sam Baker and Lauren Laverne: Too busy to surf? Head to The Pool

Too busy to surf? Head to The Pool

A new website is trying to declutter the internet to help busy women. Holly Williams meets the founders
Heston Blumenthal to cook up a spice odyssey for British astronaut manning the International Space Station

UK's Major Tum to blast off on a spice odyssey

Nothing but the best for British astronaut as chef Heston Blumenthal cooks up his rations
John Harrison's 'longitude' clock sets new record - 300 years on

‘Longitude’ clock sets new record - 300 years on

Greenwich horologists celebrate as it keeps to within a second of real time over a 100-day test
Fears in the US of being outgunned in the vital propaganda wars by Russia, China - and even Isis - have prompted a rethink on overseas broadcasters

Let the propaganda wars begin - again

'Accurate, objective, comprehensive': that was Voice of America's creed, but now its masters want it to promote US policy, reports Rupert Cornwell
Why Japan's incredible long-distance runners will never win the London Marathon

Japan's incredible long-distance runners

Every year, Japanese long-distance runners post some of the world's fastest times – yet, come next weekend, not a single elite competitor from the country will be at the London Marathon
Why does Tom Drury remain the greatest writer you've never heard of?

Tom Drury: The quiet American

His debut was considered one of the finest novels of the past 50 years, and he is every bit the equal of his contemporaries, Jonathan Franzen, Dave Eggers and David Foster Wallace
You should judge a person by how they peel a potato

You should judge a person by how they peel a potato

Dave Hax's domestic tips are reminiscent of George Orwell's tea routine. The world might need revolution, but we like to sweat the small stuff, says DJ Taylor
Beige is back: The drab car colours of the 1970s are proving popular again

Beige to the future

Flares and flounce are back on catwalks but a revival in ’70s car paintjobs was a stack-heeled step too far – until now
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef's dishes highlight the delicate essence of fresh cheeses

Bill Granger cooks with fresh cheeses

More delicate on the palate, milder, fresh cheeses can also be kinder to the waistline
Aston Villa vs Liverpool: 'This FA Cup run has been wonderful,' says veteran Shay Given

Shay Given: 'This FA Cup run has been wonderful'

The Villa keeper has been overlooked for a long time and has unhappy memories of the national stadium – but he is savouring his chance to play at Wembley
Timeless drama of Championship race in league of its own - Michael Calvin

Michael Calvin's Last Word

Timeless drama of Championship race in league of its own