GB's shining stars: The rowers

Mark Hunter and Zac Purchase

Few sporting partnerships are as unlikely as that of Zac Purchase and Mark Hunter. And as the two hugged each other on the winning podium yesterday, having cruised to victory in the lightweight sculling event, hardly anyone outside the world of rowing could have guessed at their different paths to gold.

Hunter, like Steve Redgrave before him, is a man at odds with the elitist image of the discipline. Having grown up in London's East End, Hunter turned his back on the traditional sporting dream of those living within distant earshot of the Bow Bells – success on the pitch at Upton Park – preferring instead to turn to the Thames, where he spent seven years apprenticed as a waterman.

But rowing was to elevate Hunter to a different world – he would eventually replace James Cracknell as captain of the elite Leander club upstream at Henley.

It was here he met Zac Purchase, a public schoolboy more in tune with the boaters-and-blazers image of the sport but who developed a remarkable rapport with the older man.

Hunter and Purchase, who is in line to become Britain's latest sporting pin up, aresaid to never argue. When things get edgy, they sing, either something from Rocky or, if it's really bad, Village People.

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