It would be woefully parochial to trace the glory of the bronze medals won by British oarsmen yesterday only to a flourishing home camp. The bigger picture instead implores due congratulation to Alan Campbell, George Nash and Will Satch for the company they kept, not round the breakfast table, but on the lake itself.
For all three gained immense distinction in sharing a podium with champions from New Zealand quite outstanding in their disciplines. The emerging young pair of Nash and Satch can certainly look forward to a day when those blond Titans, Hamish Bond and Eric Murray, rest upon their laurels; while Campbell palpably gave his all behind Mahe Drysdale in the single sculls.
The Ulsterman could barely speak or stand even as he was summoned to the medals ceremony, touchingly helped on his way by Sir Steve Redgrave. His attempts to apologise to BBC viewers had evinced not just a temporary loss of bearings, but heroic ambition. By the time he reached the press conference, however, he had accepted that even the runner-up, Ondrej Synek, set an epoch-making standard; that he had dug deep in his bronze duel with Lassi Karonen; and that it had been a remarkable week for Coleraine, after the Chambers brothers shared silver the previous day.
"Mahe and Ondrej are two of the best to set foot in a boat," Campbell said. "I can hold my head up high and know I did all I possibly could today. It's another medal for our wee part of the country, and I'm hugely proud for Northern Ireland. The crowd really did lift me. It's almost shocking, the wall of noise."
Up front, things had been no less gruelling. "It was very, very tight," Drysdale said. "I saw Ondrej come at me and hoped he didn't have a sprint as I had nothing left. I was just counting the strokes and hoping the line would come before Ondrej did."
His compatriots, Murray and Bond, are unbeaten in four years and duly proved in a class of their own. Nash and Satch eventually ran out of steam in a plucky silver challenge to France, but finished clear of the rest and are on the road to Rio.
"Six months ago I thought I was coming here as a spare," Satch admitted. "And we were probably up against the best boat at this Olympics."
The British could only manage fifth in the men quadruple sculls, where the Croatian favourites were thwarted by another front-running German crew – adding a second gold to that won on Wednesday by the men's eight.Reuse content