British duo storm to victory at Eton Dorney

 

THE FIREWORK smoke of a brief night had barely dispersed before they were gathering at Eton Dorney in their thousands, ready to urge their first plausible champions over the sparkling water – and the British rowers, drawn into a funnel of noise, reciprocated with coruscations of their own.

Hailed as the strongest home fleet assembled since Trafalgar, they launched a flagship into their very first skirmish. For Helen Glover and Heather Stanning to draw the opening heat of the regatta had suggested a benign overall destiny, and the hot favourites for the women’s pair promptly obliged with an Olympic record.

And if they were able to dominate their pursuers in nearly perfunctory fashion, their male compatriots were inspired, palpably, to dig deep. The lightweight four rallied for a brilliant win after the Australians tried to break them from the front; in the pair, there was a breakthrough success for George Nash and Will Satch; while the way the eight were closing late permitted hope for revenge on Germany, assuming they qualify from Monday’s repechage. There was also a routine solo qualification from Alan Campbell – completing a great day for Coleraine, after the work of the Chambers brothers in the lightweight four.

But it was Glover and Stanning who set the tone, confirming their eligibility to become the first female rowers to win Olympic gold for Britain. Their final is on Wednesday, two days before Anna Watkins and Katherine Grainger will be fancied for the double sculls.

After the line, as their pursuers slumped exhausted in their seats, Glover and Stanning were already rowing off to the jetty, evincing a decided air that even 6 mins 57.29 secs had merely been means to an end. But if times are not especially cherished, being so contingent on conditions, then it surely counted for something that the Australian winners of the second heat took over four seconds longer.

“It gave me butterflies, the noise from the crowd,” Glover said. “It made me feel really proud. Never underestimate how much difference each person cheering can make. You sit up quite tall. The Americans are definitely an up-and-coming crew, and they were in the lane beside us pushing hard, but I think we felt quite controlled through our race.”

Stanning revealed that their coach, Robin Williams, had attempted to prepare them for the din – some of it, evidently, traceable to friends of her brother, Martin, who were starting his stag party here. “Robin has been trying to put us off in training, shouting random stuff on a megaphone,” she said. “We’re going to enjoy the noise, not be distracted by it.”

The positive energy, however, could be spread through the entire team. “The first race of a regatta is always a marker for how the last few weeks’ training have gone,” Glover said. “And there’s a really big feel of support in the camp. The fact that we’re all on similar programmes will hopefully make people think: ‘They’re in a good place, we’re in a good place.’”

She was quickly vindicated in that belief. Young Satch put it well. “Normally it’s your mum and the dog watching,” he said. “Here, with the noise getting louder and louder, it almost feels like the pain is being taken away from you.”

Certainly the eight’s strong finish emboldened their cox, Phelan Hill, to predict better still. “Remember this was a first race together for this combination,” he said. “Everyone is now in the seat where they belong.” And much the same, judging from their exultant contribution, might be said of some 25,000 spectators – thought to comprise the biggest crowd in rowing history. “I would have said Karapiro, at the 2010 world championship, set the benchmark,” Hill said. “But this has taken it to another level. With stands on both sides, there’s a wall of noise. The buzz is absolutely amazing.”

News
peoplePair enliven the Emirates bore-draw
Arts and Entertainment
tvPoldark episode 8, review
News
Britain's opposition Labour Party leader Ed Miliband (R) and Boris Johnson, mayor of London, talk on the Andrew Marr show in London April 26
General electionAndrew Marr forced to intervene as Boris and Miliband clash on TV
Arts and Entertainment
Ramsay Bolton in Game of Thrones
tvSeries 5, Episode 3 review
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
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
and  

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

Day In a Page

Not even the 'putrid throat' could stop the Ross Poldark swoon-fest'

Not even the 'putrid throat' could stop the Ross Poldark swoon-fest'

How a costume drama became a Sunday night staple
Miliband promises no stamp duty for first-time buyers as he pushes Tories on housing

Miliband promises no stamp duty for first-time buyers

Labour leader pushes Tories on housing
Aviation history is littered with grand failures - from the the Bristol Brabazon to Concorde - but what went wrong with the SuperJumbo?

Aviation history is littered with grand failures

But what went wrong with the SuperJumbo?
Fear of Putin, Islamists and immigration is giving rise to a new generation of Soviet-style 'iron curtains' right across Europe

Fortress Europe?

Fear of Putin, Islamists and immigration is giving rise to a new generation of 'iron curtains'
Never mind what you're wearing, it's what you're reclining on

Never mind what you're wearing

It's what you're reclining on that matters
General Election 2015: Chuka Umunna on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband

Chuka Umunna: A virus of racism runs through Ukip

The shadow business secretary on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband
Yemen crisis: This exotic war will soon become Europe's problem

Yemen's exotic war will soon affect Europe

Terrorism and boatloads of desperate migrants will be the outcome of the Saudi air campaign, says Patrick Cockburn
Marginal Streets project aims to document voters in the run-up to the General Election

Marginal Streets project documents voters

Independent photographers Joseph Fox and Orlando Gili are uploading two portraits of constituents to their website for each day of the campaign
Game of Thrones: Visit the real-life kingdom of Westeros to see where violent history ends and telly tourism begins

The real-life kingdom of Westeros

Is there something a little uncomfortable about Game of Thrones shooting in Northern Ireland?
How to survive a social-media mauling, by the tough women of Twitter

How to survive a Twitter mauling

Mary Beard, Caroline Criado-Perez, Louise Mensch, Bunny La Roche and Courtney Barrasford reveal how to trounce the trolls
Gallipoli centenary: At dawn, the young remember the young who perished in one of the First World War's bloodiest battles

At dawn, the young remember the young

A century ago, soldiers of the Empire – many no more than boys – spilt on to Gallipoli’s beaches. On this 100th Anzac Day, there are personal, poetic tributes to their sacrifice
Dissent is slowly building against the billions spent on presidential campaigns – even among politicians themselves

Follow the money as never before

Dissent is slowly building against the billions spent on presidential campaigns – even among politicians themselves, reports Rupert Cornwell
Samuel West interview: The actor and director on austerity, unionisation, and not mentioning his famous parents

Samuel West interview

The actor and director on austerity, unionisation, and not mentioning his famous parents
General Election 2015: Imagine if the leading political parties were fashion labels

Imagine if the leading political parties were fashion labels

Fashion editor, Alexander Fury, on what the leaders' appearances tell us about them
Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka: Home can be the unsafest place for women

Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka: Home can be the unsafest place for women

The architect of the HeForShe movement and head of UN Women on the world's failure to combat domestic violence