Forget gold, silver shone brighter at Eton Dorny


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The Independent Online

Never mind all those home golds. For those of us based at Eton Dorney, nothing defined the Olympic spirit better than twin images of silver.

Millions were moved by the vivid physical and emotional torments of Zac Purchase and Mark Hunter, foiled so narrowly in the defence of the double sculls gold they won in Beijing. But few can have seen the obverse of the medal that seemed to weigh so heavily upon their necks.

Last Wednesday, a different partnership was thwarted in an even tighter finish - one of bare millimetres - in the men’s double kayak final. With superior momentum, Fernando Pimenta and Emmanuel Silva had flashed over the line alongside the favourites, from Hungary. The Portuguese pair began delirious celebrations, Pimenta hurling himself into the lake. Frame by frame, however, the replay revealed that the leaders had just held out.

We waited, aghast, for their defeat to register. And waited. And we’re still waiting. Pimenta and Silva were so ecstatic to win Portugal’s only medal of the fortnight that they refused to allow the infinitesimal margin to dilute their joy.

As the three pairs went onto the pontoon for the podium ceremony, anyone would assume these jumping, waving, whooping lads had won gold.

 And, even as Britons celebrate winning so much, it is good to be reminded that their priority has always been how the Games are played.