British rowers took two gold medals and a silver yesterday in a dramatic final day at Eton Dorney. Wins for the women's lightweight double sculls and the men's coxless four, together with silver in the men's double sculls, took the British team's rowing medal tally to a total of nine. London 2012 has been British rowing's most successful Olympics, with four gold, two silver and three bronze medals. It eclipses the previous best result at Beijing in 2008, when the British won two gold, two silver and two bronze medals.
Peter Reed, Alex Gregory, Tom James and Andy Triggs-Hodge took the rowing team's fourth successive gold by beating the Australian team as the rain began to fall.
"It took us four years to make that. It was our masterpiece," said an exuberant Triggs-Hodge after the race. "Four years of training every day, pulling out everything we had. I'm the happiest man in the world. I've been blessed with these guys, I've been blessed with the support of my family and my wife. I'm on cloud nine."
The win was made more impressive by last-minute crew changes by head coach Jurgen Grobler. It is the fourth Games in a row that Team GB have won the event, equalling the number of golds won during a period of British dominance in the event between 1908 and 1932 and East Germany between 1968 and 1980.
In the women's double sculls, Katherine Copeland and Sophie Hosking took gold by beating China by two seconds and left world champions Greece trailing in third. It was the third Olympic gold medal in these Games for female rowers. After finishing, Copeland had a look of stunned disbelief. "I can't believe this is real, that we just won," she said. "We just won the Olympics. We're going to be on a stamp tomorrow," she said. Gold medallists are to be commemorated with their picture on a first-class stamp.
"I've been trying all week not to think about it because it's made me cry every time. I know this isn't the Oscars, but can I just say thanks to my mum and dad because we've been through some bumps and I don't know if they always wanted me to just row all the time."
The last final of the day proved the most dramatic and controversial. Mark Hunter and Zac Purchase, in the men's double sculls, came close to being disqualified when Hunter held his seat above his head to signal problems with their boat.
A technical hitch involving a small, metal clip under the bow seat threatened to scupper the pair's chances of a medal. Crucially, the incident occurred inside the first 100m, allowing for a re-start.
However the good fortune of Hunter and Purchase ran out with 500m to go, despite their leading for most of the race. The Danish team, which GB had beaten in Beijing four years ago, narrowly took the gold in a nail-biting finale.
"We wanted this race so badly," said Hunter. "Sorry to everyone that we've let down." Purchase said: "We did the best race we could. I just wish we could have been a bit quicker."