The day my husband struck gold for Britain

The GB supporters' coach pulled into the Schinias rowing course complex at 7.03 on Saturday morning. Through the tinted windows we could see an ominous block of red and white filling the grandstand by the finish line. With their maple-leaf flags, the Canadian fans had beaten us to the course.

The GB supporters' coach pulled into the Schinias rowing course complex at 7.03 on Saturday morning. Through the tinted windows we could see an ominous block of red and white filling the grandstand by the finish line. With their maple-leaf flags, the Canadian fans had beaten us to the course. With over three hours until the men's coxless four final, we hoped it wasn't a sign of things to come.

The Canadian crew would be the main threat to Matt Pinsent's quest for a fourth Olympic gold; Steve Williams and Ed Coode's desire for their first and my husband James Cracknell's attempt at his second. As it transpired, the success of the Canadian supporters would not be matched by their crew.

Sitting in the "Family Grandstand" we were unable to view the screen that showed the race to the bank opposite. Staring at our feet, we listened intently to an English announcer whose delivery evoked local flower shows and village fetes. "Great Britain have taken a short lead," he said which was followed in my mind by, "and starting shortly outside the home baking tent is the sack race relay."

I guess such psychological distractions were my way of coping with the enormous nature of the occasion. The journey from Sydney to Athens has been a tumultuous one, not least because James has changed from rowing on stroke side to bow. This is like David Beckham starting to kick with his left foot after 20 years of perfecting his right. James has mastered his new skill in just four years.

The Canadians and the Brits crossed the line together. I was surrounded by James's family as well as my own and all heads whipped to see the result on the giant digital display. It read "Foto". We held our breath. The officials would be analysing the photo-finish. It was torture. This would be a hard way to win but it would be an even tougher way to lose. Eventually the words "Great Britain" topped the digital display and the crowd leapt into the air. Fists were raised, tears were wiped and sobbing parents hugged one another as the relief swept over us all.

A woman from Radio Five Live appeared with a pass that would allow me into the "mix zone" where the rowers would land. We walked quickly as presenter Nicky Campbell met me with a microphone to capture my breathless, garbled response.

Matt Pinsent's wife Demetra and I were able to sneak beneath the barrier to hug our sweat-soaked husbands. James's eyes were hidden beneath his sunglasses but he was obviously choked up. Demetra said afterwards that she had never seen Matthew so totally exhausted. Rowers are an emotional bunch but even by their standards this was a tearful victory. Ed Coode, James's team-mate and room-mate here in Athens, revealed that my husband had been bursting into tears at various intervals in the previous 48 hours.

Jürgen Grobler spent the week pushing his rowers to their psychological limits, relaying stories of previous champions who were so exhausted that they had to crawl onto the medal podium. "If you can stand for the presentation," he said, "you have not rowed hard enough". Our boys were able to stand on the dais but that was only because they took the liberty of rowing slowly back past the hundreds of British fans who lined the bank. Matt Pinsent slumped in the boat. The intensity of emotion was overwhelming.

Demetra Pinsent spotted me and ran down from the stand. We hugged and in one another's eyes we saw complete understanding of what the other had been through. I then turned to see James carrying our son Croyde on to the presentation area. Matt told James to keep him there while they received their medals but James passed him back to an official. "He can't get on an Olympic podium that easily," he said, "He hasn't earned it... yet."

James's mother-in-law wanted his winner's flowers but he had given them to Cherie Blair. His laurel wreath had been a gift to his drugs tester. After the medal presentation he was whisked away for press conferences and drugs tests. While he was peeing in a bottle, the Turner-Cracknell party headed for the beach and toasted their success over an al fresco lunch.

We all met up again on Saturday evening for a celebration dinner in a Greek taverna. The rowers were tired but happy. We spent the night in the simple hotel room he had been sharing with Ed surrounded by water bottles, half-packed kit bags and mouldy bananas. But in a gesture of romance we pushed the two single beds together.

James compiled an album on his iPod which he called "Final". He listened to it in the hour before the race. It started with some slow-paced Coldplay, moved through Franz Ferdinand, the Red Hot Chilli Peppers and The Strokes before rising to a crescendo typified by The Beastie Boys and The Prodigy. Finally Eminem spoke: "If you had one shot, one opportunity to seize everything you ever wanted - one moment, would you capture it or just let it slip?"

The British rowers answered that question themselves and made a nation proud.

Copyright: Beverley Turner

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Daily Quiz
SPONSORED FEATURES
Independent Dating
and  

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

Day In a Page

The Silk Roads that trace civilisation: Long before the West rose to power, Asian pathways were connecting peoples and places

The Silk Roads that trace civilisation

Long before the West rose to power, Asian pathways were connecting peoples and places
House of Lords: Outcry as donors, fixers and MPs caught up in expenses scandal are ennobled

The honours that shame Britain

Outcry as donors, fixers and MPs caught up in expenses scandal are ennobled
When it comes to street harassment, we need to talk about race

'When it comes to street harassment, we need to talk about race'

Why are black men living the stereotypes and why are we letting them get away with it?
International Tap Festival: Forget Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers - this dancing is improvised, spontaneous and rhythmic

International Tap Festival comes to the UK

Forget Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers - this dancing is improvised, spontaneous and rhythmic
War with Isis: Is Turkey's buffer zone in Syria a matter of self-defence – or just anti-Kurd?

Turkey's buffer zone in Syria: self-defence – or just anti-Kurd?

Ankara accused of exacerbating racial division by allowing Turkmen minority to cross the border
Doris Lessing: Acclaimed novelist was kept under MI5 observation for 18 years, newly released papers show

'A subversive brothel keeper and Communist'

Acclaimed novelist Doris Lessing was kept under MI5 observation for 18 years, newly released papers show
Big Blue Live: BBC's Springwatch offshoot swaps back gardens for California's Monterey Bay

BBC heads to the Californian coast

The Big Blue Live crew is preparing for the first of three episodes on Sunday night, filming from boats, planes and an aquarium studio
Austin Bidwell: The Victorian fraudster who shook the Bank of England with the most daring forgery the world had known

Victorian fraudster who shook the Bank of England

Conman Austin Bidwell. was a heartless cad who carried out the most daring forgery the world had known
Car hacking scandal: Security designed to stop thieves hot-wiring almost every modern motor has been cracked

Car hacking scandal

Security designed to stop thieves hot-wiring almost every modern motor has been cracked
10 best placemats

Take your seat: 10 best placemats

Protect your table and dine in style with a bold new accessory
Ashes 2015: Alastair Cook not the only one to be caught in The Oval mindwarp

Cook not the only one to be caught in The Oval mindwarp

Aussie skipper Michael Clarke was lured into believing that what we witnessed at Edgbaston and Trent Bridge would continue in London, says Kevin Garside
Can Rafael Benitez get the best out of Gareth Bale at Real Madrid?

Can Benitez get the best out of Bale?

Back at the club he watched as a boy, the pressure is on Benitez to find a winning blend from Real's multiple talents. As La Liga begins, Pete Jenson asks if it will be enough to stop Barcelona
Athletics World Championships 2015: Beijing witnesses new stage in the Jessica Ennis-Hill and Katarina Johnson-Thompson heptathlon rivalry

Beijing witnesses new stage in the Jess and Kat rivalry

The last time the two British heptathletes competed, Ennis-Hill was on the way to Olympic gold and Johnson-Thompson was just a promising teenager. But a lot has happened in the following three years
Jeremy Corbyn: Joining a shrewd operator desperate for power as he visits the North East

Jeremy Corbyn interview: A shrewd operator desperate for power

His radical anti-austerity agenda has caught the imagination of the left and politically disaffected and set a staid Labour leadership election alight
Isis executes Palmyra antiquities chief: Defender of ancient city's past was killed for protecting its future

Isis executes Palmyra antiquities chief

Robert Fisk on the defender of the ancient city's past who was killed for protecting its future