For the reigning champions in pairs, Steven Redgrave and Matthew Pinsent, the semi-final is the biggest banana skin of any campaign, even for a crew with 57 victories behind them in the last four years.
The United States pair, coached for most of the year by Mike Spracklen who took Redgrave to his first two Olympic golds, gave the home crowd a thrill by leading to half-way but a 10-stroke flourish put the British in front and then cruised home watching the scrap for the other two qualifying places. Redgrave goes into his fifth Olympic final on Saturday, seeking his fourth successive gold.
The men's coxless four with the Searle brothers, also Olympic champions, in the middle of the boat, was tested in the first 500m but found a sharp, light, attacking rhythm in the middle 1,000m of the race and moved into the lead after half-way and led Romania and Slovenia over the line in aggressive style, satisfied that Italy, the favourites had been beaten by France in the other semi-final.
Guin Batten was six seconds behind Lipa in the first quarter but the gap did not increase in the second 500m The Dane Trine Hansen began to attack Lipa for the lead, while Batten rating 331/2 strokes to the minute was creeping up in lane one. The gentle head breeze suited the former shot-putter and Lipa, 31, began to look ragged.
With 500m to go, Ruth Davidon of the United States also began to struggle and Batten, one length behind, had a target. She raised her rate once again and although Davidon recovered, Lipa was collapsing and when Batten caught her 100m from the finish, her reign was over.
Peter Haining, the Loch Lomond lightweight sculler who thrilled the crowd by pulling himself into the top dozen of the open weights never got into his semi-final race. "Three races if four days is just too much for a man my size," he said.Reuse content