Steve Redgrave led his team-mates Matthew Pinsent, Tim Foster and James Cracknell in a silent tribute to Diana, Princess of Wales, after they won the world championship coxless fours here yesterday. The British four wore black ribbons on their uniforms and started the race just after a moment of silence was held at the request of the British, Australian and Canadian teams at the time of the conclusion of the funeral service in Westminster Abbey.
Redgrave, who won a world title for the seventh time, seemed especially upset during the awarding of the medals. Then, during the playing of the national anthem, the four bowed their heads and stood silently with their hands behind their back as the Union Flag was raised to half-mast, below the flags of second-placed France and third-placed Romania.
Redgrave explained the team's feelings: "Back at the hotel, we saw the Princess's coffin and the thousands and thousands of people lining the streets. It made what we were doing a little bit insignificant in some respects. It was a last-minute decision to keep our heads down. It seemed to us the least we could do given the circumstances."
Earlier, at the time that the Princess's funeral was beginning, Britain's Susan Walker, Alexandra Beever, Elisabeth Henshilwood and Lisa Eyre were being presented with the gold medals as the winners of the women's coxless fours. They too wore black ribbons and were sombre as the Union Flag was raised to half-mast.
The medals were presented by Britain's Michael Williams, the treasurer of the International Rowing Federation, who also wore a black ribbon, as did most of the British fans at this lake in eastern France.
The mood overshadowed a day on which Britain's rowers returned a record haul of five medals from eight finals. To add to the two golds, there were silvers for the men's lightweight eight and the women's double scullers and a bronze for Greg Searle in the single scull.
The men's coxless four were never seriously challenged. They took a three- quarter length advantage in the first 500 metres, watched the race for silver and bronze develop behind them, and led by the same margin at the line. Redgrave was even able to call on the crew to "steady" in the last 500 metres.
The women's coxless four were drawn in the outside lane and had to race back from fourth place after 500 metres. The early pace was set by the vastly experienced Romanians who were part of the winning Olympic women's eights team.
At half way their margin was almost two seconds. With the rest of the field dropping back, Eyre and Henshilwood in the stern were cool enough not to vary their rhythm or to change the race pattern. They reduced the gap slightly until, with 350 metres to go, they found the Romanians slipping back. The British four held their nerve to drive on and win with superb confidence.
Gillian Lindsay and Miriam Batten in the double scull were also fourth after the start and relied on a wonderful mid-race effort to wear down another Romanian crew. In front, the German pair with the hugely experienced Kathrin Boron at stroke were never allowed to get away and in the final 500 metres the British crew took one and a half seconds off the field to pip the Romanians for silver.
The men's lightweight eight were unlucky to lose gold to Australia on the line, but had lost 2.5 sec in the middle when Australia made their move.
Searle came here with much to race for in the single scull, but despite a tremendous late effort could take only bronze behind the American James Koven.
Join our new commenting forum
Join thought-provoking conversations, follow other Independent readers and see their replies