New Zealand’s Eric Murray and Hamish Bond capped an eight-year unbeaten run with their second consecutive Olympic gold medal, putting the finishing touches on a stunning eight-year, 69-race run that includes six world titles and two Olympic wins
"It's just a lot of relief, it was pretty tough conditions out there and the expectations we put on ourselves are so high," Murray told WorldRowing.
"It's just about going out and winning every race," added Bond. "We're proud in our performance and we don't want to let anyone down. To be honest the results are decided in the work we do before we even get here."
Finishing second behind New Zealand was surprise medalists South Africa. South Africa crew member Lawrence Brittain was diagnosed with Hodgkin’s Disease in 2014, but came back to training with partner Shaun Keeling in time to make the Rio Games. Italy's Giovanni Abbagnale and Marco Di Costanzo captured the bronze, the first medal for Italy in this event since 1948.
A total of 15 different countries reached the podium on the first day of the rowing finals, surprising a few observers who had expected a more one-sided medal picture. Only Germany (two gold), Lithuania (silver and bronze) and Poland (gold and bronze) claimed more than one medal today.
Poland's Magdalena Fularczyk-Kozlowska and Natalia Madaj won the women’s double sculls with a big sprint over Great Britain’s Kath Grainger and Vicky Thornley, with Lithuania's Donata Vistartaite and Milda Valciukaite in third place.
For Great Britain’s Grainger, this silver medal, her gold medal in London 2012, and the three silver medals she won in 2008, 2004 and 2000 makes her Great Britain’s most decorated living Olympian.
"There are many days nobody would have thought we would come away with anything," Grainger told WorldRowing. "To be honest this partnership has kept me going. Everyone on the team has made it worthwhile. You do it for yourself, for each other, for the country. That is the most incredible job we get to do."
Racing in this final, the U.S. women’s double sculls team of Ellen Tomek and Meghan O’Leary could not repeat the magic of their semifinal, when they unpacked a monster finish to claim a spot in the finals ahead of the two-time defending world champions, New Zealand. Tomek and O’Leary faded out of contention into sixth place early in the race.
The Croatian brothers Valent and Martin Sinkovic survived a strong race from Lithuania to claim the gold medal in the men’s double sculls. Lithuania's Mindaugas Griskonis and Saulius Ritter claimed the silver, and Norway, with six-time Olympian Olaf Tufte and new partner Kjetil Borch aboard, took bronze.
This medal is Tufte’s fourth Olympic medal dating back to the 2000 Sydney Games.
Germany bagged the country’s first medals in rowing with strong rows in the men’s and women’s quadruple sculls, capturing two gold medals in the first two Olympic finals of the day. The German men, who had raced poorly throughout 2016 and only qualified for the medal final via the repechage, were ecstatic with their result.
The German men defeated Australia and Estonia to claim the gold and repeat their win from London 2012, while the German women stormed through Poland into the lead in the last 250 meters of the race for the win. The Netherlands claimed silver and Poland claimed bronze.
The quadruple sculls are a German specialty; the German women have never missed a medal in this competition, dating back to 1992.
The U.S. women’s quad of Adrienne Martelli, Megan Kalmoe, Tracy Eisser and Grace Latz rowed a strong race, but could not match the speed of the top boats, ultimately finishing fifth.
Switzerland took gold in the lightweight men’s four, ahead of Denmark and France.
A tremendous semifinal race from the U.S. lightweight men’s double Andrew Campbell and Josh Konieczny propelled them to the Olympic gold medal race on Friday, just behind the reigning world champs, Jeremie Azou and Pierre Houin of France. The Americans became the first U.S. crew to advance to the gold medal final in the history of the event.
The U.S. were the second-fastest qualifiers in the event, and should be considered medal contenders. Ireland, South Africa, Norway and Poland also qualified for Friday’s medal race.
The U.S. men’s eight won their repechage with a very strong race ahead of the Netherlands and New Zealand and qualified for Saturday’s gold medal race. With their performance today, the U.S. should be considered a medal threat.
The gold-medal favorites in the women’s pair, Great Britain’s Heather Stanning and Helen Glover, rebounded from a subpar showing in the opening heat to dominate their semifinal, ahead of U.S. medal hopefuls Grace Luczak and Felice Mueller. Glover and Stanning posted the fastest qualifying time today, with the U.S. just behind them. Both crews will race in the gold-medal final on Friday, along with Denmark, who won their semifinal, South Africa, New Zealand and Spain.
Denmark, New Zealand and Spain also qualified for Friday’s medal final.
Huge disappointment for the U.S. men’s four of Seth Weil, Matt Miller, Henrik Rummel and Charlie Cole, who dropped out of contention late in their semifinal to finish fourth, one place out of qualification for the medal final. The crew will race in the B-final final for Olympic places 7-12 on Friday.
Favorites Great Britain, who have won four straight gold medals in this event going back to the 2000 Sydney Olympics qualified easily, as did medal contenders Australia and Italy, along with Canada, South Africa and the Netherlands.
In the lightweight women’s double sculls, South Africa, New Zealand, China, the Netherlands, Canada and Ireland qualified for the medal final. The U.S. crew of Kate Bertko and Devery Karz could not get tracked in their semifinal, falling to fifth place. The U.S. will also row in the B-final for Olympic places 7-12 on Friday.