Katharine Grainger became Great Britain’s most successful female Olympian when she and Vicky Thornley won silver in the women’s double sculls in Rio.
Grainger secured her fifth Olympic Games medal to put her one ahead of the swimmer Rebecca Adlington and it was so nearly gold. The GB pair led for 1,900m of the 2,000m course, only to tire in the last 100m and be pipped by Poland.
Magdalena Fularczyk-Kozlowska and Natalia Madaj powered through to win in 7min:40.10sec, with Great Britain second in 7:41.05 and Lithuania third in 7:43.76.
Grainger was given a close run for her medals by the 1920s tennis player Kitty McKane Godfree who also has five medals but the rower slightly shades it on quality with one gold and four silver compared to a gold, two silvers and two bronzes.
The wind had picked up and Lago de Freitas was increasingly choppy but the 40-year-old Grainger’s journey to make it to Rio was far rougher.
Two years ago she came out of retirement, the lure of adding to her one Olympic gold and three Olympic silvers dating back to the 2000 Games in Sydney too hard to resist. She struggled to recapture her form or the chemistry she had shared with Anna Watkins when she was paired with Thornley.
Things got so bad that earlier this summer, after the pair struggled horribly in the double sculls at the European Championships, they decided to jump ship to try to qualify for Rio via the women’s eight because that was considered a more reliable bet for an Olympic medal.
The attempt failed when they were deemed not fast enough following a controversial hand-timed time trial and there were also pointed criticisms of the head women’s coach, Paul Thompson, from Thornley’s partner, the former Olympic medallist Richard Egington.
After returning to the double sculls with their tails between their legs few gave them much a hope in Rio but they have improved round by round and fully deserved their silver medal.
Germany’s quadruple sculls team won the first gold medal of the regatta after blasting out of the gates and holding off Australia and Estonia, who finished with silver and bronze. GB’s team of Jack Beaumont, Sam Townsend, Angus Groom and Peter Lambert were fifth.
There was no medal joy either for the Britain’s men’s pair of Alan Sinclair and Stewart Innes, who could finished fourth behind the brilliant New Zealand boat of Eric Murray and Hamish Bond. Sinclair and Innes started slowly and were fifth after 500m. But between 500m and 1500m they put in an almighty spurt that moved them into second, only for their energy levels to plummet. Soon the South Africans in lane one were overtaking and then the Italians in lane three. No wonder Sinclair and Innes had their heads in their hands at the finish.
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