Remembering Sydney: Men’s eight bring an end to 88-year wait

It’s 16 years since the Sydney Olympic Games, when Team GB returned from Australia with 11 golds, 10 silvers and seven bronze medals, which back then was our most successful Games since 1920. It was the first Games that Team GB athletes had benefitted from National Lottery funding, following its introduction in 1997.

With Team GB’s men’s eight taking gold in Rio – their third successive podium finish – not to mention the women’s boat clinching a first ever Olympic medal with silver, it’s easy to forget that Britain has not always enjoyed such success on the waves when it comes to the blue-riband event.

Coming into Sydney 2000, Team GB had not toasted victory in the men’s eight since the Leander crew beat the fellow British boat from New College at Stockholm 1912.

But that all changed on the waters of Penrith Lakes in the closing race of the Sydney 2000 Olympic Regatta.

Made up of Andrew Lindsay, Ben Hunt-Davis, Simon Dennis, Louis Attrill, Luka Grubor, Kieran West, Fred Scarlett, Steve Trapmore and Rowley Douglas, the Team GB crew had certainly not had it easy to reach the final, losing to the Aussie eight in their opening heat and having to work their way through repechages.

But if they had been caught cold in their heat, there was certainly no repeat in the final as they exacted sweet revenge on the Australians with a performance widely regarded to be one of the most powerful displays of eights rowing of all time.

Having grabbed an early lead the Brits – world silver medalists the year before –  maintained the advantage all the way to the line but they were made to sweat as the chasing pack, led by the Aussies, closed in on them.

But hang on they did with Trapmore reliving the golden moment.

He said: “We were wound up like a bull before he goes into the ring to meet the matador. As a group, we just decided that this was going to be our day, and that is what happened.

“Going into the last 500 metres where the public grandstand began, I just couldn't believe the noise levels. It was so loud I couldn't even hear the cox. His face was bright red and his veins were bulging out but I could only see his mouth moving up and down.”

The determination to win was seemingly infectious with Scarlett also revealing the confidence in the boat.

He said: “We knew we were in front. We were just going as fast as we could. We knew we'd get it."

Of the crew who won gold in Sydney, just one – West – remained four years later as the boat failed to retain their title, finishing third in the B final while West himself eventually retired in 2007.

Lindsay announced his retirement post Sydney to pursue a career in business while it was also a last international rowing race for Hunt-Davis who went into motivational speaking.

Attrill and Dennis each trained on until 2001 but could only help the boat to a fifth-place finish at the World Championships, with the latter having since going into biology teaching.

Gruber continued to row internationally  for another two years and bowed out of the sport after winning his only World Championship gold medal (in the coxed four) in 2002 – the crew also contained Sydney teammates West and Trapmore with the latter seeing his rowing career prematurely ended by a back injury a year later. He subsequently switched to coaching and was appointed head coach of Cambridge University Boat Club in 2010.

And finally, cox Douglas worked in finance post Sydney before announcing in 2010 what would eventually prove an unsuccessful bid to make the team for London 2012.

Sportsbeat 2016