The Team GB coxless four secured a sensational fifth consecutive Olympic title on a memorable day at the Lagoa Stadium.
Following on just 10 minutes from Heather Stanning and Helen Glover’s historic success in the women’s pair, the British quartet held off great rivals Australia to clinch GB’s second rowing gold of the Games.
Bow Alex Gregory was the only remaining member of the victorious London 2012 crew, teaming up with Mohamed Sbihi, George Nash and Constantine Louloudis for the Olympic year.
The crew had been unbeaten all season, winning European gold in May and progressing through the heats and the semi-finals in Rio with relative ease.
Last year’s World Championship silver medallists Australia had been similarly dominant in their two races to reach the final in Rio, setting up one of the most exciting clashes of the regatta.
But it was the Brits who took gold in a tremendous final, leading through all three 500m markers before finishing in 5:58.61 with Australia in silver on 6:00.44.
“I’m really pleased, for these guys and for the whole project really. It’s a great crew to be part of,” said Nash.
“They [the Australians] were really aggressive and took it to us. We were trading blows. But in that last 500m, we had that knockout blow. We do practice that a bit in training and you feel when it’s a hot one and when it’s going well.
“It felt like every stroke was going nicely with a lot of power behind it.”
Gregory added: “We got off to a really good start and we were up straight away.
“That was what we were most nervous about, whether our starts were equalling the Aussies or not, because we hadn’t met them yet.
“So that gave a boost of confidence for me, being the most distance from them in the bow seat. It was a great position to be in.
“They came back to us coming through the 1km, but I had this sense of confidence, this sense that we were just waiting to move. That’s the thing you build up over a year of racing together – this sense of knowledge and belief in each other and knowing what they can do.”
While Gregory is the only crew member of the London 2012 team, head coach Jürgen Grobler has been a constant between the two Games, and the 32-year old from Wormington was quick to pay credit to the German.
“Every day in training, when Jürgen asks for something, we do it,” said Gregory.
“He gives us a lot of confidence. When we had our pre-race chat, it wasn’t anything special. It was just calm. It was a normal day out there on the lake. And that’s one of the battles you have in you mind.
“You’ve been working towards this for four years, every day bar none. And then you come here and Jürgen does the pre-race chat and it’s like you’re going out to do a training piece or a race in Lucerne. That gives you confidence because you know you’ve done it all year and you can do it again today.”