Helen Glover and Heather Stanning became Team GB’s first female rowing champions at consecutive Olympic Games as they stormed to gold in the women’s pair.
The Brits are one of the most dominant crews in world rowing, having gone unbeaten for 39 races including winning Olympic gold at London 2012 as well as the world titles in 2014 and 2015, and the European crowns in 2015 and 2016.
It was no cakewalk for the champions elect as New Zealand’s Genevieve Behrent and Rebecca Scown fought back from five seconds down at the half way 1km mark to put pressure on the Brits.
But Glover and Stanning held on to cross in 7:18.29 and claim Team GB’s first rowing gold of Rio 2016, with the Kiwis second on 7:19.53.
And Glover insisted defending their Olympic title had been their greatest achievement yet.
“When you become Olympic champion once, it’s something you feel like you’ve managed to do,” said the 29-year old from Penzance.
“You’ve managed to put in the number of races and amount of training you need to win an Olympic title.
“But when you set your sights four years in advance and it’s not managing to do it but to defend your title is something very, very special.
“The first time we did it, it took a long time to realise we were Olympic champions and it was all new to us. This time round, we crossed the line and we were 2016 champions and we felt like that straight away.
“It’s that real realisation and I think we both felt it more this time round. This was a bigger feeling than even at a home Games – it’s amazing.
“We feel privileged to be able to do this. It’s a privilege to represent your country, race the best in the world and do it for a living.”
Stanning took a break from the sport after London 2012, returning to her partnership with Glover in 2014 as they targeted the defence of their crown.
And the 31-year old from Lossiesmith paid tribute to the pairs’ coach Robin Williams for helping them realise their dream.
“Without Robin [Williams], we wouldn’t be the crew we are,” said Stanning.
“He’s 100% the third person in that boat so thank you to him for everything.
“We’ve worked very hard to get this record and to be where we are. We’ve had some fantastic opposition over the years.
“It’s a tough event and you’ve seen while we’ve been in the event, that everyone has put up different pairs and it’s pushed us on.”