After 12 years cast as an Olympic bridesmaid, Katherine Grainger's quest for a rowing gold is nearing a glorious conclusion.
Grainger and her double sculls partner Anna Watkins appear invincible after they smashed a 20-year-old Olympic record by nearly five seconds to win their heat and reach Friday's final. And they did so without even having to engage top gear.
Grainger and Watkins cruised Usain Bolt-like down the last 250 metres of the Eton Dorney course, drinking in the atmosphere and the roars of the 23,000-strong crowd. If Grainger and Watkins can secure gold on Friday, it would be one of the most popular home triumphs. Grainger said: "I think I will be exploding (with joy) on Friday if it goes well."
The double world champions are now unbeaten in 22 races since coming together two years ago and victory for Grainger would be a career-defining moment after three successive Olympic silver medals, the last of which left her distraught and contemplating retirement.
"This has got to be one of the best days I have ever experienced in rowing - and it is only a heat," she added.
"It is so satisfying putting in a good performance in a home Olympics, in front of a home crowd. This is the one we want more than anything. The Olympic final is different from anything else we'll ever race. Of all my Olympic experiences before, this is the important one."
Grainger and Watkins left world bronze medallists New Zealand trailing around two lengths behind as they won their heat in six minutes 44.33secs, destroying the record set by Germany at Barcelona in 1992.
Australia's Kim Crow and Brooke Pratley were four seconds slower in winning their heat - and Grainger insisted there is still more to come from Britain.
"We were a bit surprised we got the Olympic record. Anna deliberately held us steady for the second half of the race," she said. "Part of me would've loved to lift the roof off the boat and see how fast we can go but we know we've got that in the final. Today was about getting started, controlling a good race, getting through in the best position. We'll play a little bit more on Friday.
"There's really quite a big amount to come."