Great Britain battle weight of tradition to win record fifth straight rowing gold

Great Britain battle weight of tradition to win record fifth straight rowing gold

13 August 2016 / 09:00
Sir Steve Redgrave gave a knowing nod and Sir Matthew Pinsent pumped his fist while their successors simply seemed collapsed in exhaustion, victorious and vindicated.
mensfourGettyImages-587182142What started on the waters of Penrith 16 years ago continued under the gaze of Christ the Redeemer yesterday as Britain’s flagship rowing crew hoisted the standard again and the rest of the world could only watch.

Alex Gregory returned from London to defend his men’s four title while Constantine Louloudis, George Nash and Mohamed Sbihi all upgraded the bronze medals they won in the men’s eight four years ago. Different names, same result.

Coach Jurgen Grobler starts every Olympic year with the same question - ‘what about the four?’.

It’s a winning streak that now extends to a record five Olympics - starting with Redgrave’s original ‘oarsome foursome’ back in Sydney.

Games have come and Games have gone but the result doesn’t change and a fifth straight win is a new record, bettering the four golds won by Great Britain between 1908 and 1932 and East Germany between 1968 and 1980.

“Every day in training, when Jurgen asks for something, we just do it - we trust him completely,” said Gregory, after Great Britain held off the challenge of Australia and Italy.

“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. 

“You’ve been working towards this for four years, every day bar none. And then you come here and Jurgen 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.

“I can’t judge the other three titles because honestly every boat is different. The last boat I was in, in London, had some incredible positive parts. But this boat is the most consistent performing boat I’ve ever been a part of.”
Team GB coxless four win rowing gold at Rio 2016A few weeks ago, when Britain’s team for Rio was confirmed, Nash publicly exuded confidence when he talked ambitions in Henley on Thames. 

He was embracing the pressure of tradition, not worrying about the rivals on the water, trusting the fates and ‘believing in the process’.

He admitted yesterday it was all just an act - he was scared witless of failure.

“This morning, oh my word,” he said. “I experienced the nerves that only really occur once every four years and just felt horrible. I felt weak, I didn’t want to be there and I didn’t want to do it.

“I had to shake myself into it and say, ‘no this is why I’m doing it’ and ‘this is what I’m here for’. It’s just great to come away with and finish on top. I’m really pleased, for these guys and for the whole project really. 

“It’s been a seriously nervy week just trading these passive aggressive blows with the Australians through the heats, looking at the times and just wondering if we had enough.”

Rowing is a sport that requires total dedication. No day passes without a session in the gym or on the water, bodies are pushed to the limit and eating becomes a chore, with 6,000 calories a day needed to fuel an elite training programme. Friends are spurned, birthdays and special occasions are missed and all for moments like this. 

So it’s no surprise then that Nash is now ready to enjoy some of the sights and sounds of a city that prides itself on being a party capital.

“I think it’ll be a few beers, a few Caipirinhas and a few more beers and I think we’ll keep doing that every day until the closing ceremony,” he joked.

From James Toney, Sportsbeat, in Rio

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