Medals have become somewhat the norm for Team GB’s rowers, almost an expectation of our boats heading into an Olympic Games.
But while the coxless four came into Rio chasing the boat’s fifth consecutive Olympic gold medal, in recent years, it had always been a case of ‘nearly but not quite’ for the men’s eight.
Barring Athens 2004, our men’s eight squad have appeared on the podium at every Olympic Games since Sydney 16 years ago, a Games from which they returned victorious.
But following silver and bronze in Beijing and London respectively, only top spot would do for this year’s contingent – and boy did they deliver.
Coxed by Phelan Hill, the crew – Will Satch, Matt Langridge, Paul Bennett, Pete Reed, Matt Gotrel, Andrew Triggs Hodge, Tom Ransley and Scott Durant – swept their opposition, quite literally, out of the water.
Crossing the line in 5:29.63, there was never a shadow of a doubt that either Germany or the Netherlands would pip them to the final post – true British bulldog spirit kicked in, and the gold medal would, at last, be returning to Blighty.
For Satch, the ultimate prize had been a long time coming. A member of the bronze medal-winning coxless pair at London 2012 alongside George Nash, the 27-year-old had been working towards his dream since his teenage years, and finally, he had stroked an Olympic crew to gold.
“It is just a real surreal moment, it’s been building up and building up for, well I guess the last four years, but really the last couple of weeks,” he said after the final.
“I’m a bit of an emotional bloke up and down anyway so it’s quite hard to be able to hold me stable and just keep a lid on stuff.
“But we did it and it’s a great moment. For us, we have such a strong team and we are ultra competitive and have everyone from below pushing us on.
“The camaraderie in the boat is great, you have guys that are double Olympic champions and guys who are almost newbies but we came together as one and that was what won it on the day.”
Langridge, now a three-time Olympic medallist with one of each colour, added: “I think the whole thing is still a bit of a whirlwind. Winning gold is something that I have dreamed about for a long time and it feels like it is long time coming so it is a bit surreal still.
“It is a weird mix of emotions but it is also great, especially when you are in the eight alongside guys you have been working with for the last four years. It is such a close environment and it is a really great feeling.”
For Reed meanwhile, the gold medal victory in Rio completed a hat-trick of Olympic titles, having won coxless four gold in both Beijing and London.
“When we crossed the line I was exhausted, I was the only one who was!” he said.
“Everyone else in the boat was celebrating! I was so happy especially for the guys who had done it for the first time, and of course we had Will, Tom and Matt winning for the first time.
“It was just such a joy to get out of the boat and hug those guys after winning gold. We couldn’t have raced a better race.”
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