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Historic win for Reading pair

Great Britain's Helen Glover and Heather Stanning celebrate winning gold. Photo: Stephen Pond/PA Wire

Olympic champions Helen Glover and Heather Stanning were hit by the enormity of their achievement in winning Britain's first gold medal of the Games as they crossed the finish line.

It was an historic moment for the pair, who not only ended Team GB's wait for glory at London 2012 but also became Britain's first female Olympic rowing champions.

Prince Harry and the Duke of Cambridge were among the 26,000 spectators who made the journey to Eton Dorney in the hope of witnessing Britain's first gold.

And they were not disappointed as Glover and Stanningdestroyed the field, opening a five-second lead at one stage before winning the final by a length from Australia.

The British coaches Paul Thompson and Robin Williams had been drumming into the Olympic debutants that this was any other regatta, but that facade was blown away on the finish line.

Great Britain's Helen Glover and Heather Stanning celebrate winning gold. Credit: Stephen Pond/PA Wire

Glover and Stanning, who train in Reading, punched the air and then embraced in the boat as the emotion and the adulation washed over them.

"We were mildly aware of the expectations. We were kidding ourselves it wasn't happening. We were saying it was about us," Glover said.

"But as soon as we crossed the line we realised there was a lot of expectation on us. We realised people were waiting for that."

The Prime Minister David Cameron was among those to send his congratulations to Stanning and Glover.

Victory completed a remarkable unbeaten season for the British pair, who came into the Olympics as favourites after winning gold at all three World Cup regattas.

That dominance was fuelled by the pain of being beaten into silver by New Zealand at the 2011 world championships by just eight hundredths of a second.

Glover and Stanning underlined their gold medal credentials by setting a new Olympic best time to win their heat on the opening day of the regatta, demolishing the previous mark by over four seconds.

Today, the British pair made a blistering start and they sprinted into a clear water lead over the Kiwis by the 500 metre time-check, an advantage they held through to the half-way mark.

Great Britain's Helen Glover and Heather Stanning celebrate winning gold in the women's pair final at Eton Dorney Lake, London. Credit: PA

When Glover and Stanning hit the wall of sound generated by 26,000 supporters in the grandstands, they extended their lead to two lengths

"We generally have quite a fast start, which happened today," said Glover.

"As soon as we got out of the blocks we tuned into our boat. We looked up, we were ahead and we tuned back in.

"Then we looked up and we were further ahead.

"You can never be complacent. We have some ferocious competition and I am proud to be racing them.

"I enjoyed the row in a strange way because it hurt. We never got to the point where we sat back and thought 'this is fun'."

Australia and New Zealand closed that gap in the final quarter of the race as they battled for silver.

But Glover and Stanning were never threatened as they cruised to finish line and their place in British and Olympic rowing history.

Glover, a former PE teacher, only took up the sport four years ago and now has two world silver medals to her name and an Olympic gold.

She hopes her achievement - particularly in delivering Britain's first female Olympic rowing gold - can be inspirational to others.

"I really hope it has a snowball effect in the coming weeks," she said.

"In the coming days I hope we have some great results to come from GB Rowing.

"In the wider sense of sport, I worked as a PE teacher and I have seen how inspired young people can be.

"I have an athletics background and when I watched Kelly Holmes win her two medals, that was massively inspiring."

Great Britain's Beth Rodford and Frances Houghton after finishing outside of a meda placesl in the women's quadruple sculls final. Credit: Mike Egerton/PA Wire

The British women's quadruple scull of Melanie Wilson, Debbie Flood, Frances Houghton and Beth Rodford finished a disappointing sixth in their final.

But Britain also created a slice of history in the early semi-finals, with the men's quadruple scull finishing third to reach an Olympic final for the first time.

Matt Wells, Tom Solesbury, Charles Cousins and Stephen Rowbotham produced the fastest last 500 metres of any crew in the field to move up from fourth and into the qualification places.

The men's quad final is on Friday.

The British pair of George Nash and Will Satch won a commanding semi-final victory to qualify for their own Olympic final and announce themselves as medal contenders.

Alan Campbell, the world bronze medallist, qualified for the single sculls final in second place behind Ondrej Synek from the Czech Republic.

Mahe Drysdale, the five-time world champion, won the first semi-final comfortably and will be favourite to win his first Olympic gold medal.

But it promises to be a thrilling race for the podium, with Campbell, Synek and Sweden's Lassi Karonen all in medal contention.

More on this story

  • Heather and Helen strike Gold

    Sporting history was made in our region today as Team GB won their first 2012 Gold. And the golden girls are both from Reading.

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    Great Britain celebrated it first gold of the Games after Helen Glover and Heather Stanning - who are based in Reading - stormed to victory.