Great Britain’s proud golden run in the Olympic men’s four came to a disappointing end but a surprise silver in the men’s quadruple sculls lifted the gloom for British Rowing.
Britain had won gold in the four at the last five Olympics – a run started by Steve Redgrave, Matthew Pinsent, Tim Foster and James Cracknell in Sydney in 2000 – but the quartet of Oliver Cook, Matthew Rossiter, Rory Gibbs and Sholto Carnegie could only finish fourth.
They had looked set for silver behind Australia but the effort of chasing for gold cost them and they crashed into the Italian boat in a shambolic finish.
The disappointment followed fourth places in the men’s double sculls and the women’s four, but there was a significant silver lining in the very next race as Harry Leask, Angus Groom, Tom Barras and Jack Beaumont finished second in the quad.
By contrast to the four, it was Britain’s first Olympic medal in the event, and Beaumont said: “We’re hugely proud. We’ve worked so hard. We’ve been part of a rowing team that’s had huge success, a huge tradition of British rowing.
“But, in our sculling team, there’s a tradition of being in the shadows a little bit. We’ve built on years of hard, hard work and near misses and I’m so proud to get this silver medal. It’s the start of a new history, and that’s awesome.”
They led at halfway before being overtaken by the Dutch but held off the Australians and the Polish to clinch silver.
The emotions were, of course, very different for the men’s four, who were all too aware of the legacy they were trying to continue.
Rossiter said: “We tried our best but we really screwed up there at the finish so it’s a bit heartbreaking. There’s no sugarcoating it – we’re absolutely devastated.
“We’ve done so well in the last two years and then when it actually matters we f****d it up.”
On the collision with the Italians, he added: “In a coxless boat, one rower will steer with their foot. It’s tough at the best of times, but it was choppy out there and, when your vision is going blurry and your body is going stiff with lactic acid, it’s sometimes hard to stay on the ball.
“We fully biffed into the Italians. They are pretty p***ed off because maybe we cost them the silver and sorry to those guys. It’s an outdoor sport and this stuff happens. It’s just heartbreaking when it’s you and not something on YouTube.”
The four were well aware of the formidable history they were trying to continue and were disappointed with perceived negativity from some high profile former members of the boat.
Rossiter said: “It’s more just disappointing that those people will probably be really smug now that they are part of the legacy that won.”