FolkestoneJack's Tracks

Olympic rowing at Eton Dorney

Posted in England, Windsor & Eton by folkestonejack on August 4, 2012

After a night in Slough, we headed to the station to catch a shuttle bus to Eton Dorney for the final day of rowing competition which would see four golds awarded. Already labelled ‘super saturday’ by the media, there was much anticipation at the potential haul of medals for Team GB.

The shuttle bus operation was incredibly smooth, quickly depositing us at a vast temporary bus station constructed in the grounds of the Royal Windsor Racecourse. It’s hard to get across how impressive this was – when we arrived four buses were disgorging ticketholders but there was no congestion, just a steadily flowing stream of people making their way along the well trodden route into the venue.

Team GB’s men’s four take an early morning row up the lake

Team GB men’s four: Alex Gregory, Pete Reed, Tom James and Andrew Triggs Hodge

Arriving early allowed us ample opportunity to watch some of the teams putting in their final preparation as we walked up the length of the lake towards the starting gates. It took us a while to walk and I was glad to have done so. Having only ever watched rowing on television in successive Olympics the walk made me better appreciate the task ahead of the competitors, which always looks deceptively smooth from an armchair perspective!

Mid-morning the long threatened rain arrived – in volume. Initially, the commentators optimistically described this as a ‘shower’ and joked that the competitors were moving from ‘standing umbrellas’ and on to ‘seated umbrellas’. Most spectators braved it out for a while but as it got heavier people started their own Olympic dash for whatever limited shelter they could find – soon every spot behind the retail tents and inside the toilet blocks was filled. I read later that Tom James (Team GB men’s four) had said it was like a typical winter’s training session. It certainly felt some way off the great British summer!

The women’s single sculls on camera

Thankfully after about half an hour the rain eased off and the day improved massively from this point on as the schedule moved closer to the final four races.

Men’s Four – Finals
The atmosphere as the men’s four began was quite incredible – everyone in the grandstands stood up and the sound of the chanting, cheering and encouragement was immense. Astonishingly, that was nothing compared to the roar that erupted as Alex Gregory, Pete Reed, Tom James and Andrew Triggs Hodge crossed the line – which made for a spine tingling moment when combined with the sea of flags waving in every direction.

Team GB leads into the final stretch of the men’s four

A rousing rendition of the national anthem after the medal ceremony completed the first part of rowing’s contribution to super saturday.

Women’s Lightweight Double Sculls – Finals
In the build up to the Women’s Lightweight Double Sculls our hopes were managed by the commentators who picked out the world champions from Greece and the impressive Chinese team as the likely victors. The surprise and delight of seeing Katherine Copeland and Sophie Hosking edge ahead as the race progressed was all the sweeter for this. Sensing the possibility of a major upset the entire grandstand started shouting encouragement at an even higher volume. The moment they crossed the line was simply wonderful and yet again the Dorney roar was deafening.

A morning row for Katherine Copeland and Sophie Hosking ahead of the final

Men’s Lightweight Double Sculls – Finals
The ups and downs of sport were never more cruelly illustrated than by the next race with Zac Purchase and Mark Hunter beaten to gold by the narrowest of margins. Their race had been dramatic from the off with an abandoned start after a technical failure and finished with silver after a late surge from the Danish pairing of Mads Rasmussen and Rasmus Quist. So so close. The picture of exhaustion told you everything.

Mads Rasmussen and Rasmus Quist row past the grandstands in celebration

Women’s Single Sculls – Finals
The sheer dominance of Miroslava Knapkova in the final race of the day was quite extraordinary and seemed a fitting way to end the rowing at London 2012. The crowd really respected the nature of the performance they were seeing and gave her all the applause that she deserved. Indeed, one of the pleasures of the games has been to see the crowd get behind all the competitors in recognition of their sporting excellence and bravery.

It seemed that even the animal world wanted to participate in this rather special day. A flock of geese made their way down the final leg of the course, flying low in an arrow shaped formation. The moment they crossed the finishing line applause burst out from the crowd – followed by much laughter.

The exit from the venue was even slicker than in the morning, which was simply remarkable given that everyone was leaving at the same time – I’ve never seen anything organised as well as this at an event, a real credit to everyone involved. The temporary bus station was now filled with buses shuttling backwards and forth from various locations, yet everyone was working like clockwork and we were able to walk straight on to a bus and be on our way within minutes.

On arrival in Windsor we took the opportunity to have a delicious late lunch at Bel and the Dragon before finally heading homeward – still a little damp, quite tired and very happy.

More photos from super saturday

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