10:03AM, Wednesday 28 July 2021
The men’s quadruple sculls with Maidenhead’s Jack Beaumont (right). Credit: David Pearce.
Maidenhead’s Jack Beaumont and his teammates punched the water in delight after claiming a silver medal in the men’s quadruple sculls on the Sea Forest Waterway in Tokyo this morning (Wednesday).
Beaumont stroked the crew of Harry Leask, Angus Groom and Tom Barras to Team GB’s first rowing medal of the Games, and they had to work hard for it, holding off a late charge from Australia, who took bronze, and Poland.
They finished just 1.72seconds behind world champions Netherlands, who won with a world best time of 5minutes,32.03seconds.
The GB crew were ranked fifth in the world coming into the Games but surprised some of the more fancied crews by going off strong in lane one. They also adapted well to the tough, tailwind conditions to hold their line and position as rivals reeled them in in the final 500m.
There were jubilant scenes on the water as the team celebrated silver, and it will mean a great deal to Beaumont in particular, who was left fearing he may never walk again after a training accident in 2015. The accident at a training camp in Portugal left Beaumont with four fractured vertebrae in his back, two broken ribs and a torn hip flexor muscle, but he regained his fitness and form to return to the Team GB crew at Rio in 2016 as a late replacement for Graeme Thomas.
“I’m so happy,” he told the BBC. “We decided we were in lane one, we had an outside chance of a medal, so to take it to them. We did it. It was wild out there, the conditions were rough with a tailwind, but it is what we are used to back home.”
That silver medal came as a great relief to GB Rowing after several fancied crews, including the men’s four, missed out on medals.
Windsor’s Ollie Cook, Marlow’s Rory Gibbs, Matt Rossiter and Sholto Carnegie in the men’s four were regarded as Team GB’s best hope of a gold medal on a busy day of rowing finals in Tokyo. GB have dominated the event in recent years, with Marlow’s Sir Steve Redgrave playing a huge part in that, however, a sixth straight Olympic gold proved out of reach, as did silver and bronze.
The crew were looking good for a medal going into the final 500m of the 2,000m race, but the boat veered badly off course in the closing stages and threatened to impede the Italian crew, who held their nerve to take bronze. GB finished fourth overall and afterwards, Windsor’s Cook apologised to his teammates for failing to steer the best line in the closing stages. Australia took gold with Romania claiming a silver medal.
"I'm responsible for the steering. I screwed up," said an emotional Cook.
"I forgot the steering a little bit and that cost us a medal. To the lads, I'm sorry I didn't steer us the best line at the end."
All four of the British crew were making their Olympic debuts and perhaps the pressure told in the final.
Speaking to the BBC, Dame Katherine Grainger said: "I never would have predicted those last 300 metres, nobody would have.
"I don't know the last time I saw [a crew veer offline] at this level. Near the start of the race the British were having problems with steering but at the end it was out of control."
The women’s four crew, featuring Sunningdale’s Hattie Taylor alongside Rowan McKellar, Karen Bennett and Rebecca Shorten were also left empty handed as they were pipped for a bronze medal by Ireland.
Ireland secured their first medal of the Games as they finished behind gold medallists Australia and the Netherlands who took silver.
Another British crew to agonisingly miss out on a medal were Graeme Thomas and John Collins, who came fourth in the men’s doubles. They gave it their all but fell just short with a late charge for a place on the podium.
"Fourth is just an awful place to finish," said Thomas.
There was better news for Cookham’s Helen Glover and partner Polly Swann who reached the final of the women’s pairs.
Mother-of-three Glover is a double Olympic champion and will be looking to add to her Olympic medal collection in tomorrow’s final, which gets under way at 1.30am UK time.
After a disappointing display in the heats, the British pair led for much of the first semi-final but were edged into second place behind Greece in a tight finish.
Glover is the first rower to be selected by Team GB for an Olympic Games after having children.
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