Page last updated at 15:58 GMT, Saturday, 16 August 2008 16:58 UK

'Hero' rows to Olympic gold glory

Tom James
Tom James has won Wales' second Olympic gold medal

Tom James' heroics in the coxless four boat has helped Wales win its second Olympic gold at the 2008 Beijing Games.

The 24-year-old from Coedpoeth, Wrexham helped Team GB's flagship boat complete a dramatic comeback to beat the Australian crew in Saturday's final.

James' victory follows Nicole Cooke's golden ride in the Olympic road race last Sunday.

Speaking after the epic race, James' father paid tribute to him and said the race was a "proud moment in my life".

Wales' double gold medal haul at the Beijing Games is the first time two separate Welsh athletes have struck gold since the 1920 Antwerp Olympics.

And James himself predicted that this Olympics could become Wales' best ever.

"I'm proud to be a part of it," he said.

For someone who is 24, he is very level headed which is why he is where he is
Julia James

After the race James, who was born in Cardiff but grew up in Coedpoeth, said: "We knew we were going to be attacked really hard.

"We had so much belief, I knew we were coming back."

James, along with Andy Hodge, Peter Reed and Steve Williams came from three-quarters of a length down to beat Australia with a late surge.

After the race, James' father Michael said: "There are four guys who actually made it happen, Tom actually crossed the line first!

"This is an absolutely fantastic day. They found that seventh gear and came in with the gold."

James' mother Julia said she could barely watch the race and spent most of it with her head in her hands.

She added that Tom, who suffered with a back injury before the Olympics, had coped with the pressure "extremely well".

"It takes over your life. I think he probably does want to go on to the next one (Olympics in London) but he is also thinking about what he wants to do afterwards," she said.

"For someone who is 24, he is very level headed which is why he is where he is."

Mr James said his son would be getting away from it all in a cottage in Betws y Coed once he returned from the games.

Councillor Gareth Griffiths from the small village of Coedpoeth said James was now the "local hero".

Mr Griffiths said he did not know James personally but described the rower's efforts as "fantastic".

"He is our local hero. When you think it is just a small little village and you have got someone like that who is performing to that high a standard, it's fantastic."




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