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Last Updated: Saturday, 21 August, 2004, 11:10 GMT 12:10 UK
Best of British in Athens
By Phil Gordos
BBC Sport in Athens

Matthew Pinsent is overcome with emotion after the win

British rowing has served up a string of dramatic and emotional moments over the last six Olympic Games.

Sir Steve Redgrave's fifth gold medal in Sydney was the pinnacle, an achievement that will almost certainly never be beaten.

But Saturday's nail-biting victory by the men's four emulated that special day.

And possibly eclipsed it.

While Redgrave and co were expected to win gold four years ago, no-one exactly knew how the crew of Matthew Pinsent, James Cracknell, Ed Coode and Steve Williams would perform in Athens.

The trials and tribulations suffered by the team, whose make-up changed almost as frequently as the Italian government, are worthy of a book on their own, maybe even a film.

Then to win Olympic gold by just 0.08 seconds in a titanic tussle with the Canadians turned what was already a great story into an epic.

For Pinsent, the culmination of another four years of heartache and hard slog proved too much.

As the Union Flag was raised, so his head got lower and lower and the tears began to flow, his momentous achievement finally sinking in.

With about 10 strokes to go, I looked over and thought we were down
Matthew Pinsent

"It's been pretty emotional all week," he said as he sat alongside his fellow crew members in the post-race news conference.

All four of them, including coach Jurgen Grobler, looked emotionally spent.

Like his charges, Grobler had been under immense pressure going into the race.

He was the man responsible for chopping and changing the various line-ups - from the men's pair to the men's eight - in a bid to find the right combination, the combination that would deliver Olympic gold.

And with both the pair and the eight missing out on a place in the final, he knew that the four was his last shot at glory.

The British crew wave to the Union Jack-waving fans in the stands
Tim Foster, who had been part of the victorious team in 2000, was convinced the Brits had done it as he watched the action unfold from the sidelines with hundreds of cheering fans carrying all manner of Union Jack flags.

The margin of victory was such that no-one knew who had won.

"I think we've got it by 0.3," he said. "I'm going to wait for the official result but I think we've won it by a foot."

It was closer than that - and closer than the winning margin of 0.38 seconds in Sydney.

"With about 10 strokes to go, I looked over and thought we were down," said Pinsent. "I couldn't believe it. I thought 'how are they still in front of us?' "

But as the two boats crossed the line, it was the Brits who were just in front. Pinsent said he initially thought he had lost out to the Canadians.

"I didn't think we'd won but they didn't know either," he said.

I am pretty confident he has the capability of winning not just the next Olympics but the one after that too
Sir Steve Redgrave

"The thing that gave it away was when the Union Jacks all went up on the left."

Pinsent should have got used to seeing the British flag hoisted in honour of his achievements, but even he failed to hide his emotions as he took possession of his fourth gold.

To no-one's surprise, talk soon switched to a possible assault on a fifth in Beijing.

But Pinsent was not about to make any rash statements, as Redgrave had done following his fourth gold in 1996.

"The Olympics is not the right moment to make a decision," said Pinsent.

"Of course the result is going to influence it, but we've learned from Steve in Atlanta that we don't open our gobs too soon."

Pinsent may be keeping quiet, but there was no holding back the hundreds of Brits who turned out to watch another slice of Olympic history unfold.



Links to more Rowing stories


 

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