Of all the images from the Olympic rowing regatta,the ones that may last the longest come from those athletes desperately trying to come to terms with their sense of loss at winning silver.
Australia’s three-times Olympic champion Drew Ginn cried while clutching a photo wrapped in plastic of his two children. The British men’s lightweight double appeared broken when interviewed on television,barely able to speak.
The regatta will be remembered for the dominance of Britain,the elegance of New Zealand and the fact that following years of training and millions of pounds of funding,it can all still be lost in the final strokes of a 2,000 metre race.
The last time I cried in public was my grandfather dying,a devastated Ginn told reporters after taking silver behind the British men’s flagship four. It’s just my kids and wife are here.
Like so many other crews on the stunning man-made course of Dorney Lake,Ginn’s four failed to beat the British.
The win in the best race of the regatta meant Britain has now won that event for the fourth consecutive time,but the host nation’s other medals signalled that it has moved on to a new level.
Having never previously won Olympic gold in a women’s event,it took three on Dorney Lake,including its first lightweight title in the double of Katherine Copeland and Sophie Hosking.
The sight of the 21 and 26-year-olds looking on in disbelief as they crossed the line is also likely to linger for those nations wondering how to get ahead: two athletes who only came together late in the season through a system that now churns out gold medal winners at will.
Part of the inspiration for the young duo,they said,was the story of the popular Katherine Grainger,who finally took an Olympic gold at the fourth time of trying in emotional scenes with her partner Anna Watkins.
In total the British squad took four gold medals,two silvers and three bronzes at the Games – nine medals from 14 events with both silvers just a fraction of a second away from being gold.
The only other country to come close to Britain’s dominance was New Zealand which won three golds and two bronze medals in some of the most elegant displays of rowing – from the single scull of Mahe Drysdale to the men’s pair of Eric Murray and Hamish Bond,who cruised unchallenged to the title.
With the loss in the men’s four,Australia had to settle for three silvers and two bronze medals,victims of their earlier success under an international rowing system that has now been copied around the world.
I never thought my sport would have so much money that there would be so much professionalism like we have now,said Matt Smith,executive director of the international rowing body FISA.
And a few teams of the Kiwis,the Aussies and the British have managed to take full advantage of this. You see that in the results.
Likely to be looking closely at the success of rowing are the major international canoe federations such as Germany,Hungary,Russia and Ukraine,which took the medals in a sport that rarely shines outside the four-year Olympic cycle.
Hungary edged Germany to top the canoe medals table in front of packed stands,while the loudest cheers rang out on the last day of racing when the sport introduced the shorter 200 metre discipline in a bid to up the excitement levels.
France topped the medals table in the canoe slalom with two golds,ahead of Britain with one gold and one silver.