Host City: Beijing, China
Venue(s): Shunyi Olympic Rowing-Canoeing Park, Mapo, Shunyi
Date Started: August 9, 2008
Date Finished: August 16, 2008
Picking a favorite for the men’s coxless pairs event at the 2008 Summer Olympics may not have been easy, but it was probably a safe bet to predict that the winner would come from the Anglophone world. Australia’s Drew Ginn and Duncan Free, the 2006 and 2007 World Champions, probably had a slight advantage, as Ginn was also one of the defending Olympic champions. Also in contention were New Zealand’s Nathan Twaddle and George Bridgewater, the 2005 World Champions and 2006 and 2007 runners-up, and South Africa’s Shaun Keeling and Ramon di Clemente, the 2008 winners of the Silver Goblets & Nickalls' Challenge Cup at the Henley Royal Regatta. Di Clemente had, with Donnie Cech, also been the 2002 and 2005 World runner-up, the 2001 and 2003 bronze medalist, the 2004 Olympic bronze medalist, and the 2004, 2005, and 2007 winner of the Silver Goblets & Nickalls' Challenge Cup. Great Britain had won the 2006 Silver Goblets & Nickalls’ Challenge Cup and a bronze medal at the 2007 World Championships, and sent Robin Bourne-Taylor and Tom Solesbury to the 2008 Games. Finally, Canada was the reigning Pan American champion and the 2006 World bronze medalist, and was represented in Beijing by Dave Calder and Scott Frandsen. The only exception to the recent English-speaking dominance of this event was Croatia, whose brothers Siniša and Nikša Skelin were the reigning Olympic silver medalists.
The Australians posted the fastest time in the opening round, but were only half a second ahead of New Zealand, another heat winner. Meanwhile, both the French duo of Erwan Peron and Laurent Cadot and the Italian pair of Giuseppe De Vita and Raffaello Leonardo bested the Canadians in their heat. With different lineups, Italy had been the 2005 World and 2007 European bronze medalists. Canada turned the tables in the semi-finals, however, by recording the fastest time of the round, while the Australians won their heat only 0.27 seconds slower. France, Croatia, and Italy were all eliminated in this round and joined Great Britain, who had failed to advance in the repêchage. The qualification of the American Winklevoss twins, Tyler and Cameron (who helped found ConnectU, the forerunner of Facebook), meant that only one non-English speaking crew, the Germans Tom Lehmann and Felix Drahotta, would compete in the medal round. The final, however, was somewhat anti-climactic, and Australia, Canada, and New Zealand finished in that order with room to breathe.