Host City: London, Great Britain
Venue(s): Eton Dorney, Windsor
Date Started: July 30, 2012
Date Finished: August 4, 2012
As the defending Olympic and reigning World Champions, Great Britain had made the men’s four their focus for the 2012 Summer Olympics. They boasted an impressive lineup: three of the men, Tom James, Pete Reed, and Andrew Triggs Hodge, returned from the 2008 squad to claim another title. Reed and Triggs-Hodge were the runners up in the coxless pairs at the last three World Championships, but were pulled from that event to row in the fours because it was believed (correctly, as it turned out) that the British would be unable to defeat the unstoppable New Zealand duo of Eric Murray and Hamish Bond in the pairs. James, meanwhile, was one of the four members of the World Championship-winning boat and was joined by teammate Alex Gregory, also a 2009 World Champion in the event, to round out the quartet.
Britain’s greatest rivals in the fours were the Australians, who were runners-up in Beijing and bronze medalists at the most recent World Championships. Their most notable rower, Drew Ginn, had an impressive list of achievements going back to his gold medal in the event from the 1996 Summer Olympics, although he had earned many more Olympic and World Championship medals in the coxless pairs. His compatriots, James Chapman, Joshua Dunkley-Smith, and William Lockwood, were less experienced, but had banded together to defeat the British in the Samsung World Rowing Cup shortly before the Games.
The two nations easily overcame their rivals in the heats and semifinals and placed themselves in a class of their own to compete for gold. In the final, Britain took a short lead early on but was never able to entirely shake the Australians, who at no point trailed by more than half a length. Not even a desperate push from the Australians at the end, however, could stop the Britons, who took the gold after a well-raced match, leaving their rivals to accept silver. The United States had an impressive run as well in the event, earning bronze by finishing the course over four seconds faster than their nearest competitor.