Host City: London, Great Britain
Venue(s): Eton Dorney, Windsor
Date Started: July 28, 2012
Date Finished: August 1, 2012
On Day 5 of the 2012 Summer Olympics, the host nation was still wanting for a gold medal. On this day, however, they had two great hopes: cyclist Bradley Wiggins in the men’s time trial and rowers Helen Glover and Heather Stanning in the women’s coxless pairs. Glover and Stanning had the first chance and were heavily favored, having arrived at the Games with a string of victories in the event over the season. If anyone could challenge them it would be the New Zealand squad rowed by Juliette Haigh and Rebecca Scown, who together had won the World Championships in the event the past two years and were known for their sprinting prowess in the final strech. Also in contention were two of Romania’s most decorated Olympians, Georgeta Damian-Andrunache and Viorica Susanu, who had won the event in the past three editions of the Games, in addition to victories in the eights in 2000 and 2004.
Glover and Stanning got off to an excellent start in the heats, setting an Olympic record in the event of 6:57.29 and pointedly establishing themselves as the duo to beat. Haigh and Scown fell behind former eights World Champions Kate Hornsey and Sarah Outhwaite-Tait of Australia, but still managed to make the final. Damian-Andrunache and Susanu finished third in their heat after a surprising effort from the American duo Sarah Hendershot and Sarah Zelenka, but made the final by emerging victorious in the repechage. The final, however, was no contest: Glover and Stanning were at least a boat length ahead for much of the race and, despite last minute pushes from Australia and New Zealand, captured the gold in front of a large, roaring crowd. It was not only the first gold medal for Britain at the 2012 Games, but also the first Olympic gold medal for women’s rowing in the nation. Australia and New Zealand finished with the silver and bronze medals respectively.