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September 24, 2000
Britain claim blue riband at PenrithGreg Buckle
Britain finished the Sydney Olympic rowing regatta in the best possible fashion on Sunday by winning gold in the men's eight event for the first time since 1912.
The British crew leaped out of their boat on reaching the media enclosure, draped in Union Jacks and shouting "We did it!" They had beaten the more fancied Australian and Croatian crews into second and third place in the premier event of the rowing programme.
Britain's time was five minutes 33.08 seconds, 0.80 seconds ahead of the fast-finishing Australians who had been back in fourth place with 500 metres left, 3.59 seconds adrift of the British crew.
"We had total belief over four years but it was no foregone conclusion. It was a heroic effort on the day," British gold medallist Luka Grubor told reporters.
"All the pain turned into elation. It was like somewhere none of us had ever been before. We feel like superman."
Romania won gold in the women's eight and the women's lightweight double sculls on Sunday for a total of three at the regatta, the best by any nation.
Germany, Britain and France each won two gold over the weekend.
The Polish crew of Tomasz Kucharski and Robert Sycz won gold in the men's lightweight double sculls, edging out Italian world champions Elia Luini and Leonardo Pettinari.
The Poles finished in a time of 6:21.75, a comfortable 1.72 seconds ahead of the Italians with French pair Pascal Touron and Thibaud Chapelle, who had qualified in the prized lane three, third in 6:24.85.
The Poles were overweight and had to go for a run on Sunday morning to lose the combined weight of one kilogram.
"We've been competing at the top level for a decade so to finally win an Olympic gold medal is a very exciting moment," Sycz told reporters.
They led from start to finish, putting on a surge with 700 metres to go because they feared fading in the closing stages.
Sycz said the pair were looking forward to a shave after allowing their stubble to grow wild as part of a pre-race superstition.
Lightweight rowing was introduced as an Olympic medal sport at Atlanta in 1996. The weight limit for men is a crew average of 70kg with no man heavier than 72.5 kg.
Romanian Constanta Burcica won gold in the women's lightweight double sculls in Atlanta, and she won again on Sunday at the Sydney regatta, with new partner Angela Alupei.
Their time of seven minutes 02.64 seconds was 0.31 seconds better than the Germans who had led by half a second with 500 metres remaining.
The pair hugged and sobbed as they approached waiting reporters.
"I didn't know right to the end whether we had won or not," Burcica told reporters.
"I looked at Angela and I realised."
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