Emotions run high in the lightweight women’s double sculls
It became an iconic image of the London 2012 Olympic Rowing Regatta: Great Britain’s twenty-one year old Katherine Copeland who, with wide eyes and an open mouth expressed her disbelief at winning the Olympic final of the lightweight women’s double sculls. Moments later, her partner Sophie Hosking stood in the boat, arm raised in victory, saluting the roaring crowds.
2.63 seconds behind Great Britain, China and Greece battled for silver and bronze. Only 0.16 seconds separated these two crews, with China crossing the line in second and Greece in third.
This is the sixth in World Rowing’s weekly Olympic review series, where we look back on the 14 events of the London 2012 Olympic Games rowing regatta. Today’s focus is the lightweight women’s double sculls.
Hosking and Copeland were a new duo, beginning their international campaign as a partnership this year. When they teamed up, Hosking already had three World Championship bronze medals and a world silver to her name, whilst Copeland had one year of experience at international senior competition level in the lightweight single sculls.
At the 2012 Samsung World Rowing Cup in Belgrade, their first World Rowing regatta as a duo, they won silver. But the partnership finished outside of the medals at the following two stages of the Samsung World Rowing Cup series. Following the final World Rowing Cup in Munich, Hosking and Copeland went on training camps around Europe to work towards becoming an Olympic gold medal winning crew. Hosking moved to stroke and Copeland, who had been at the stroke position until then to learn more about the double, moved to bow.
The undeniable Greek duo of Alexandra Tsiavou and Christina Giazitzidou were arguably strong favourites for Olympic gold. World Champions in 2009 and 2011, they had also collected a wealth of World Rowing Cup medals throughout the Olympiad. Individually, their racing records are just as impressive. Giazitzidou is a triple World Rowing Under-23 Champion, whilst Tsiavou has several World Rowing Cup titles in the lightweight women’s single sculls.
Meanwhile, China’s dynamic partnership of Dongxiang Xu and Wenyi Huang had victory in the second Samsung World Rowing Cup in Lucerne, Switzerland and a third place from the first Samsung World Rowing Cup under their belts and were also approaching the regatta with s confidence despite also being a relatively new pairing. Xu has been competing in the boatclass since 2002, finishing fifth at the 2004 Olympic Games in Athen and the 2008 Beijing Olympic Games. Xu was also crowned World Champion in 2006 with partner Shmin Yan. Xu returned to the waters where she was once crowned World Champion – Eton-Dorney- to race for Olympic medals.
At the 2012 Olympic Rowing Regatta, in the heats, Great Britain, Greece and China each won their respective races, with Great Britain recording the fastest time. In the semifinal, Great Britain raced Greece – a first real test of speed, courage and nerve for both crews. Greece started out fast, leading through the first half of the race, before Great Britain demonstrated an outstanding turn of pace in the third 500m which initially brought them level with the World Champions and then a boat length ahead of them. At the line, the winning margin was four seconds.
After the semifinal, Hosking remarked: “It was a pressurised race. We’re over that hurdle now and have a day to compose ourselves.” Despite being overtaken in the final quarter of the race, the Greeks remained focused: “The semifinal is a tricky race, the teams are very tight and every race is different. We’re in the final and we will try to win,” said Giazitzidou.
Meanwhile, China had a tight race against Denmark in their own semifinal, leading from the start but winning by merely 0.54 seconds. China were also highly concentrated on achieving their goal, as Dongxiang Xu made clear: “I will improve on my previous finishes in Athens and Beijing. Our greatest opponents are ourselves.”
The stage was set for a grand finale, and the race was wide open.
In the final, the Greeks yet again had a fast start, leading for the first half of the race. And yet again, Great Britain turned on the pace in the third 500m to take the lead, with China taking over Greece. In the final quarter of the race, nobody could catch the Brits who crossed the line to win and claim Great Britain’s third Olympic gold medal for women at this regatta. China maintained their position to win silver, and Greece crossed the line to win bronze.
Emotions ran sky-high on the podium. For Hosking, the support was overwhelming: “We’ve had support all week, both in training and in racing. It’s been better than I’ve hoped and dreamed. All of the supporters and volunteers have made the Olympics.”
“The noise is something I have never heard before and I am really enjoying it,” said Copeland. “I like that I haven’t been at an Olympics before, to go in excited with no past negative experiences.”
For Giazitzidou, racing at a first Olympic Games was “something new and wonderful”.
Just one month later Tsiavou was back racing at the senior World Rowing Championships where she claimed the World Championship title in the lightweight women’s single sculls.
Reflecting on her Olympic experience, she says: “I was thinking, ‘Why did we lose the silver medal in the last two strokes?’, but then I realised that I have won medals in the last stroke, and this time I lost one. This is the way sport works. I’m very satisfied with an Olympic medal, but the negative points are helping me to become better. I’m happy Great Britain won. They had so much support, it was impossible to lose! I’m happy for them, because I know how I would have felt to win a gold medal in my home country. That’s got to be the best feeling!” So what is next for our lightweight Olympic stars? Copeland went back to training, setting her sights on the Rio 2016 Olympic Rowing Regatta, while Hosking is taking time out in Australia to coach and travel. Tsiavou and Giazitzidou jumped straight back in to the double to win silver at the European Rowing Championships in September. “We’ll stay in this crew if we are both still motivated to do it,” said Tsiavou.
Could the Rio 2016 Olympic Games be motivation enough?