Monday, November 23, 2015

Rowing Video Of The Week: Great Britain's Grand Challenge

Germany races Great Britain for the Grand Challenge Cup (Screen capture)

This week's video comes to us from the banks of the Thames River, and looks back at the final of the Grand Challenge Cup at Henley Royal Regatta last July.

Not only does the video offer beautiful, sweeping (yay #rowingpuns) views of the racing from both the water and drones overhead, but also the narrator is none other than Olympic champion Alex Gregory of the Great Britain men's eight, who gives his insight into what was going through the collective mind of his crew as they lined up at the start last summer.



Earlier in the year, the Germans—the reigning Olympic champions in the eight—had gotten the better of the British crew at the European championships in Poznan. However, more recently, the Brits had won a narrow victory over the Germans at the second World Rowing Cup. The stage was set for a great battle, and this time, once again, the GB crew had enough to hold off Germany, as they would for the rest of the season in 2015.

Still, it's a rivalry we're looking forward to watching in the coming Olympic year, in what may be another very tightly packed men's eight field in Rio. As I wrote for ROWING Magazine's online coverage following the men's eight final in London:
The last of the A Finals on Wednesday was the men's eight, again featuring very competitive crews from Australia, Great Britain, the U.S., and Germany, as well as defending Olympic champions Canada, and The Netherlands. The German men's eight, undefeated throughout this quadrennium, got out to a typically fast start, but were very closely tracked by Great Britain. The field remained tightly packed throughout the race, despite the headwind, and for much of the first 1500 meters it looked like a battle between the Brits and the Germans for gold. However, following a huge move from the GB crew to take a slight lead, the Germans responded with one of their own, and quickly regained a two-seat advantage over the home team, pulling the U.S. and Canada up with them. 
In the last 250m, the Canadian's made a tremendous push, gliding into a 'clear' second place, while Brits continued to fade—as the crews approached the line, there was nothing in it between the U.S., The Netherlands, GB, and Australia, but the GB crew managed to hold on for bronze by just 0.30 seconds over the surging U.S. eight. The Netherlands finished just 0.24 behind Team USA, with Australia sixth, 0.05 of a second back of the Dutch. The Germans won in a time of 5:48.75, with all six boats separated by a total of 3.12 seconds across the line.
It doesn't get much closer than that.

In fact, it was the closest men's eight A Final, first through sixth place, in Olympic history—to find comparable parity, you have to go back to the 1932 Olympics, when all crews finished within 3.2 seconds of one another in a four-boat final.

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-RR

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