Eight left with bronze after daring to fight with the giants and dream at Dorney
20:10 GMT, 1 August 2012
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For Greg Searle, retirement came with a bronze medal, a final burn of the muscles and the sole regret that he was unable to wear his lucky school rugby socks in the Great Britain eight.
His last race at the highest level at least turned out to be a sensational contest, the home crew bravely challenging the German favourites for gold before losing out to Canada for the silver in the closing stretch as they paid the price for earlier adventure.
At 40, Searle, a gold medallist 20 years ago today in Barcelona, goes back into normal life with head held high and advice for crew-mates such as stroke Constantine Louloudis, who is half his age but appeared twice as upset at a third-place finish.
Giving it their all: The men's eight won bronze
Medal men: The Great Britain team pose with their bronze medals
The veteran was not seriously put out
at Olympic regulations forcing him to wear the universal ankle socks but
he did feel it touches on a more profound point that his GB rowing
successors can take on board.
‘Guys who are full-time can find the
training tough and I do worry that it can turn into a job,’ he
reflected. ‘I would just say to others that as well as being
professional in your approach, keep the passion and love for what you
do. That is why Helen Glover and Heather Stanning have done so well —
because they love it.’
Winners float: Canada (left) took silver, Germany (centre) gold, Great Britain (right) bronze
Searle’s life now will be a ‘blank
canvas’ with family getting priority. ‘I have missed a lot of things
that my children have done,’ he said. ‘I’m looking forward to seeing
their sports days again. But I have no regrets about coming back, I’m
very proud of what we have done over the past three years.’
Louloudis, at 20 marked out for
greatness already, will resume his studies at Oxford next term after a
race which he said forced him to dig deeper than ever before.
Making a splash: The Germany team throw their cox Martin Sauer into the water after winning gold
Not long after the halfway point Great
Britain were just ahead of the Germans, unbeaten since Beijing, and
looked in sight of a sensational victory with Eton Dorney’s increasingly
landmark ‘Wall of Sound’ pulling them home. In the end they were nearly
edged off the podium by Australia.
‘We went for a win. If we had just
wanted silver we could have rowed a different race,’ said Louloudis, who
made the boat despite back problems earlier this summer. ‘In the last
500 metres the mind said yes but the body said no. The legs weren’t
co-operating and I was having to shorten it up.’
He knows he should get another chance
in Rio 2016, as does his equally inconsolable crew-mate Moe Sbihi, and
they were more distraught than the relatively phlegmatic Searle. Perhaps
it is the knowledge of all that pain in store in the future.
Winning feeling: Germany's rowers celebrate after winning the gold medal in the men's eight final
It also saw Northern Ireland’s Alan
Campbell qualify for the final of the single sculls and an extremely
impressive progression for the youthful men’s pair of Will Satch and
George Nash, who will also be contenders for a medal, although probably
Along with the men’s quad it meant
that all 10 of the British crews who have attempted it so far have made
their finals. Although Tanner is loath to get into specific targets, he
did reveal a growing sense of optimism that the next three days will
continue to deliver hardware.
‘We’ve been the second best boat all
summer and bronze does not reflect that. We went for broke,’ said Sbihi,
who carved his own little piece of history by becoming Britain’s first
Muslim to win an Olympic rowing medal.
The British performance director,
David Tanner, again pronounced himself pleased with the day, especially
as the vision he has harboured since Atlanta 1996 for Britain to produce
a women’s gold had finally become reality.
Just pipped: Germany win ahead of Canada and Great Britain
‘Two medals and 10 finals is at the
very top end of my expectations,’ he said. Today’s three finals could
produce two more medals, with a genuine chance of gold for the fancied
lightweight men’s four, although it is a notoriously unpredictable
class. The men’s double of Bill Lucas and Sam Townsend are a less
certain shot to get on the podium, and the women’s eight will have to
show unforeseen form to make an impression.
There will also be the
hugely-anticipated clash between the British and Australian men’s fours,
although only in the semi-final, with their last showdown due on