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GUARDIAN COMMENT: Heroics from Richard Egington and TeamGB men's eight rowing crew
TIP your hat to Richard Egington and the TeamGB men’s eight rowers.
Their success story is quite remarkable.
They have earned their wonderful Olympic bronze medals the hard way after only coming together as a crew in March, following the British Championships.
Until then, 33-year-old Egington had devoted the last three years of his life to competing in the four-man boat at London 2012 and is, in fact, reigning world champion in that smaller craft.
So it must have come as a kick in the teeth to learn from chief coach Jurgen Groebler that everything you have committed to is about to change - less than five months away from the start of the biggest race of your career.
From being gold medal favourites in the four, he and other crew members suddenly found themselves in a totally new-look boat starting from scratch.
And what is more, the main Olympic rivals would be a German team that had come together straight after the Beijing games in 2008 and had never been beaten.
Also, although it was not known at the time, they would not be at full strength until the first race of London 2012 due to the selected stroke man’s niggling injury.
In all of these considerable circumstances, it would have been understandable if the TeamGB men’s eight had failed to reach the final.
Amazingly, and in a vast improvement in form from the previous outings in this year’s World Cup series, TeamGB were second fastest in the heats.
And they fired a shot across Germany’s bow in the heats when they only finished half a length behind them, perhaps at that stage taking a little nick out of the world champions’ psyche of invincibility while boosting their own confidence in the process.
They then passed a test of character and showed their strength and determination to hold off current Olympic champions Canada in Monday’s repechage qualifier to book their spot in yesterday’s final.
It must have left the Germans looking over their shoulder and it gave Egington and co the opportunity to strike.
They looked good for gold at 1,500m but then the Germans proved the champions that they are.
Nevertheless, winning an Olympic medal of any colour takes massive sacrifices and extraordinary levels of skill. And to do it after the journey undertaken by Egington and friends highlights their incredible inner strength.
Although there would have been some hurt with the changes five months ago, the men channelled their energies into being the best they could be – and came so close to a massive upset!
Throughout the changes earlier this year, there was no moaning to the media about their plight, they just locked themselves away overseas and buried themselves in the job.
It has been stressful, intense, frustrating at times.
But they have proven to be heroic, and although they will be disappointed with bronze they will, in years to come, be able to look back upon their achievements with great pride.
Anyone fancy another four years and a trip to Rio?
Team GB’s heroic men’s eight: Alex Partridge (Leander Club), James Foad (Molesey BC), Tom Ransley (York City RC), Richard Egington (Leander Club), Mohamed Sbihi (Molesey BC), Greg Searle (Molesey BC), Matt Langridge (Leander Club), Constantine Louloudis (Leander Club), Phelan Hill (cox) (Leander Club). Coaches: Christian Felkel and John West.