Tough questions for British rowing after sorry Olympic regatta

The two-time Olympic champion had expressed his fears while watching the men’s quadruple scull fail to qualify from their heat on the morning of the opening ceremony. “I don’t want to get drawn into thinking just because that boat’s going badly it’s a marker for the whole British team but…”.

Ironically, that boat would come through the repechage and go on to record Team GB’s best result of the regatta. That it was a silver medal tells you plenty about Britain’s worst performance on the water, not only since the advent of lottery funding in 1997, but since they left the 1972 Munich Games empty handed completely.

Five years ago in Rio, the men’s eight had capped a superb week with gold in the final race of the meeting but this morning in Tokyo they were tasked with a salvage job.

The crew of Josh Bugajski, Jacob Dawson, Tom George, Moe Sbihi, Charles Elwes, Oliver Wynne-Griffith, James Rudkin, Tom Ford and cox Henry Fieldsman came away with a fine bronze after a thrilling tussle with Germany and eventual winners New Zealand, but ultimately fell short in a last-ditch attempt to keep up rowing’s proud record of having returned from every Games since 1984 with at least one gold medal, the longest such streak in British sport.

Helen Glover and Polly Swann claim another fourth place finish for Team GB.

/ Getty Images

It is that sort of record and that level of reliability that has made rowing Britain’s best-funded Olympic sport – and, of course, that level of funding that has historically delivered such success – but tough questions will now be asked.

“We got three golds and two silvers in Rio. We come away from Tokyo, after £27million of investment in British rowing, with one silver and one bronze,” Cracknell said this morning. “At a time when the national budget is under pressure from so many different areas, is that a good return on investment?”

Earlier in the day, Vicky Thornley – who had won silver alongside Katherine Grainger in 2016 – had been hoping to do her bit to help end things on a high note but became the sixth British boat to finish fourth at these Games as she missed out on a medal in the women’s single sculls by half-a-second.

Having seen so many teammates finish in supposedly the worst position in sport, Wynne-Griffith knew better than to grumble about his bronze, despite the men’s eight finishing just 0.13 seconds shy of silver.

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