Scots rowing legend Katherine Grainger became the first British female to win a medal at five successive Olympic Games by battling to a dramatic silver in the women’s double sculls rowing final with Victoria Thornley.
After a season which saw their partnership dissolved and them being among the last rowers named in the GB team, the pair upset the odds to secure second place behind Poland who finished strongest over the final 500m.
The result means Grainger failed to recapture her Olympic crown, after winning gold in the double sculls with Anna Watkins at London 2012.
But it still meant she is now Team GB’s most decorated female athlete having won silver at three previous Games.
The 40-year-old had previously capture four successive medals after silvers at Sydney 2000, Athens 2004 and Beijing 2008 and then gold in London.
Silver at Rio 2016 means she is the first British female to win a medal at five Games in a row while for Thornley it was her first Olympic medal on her second appearance.
Grainger described the performance as “amazing” and said: “There is a sense of disappointment that we didn’t hold on but it is the most incredible result that I am so proud of because a few weeks ago no-one would have ever expected that from us.
“I don’t think you ever feel like you are going to win but we were ahead and felt good and then you come down very quickly. It was certainly a dramatic race.
“I don’t think we could have done anymore, we put every element into it and really gave it everything we had. We had to find something really big at the end there to hold onto the medal and I’m so please we did.
“I don’t think anything could eclipse that Olympic gold medal at London 2012 because of everything that was around it but this is certainly very special.
“There have of course been many, many dark days when I couldn’t see this happening so to be standing in the Rio sunshine with a medal around my neck is amazing.
“Regarding Tokyo 2020 – mum and dad, I promise I won’t put you through it again.”
Thornley added: “I am so thankful to Katherine; she did everything so well in the race. It was a really great race from us and a silver medal is pretty nice.”
“I have been dreaming of winning an Olympic medal since I started rowing and so many times I was not sure it would ever happen.
“I had to find the right race with the right person and today was that race.”
The pair were out out in front at the halfway stage but Poland’s Magdalena Fularczyk-Kozlowska and Natalia Madaj finished 0.95 seconds ahead, with Lithuania in third.
Four-time Olympic champion Matthew Pinsent described it as “one of the most amazing TeamGB stories this year”.
Chief Executive of sportscotland Stewart Harris, who watched the race in Lagoa Stadium, said: “I am absolutely delighted to see Scotland’s Katherine Grainger winning yet another Olympic medal to add to her gold from London, and silvers from Sydney, Barcelona and Athens. She and partner Vicky Thornley didn’t have the easiest journey into these Games so to see their perseverance rewarded with an Olympic medal for Team GB is terrific.
“Katherine is now Britain’s most decorated female Olympian, an accolade that has come as the result of her complete commitment and dedication to her sport. Katherine is an incredible role model, inspiring others to be the best that they can be and leading by example. At sportscotland we are working closely with Scottish Rowing to continue her legacy by creating more opportunities to take up the sport at every level and ensuring that the athletes receive the right support services to allow them to deliver world-class performances, just as Katherine has done throughout her incredible career.”
Earlier Lossiemouth’s Heather Stanning and Helen Glover kept up their unbeaten run by winning their semi-final in the women’s pair to keep their medal hopes alive.
Stanning said: “The main job for us was to get out there and get into the final and that is where we need to be. We are happy with the row. We were keen to go out there and get racing. We are really glad that the racing has gone ahead.
“The plan now is to get back, rest, recover and get ready for the final tomorrow. Conditions were pretty straight forward today. There was nothing too untoward today so we were happy with everything.”
Glover added: “We always try to step up through the regatta and there is no reason to think we can’t produce a full race tomorrow. That was a semi-final race and the job was to get through, so the aim will be to produce a full race tomorrow.
“We’re trying to make it feel like it’s just a race where we’re trying to beat the crews beside us. It doesn’t matter what the venue is, it doesn’t matter what the event is, we’re just going to try and give it our best. We know we’ve got a really competitive field but we’ve known that this whole time, it’s nothing different.
“The reality of sport is that we’ve got to race our best race tomorrow if we want a chance to be on the podium and that’s true of any race in this regatta,
“Through the middle and through the finish there I wouldn’t say we had to step on massively, but equally the crews behind us probably felt quite safe in their qualification slots so they won’t have stepped on either.
“I think we kind of relish that point of pain in the race where you try to dig in to create inches and create margins so tomorrow I would hope that we would look forward to getting involved in that bit.”
Read the inside story of Grainger and Thornley’s road to Rio in our digital edition http://bit.ly/28ZRRI3