Gold medallists Britain's Katherine Grainger and Anna Watkins (L) hold up their national flag as they celebrate with their medals during the awards ceremony for the women's double sculls at the London 2012 Olympic Games in Eton Dorney August 3, 2012. (Photo : REUTERS/Brian Snyder)
Britain and New Zealand confirmed their dominance of the Olympic rowing regatta on Friday, with wins for the popular Katherine Grainger and Mahe Drysdale capping sparkling careers and finally making up for bitter losses in Beijing.
Britain's Grainger and her partner Anna Watkins powered to victory in the women's double sculls in a commanding performance to give Grainger the gold she had craved after winning three silvers in consecutive Games.
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Twenty minutes later, Drysdale held on for gold in the men's single sculls following his loss four years ago when he was rowed through in the final stages of a race, having been brought low by illness.
New Zealand also picked up a gold in the men's pair with Eric Murray and Hamish Bond winning in one of the most comprehensive displays of racing seen at an Olympic regatta.
That adds to the gold medal won on Thursday by the men's double and confirms New Zealand as one of the strongest rowing nations around.
Britain, which won the women's pair on Wednesday, picked up two bronzes on Friday and the Olympic hosts are favorite to add to that medal collection in three more events on Saturday.
"I've been working for this for 12 years," Drysdale told reporters on the side of the lake, still struggling to breathe and holding on to the rails for support. "Family and friends watching. Amazing, I'll remember it for the rest of my life."
Germany won the other Olympic gold up for grabs on Friday, beating a young Croatian crew in the men's quad scull.
Britain's Grainger was cheered as she crossed the line, with both women looking to the skies and raising their arms aloft in sunny conditions on Dorney Lake.
As they stood on the podium the sound of the British national anthem drifted across the lake, roared by the standing 25,000 fans in the grandstands on the other side of the course as Grainger fought to hold her emotions together.
"Worth the wait," she told the BBC after receiving a long embrace from her friend and five-times gold-winning British rower Steve Redgrave. "Steve promised me they'd be tears of joy this time, which they are.
"I feel this medal of all of them is the people's medal. I feel so many people have been behind me and supported me and wanted this for me as much as I have."
Grainger was in the first British women's crew to win an Olympic medal when she won silver in a quad in Sydney but the silvers she won in Athens and, particularly Beijing, when she was pipped on the line, had meant the local fans were rooting for the 36-year-old to win.
They got off to a fast start and slowly pulled away from their nearest rivals, Australia, in a commanding performance that is likely to be Grainger's last at an Olympic regatta.
The final could also be the last Olympic appearance for the five-times world champion Drysdale who was another favorite with the crowd following his torrid time in Beijing.
On Lake Shunyi he jumped out to a lead and held on until the final 100 meters of the 2,000 meter course before being overhauled by 2004 champion Olaf Tufte of Norway and Ondrej Synek of the Czech Republic.
A vomiting Drysdale then had to be taken away for treatment and later helped on to the podium to receive his bronze medal.
In a sign of how hard the rowers push themselves in the final stages of the London race, Britain's Alan Campbell - who took bronze in the single sculls - had to be helped out of the boat and was supported by two officials as he asked to stand for the playing of the British anthem for the women's double scull.
He later appeared overwhelmed by emotion at his own medal ceremony. Synek took the silver and the three men, who are friends, embraced on the podium.
The victory by New Zealand's Murray and Bond was less of a surprise as the crew have dominated their event for the last three years.
They moved through a fast-starting French crew after 500 meters and then effortlessly pulled away from the rest of the field with their long relaxed stroke, winning by two lengths of clear water and leaving the rest of the field to fight for the remaining places. France took silver and Britain the bronze.
The 30-year-old Murray and Bond, 26, have looked untouchable all season, regularly winning races by huge margins to make up for their disappointing performance at the Beijing Games where they missed the final as part of a four crew.
"Whatever happens in the future we know that we have achieved," Bond said. "Now we're there and nobody can take it away."