BEIJING - The U.S. women's eight won the gold medal for the first time since 1984, while the men's eight won the bronze medal to highlight the final day of rowing competition at the Shunyi Olympic Rowing-Canoeing Park.
The women's eight of coxswain Mary Whipple (Sacramento, Calif.), Caryn Davies (Ithaca, N.Y.), Caroline Lind (Greensboro, N.C.), Susan Francia (Abington, Pa.), Anna Cummins (Bellevue, Wash.), Eleanor Logan (Boothbay Harbor, Maine), Anna Goodale (Camden, Maine), Lindsay Shoop (Charlottesville, Va.) and Erin Cafaro (Modesto, Calif.) led the race from start to finish, clocking a 6:05.34 to defeat The Netherlands by 1.88 seconds. Romania, the defending Olympic champion, finished third in a 6:07.25.
"Obviously, we wanted to be ahead," Cafaro said. "We got faster every 500 meters, or at least it felt like that to us."
The U.S. built a 0.73-second advantage on the field in the first 500 meters and extended its lead to 1.78 seconds over Romania at the midway point of the race. The crew continued to increase its lead in the third 500 before coming home for the victory. The finish gave the U.S. its first gold medal in the event since Los Angeles.
"Before we left Princeton, we gathered and watched that 1984 race," Whipple said. "I made the call halfway through the race saying that it was just like 1984 and that we couldn't let them down. Then we just motored ahead."
"We learned a lot from Athens," said Whipple about winning the silver medal in 2004. "I think the group from '04 built a foundation for this team, and these girls have stepped it up. It's taken about 13 or 14 girls to build this eight."
The men's eight of coxswain Marcus McElhenney (Lansdowne, Pa.), Bryan Volpenhein (Cincinnati, Ohio), Josh Inman (Hillsboro, Ore.), Steven Coppola (Buffalo, N.Y.), Dan Walsh (Norwalk, Conn.), Wyatt Allen (Portland, Maine), Micah Boyd (St. Paul, Minn.), Matt Schnobrich (St. Paul, Minn.) and Beau Hoopman (Plymouth, Wis.) won the bronze medal, missing the silver by 0.23 seconds. After getting off the line in sixth place, the crew pushed into fourth at the 1,000-meter mark before taking third position from The Netherlands in the third quarter of the race. The U.S. continued to charge on the second-place British crew but fell just short at the line. Canada led the race from start to finish, winning with a time of 5:23.89. Great Britain took second in a 5:25.11, followed by the U.S. in a 5:25.34.
"I'm really happy," Volpenhein said. "I was really excited to get out there today. I'm not disappointed with bronze. It's always good to come away with a medal."
"It's been pretty incredible," Walsh said. "We had a rough heat, but we came together as a team, and that's the Olympic spirit. You persevere and you end up on the podium."
In the women's quadruple sculls, the crew of Margot Shumway (Westlake, Ohio), Jennifer Kaido (West Leyden, N.Y.), Lindsay Meyer (Seattle, Wash.) and Lia Pernell (Seattle, Wash.) finished fifth, clocking a 6:25.86. China came from behind to win the gold medal in a 6:16.06, while Great Britain finished second in a 6:17.37. Germany won the bronze in a 6:19.56.
The men's quadruple sculls crew of Scott Gault (Piedmont, Calif.), Jamie Schroeder (Wilmette, Ill.), Sam Stitt (McLean, Va.) and Matt Hughes (Ludington, Mich.) also finished fifth. The crew got off the line in sixth place and could never get into the hunt for a medal. Poland won gold in a 5:41.33, with Italy finishing second in a 5:43.57. France passed Australia in the final 500 meters to win the bronze in a 5:44.34. The U.S. finished with a time of 5:47.64.