Great Britain

Team GB rowers end Tokyo 2020 without a single Olympic gold medal ‘after £27m investment’ as men’s eight take bronze

GB rowers’ week of woe ended with yet more disappointment - and the first Games without a gold medal since 1980.

After Vicky Thornley became the SIXTH GB boat to succumb to the “curse of fourth”, the defending champion men’s eight could only finish third behind New Zealand and Germany.

Despite the second medal of the regatta, it was a poor end to a miserable week, with the reaction of the crew telling its own story.

And the nightmare at the Sea Forest Waterway could have a massive long-term financial effect on one of Team GB’s best funded sports.

Two-time Olympic champion James Cracknell said on BBC commentary: "We got three golds and two silvers in Rio. 

"We come away from Tokyo - after £27million worth of investment in British rowing - with one silver and one bronze.

“At a time when the national budget is under pressure from so many areas, is that a good investment?”

Starting in lane five, GB including only flagbearer Mo Sbihi of the crew that won in Rio, were in the race from the start, headed only by Germany at the 500m mark.

By half-way, though, New Zealand were in front, with GB just 0.07secs behind and Germany third.

The British crew of Josh Bugakski, Jacob Dawson, Tom George, Sbihi, Charlie Elwes, Oliver Wynne-Griffith, James Rudkin and Tom Ford, coxed by Henry Fieldman, had no answer as the Kiwis pushed clear in the third 500m.

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And as they battled to stay in the frame, they were also overtaken by the Germans, holding on for bronze.

It meant they did add to the silver won in the quad scull.

But that represented a terrible performance from a team that had topped the rowing medals table for the past three Games.

Indeed, GB had taken at least one gold in every Olympics since 1984, standing just two gold medals behind leaders USA and East Germany.

But the retirement of long-standing coach Jurgen Grobler and a stack of experienced rowers took a heavy toll as the team significantly under-achieved to face a major effort to retain their lottery funds.

Earlier, Thornley, who partnered Katherine Grainger to silver in Rio, became the latest and last of the fourth place finishers in the single scull, behind New Zealand’s Emma Twigg.

Thornley wanted to be in the race by the half-way mark but found herself fifth through the first 500m, 1.51 seconds behind Twigg.

She looked as if she might drop to the bottom of the pile but with 500m to go it was clear she was locked in a scrap for third with Austria’s Magdalena Lobnig.

Thornley gave it everything in the final burst but was not able to close the gap and finished a third of a length behind the Austrian, with Hanna Prakatsen of Russia second.

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