Thornley claims another fourth for GB rowers

Dates: 23 July-8 August Time in Tokyo: BST +8
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Great Britain failed to win an Olympic rowing gold for the first Games since 1980 as the men’s eight crew took bronze in the final race of the Tokyo 2020 regatta.

The British eight were pipped to silver by Germany as New Zealand took gold.

It was Team GB’s second rowing medal in Tokyo – their lowest total at a Games since the same number at Atlanta ’96.

Earlier, Britain’s Vicky Thornley was edged out of a medal despite a late push in the women’s single scull.

The 33-year-old Welsh rower finished 0.67 seconds behind Austria’s Magdalena Lobnig in the race for bronze.

Britain finished in fourth place in six events at the Sea Forest Waterway.

Team GB was the leading rowing nation at Beijing 2008, London 2012 and Rio 2016, claiming six, nine and five medals respectively at those Games.

Dame Katherine Grainger, Britain’s five-time Olympic rowing gold medallist and UK Sport chair, insisted winning only two medals in Tokyo is “not a disaster”.

“Six fourth places are so close, but so far. We’ve been spoiled by rowing for so many Games but it takes a while to build and we will build again,” said Grainger.

The British men’s eight crew were well placed at the halfway stage of the 2,000m race, before New Zealand took control with 500m left.

Germany finished strongly in the final stages to ensure the British crew of Moe Sbihi, Tom Ford, Josh Bugajski, Jacob Dawson, Tom George, Charles Elwes, Oliver Wynne-Griffith, James Rudkin – plus cox Harry Fieldman – had to settle for bronze.

Team GB’s only other rowing medal was the silver claimed by Harry Leask, Angus Groom, Tom Barras and Jack Beaumont in a tight men’s quadruple sculls race on Wednesday.

Two medals is the return from £27m of funding given to rowing by UK Sport for Tokyo 2020.

“At a time when the national budget is under pressure from so many areas – is that a good enough investment?” said two-time Olympic gold medallist James Cracknell.

In December it was announced that had been reduced by about 10% to £22.2m during the Paris 2024 cycle.

Thornley creates history despite falling agonising short

Thornley, who won silver with Grainger in Rio 2016’s double sculls, was bidding to become the first British woman to claim a medal in the event.

An emotional Thornley said she didn’t think she could have “done anything more” after switching from the doubles.

Her journey to Tokyo was far from smooth, however.

The 2017 World Championship silver medallist was unable to defend her title the following year as a result of over-training, then broke her elbow in May last year after being knocked off her bike.

Thornley was involved in more road drama in May, having to run for her lifeexternal-link seconds before a car collided with another vehicle and caught fire.

“I set out to find out what it takes as an individual and I wanted to have a go in the single,” she said.

“I’ve given it absolutely everything I’ve got in the last five years.”

New Zealand’s Emma Twigg cruised to gold in the single scull, with Hannah Prakatsen, representing the Russian Olympic Committee, taking silver.

“I knew I was racing for bronze, I’m not going to lie. I didn’t think gold or silver were attainable,” said Thornley.

“It was about me and Lobnig. I thought she would go out hard again but that I could reel her back in. Fair play to her, she’s an awesome athlete.

“Maybe I let it get away a bit too much in the first bit but I was confident I could come through in the second half. In the last 100 I just fell away.”

Grainger, in her role as an analyst for BBC television, said she was “so, so proud” of her former rowing partner.

“A lot of people wouldn’t have expected her to get to the final, necessarily,” said the five-time medallist.

“Although it is a fourth – again – that is history made. It is the highest any female scull has come at the Olympic Games.”

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