BY CHIP DAVIS
PHOTO BY PETER SPURRIER
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The Netherlands’ crew almost caught them at the end of the grand final of the 2022 Rowing World Championships, but that was about as close as anyone came to the GB men’s eight this year. The top crew from the country that made 13 of 14 grand finals at their home Olympics in London 2012 features none of the athletes from the same crew 10 years ago but all of the speed that comes from a national machine that develops both athletes and coaches with ample funding, world-class facilities, and a supportive and appreciative public.
Great Britain rose from winning only one medal in any sport in 1996 (gold at the Atlanta Games by the men’s pair of Steve Redgrave and Matthew Pinsent) to the top of the medals table with 12 (including seven golds) at the 2022 World Rowing Championships in September. The men’s eight rowed a race emblematic of Great Britain’s current place in international rowing: at the front, with everyone else chasing them. And catch them The Netherlands almost did. But where it counts, at the finish line, Britain’s men’s eight was first and best.
The GB squad has plenty of work and challenges ahead of it before the Paris Olympic regatta begins on July 27, 2024, not the least of which is avoiding the complacency that can infect a program that has won for years as well as failing to replace aging stalwarts (see German men’s eight). But for 2022, they were the best.