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Tokyo Olympics: Heartbreak as Team GB’s Imogen Grant and Emily Craig denied rowing medal by 0.01 seconds in epic final

Cambridge rower Imogen Grant. Picture: Nick Middleton (48974565)
Cambridge rower Imogen Grant. Picture: Nick Middleton (48974565)

Imogen Grant and Emily Craig suffered medal heartbreak in an epic final of the lightweight women’s double sculls at the Tokyo Olympics.

The British duo produced a determined and gutsy performance, but they missed the bronze medal by 0.01sec as just two seconds separated the whole field.

It was one stroke that ultimately decided the outcome for Grant and Craig, who finished in 6min 48.04sec with the Netherlands' boat of Marieke Keijser and Ilse Paulis finishing ahead of them in 6.48.03.

The Italian crew of Valentina Rodini and Federica Cesarini took the gold medal in 6min 47.54sec, and France struck silver in 6.47.68.

The Dutch, who won the Rio Olympics five years ago with Paulis and Maaike Head, were fastest away but the GB duo settled into their rhythm quickly, getting their bow ball ahead to pass the 500m marker in first place, 0.25sec ahead of the French.

There was just half a length separating the whole field, which equated to 1.5sec.

By the halfway point of 1,000m, Craig and Grant were in fourth place as Keijser and Paulis led, and they called a move to up the stroke rate in the third 500m.

That was matched by the Italians, the reigning European champions, but Grant and Craig were holding their own to pass the 1,500m in second, just 1.35sec off the Dutch.

It became a sprint for the line, with four crews in contention for the three medals, and there was no second guessing which was it was going to go.

The Italians charged on long-time leaders the Netherlands, as did the French pair.

The Dutch crew then caught a crab in the last few strokes, opening the door for Grant and Craig to take bronze but it was too close to call and headed for a photo finish.

The first four crews were unsure which way the result would be called, and there was elation for the Italians when they were announced as winners.

But it was the other side of the coin for the British crew, who had given their all in what was a truly memorable race as they missed a place on the podium by just 0.01sec.

After the race, Grant told the BBC: "In a lot of ways, pretty much everything went to plan. We knew it was going to be exceptionally tight, we knew all of the crews in the event were a really high standard, we knew we were going to have to execute our race plan as best as we possibly could and find another gear if we could.

"To be honest, all of those things went to plan, it just happened that the outcome wasn't exactly what we hoped for.

"I think I was going 10s from about 700m to go, as is to be expected in an Olympics final. I felt like my legs were going through treacle in the last few strokes and that might well have been where we lost it but ultimately that means we emptied the tank completely.

"I'm sure it will sink in in a little bit. Being at an Olympic Games is more than winning a medal, it's actually reflecting on how far we've come over the last two to three years from our medal in 2019. Obviously we were hoping to come away with a medal here, but ultimately I'm really proud of what we've done."

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