This is the extraordinary moment Great Britain’s men’s coxless four rowers lost control of their boat during the Tokyo 2020 final after forgetting to steer – the first time the team has failed to win gold in the event in 21 years.
The Team GB quartet of Sholto Carnegie, Oliver Cook, Rory Gibbs and Matthew Rossiter were among the favourites as Team GB looked to get gold in the event again for the sixth games running since Sir Steve Redgrave’s swansong at Sydney 2000.
But with 500m to go in the race and the British men in silver fighting to beat their Australian rivals, their boat began zig-zagging across the Japanese lake, ‘fully biffed’ into the Italian crew in the neighbouring lane. By the time they had righted themselves they were fourth and out of the medals.
Afterwards the British crew were in tears with Mr Cook apologising to his Olympic teammates and taking responsibility for their blunder on live TV. He said: ‘I screwed up a bit and as I was closing in at the end and taking big strokes at the end going for the line I forgot the steering and that’s what cost us to be honest, cost us a medal.
‘All I can say is thank you to everyone who stayed up to watch tonight and I’m really sorry we’re not coming back with something.’
And BBC commenter James Cracknell, who won two golds in the same event, was eviscerating in his description of the performance, saying: ‘Someone in the British crew blew up. The only way your steering goes like that is when somebody totally runs out of juice’.
His comments sparked a war of words with the hurting crew, who are believed to have had run ins with Mr Cracknell.
Matthew Rossiter suggested that previous Team GB winners of the event including Cracknell would be pleased it went so wrong for them. He said: ‘It’s just disappointing that those people will be really smug now that they are part of the legacy that won. That was a motivation to do well. I hope those people are happy we have not continued the gold run’.
Team GB were in the fight for gold but then they began zig-zagging into the Italian’s lane towards the end, after a crew member said he forgot to steer
Oliver Cook broke down in tears and claimed he was partially to blame for the end of Team GB’s dominance in the coxless four, due to his steering error near the end of the race
As they began to lose the battle for bronze, the Brits failed to adjust their line across the water
As a result they veered into Italy’s lane – causing them to miss out on a potential silver medal
Oliver Cook, Matthew Rossiter, Rory Gibbs and Sholto Carnegie of Team Great Britain react after coming in fourth during the Men’s Four Final
Australia took gold, Romania picked up the silver and Italy took bronze – but the latter have every right to feel hard done by as the British quartet nearly crashed into them during the final stages of the race, denying them the chance of a silver or an unlikely gold.
Of the errant steering, Rossiter said: ‘We fully biffed into the Italians. They are pretty p****d off because maybe we cost them the silver and sorry to those guys.
‘It’s an outdoor sport and this stuff happens. It’s just heartbreaking when it’s you and not something on YouTube.’
Rossiter also said his illustrious predecessors will be ‘smug’ about their failure in Tokyo.
Rossiter took aim at the legends, believed principally to include James Cracknell, who won two gold medals in the country’s most famous boat in 2000 and 2004.
He said: ‘It’s just disappointing that those people will probably be really smug now that they are part of the legacy that won.’
Earlier, there was similar agony for the Team GB women’s four of Rowan McKellar, Harriet Taylor, Karen Bennett and Rebecca Shorten.
But their disappointment was joy for the Irish quartet of Aifric Keogh, Eimear Lambe, Fiona Murtagh and Emily Hegarty, who won their country’s first medal of the Games by pipping the British women to bronze.
Australia claimed gold in another close finish ahead of the Netherlands.
Graeme Thomas and John Collins narrowly missed out on a medal in the final of the men’s double sculls at Sea Forest Waterway.
The British duo pushed hard to catch China in bronze medal position over the final stages in breezy conditions but were unable to close the gap.
Gold went to French double Hugo Boucheron and Matthieu Androdias by just 0.2seconds from Holland.