The U.S. women's eight boat beat Canada in a much-anticipated showdown Thursday morning, winning America's first gold medal in the Olympic regatta and continuing the crew's six-year winning streak.
Covering the course in 6:10:59, the U.S. crew led the entire race at Eton Dorney, a bucolic venue situated about 25 miles outside London. Canada finished second after a slow start, while Netherlands claimed third.
The U.S. crew -- coxswain Mary Whipple and rowers Caryn Davies, Caroline Lind, Eleanor Logan, Meghan Musnicki, Taylor Ritzel, Esther Lofgren, Susan Francia and Erin Cafaro -- threw their arms up in their air after crossing the line and screamed in celebration. Many wobbled as they stepped off the boat, their legs like Jell-o from 1500 meters of sheer exertion.
"Every team has a race plan, but we ramped it up from start to finish," U.S. rower Caroline Lind said. "We have places where we push, every boat does. But we didn't really have a push-push because the entire thing was a push. We were committed that if we got something, we weren't going to give it up."
The U.S. boat is unbeaten in major competition since 2006, though Canada came within .03 seconds of the American crew at the world cup in Lucerne. Canada made a strong final sprint today, beating the U.S. boat in the last 500-meters split but still losing by 1.47 seconds.
"The last 300 (meters) were really rough," Whipple said. "But we sold it and we did what we needed to do. And we just kept motoring to that line."
U.S. crews have had a strong showing in this event in recent years, winning both the gold in 2008 and a silver in 2004.
From the moment the race started, there was no doubt the crew would be adding another gold to its trophy case, Whipple said.
"When we launched, it was game over," she said. "I felt so much power. When we took our stride that was beautiful. We were a little high. I just told them to breathe, to enjoy this moment, to feel this stroke, to be present. And we were present that whole time. It was magical."
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