Kim Brennan has broken Australia’s eight-year Olympic rowing gold medal drought by taking out the women’s single sculls on Lagoa Rodrigo de Freitas.
The 31-year-old, who completed her set of Olympic medals by claiming top spot on the podium in Rio, led from start to finish to give Australia only its second ever women’s Olympic rowing gold medal on the final day of the Olympic rowing regatta. Drawn in lane three, Brennan lined up alongside scullers from Switzerland, USA, China, New Zealand and Austria. No doubt the three favourites for the title were positioned in lanes three, four and five, with Brennan drawn next Jingli Duan of China and Emma Twigg of New Zealand.
The three-time Olympian, who at the London 2012 Olympic Games claimed a bronze medal in the same event, powered out the start, knowing that she needed to secure her lead earlier on to stave off any usurpers to the title she has coveted for the last four years. The Trans-Tasman rivalry between Twigg and Brennan was something that many had focussed on, since both are World Champions, while China’s Duan was a bronze medallist at the 2015 World Championships. However, Twigg was not in contention here, it was to be Brennan’s day.
As the six boats approached the first 500 metre marker, Brennan was in the lead with a clear water advantage but Duan and Genevra Stone of the USA were both pushing up, while Twigg was not to be discounted. However, from the halfway mark, Brennan increased her clear water advantage, and maintained a stroke rate of 33 having powered out the start with one of 39.
In the final 500 metres, Stone began to chase down Brennan but she maintained her composure, and her lead, to claim gold for Australia. Stone took silver, while Duan claimed bronze. It is the first time an Australian woman has won an Olympic rowing gold medal since 1996, when Kate Allen (nee Slatter) and Megan Marcks (nee Still) won gold at the Atlanta Olympic Games.
“It’s one of those things that your do so much visualisation and you imagine that moment so many times, but just crossing the line, I couldn’t work out whether that was actually it or whether that was my imagination again, I can’t really believe it,” said Brennan.
Brennan admitted that the win was just not just hers saying she had a huge group supporting her to achieve her dream. “People at home see me in my single scull alone, but there are a huge group of people who have helped me to get here. The amount of time my coach, Lyall McCarthy, has put in, you can’t put into numbers,” admitted Brennan.
“I went in with a really technical focus after reviewed the footage from the semi-final, I realised that I wanted to sit up and keep the focus on that, be tall and to breath. I was very much racing my own race and that worked to my favour,” said Brennan, who finished in a time of 7mins 21secs.
Brennan, who is married to 2008 Olympic rowing gold medallist, Scott Brennan, spoke to her husband shortly after the race and admitted she was more interested in finding out how their dog, Ernie, was doing than discussing the race.
“Scott said he was very proud of me, but I wanted to see how Ernie was doing but he wasn’t too interested in watching my race, he wanted the attention to himself!
“It’s funny actually as the song they played as I walked down to the dais was our wedding song, Bruno Mars’ Uptown Funk, so I think it was just one of those moments where I thought, this was meant to be,” said a delighted Brennan.
Watching from Canberra, where he works as an emergency medicine doctor, Scott, admitted it had been a fantastic race from his wife.
“It was absolutely incredible. I’ve been able to speak with Kimmy every day she has gone through the regatta and obviously it was a really tough start to the regatta and it really shook her up.
“I think it is a measure of Kim as an athlete that she was able to bounce back from what was a disastrous start and finish so strongly and so beautiful and it was a spectacular display in final,” said Scott Brennan.
Post Games, Scott admitted the duo will be finally taking their honeymoon having got married in December 2015.
“We are heading off on our honeymoon. One of the hardest decisions we had to make was whether I came over to Rio and watch her or not but Kimmy really wanted us to go away and spend some time together with a proper honeymoon.
“We had to postpone it because of her training at the end of last year, so we’re heading off to our honeymoon in South Africa,” added Brennan.
Rhys Grant, who just missed out on a place in the A-final in the men’s single sculls, raced in the B-final of the competition and finished third in that race.