The twins are back. After two years of poor form defending Olympic champions Caroline and Georgina Evers-Swindell delivered a gem on the water at Shunyi yesterday to cap a great start by the New Zealand rowing team.
The struggling men's four almost beat the hot shot Dutch crew, Rob Waddell and Nathan Cohen stormed home in great fashion to win their heat but the headline act on a baking hot day first day of the Games belonged to the Evers-Swindell twins.
Off the water there was drama as well with Chinese male sculler Liang Zhang a suspicious late defection from the men's singles and the champion Aussie coxless pair of Duncan Free and Drew Ginn complaining heat conditions were so fierce they could effect the order of results.
But the Evers-Swindell twins had no such complaints. Written off in every quarter before the Games, they blasted out of the blocks and held their form into a head wind to clock 7mins 3.92 sec. Only the Chinese pair of Li Qin and Tian Liang went quicker (by .79sec) after being pressed to the finish by the Czechs.
The smile on Georgina's face afterwards said it all.
"It's been a while and it was a good confidence booster for Caroline and I," she said.
"It was satisfying, we took it one step at a time and it was funny we were talking afterwards and we were thinking the same sort of things coming down the track and we (were) very much in our own boat and focusing on one stroke at a time.
"It was good to put it together on the day but we've always been good trainers and we've done some good tests over the last couple of days, but until you put (it) together on the day you can't claim it, so it was a good race."
Georgina added the week ahead would be a nervous one, with a semifinal on Wednesday and, at this rate, a gold medal attempt on Saturday.
"It's a bit of deja vu back to Athens so it is going to be a long week."
She added that is felt special to be part of a cracking start to the regatta by the seven New Zealand crews, who delivered five wins and two close seconds overall in their heats.
"There is a good feeling in the camp but on their past records everyone has performed as they should. But it's a good day for the Kiwi team for sure."
Waddell was typically composed after a tough heat win over the Belarus pair, when he and Cohen had to come from two seconds down at the halfway mark to win in the second fastest time of the day.
"We'll take a look at the race tonight and see where we can improve," Waddell said.
"The big thing was not to get rattled, stay in our rhythm and be confident in our speed and know we could come through. But we are aware what is coming up, semifinals, eight good crews, six spots, it's all on, it is what you come here for."
The day started on a bright note when 21 year-old women's single sculler Emma Twigg breezed to victory by 3.9sec.
Among the other qualifiers were hot favourite Ekaterina Karsten (Belarus) and Australia's Pippa Savage, who only took up the sport because a coach spotted her working behind the bar at the 2002 Melbourne Cup at Flemington and remarked she had the perfect physique for rowing.
After Twigg came a stroll in the park by Mahe Drysdale then Nicky Coles and Juliette Haig pushed the world champion Belarus pair close and George Bridgewater and Nathan Twaddle recorded the second fastest time of the day behind Free and Ginn.
- Fairfax Media
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