Marlborough's Louise Trappitt broke down in tears as she reflected on a snapped oar that dramatically cost the New Zealand women's quadruple sculls crew a place in the final at the Olympic regatta today.
The Kiwi quartet were flying at the 1500m mark of their repechage, needing to finish in the top four of six to progress through to Wednesday's final. After a slow start they had hauled in all but the Australian and USA crews, and had their sights set on the Americans.
Then disaster struck. Trappitt, in the two seat, brought her oar around, as she has done thousands upon thousands of times in her career, and felt it catch on something, then snap. It was as though a handbrake had been applied to the charging boat which dropped out the back of the field, and out of the Games.
"We were having a flyer and just really enjoying it, then suddenly we kicked up some water, my blade hit it and it just shot out of my hand," said a highly emotional Trappitt as she spoke to reporters a little over an hour after the dramatics. "I couldn't ... it caught the water and snapped in half and I couldn't get it back.
"It was just stuck there next to the boat. So I just had to sit back and enjoy the ride for the last 500m.
"I still don't quite know what happened. I'm a bit in shock and disbelief."
It was then that the tears came cascading out, as the realisation that so many hours of training and preparation had been ended by such wretched luck. That a medal that they truly believed was within their reach, had just sunk to the bottom of Eton Dorney.
She was consoled by team-mate Eve Macfarlane, of Canterbury, who said it was at times like this they had to remain a team. "Everyone is gutted, but we support each other and we're already looking forward to Rio," she said.
It was a real shame for the quad of Sarah Gray, Trappitt, Fiona Bourke and Macfarlane, bronze medallists at last year's world championships, as they were cruising to their goal with a lousy 500m remaining. They had been fifth then - right in contention after a blistering third quarter that was the quickest of the entire field.
The repechage was won by the Australians, with the USA, China and Great Britain taking the remaining spots in the final.
There were no such anxieties for the men's quad of John Storey, Michael Arms, Matthew Trott and Robert Manson as they completed an impressive repechage victory to power into Wednesday's semifinals.
The New Zealanders, just needing to avoid last spot in the four-crew repechage, made the pace the entire 2000m as they produced a confidence-boosting victory to take into the sudden-death stages. They were a half boat-length clear of the Italians at the finish, with the Swiss grabbing the final spot.
There was also good news for the women's double scull of Fi Paterson and Anna Reymer as they trailed the crack British combination home to finish second in their heat and qualify directly for the final.
The Kiwi double was well off the pace of the Brits, who won by over five seconds, but finished strongly to hold off the challenge of the Chinese. They said afterwards they had kept plenty in reserve, with a medal now very much in their sights.
The men's four were headed to a repechage after they finished a disappointing fourth in their heat, won in commanding fashion by the impressive Australian quartet. Tyson Williams, Jade Uru, Sean O'Neill and Chris Harris will now race tomorrow to see if they can make the semifinals via the backdoor.
- © Fairfax NZ News