The Top 5 GB Olympic Pairings
In the wake of Heather Stanning’s retirement from rowing, Sports Gazette looks at Great Britain’s best Olympic pairings.
5) Marcus Ellis and Chris Langridge
This was the underdog story of Rio 2016: the pair, who were ranked 22nd in the world went through a horribly long qualifying process to reach the Olympics and then managed to win the bronze medal: Britain's first badminton medal in 12 years!
Ellis and Langridge caused many upsets in the tournament, beating the third-ranked South Korean pairing and then the fifth-ranked pair of Wei Hong and Biao Chai to secure the bronze medal. Everyone loves an underdog and that’s why this pairing has a place on the list.
4) Nathan Robertson and Gail Emms
Once described as the Torvill and Dean of badminton, Nathan Robertson and Gail Emms secured a historic silver medal in the mixed doubles badminton at the 2004 Athens Olympics. In a sport so heavily dominated by China, the pair’s silver medal is even more impressive.
Having played together since the age of 15, their chemistry and experience were catalysts for their Olympic success. Alongside their Olympic medal they won the 2006 IBF World Championships and consecutive titles at the England National Badminton Championships. Yet it is their Olympic endeavours alone that earn them a place on this list.
3) Katherine Grainger and Anna Watkins
Katherine Grainger was thrice the bridesmaid, with three consecutive silver medals in the Olympics leading up to London 2012. After many different partners, it was the magic pairing of Grainger and Watkins that finally saw Grainger win a well-deserved gold medal and the title of most successful British female rower of all time.
The reaction afterwards, especially the embrace between Grainger and Sir Steve Redgrave, signified the years of hard work, determination and pure ambition that the pair had put in to reach Olympic glory.
2) Jack Laugher and Chris Mears
In Rio, everyone was anticipating a Tom Daley and Dan Goodfellow gold in the diving, but it was Jack Laugher and Chris Mears that shone through in the synchronised springboard to take an Olympic title. Not only was this Great Britain’s first ever gold medal in diving, it upset China’s hopes of a clean sweep of the diving medals and crucially contributed towards Team GB’s second place in the medals table.
Mears had overcome a fair amount of adversity, he was given a 5% chance of survival in 2009 after a life-threatening virus left him in a coma for three days. Yet this didn't stop him becoming Olympic champion. Mears and Laugher held their form throughout the competition despite having to dive in Blighty-esqe wind and rain to steal the title from underneath the oppositions’ noses.
1) Heather Stanning and Helen Glover
Heather Stanning and Helen Glover are unbeaten since 2011 in the women’s coxless pairs and have a run of 39 back-to-back wins. They were GB’s first female rowers to win consecutive Olympic titles - in London and Rio. This confirmed the double Olympic champions’ complete mastery of their sport and highlighted the fact that no other pair is close to being in the form that these two have been in over the last five years.
They won the first British gold of the London Olympics and consequently began a gold rush for Team GB, leading to their highest medal count up to that point. Stanning followed up her gold in London with a tour of Helmand Province in Afghanistan and now resumes her rank after a decorated rowing career.