London 2012: Romford’s defending Olympic champion books his place in rowing final

Hunter and Purchase win their semi-final despite late French challenge

Defending Olympic champions Mark Hunter and Zac Purchase sailed through to the final of the men’s lightweight double sculls with a strong semi-final victory this morning.

Rowing in the second semi-final, there was added pressure on Romford’s Hunter and his partner as they watched Denmark, New Zealand and Germany qualify for Saturday’s final in the first race of the morning.

However, the British duo failed to let the occasion get to them as they started strongly, in a tough field including France, Portugal, Cuba and former world champions Hungary.

Hunter and Purchase occupied lane three next to France, however it was the Cubans in lane one who lead the first 500m, crossing the line just in front of French pair Jeremie Azou and Stany Delayre, with the Britons in third, just 0.7 seconds behind the race leaders.

Immediately Hunter and Purchase responded, as they caught Cuba’s Manuel Suarez Barrios and Yunior Aguilera Perez to give themselves the narrowest of leads towards the halfway mark, with the French in close persuit.

However, it was in the third quarter of the race, between 1,000m and 1,500m that Hunter and Purchase stamped their dominance on the semi-final, as they upped their stroke rate and began to pull away from the rest of the crews, with Cuba fading fast.

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And as the British pair crossed the 1,500m mark, they had managed to accumulate a 1.1 second lead, half a length in front of Azou and Delayre.

Attack

Leading going into the last 250m, the French pair upped their stroke rate and began to really attack Hunter and Purchase in the closing stages.

But in the end, the earlier hard work of the British duo saw them cross the finish line and breathe a huge sigh of relief, finishing in a time of six minutes and 36.62 seconds.

The French claimed second place, crossing just 0.7 seconds behind Hunter and Purchase, with Portugal clinching the third place in Saturday morning’s final, which starts at 9.40am.

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