China’s Huang Cheng on Sunday pulled off a stunning win in the men’s arms-only single sculls, winning gold to inflict the first defeat on Britain’s defending champion Tom Aggar in his international rowing career.
Huang, 30, set a world best of 4min 45.02sec in the heats of the ASM1x race and, despite the Briton being the favourite for the title, stormed to victory over the 1km course in 4mins 52.36sec, three seconds ahead of Australia’s Erik Horrie.
Aleksey Chuvashev of Russia took bronze while Aggar, unbeaten since taking up the sport in 2007, trailed in an agonising fourth at a blustery Eton Dorney west of London.
“I am very excited for the gold and for breaking the record. I followed my coaches’ instructions. The first part, I went at normal speed. From the 250m I started using all my energy and I had good control,” Huang said.
Horrie, a former wheelchair basketball player for Australia, said he was more than happy with his silver after suffering a small seizure on Friday, which put his participation in Saturday’s repechage in doubt.
But the 32-year-old said he took satisfaction from being an inspiration to others and was also looking forward to meeting the latest addition to his family after his first son was born four days ago.
“Hopefully when I get home to my girls [daughters Maddison and Summer] and my new boy Lewis, I’ve got a good excuse for missing the birth,” he said, laughing.
Aggar, 28, said he was “devastated” by the defeat.
“Going in I was the favourite on paper and had great preparation. But when asked for more today it just wasn’t there. The standard has moved on massively and I just wasn’t myself today. I will be back. I’m a fighter through and through,” he said.
In the women’s equivalent (ASW1x), two-time world champion Alla Lysenko of Ukraine took gold in 5mins 35.29secs ahead of 2010 world champion Nathalie Benoit of France and Liudmila Vauchok of Belarus.
Huang’s victory was one of two rowing golds for China on Sunday, with world champions Fei Tianming and Lou Xiaoxian winning the trunk and arms mixed double sculls (TAMix2x), also after posting a world best time in qualifying.
The duo never looked in danger after pulling away from Perle Bouge and Stephane Tardieu of France before midway point. They crossed the line almost six seconds ahead in 3mins 57.63secs. Oksana Masters and Rob Jones, of the United States, were third.
Britain’s Nick Beighton, a former soldier who lost both legs on a tour of duty in Afghanistan, and partner Sam Scowen, were adrift of the medals.
In the legs, trunks and arms (LTAMix4+) mixed coxed four, though, Pamela Relph, Naomi Riches, Dave Smith, James Roe with cox Lily van den Broecke gave the home crowd something to cheer about when they beat Germany by half a length.
Ukraine pipped China for bronze.