Confidence sky-high for Hong Kong-raised Melanie Wilson and Great Britain in women’s eights

Rowing crew savour psychological advantage over rivals New Zealand in winning their heat to move straight into Saturday’s final, where the United States will be the team to beat

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 09 August, 2016, 8:53pm
UPDATED : Wednesday, 10 August, 2016, 9:46am

Hong Kong-raised Melanie Wilson and her Great Britain teammates are savouring a big psychological advantage over rivals New Zealand after cruising to victory in their heat and moving straight into the final of the women’s eights at the Rio Olympics.

The British and Kiwis had traded victories in recent races and both knew that anything but a win in their heat meant going through the hassle of a repêchage phase.

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Britain, with former Hong Kong Island School student Wilson at No 2, won handily over New Zealand after a slow start while the powerful Americans also won their heat with plenty to spare.

Said Wilson: "We're thrilled with our race. Progressing straight to the final not only sends out a strong message that we're serious contenders, but means we can spend a few days adding some finishing touches to our race strategy.

"We felt the race went well, and although we were a bit slow out of the start, we were in a strong rhythm and there was a collective mentality throughout that we could win the race. The other two crews clearly threw everything at the front end of the race, and appeared to fade just as we picked up speed in the second half."

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Wilson’s teammate, Zoe Lee, said the crew were in good spirits after their winning start to the campaign at Lagoa Stadium.

“We’re pretty confident in our processes and it’s very good to get going,” said Lee. “I looked down at my speed coach after 30 seconds and thought, ‘This is the Olympic Games’.”

Although the New Zealanders are favourites to reach the final via a repêchage, the United States are the team to beat for the gold.

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The Americans have one of the most punishing selection processes in the sport and have won the past 10 major titles, including two straight Olympic gold medals.

Many in the British camp believe their crew has the ability to topple the Americans and prevent them from winning a third consecutive gold for the first time. Great Britain were narrowly beaten by the US at a World Cup meeting earlier this year, raising hopes that they can cause an upset in Rio.

The women’s eights final takes place on Saturday.