Great Britain’s Melanie Wilson thanks Hong Kong friends for their support in her Rio silver medal success

The 32-year-old Wilson is part of the crew that finishes second to the powerful United States and becomes the first women’s eights from Britain to win an Olympic medal

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 14 August, 2016, 8:44am
UPDATED : Sunday, 14 August, 2016, 9:09am

Melanie Wilson thanked her Hong Kong friends who supported her as she helped the Great Britain women’s eights team to a silver medal in the Rio Olympics rowing competition on Saturday.

The 32-year-old Wilson, who lived in Hong Kong until she was 18, was No 2 on the boat that came second to the powerful United States and became the first women’s eights crew from Britain to win an Olympic medal.

“I guess I’ve said it before, I’ve lived in London for a long time and proud to representing Britain but Hong Kong was definitely my home growing up and it’s given me so much and all the support from friends out there has been just incredible,” said Wilson.

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“I guess there’s a little part of Hong Kong in this silver medal as well.”

Wilson has previously said that intense swimming training under the late Captain Harry Wright at the Ladies Recreation Club in Hong Kong helped give her the discipline to make the sacrifices needed to succeed at rowing.

Great Britain were almost three seconds behind the Americans but had to fight to edge Romania into second place. The Romanians actually took the lead with about 100 metres to go but the British crew put one a final surge to claim silver.

Wilson said the crew’s coxen had informed the team that the Romanians were close.

“She said we were in the silver medal place and half a length behind gold and when the Romanians started coming up, we had 15 strokes so we’d better do something or otherwise we would be overtaken.”

Wilson, who attended Island School in Hong Kong and Peak School before that, is likely to retire after these Olympics and pursue a career in medicine in Britain. She said the silver medal is the culmination of four years of hard work after she finished sixth with the women’s fours at the London Olympics in 2012.

“This silver medal means everything I guess,” said Wilson. “It’s just been incredible to be part of this project and we’ve enjoyed it and to come away with a silver medal is an amazing feeling.”

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The Americans were heavy favourites to win the race and secure their third straight gold medal. The US haven’t been beaten in the past 11 Olympics and world championships but the British side were tipped by experts to give them a strong fight.

When asked at what point in her career did she think an Olympic medal was within reach, Wilson said: “Probably within the last 100 metres.

“I think as a crew we were really confident that we could do something special but we were careful not to put any limits or set any possible outcomes. We just knew we had to go out there and race as fast as we possibly could and whatever came of that, we would be proud of it.”

The British crew, notoriously slow starters, were struggling at the start and it was until about halfway that they started to catch up and look as if they would be contending for a medal.

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Wilson, however, said the team felt they were rowing well and were unaware of their position until later in the 2,000 metres race.

“Our coxed does a really good job of keeping us within our own boat,” said Wilson. “When someone asked how it felt to be last at the start, to be honest I had no ideal.

“All I know is that we were in a really, really ... bloody good rhythm. The second half of our race has always been our strongest and we feel the crews were getting close so that gave us confidence.

“The Americans are very strong but were careful not to put them on a pedestal. We knew that on our best day we could come out on top and with that intent we ended up with a silver medal, and that’s brilliant.

“Obviously, it would be brilliant to win the gold but it’s the first time a British women’s eight has won a medal at the Olympics so it’s something to be proud of.”