Georgia Howard-Merrill and Fiona Gammond stunned themselves and their rivals as they powered to Britain’s second gold in Singapore yesterday.
The Headington School pupils, who were part of Great Britain’s gold medal winning eight at the recent World Junior Rowing Championships, had been unconvincing during qualifying, but brought it together when it mattered.
They covered the 1,000m course in 3.28.60 to finish nearly a second ahead of Australia’s Emma Basher and Olympia Aldersey while Greece’s Eleni Diamanti and Lydia Ntalamagka completed the podium.
“We’re so surprised, we never expected it at all,” said Howard-Merrill, who is a member of the Lloyds TSB Local Heroes initiative and was given a cash boost of £1,000 as a result earlier this year.
“We came out of the semi-finals in such a bad state because we only got the fifth-best time and nearly crashed into the Romanians.
“However, it all came together in the final, it’s just all so good.”
Gammond admitted the close nature of their victory made it that much more special.
“We’re not used to close races like that. It was so exciting to have lots more competition,” she said.
“It’s an amazing feeling to win at the Youth Olympics.
“We don’t have to sit around thinking ‘damn what if we’d won gold’. It’s a really good end to the season.
“We were calm and we just focused on our own performance instead of trying to be the best.
“The race is so short that if we have eyes out of the boat trying to suss out what’s going on, you just fall behind.
“We had eyes in the boat the whole way and had a really good start, focused on our race and not anyone else.
“It’s about performance not result and the results come, so it worked out really well.
“It means we’ll have a good summer. We don’t have to sit around thinking ‘damn, what if we’d won gold?”
l Lloyds TSB is providing awards of £1,000 to over 270 emerging young sportspeople identified each year across Britain, in the run up to London 2012 and beyond. Visit Lloydstsb.com/Localheroes