March 11 - Peter Reed and Andy Triggs Hodge (pictured) secured their seventh pairs victory at the Great Britain Rowing team senior trials at the London 2012 Olympic course here, finishing more than a length clear of a field of Olympic and world champions in bright mid-morning sunshine.
It was a glorious day for rowing at the Eton Dorney course in every sense.
Behind the two men who won gold as part of the four at the Beijing 2008 Olympics were a pair of Alex's – outstanding Alex's – in the form of Alex Partridge, an Olympic silver medallist in the eights four years ago, and Alex Gregory, one of the world title-winning four from last year who are now awaiting the decision of head coach Jürgen Grobler over whether they will go forward in the same boat to London 2012.
Despite another majestic performance from Reed and Triggs Hodge, their failure to beat the New Zealand pair of Eric Murray and Hamish Bond, who have won 14 consecutive times against them, makes it almost certain that Grobler – who has guided the top men's Olympic boat to gold in every Games since he took up his present post in 1992 – will put them into the four, making it the top boat.
Which leaves the question of who out of Gregory, Olympic four gold medallist Tom James, Ric Egington and Matt Langridge will make way?
Gregory's performance with Partridge here might mean Grobler has an instant swap.
But the performance of world under-23 champions Constantine Louloudis – racing on his old College course – and George Nash (pictured left and right respectively) as they surged through to claim third place, passing Egington and James, as well as James Foad and Moe Sbihi in the process, made a big impression upon the former east German coach, who had said beforehand that he welcomed anyone who would set him an awkward problem.
This young pair may have done so.
Louloudis said afterwards: "George and I together have made big strides.
"Each day [an Olympic place] seems more possible really."
Gregory travelled out to Beijing as a reserve, watching from the stands, and praised the strength of the squad going into a home Games:
"The squad almost couldn't be better than it is," he said.
"It is a very strong team.
"I want to be on the start line [come the Olympic Games] but I will never be sure of my seat until I'm on that start line."
There was drama too in the women's racing as Katherine Grainger (pictured) beat her world champion women's double scull partner Anna Watkins to reverse the finishing order from the last GB Rowing trials in December.
Reed and Triggs Hodge took charge of their race from just after the 500 metre mark.
"It's nice to get the job done," Reed said after what was one of the most competitive men's pairs finals ever seen in the trials.
"Every rower in the six boats won world gold or silver medals in 2011.
"This is the level British Rowing is now at.
"It's been a special win for me today as it marks two Olympiads with wins at final trials and I've got to give big credit to 'Hodgey' [Triggs Hodge], he's a massive strokeman."
Triggs Hodge was impressed by the crowd that gathered at Dorney to cheer on the trials.
"It is a really nice atmosphere that shows rowing at its best," he said.
"Knowing that people are supporting us is a big motivation for the training in the coming months, and it is a real source of pride, as an athlete, winning final trials."
Alan Campbell (pictured) reigned supreme for the eighth time in the open men's single scull but there were surprise winners of the lightweight men's and women's single sculls in Adam Freeman-Pask and Kat Copeland – the latter having joined the senior squad after winning the world under-23 title last year.
Earlier in the day's racing, Helen Glover and Heather Stanning had underlined their growing Olympic potential by powering to victory in the women's pair from teammates Jess Eddie and Louisa Reeve.
"We've had some outstanding and very close racing today," David Tanner, GB Rowing's performance director said.
"That tells us that the depth in the squad is really, really strong.
"We had a few of our top guns missing in the lightweight men's squad but apart from that I think our rowers have shown that we can really step up for this Olympic season.
"Also, we've seen that the venue has delivered.
"We've had good weather and we've had a lot of British public here today and that support has been exceptional.
"I think we have all got the feeling and the message now that the Olympic Games are close and we will and can step up to them and having our Olympic trials here finishing in the sunshine has been just the starter we needed for the 2012 season."
Tanner also commented on the outstanding support given to the squad by the National Lottery and Siemens, the GB Rowing Team's High Performance Partner and said: "Many in the crowd will have bought their Lottery tickets this week and we really appreciate the massive backing the public are giving us through the Lottery."
Meanwhile, Great Britain's two adaptive men's single scullers – aiming for a place at the first world cup of the season but also with an eye on this year's Paralympic Games – went head-to-head in their own trials at the squad's training centre at Caversham.
Tom Aggar (pictured), the reigning Paralympic champion beat Andy Houghton by six seconds.
"The trials have gone well and the squad can now prepare for the Varese International Regatta," lead adaptive coach Tom Dyson said.
Contact the writer of this story at [email protected]
March 2012: Mike Rowbottom - In the words of Grobler "there are no names under seats", so Britain's rowers have it all to play for