Zac_Purchase_and_Mark_Hunter_win_Olympic_gold_Beijing_2008AUGUST 17 - MARK HUNTER and Zac Purchase (pictured) won Britain's second rowing gold medal of the Olympics with victory in the lightweight men's double sculls, one of three medals for the team today at Shunyi Rowing Park.

The women's quadrule sculls and men's eight then both won silver to mean Britain ended the regatta with six medals, two gold, two silver and two bronze, to leave them top of the medals table.

UK Sport, the Government agency who distribute National Lottery funding, had set them a target of four.

It is the the best return for British rowing since the first London Olympics of 1908 and signalled well and truly that there is life in British rowing after Redgrave and Pinsent.

Team leader David Tanner said: "It has been fantastic.

"We are top of the table and it is fabulous.

"Unlike Michael Phelps, you can't multi-medal in rowing.

"Only two nations won more than one gold medal and we were one of them."

Hunter, a 30-year-old from Wycombe, and Purchase, a 22-year-old from Cheltenham, came into the Olympic final as strong favourites after an unbeaten World Cup campaign and commanding performances in the heats and semi-finals.

And they lived up to all expectations to pull off their 13th consecutive victory and beat world silver medallists Greece by half a length, with world champions Denmark third.

They followed the men's coxless four in winning gold for Britain yesterday.

Hunter said: "That was amazing.

"Who said 13 was an unlucky number?

"We've got rid of that one.

"Before the race we sat down and said we wanted to come here and win this.

"We have worked all this year, and last year, the last 10 years and it comes down to six and a half minutes or so of hell - but with a fantastic result.

"It's unbelievable."

Purchase said: "The last 200m were just a case of, 'Keep going'.

"In October last year we said we wanted to come here and win, and now we have.

"The last 10 years have come down to six minutes of hell, but it's all worth it.

"We've put in hours and hours and hours of training to get to where we are now, it's not just the stuff on the water.

"Today you can see the results of 18 months' really hard work."

Hunter and Purchase started rowing together last year.

Hunter said: "This fella popped up and it's just a dream partnership.

"The last couple of years have been dynamite.

"I've been dying for this day since I started rowing.

"The national anthem, the flag, it's a dream come true.

"We believed we could win the Olympic championships like everyone else in that field.

"It just comes down to man-to-man who wants it most.

"We put ourselves on the line early and we were strong enough to hold on and do the job.

"We've won it, it's a dream come true, and no-one can take that away from us now."

There were wildly contrasting emotions in the women's quad boat of Katherine Grainger, Debbie Flood, Frances Houghton and Annie Vernon after they were beaten into second place by a late surge from China.

The British foursome had entered the final as strong favourites having won the World Championships for the past three years, and looked strong as they led virtually from the gun.

The advantage was almost a length entering the final 500 metres but the young Chinese quad started to claw back the deficit.

They poured on the pressure and seemed to draw closer with every stroke, and it was clear from some way out that that the British dream of gold was over as the locals cheered their crew to victory.

For Grainger, stroke of the boat, it was a third successive Olympic silver medal having also finished second in the quad in 2000 and in the pair with Cath Bishop four years ago.

Grainger siad: "It is going to be hard coming to terms with another silver.

"We always said that silver wouldn't be good enough for us.

"I am so proud to race with this crew, we felt so strong in the last 500 but we just weren't able to latch it together.

"Most of the race we were the best crew, but not at the end."

In the eight the cox Acer Nethercott drove his crew of Alex Partridge, Tom Stallard, Tom Lucy, Richard Egington, Josh West, Alastair Heathcote, Matt Langridge and Colin Smith to silver but they could not match a strong Canadian squad who became the first world champion crew to follow up with the Olympic gold in 35 years.

The United States, who won gold at the Athens Games, were edged into the bronze medal position.

It was nevertheless a sweet success for Alex Partridge who missed out on a gold medal in Athens n the men's coxless four when he was forced to withdraw through injury.

West said: "We were out there racing for the gold, but silver is still amazing.

"It's a very different experience being out there at the top rather than at the bottom [West was part of the men's eight that finished ninth at the Athens 2004 Games]."