“I think we were surprised the US team came so close and especially with the way they did."
Nanoseconds separated the gold and silver medallists in the LTA mixed coxed four at the 2015 World Rowing Championships in Aiguebelette, France. In the end, Great Britain held off the USA by nanoseconds to retain their title, making this the No. 34 moment in the International Paralympic Committee’s (IPC) Top 50 Moments of 2015.
The British made a statement earlier in the season by setting a world best time – twice – at June’s World Cup in Varese, Italy.
The crew of Grace Clough, Dan Brown, Pamela Relph, James Fox and cox Oliver James won a stunning 3:13.76, lowering the world best time they set in an earlier heat of 3:15.47.
The performance established themselves as the heavy favourites to retain their world title in September.
But the USA, unexpectedly, almost spoiled that run for the British.
“The race itself was the most intense race I have had since joining the Paralympic team,” Fox said. “We were led most of the way by the US and only came through to win by 0.26 of a second in the final strokes. I think I'd have preferred it to be not quite as intense but I'm sure the spectators would agree that it was an exciting race.”
By the half-way point of the 1,000m course, the British had about 0.7-second lead. They went on to defeat the USA – comprised of Jaclyn Smith, Danielle Hansen, Zachary Burns, Richard Vandegrift and cox Jennifer Sichel – with a time of 3:19.56; the US finished in 3:19.82.
“I think we were surprised the US team came so close and especially with the way they did,” Fox said. “We expected a fairly tight margin but we thought we should be ahead just after half way but that didn't happen. They are a strong crew that we have raced before, but we beat them last year by five seconds. So for them to close the gap by that much was impressive and we weren't expecting it.”
Both crews finished well ahead of the pack; Canada followed up with the bronze medal eight seconds later.
The close call sets up an anticipating matchup at the Rio 2016 Paralympic Games. Great Britain will look to defend their Paralympic title. The USA, who came in last at the London 2012 finals, will challenge the British.
“The key to our 2014-15 season was consistency,” Fox said. “We had a few troubles with injury and illness as well as other things but the World Championships win and the new world best time came as a product of trying to smooth out those bumps and taking time to get things right again before moving on.
“We're going to need to do the same again this year though because there are a few nations that would like a taste of gold in Rio and it's our job to deprive them of it.”
To find out more about the IPC’s Top 50 Moments of 2015, visit the dedicated page on the IPC’s website.