After three consecutive Olympic silver medals, the stars are aligning for the 36-year-old Scot who, alongside Leek’s Anna Watkins in the double scull, blazed a trail of destruction down Dorney Lake – taking victory in her heat in 6:44.33 minutes – more than five seconds ahead of their nearest rival.
Victory also maintained Grainger’s unbeaten streak with Watkins. The duo have yet to taste defeat since teaming up together in 2010 and have won gold at the last two World Championships.
The Australian duo of Kim Crow and Brooke Pratley are supposedly the Brits’ closest challengers and while they did win their heat, they did so four and a half seconds slower than Grainger and Watkins.
Although Grainger has tasted Olympic disappointment too many times to think the gold medal has already been hung around her neck, she revealed Watkins was having to keep her on a leash despite their emphatic margin of victory.
“To be honest we were both surprised that we got the Olympic record. We knew if we got good conditions that we could get a fast time but they didn’t feel like very good conditions,” said Grainger. “There was quite a strong crosswind through the middle part of the course so Anna deliberately just held us steady for the second half of the race.
“For us the home support just raises you to a new level. I was almost disappointed that Anna wanted us to keep it steady in the last 250m because I would have wanted to blast it down there with all that noise.
“We have got a lot more steps that we can put in there so there is a big amount to come still.
“We did come off absolutely buzzing and it so exciting to get going and to start racing in this atmosphere.
“The heat is wonderful to win but it was just the heat. No-one is going to remember who won the heat come [the final on] Friday so for us we have got a few more days now to improve the boat.
“We’ll go out everyday a couple of times to keep moving the boat on. There are still technical things that we’ll just look to improve and it is about bringing it right back down now.
“Friday is a new job on Friday for us to do. The Olympic final is different from anything else we will ever race.”
Grainger and Watkins’ victory on Monday has ensured that the duo have gone from red to white hot favourites for gold on Friday, and there will be fewer louder cheers at this Olympic Games should the Scot finally secure gold. That brings with it its own pressure but Grainger will not be resting on her laurels and pledged to hit new heights in the final.
“It is just getting our head around that we want to be better and that we have got more that we want to bring out in each other and the boat and that’s what the next few days is about,” added the six-time world champion.
“To be honest I was a lot less nervous than I thought I was going to be. The Olympic start line is like nothing else but it is the Dorney start-line so there is a lot of familiarity with it.
“I was pleased that I felt comfortable with that but I think the nerves will go to a different level come Friday.
“We have got four days now. The final needs to be the best performance we have ever done and it is there, it is so close to that but we just need to make it right so it is about training and getting the basics between now and the final.”
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