China won its first ever rowing Olympic gold medal on Sunday, signaling its emergence to challenge the traditional powerhouses at the Olympic Games.
China also took a silver from the Olympic regatta which started on Aug. 9 and ended on Aug 17, while the traditional powers collected 13 golds and only left the women's quadruple sculls to the host.
The Chinese crew of Tang Bin, Jin Ziwei, Xi Aihua and Zhang Yangyang won the women's quad sculls to earn China's first Olympic gold in rowing. China had won two silver and two bronze at previous Games.
The breakthrough didn't come easy as it was China's last bid to win the gold at the Beijing Olympics. The crew were in second place by the 1,500 meters mark, but a late surge helped them beat three-time world champion Britain into silver to the crazy cheering of the home crowd.
"Our coach told us before the final that we should relieve our pressure and show our normal capability. We rowed in unison and never gave up," Tang Bin said in the mixed zone.
"It was like a dream," she added.
"Yesterday we did feel a bit pressured. We decided to turn pressure into motivation and show the world what we trained to do," Ji told a post-race press conference.
The pressure they felt came after China's biggest bet on a gold medal, the reigning world champions of Li Qin and Tian Liang missed out on a medal by finishing fourth in the women's doubles on Saturday.
Among other medal hopes, the Chinese lightweight women's doubles finished fifth and the lightweight men's four even failed to make final.
The women's pair of Wu You and Gao Yulan faired well with a silver finish on Saturday.
Traditional powers remain strong
Traditional powerhouses including Britain, Australia, Canada and the United States bagged 13 golds, 13 silvers and 14 bronzes on Saturday and Sunday, the two finals days.
Britain, where the rowing sport originated, was the biggest winner with six medals, including two golds, two silvers and two bronzes. Its traditionally strong men's four won their third straight titles on Saturday.
Britons Zac Purchase and Mark Hunter, who won three pre-Games World Cups, set a new Olympic time of 6 minutes, 10.99 to win the lightweight men's doubles.
Australia ranked second on the rowing table with two golds and one silver. Its men's pair successfully defended the title, giving Drew Ginn his third Olympic gold. The other gold was from the men's doubles.
Bulgarian rower Rumyana Neykova won the women's single sculls and Norway's Olaf Tufte retained the men's singles title.
Romania retained the women's pair crown, earning the fifth Olympic gold for Georgeta Andrunache and the fourth for Viorica Susanu. New Zealand's identical twin sisters Evers-Swindell grabbed their second straight gold in the women's double sculls following a difficult season dogged with sickness and out-of-form.
The Netherlands claimed the lightweight women's doubles, and Denmark took the lightweight men's four. Three-time world champions Poland won the men's quadruple sculls by a boat length.
The United States, silver medalists in Athens and world champions in 2006 and 2007, took a revenge on their arch rival and defending Olympic champions Romania on Sunday to win its first Olympic gold in the women's eight since 1984.
World champions Canada won the blue ribbon men's eight comfortably, beating defending Olympic champs the United States into a bronze place.