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1ST LEAD Rio is the new London as British rowers win back-to-back golds By Albert Otti, dpa

Europe
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Rio de Janeiro (dpa) - British rowers won the women‘s pair and the men‘s four regattas at the Rio Olympics on Friday, repeating the British victories from London 2012.

Helen Glover and Heather Stanning won their second consecutive Olympic gold ahead of the New Zealand and Danish boats.

The British men‘s four included Alex Gregory, who was part of the winning boat in London.

Together with his current crew-mates Mohamed Sbihi, George Nash and Constantine Louloudis, Gregory left Australia behind by nearly two seconds for silver. Bronze went to the Italian boat.

For Sbihi, a British-Moroccan athlete, the Rio regatta marked the high point of a rowing career that nearly did not take off. He reluctantly took part in a British rowing talent programme in school.

"The funny thing is that I tried to sneak out of doing the trials that day because I wanted to go off and play football, but the PE [physical education] teacher spotted me at the door and called me back," he has told the Daily Mail newspaper.

"I went into it with the prejudice it was an upper-middle class, white person‘s sport. I swiftly realised it wasn‘t," he told The Guardian.

After winning in Rio, he said: "You imagine how this is going to feel but you can‘t fully realise it until it happens."

In the women‘s lightweight double sculls, in which rowers have two oars each rather than one, the European rowing champions from the Netherlands raced to gold.

Maaike Head and Ilse Paulis did not lead in their final regatta at first, but they continuously improved their position along the 2 kilometres to pass the finish line first.

The Canadian duo that included 2010 world champion Lindsay Jennerich won silver.

The Chinese boat, with 2012 Olympic silver medalist Huang Wenyi, had to make do with bronze in Rio.

In the men‘s lightweight double sculls, France‘s Pierre Houin and Jeremie Azou rowed to gold.

They relegated reigning European champion brothers Gary and Paul O‘Donovan from Ireland to silver, while the Norwegian boat took bronze.

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