Mighty Matt is on for second medal
Published at 09:11, Monday, 06 August 2012
TYNEDALE will be glued to its television sets at 11-30 this morning, as one of its favourite sporting sons goes for gold.
For against all the odds,Hexham rower Matt Wells is in with a shout for a second Olympic medal.
And while it will be tough, no-one would bet against the flame-haired former Queen Elizabeth High School adding to the bronze medal he picked up in Beijing four years ago.
Third place in Wednesday’s semi-final was enough to put Matt and his colleagues in the men’s quadruple sculls A final – the first time Team GB have made the Olympic final in this event.
Matt believes a podium finish is well within the team’s grasp.
It would be a fitting conclusion to Matt’s glittering career, which has seen him rise from his humble origins on Hexham’s Tyne Green to four successive Olympic Games.
The good wishes Matt has received from people from across the country has been overwhelming, and he will be using these kind words as inspiration in the final.
He said: “There is an absolutely amazing atmosphere at Eton Dorney and it is like a tunnel of noise when you approach the finish line. And you know that the noise is not for anyone else but Team GB.
“You can hear the 30,000 fans shouting you on at Dorney but you can also feel 60 million behind us, watching it at home.
“I have had loads of text messages, twitter and facebook messages, with people I haven’t seen in 15 to 20 years contacting me and that is amazing.”
Four years ago in Beijing, the 33-year-old experienced the delights of gaining a bronze in the double sculls, and he is now gunning for a repeat performance in front of his home crowd.
But he is under no illusions that it will be a tough ask, Croatia and Germany looking joint favourites while world champions Australia are also in the mix.
Bearing in mind the quad was unfancied to make the A final before Matt joined just months ago, to be in with a shot of getting a top three finish is a testament to Matt’s ability.
Initially, he was disappointed when GB rowing coach Jurgen Grobler switched him from the doubles to the quad, and he admits as much himself.
Consistently finishing second in the British time trials over the years, it was widely thought that a gold medal for Matt and a partner would be a real possibility.
But the decision to join him with Steve Rowbotham, Tom Solesbury and Charles Cousins was made, and the world class rower has whipped the team into medal contention.
In the three Rowing World Cups this year, the team have finished seventh twice, but showed signs of progress by claiming fourth place in the final one in Munich, Germany.
Matt now believes they can go one step further and break into the medals, such has been the rapid improvement.
He said: “If you asked me at the start of this project, no way would I have thought it would be possible to get an Olympic medal because the event is so tight.
“There are two very, very strong crews in Croatia and Germany, but after that you just don’t know what is going to happen.
“The world record holders, Russia, are out and we were just 0.2 seconds behind the world champions from last year, Australia, so it is possible to finish in the medals.
“After what I have been through this season, to be in the final competing for medals is really exciting and the guys have received a major lift.”
It has been a tough journey to get to the final, having to come through the first round and then Wednesday’s semi-finals.
A barnstorming finish to the first round saw them finish second behind Germany, but comfortably ahead of third placed Ukraine.
Again, a tough draw beckoned in the semi-finals but they excelled once more to take third behind Croatia and Australia.
Matt said: “It feels great to be the first British men’s quad team to qualify for an Olympic final but we have worked hard for this.
“When the draws were made we knew there was a tough job ahead of us, but we have performed well and are confident we can keep going.”
Spurring the guys on is the fantastic support shown from the home crowd in London, and elsewhere.
Whatever happens in this morning’s final, Matt can reflect back on an amazing career which has seen him compete at the Olympics in Sydney (2000), Athens (2004), Beijing (2008) and London (2012).
His illustrious sporting achievements will be celebrated in style in Hexham, 10 Olympians to grace the water at Tyne Green in the Matt Wells Jubilee Sprint Regatta on Saturday, August 18.
The elite rowers will compete in 250m sprints before amateur regattas take place throughout the day in a one-off sporting spectacular for Tynedale.
Matt said: “This event is very big for me and it has long been a dream of mine to bring the Olympic spirit to Hexham.”
Following the rowing action, there will be a Gala dinner held at Slaley Hall in the evening, with tickets for the event now on sale.
All funds raised at the dinner will go to local rowing clubs following the announcement that Matt is to launch a foundation, complete with a scholarship, to put something back to local people progressing in the sport.
More details can be gained by contacting Amy Maughan on (0191) 2658803 or email: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Published by http://www.hexhamcourant.co.uk
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