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Sunday, 24 May 2015

A golden dream ends in despair

MATT Wells’ Olympic journey came to a disappointing end as the Great British men’s quadruple sculls missed out on a medal in London 2012.

Matt Wells

Although the crew did extremely well to make the A final – the first time Britain were represented in an Olympic quad final – 33-year-old Matt was devastated he could not add to the bronze he picked up in Beijing in 2008.

After qualifying for the final with a second place in the first round and a third place in the semi-finals, Matt and the team went into the final confident of finishing in the top three.

And, halfway into the regatta, it seemed like it was a real possibility, only for the quad to slip from third place to fifth at the finishing line.

A despondent Matt said: “I wouldn’t be in the quad if I didn’t think we could win or get on the podium so, especially after getting a medal in Beijing, it was hard to take realising that sometimes you just aren’t good enough.

“We weren’t good enough on the day but I am really proud of the lads, and we did really well to be within a shout of getting a medal with more than half of the race gone.

“Going into the Olympics, we weren’t expected to even make the final so I am happy with what we did at London 2012.”

Now that the dust has settled on Matt’s fourth and final Olympics, he spoke frankly of his upset that he was switched to the quad alongside Steve Rowbotham, Charles Cousins and Tom Solesbury with just three months remaining.

He and Marcus Bateman, together nicknamed the Red Express due to both rowers having red hair, had not finished outside of the top three all season, and were hotly tipped for a gold in the double sculls.

But coach Jurgen Grobler decided that Bill Lucas and Sam Townsend should represent the nation in the double, they too eventually finishing fifth in the A final.

Matt said: “My biggest disappointment is how the selection happened this year as I didn’t lose any races.

“However, they thought the others would work better.

“I was doing PBs and was in really good shape, and I was going really well and think I should have been in the double.

“I came second in the trials to Alan Campbell and the guys in the double were way down the line behind me.

“When you have done everything you can and are in great form, then there is definitely disappointment that you didn’t get a chance to row in the double which had performed well in previous years.”

Despite his London 2012 heartache, Matt can reflect fondly on a remarkable international rowing career which has seen him visit five continents and appear in four Olympic Games.

He has done more for the sport in the North-East than any one else, and can be proud of being at the top of an elite field for so many years.

He said: “I didn’t win an Olympic gold medal and that is what I started out to do, so that is quite hard to take.

“But I went to four Olympics and not a lot of people get to do that!

“Overall, I am really pleased with what I have done over my career. I may not have been the best the world has ever seen, but I am still very proud of my achievements.”

Following last Friday’s appearance, Matt has called an end to his rowing career 19 years after starting out at Hexham’s Queen Elizabeth High School Rowing Club.