British rowing duo set Olympic record
Gold medal favourites Helen Glover and Heather Stanning set a new Olympic record as they stormed into the final of the women's pair - and then insisted their best is yet to come.
In perfect conditions, and roared on by a packed crowd at Eton Dorney, the Team GB duo won the opening heat of the London Olympic regatta in a time of six minutes and 57.29 seconds.
The previous Olympic best time, which had stood since Atlanta in 1996, was demolished by over four seconds as the British crew beat the United States by a length.
"It was definitely a heats race for us," Stanning said.
"It was a solid performance. We felt quite controlled in our boat.
"We have a final to come and that is where we will pull out all the stops."
As a statement of their gold medal-winning intent, it could not have been a more powerful start to the regatta for the British crew.
Glover and Stanning won all three World Cup regattas this year, a dominance born out of the frustration of being beaten into silver by New Zealand at the 2011 world championships.
The margin of defeat at Bled was just eight hundredths of a second, since when Britain's pair - two contrasting characters off the water - have come to dominate the boat class.
Glover and Stanning were four seconds quicker than heat two winners Australia, who comprehensively beat New Zealand into second place.
If Glover and Stanning can continue their run of success into Wednesday's final, they will become Britain's first ever female Olympic rowing champions.
They were the first crew to experience the wall of sound that greets the British rowers from the 30,000 supporters packed into the final 600 metres of the course.
"The fact we've got all the people cheering for us gives you a surge, it makes you sit up tall and be proud to be representing them," Stanning said.
The home support witnessed a strong opening day from Great Britain, with the men's lightweight four, the men's pair and single-sculler Alan Campbell all winning their heats.
The men's eight, in their first race together following the return from injury of stroke Constantine Louloudis, produced an impressive race to take second behind three-time world champions Germany.
For Greg Searle, making his Olympic comeback at the age of 40 and two decades after winning gold in Barcelona, it was an emotional experience.
"It felt amazing. I did feel a range of emotions from excitement to feeling I was going to be sick with nerves as we rowed up to the start," Searle said.
"It was definitely worth coming back, although this is clearly just step one and we still need to make the Olympic final."
The British men's lightweight four of Peter Chambers, Richard Chambers, Rob Williams and Chris Bartley produced a barnstorming finish to beat world champions Australia and reach the semi-finals.
There was barely anything in it at the 1500-metre mark but the British crew pulled clear to win by a length and set out their gold medal credentials.
"We have come here knowing we can do it," Richard Chambers said.
"We just have to deliver it now. We did that today. We have two more races to go out and win."
The men's pair of George Nash and Will Satch were also victorious to reach the semi-finals - but their achievement was overshadowed by New Zealand's Hamish Murray and Eric Bond smashing the world's best time in the other heat.
Murray and Bond won in six minutes and 08.50 seconds - almost six seconds better than the previous best, set by Matthew Pinsent and James Cracknell at the 2002 world championships in Seville, Spain.
The Kiwi pair are unbeaten since teaming up in 2009 and one of the strongest gold medal favourites of the regatta.
Britain's men's double of Bill Lucas and Sam Townsend reached the semi-finals with a second place finish behind New Zealand, who were pushed into setting a new Olympic best time.
"That gives us a good platform to build on," Lucas said.
"It has been a long build-up to the Olympics and for us you want to get out there, put in a performance which shows you are in the right ball park.
"It would have been great to come out on the right side of the tussle with New Zealand but we have improvements we can make."
The British men's quad of Stephen Rowbotham, Tom Solesbury, Charles Cousins and Matt Wells also qualified for the semi-finals in second place after finishing a length behind Germany.
Alan Campbell rounded off Britain's interest in the opening day of the regatta by comfortably winning his heat from China's Liang Zhang to reach the quarter-finals in a packed field.
The only real disappointment on the opening day was the women's quad, who trailed home last in their heat and must now negotiate a repechage to reach the final.
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