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Women’s eight scores another Olympic silver for Canada

Don Landry
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The Canadian women's eight celebrating their silver medal at the London Olympics. (Reuters)

It's only fitting that the final in the women's eight rowing event at the Olympics came down to two sensational rivals, with not much to choose between them.

The Americans, favoured by many to take the gold, did just that, building a lead that could not be overcome by Canada, despite a furious rush to the finish line over the last 500 metres.

In the end, it meant silver for Canada for the second consecutive day in the eights - the men's team turning the trick on Wednesday.

[Slideshow: Canadian medal winners]

In a hotly contested start to the race, the Canadians dropped slightly back of the U.S. and the eventual bronze medalists, The Netherlands, within the first 250 metres.

By the time the crews reached the 500 metre mark of the 2000 metre race, the Americans looked strong and had built about a half boat lead over Canada, stretching that to three quarters of a boat at the halfway mark and they held that margin through the 1500 metre mark.

The U.S., who'd won the last five world championships and a gold at the Beijing Games in 2008, were given all they could handle by the hard charging Canadians, who had shaved the lead to half a boat and might well have been gaining, as they reached the finish line. But the Americans, who've consistently shown their mettle in this event over the last half decade, dug in to impressively reach the top of the podium.

That last push was an all out war, as Canadian team member Natalie Mastracci told the Globe And Mail:

"Keep attacking, and that's what we were doing," said Mastracci, who described that last few hundred metres as "all heart."

The Canadians and Americans have been great rivals this year, with the U.S. scoring a 3/100th of a second win over Canada at a World Cup event in Lucerne, Switzerland just last May. Their margin of victory here was bigger, as they finished in a time of 6:10.59, with Canada almost a second and a half behind, at 6:12.06

That's a bit of a turnabout, as the two competed in separate Olympic heats on Sunday, with Canada scoring the best time of the day, three quarters of a second faster than the Americans.

The Canadian team is led by coxswain Lesley Thompson-Willie and crewed by Mastracci, Ashley Brzozowicz, Janine Hanson, Krista Guloien, Darcy Marquardt, Andreanne Morin, Rachelle Viinberg and Lauren Wilkinson.

While the second place finish might not been exactly what the Canadians were after here, coxswain Thompson-Willie told the Globe's Eric Reguly that it'll do:

"We had a good race. You always race to win and it didn't happen, so there is always a bit of disappointment, but when you stand and see your flag on the Olympic podium, you've got to enjoy it."

Thompson-Willie was appearing in her seventh Olympics, and she becomes the first Canadian to win medals at five different Olympic Games. Canada's last gold in this event came in Barcelona, in 1992, again with Thompson-Willie as the cox.

More London Olympics coverage on Yahoo! Sports Canada:
Brent Hayden claims bronze in 100-metre freestyle
Was 'luck loonie' key to Canada's rowing silver medal?
South Korean fencer turns down special medal
Canada's hammer throw brother-sister duo
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