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Lightweight rowing was added to the Olympic programme for the first time in Atlanta and among the frontrunners for the inaugural gold medal were a couple of Swiss brothers. Markus and Michael Gier had spent nearly a decade living and training together. And even though the allure of an Olympic title was now up for grabs, the pair were struggling to maintain their fraternal team spirit.
After growing up together, and then spending so much time with other, the Gier brothers had decided to end their sporting partnership after the Olympics. With that decision made, they focused on a final push to try to end their partnership on a high.
The brothers were among the favourites for gold and won their opening heat, but did not set the fastest time, sparking suggestions that the competition may be closer than expected. But in the semi-finals, the Giers moved into another gear, winning their race by nearly two seconds from the Dutch crew, in a time that was also significantly faster than the Swedish, Australian and Spanish crews, who produced a near-dead heat in the other semi-final.
In the final, the Gier brothers’ main challenge looked likely to come from the Australians and the Dutch. The Australian duo of Anthony Edwards and Bruce Hick took an early lead, but the Swiss reeled them in and then eased into a lead during the second half of the race, a lead that they were never to relinquish. Behind them, the Netherlands overtook Australia in the race for silver.
They took their gold medals, shook hands and went their different ways… Except, like others before them, they soon changed their minds – reuniting in time to compete at the 2000 Games in Sydney, though they failed to rediscover their original form and could only finish fifth.