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16 Sep 2000
Sydney 2000

Coxed eights gold is seventh heaven for Lipă

It was 16 years since a young Romanian rower called Elisabeta had won a gold medal in the double sculls in her first Olympics. She went on to compete at every subsequent Summer Games, picking up at least one medal on each occasion: two in 1988, two more in 1992 and a single gold in 1996 as part of Romania's women’s coxed eight team.

No rower had ever won seven medals at the Olympics before, and no woman had ever won two gold medals at the Games 16 years apart, so going into Sydney, where she would again be rowing s in the coxed eights, Lipă knew she had the opportunity to make history.

Certainly momentum was with the Romanian crew. After winning gold in Atlanta, the Romanians had gone on to claim several world titles. Their crew was very experienced, at ease on the Olympic stage, and familiar with each other. No other crew could match that level of knowledge and, in Lipă, the Romanians also had probably the most admired female rower in the world.

Their class shone through from the start. The Romanian crew cruised through the first round, beating second placed Australia by more than 10 seconds and comfortably registering the fastest time of the heats. Only the Netherlands looked capable of giving them a race in the final, and sure enough it was those two nations who set the pace.

Despite the best efforts of the Dutch, the Romanians were not to be denied, and put on a master class of rowing. Their victory was never seriously threatened and they ended up winning by a margin of nearly three seconds, with Canada taking bronze.

Lipă's place in the history books was assured but, just to prove her greatness, she was back in the boat four years later in Athens, now aged 39. The result? A fifth Olympic gold.

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