Months before the Beijing Olympics, 16 August 2008 was being touted as ‘Super Saturday’, the day New Zealand would win a swag of medals, several of them golden. As Kiwis salivated over the prospects of their rowing squad, few expected blond identical twins Caroline and Georgina Evers-Swindell to successfully defend the double sculls title they had won in Athens in 2004.
It was not just that no duo had ever won this event twice (though Germany’s Kathrin Boron had been a member of winning crews in 1992 and 2000). The Evers-Swindells’ career seemed to have peaked with the third world title they won during New Zealand’s golden hour at the 2005 world championships in Gifu, Japan, when the squad had four victories to top the medal table. While they won bronze and silver respectively at the 2006 and 2007 worlds, by 2008 they were struggling to make the A finals (top six) at major European regattas. Winning their heat at Beijing brought renewed hope.
Couch potatoes watching the final cheered as the Evers-Swindells launched a withering finishing burst, then groaned as they apparently just failed to catch the German scullers. The British were also within centimetres and veteran commentator Peter Montgomery called the New Zealanders in third. By next morning he’d re-recorded his commentary – the Kiwis had won gold by 1/100th of a second.
As Super Saturday wore on, New Zealand won four more medals, the country’s greatest-ever haul on a single day at the Olympics. At the rowing venue, single sculler Mahé Drysdale and the men’s pair of George Bridgewater and Nathan Twaddle both won bronzes. That evening, cyclist Hayden Roulston came second in the individual pursuit and Valerie Vili (née Adams) triumphed in the shot put.
Image: Georgina and Caroline Evers-Swindell at Beijing (Stuff)