The “Oarsome Foursome”

Their dramatic gold-winning surge at London 2012 was no fluke. South Africa’s “Oarsome Foursome” — Sizwe Ndlovu, Matthew Brittain, John Smith and James Thompson — finished every training session with a lung-busting effort just like their gold-winning performance. “Someone would call, ‘One goal!’ recalls Smith,” and we’d shout back, ‘GOLD!’, and you were forced to find more.” Still, it was almost apt that the TV commentator mistook the rented South African boat for the Australian vessel when its bow crossed the line first. Being a dark horse was one of the team’s secret weapons. “The absence of media pressure was definitely helpful,” recalls Brittain. “We just wanted to go there and race hard.” Olympic glory was followed by international Male Crew of the Year honours and being named Team of the Year at the South African Sports Awards. It remains for sports history to decide whether the unofficial title of “Greatest Olympic rowing finish ever” will stick. — Ian Macleod