Worst day ever for SA rowing?

Rio de Janeiro - Thursday had been a day to remember for South African rowing when Lawrence Brittain and Shaun Keeling won an Olympic silver medal in the men's pair. 

That had followed a morning session that saw South Africa qualify four boats for four different finals on Friday. 

Things were looking up. 

With four medals already in the bag, Friday promised to be one of the Team South Africa's brightest days at Rio 2016. 

Instead, South Africa left the Lagoa Stadium empty-handed. 

The first two South African boats in action were seen as the most likely to medal as the men's lightweight doubles sculls team of James Thomson and John Smith and the women's lightweight doubles sculls duo of Kirsten McCann and Ursula Grobler took to the water. 

But when Thomson and Smith finished 4th and McCann and Grobler finished 5th, it began to look like it would be a long day for South Africa.

Lee-Ann Persse and Kate Christowitz then finished well off the pace in 5th in the women's pair before there was heartache for Jake Green, Vincent Breet, Jonty Smith and David Hunt in the men's four. 

The South Africans were sitting in third for most of the race but lost out to the Italians, who charged through the last 200m.

For SA coach Roger Barrow, this was the worst day in South African rowing history.

"This was probably my worst dream come true," he said.

"We're all pretty devastated ... mainly I feel for the athletes. John and James, Kirst and Ursula ... they were probably our two favourite boats so for them to get fourth and fifth is gut-wrenching.

"I think they really put themselves out there and they really were aiming for the gold through the middle with their determination and commitment. It's just so close on the line."

Barrow could not fault the effort of his team.

"They tried to put everything on the line ... they were in the mix but it just didn't happen," he said.

"I think they went too hard in the middle, trying to go for gold. We wanted to definitely win this thing and they wanted to get a double Olympic gold but they just didn't have enough left."

Barrow tried, but couldn't find any solace in the performance of the men in the fours, despite them exceeding expectations.

"Fourth is the worst position in world sport ... chuffed with the guys for getting it but we're disappointed," he said.

"Yesterday (Thursday) was probably our best day in rowing and today (Friday), for me, is our worst day ever. It's massive mixed emotions ... it's heavy."

Lloyd Burnard is Sport24's correspondent in Rio de Janeiro for the duration of the 2016 Olympics ...

The South African men's four team members were devastated after missing out on bronze in Rio on Friday (SASCOC)

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