Northern Ireland

Richard and Peter Chambers clinch Olympic silver medal

After a nailbiting finish, the GB team collected their silver medals
Image caption After a nailbiting finish, the GB team collected their silver medals

Two Coleraine brothers have become Northern Ireland's first Olympic medallists of the London games.

Richard and Peter Chambers claimed silver in a thrilling lightweight men's four final.

The pair were part of the Great Britain rowing team which included Rob Williams and Chris Bartley.

Although Great Britain had been the favourite to win, they were beaten by South Africa in an epic tussle, with Denmark clinching a bronze medal.

Afterwards, Richard Chambers said the race had been "brutal".

"We were just fighting, fighting through the whole lot, just to get ourselves back into contention. To even get silver was impressive from where we came from," he said.

"We just dug our heels in and fought really hard."

Peter Chambers said: "We are gutted. We were unlucky to get a silver with those conditions. We're delighted with silver but we wanted to get gold.

"Fair play to the South Africans, they won that fair and square."

Northern Ireland's last golds were won by Jimmy Kirkwood and Stephen Martin, who were part of the GB hockey squad, in the 1988 Seoul Olympics.

Sir Steve Redgrave, who won his first gold medal in 1984, had predicted gold for the Chambers brothers, but Northern Ireland is still waiting for its first gold in almost 25 years.

Only three other competitors from Northern Ireland have won gold medals in the summer games; Mary Peters, Jimmy Kirkwood and Stephen Martin. Robin Dixon clinched gold at the 1964 winter Olympics in Innsbruck.

The Chambers brothers discovered their rowing skills on the River Bann as teenagers.

Peter, a world champion, took up rowing at Bann Rowing Club in Coleraine at just 13 under the guidance of Seamus Reynolds.

Richard, is a two-time world champion, who competed in the Beijing Olympics four years ago. He began rowing at the age of 15, under the guidance of coach Bobby Platt, MBE

Both men studied at Oxford Brookes university.

Jeff Bones from Bann Rowing Club described the brothers as "two cool, calm customers".

He said the event would "go down in history".

"Two guys from the one family, from the one club, representing Great Britain in the Olympic final of the lightweight fours, it's unbelievable," he said.

Pastor Trevor Watson from Coleraine Baptist Church said there was great excitement in the town. A big screen was erected inside the church for supporters.

"Whether win or lose, we are supporting them and we'll think as much of them," he said.

A sell-out crowd of 35,000 people was expected to cheer on the team.

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