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U.S. defends gold medal in women's eight

London, England (Sports Network) - The United States held off a late charge from Canada to win gold in the rowing women's eight on Thursday, successfully defending its medal from Beijing.

Expected to be two-horse race between the countries, the U.S. got off to a quick start and had the fastest time through the first 1,000 meters. Canada began to make up a little bit of the distance, but the American boat finished over a second ahead with a time of 6 minutes, 10.59 seconds.

Canada picked up the silver, besting the bronze-winning time of the Netherlands by over a second as well. Great Britain finished fifth.

The United States remained unbeaten in this event since 2006 and saw five of its rowers pick up their second gold. Mary Whipple, Caryn Davies, Caroline Lind, Eleanor Logan, Zsuzsanna Francia and Erin Cafaro were all part of the Beijing team.

"The last few hundred (meters) was a little rough, but we just sold it and did what we had to do. There were a couple of little rough spots here and there. But I am in awe of my teammates and what they can endure and what they can handle. They are so committed and I am so proud to be their teammate," said Whipple, who is now set to retire from the sport.

The race that took place shortly before the women's eight was much closer, with South Africa edging Great Britain by just .25 seconds to win gold in the lightweight men's four.

As the only team to log a time under six minutes in the semifinals, Great Britain got off to a slow start and was just fifth after the first 500 meters. South Africa wasn't much quicker, crossing the mark third, and actually sat fourth going into the final 500 meters.

However, the team of James Thompson, Matthew Brittain, John Smith and Sizwe Ndlovu roared past the Brits, Denmark and Australia to win their first ever medal in this event.

"I kept my head down in the boat, we kept ourselves for the big sprint. They say that big sprinters finish second - not today," said Smith.

It was also just the second overall in rowing for South Africa, joining a silver won in men's pair at the 2004 Athens Games.

Denmark ended third to take the bronze.

The first final of the day saw New Zealand's Nathan Cohen and Joseph Sullivan grab gold in the men's double sculls. Italy's Alessio Sartori and Romano Battisti nabbed the silver and the bronze went to Luka Spik and Iztok Cop of Slovenia.

"Disbelief really. I thought that we were capable of doing it but still, unbelievable," noted Cohen.

Semifinals were held in the women's single sculls, with the United States' Genevra Stone failing to move into the medal final. However, both the U.S. and Great Britain won their respective heats in the men's four semis to set up a potential showdown in that final.

Hosting Great Britain also advanced boats into the final of both the women's and men's lightweight double sculls on Thursday.

08/02 08:52:42 ET