By Kate Holton and John Mehaffey
DORNEY, England (Reuters) - Britain's Katherine Grainger and New Zealand's Mahe Drysdale found redemption at the Olympic regatta on Friday with two golden victories in front of screaming fans on an emotional day at Dorney Lake.
The 36-year-old Grainger thrust her arms in the air in one of the images of the competition as she crossed the line with double sculls partner Anna Watkins to win the gold she had craved since taking three silvers from the three previous Games.
Twenty minutes later, the popular Drysdale held on for gold in the men's single sculls following his loss four years ago when he was rowed through in the final meters of a race, having been brought down by illness.
The two triumphs on a hot but windy course received a roaring approval from the 25,000 fans who packed the grandstands to see the two rowers finally claim their Olympic titles.
"I'm a bride at last," Grainger said after entering a press conference to applause and wearing a Union flag draped on her shoulders.
"(Had I not won) as a person and an individual, I would still have been a happy, secure and safe, normal-ish person, but as an athlete it would have always been the one I didn't get."
As the British pair stood on the podium, the sound of their national anthem echoed across the lake and Grainger fought to hold her emotions together.
The 36-year-old Scot was in the first British women's crew to win an Olympic medal when she won silver in a quad in Sydney, but the silvers she won in Athens and, particularly Beijing, when she was pipped on the line, had meant the local fans were rooting for her to win.
They got off to a fast start and slowly pulled away from their nearest rivals, Australia, in a commanding performance that could be Grainger's last at an Olympic regatta.
The rousing win set the scene for Drysdale in the last race of the day. Having got off to a slower start, he gradually moved through his fierce rival Ondrej Synek of the Czech Republic in a display of controlled, powerful and elegant rowing.
"I've been working for this for 12 years," Drysdale told reporters on the side of the lake, still struggling to breathe and holding on to the rails for support. "Family and friends watching. Amazing, I'll remember it for the rest of my life."
The five-times world champion had started the race as a favorite with the well-informed crowd following a torrid time in Beijing.
In that race, he had jumped out to a lead on Lake Shunyi and held on until the final 100 meters of the 2,000 meter course when he was overhauled by Olaf Tufte of Norway and Synek. A vomiting Drysdale then had to be taken away for treatment and later helped on to the podium to receive his bronze medal.
Signs of how hard the rowers push themselves were also in evidence on Friday. Britain's Alan Campbell - who took bronze in the single sculls - had to be helped out of the boat and was supported by two officials as he asked to stand for the playing of the British anthem for the women's double sculls.
He was later overwhelmed by emotion at his own medal ceremony before the three medalists, who are friends, embraced.
One member of the bronze-winning Polish women's double sculls team had to be taken to the podium in a wheelchair. She also broke down as she received her medal.
The win for Drysdale topped a great day for New Zealand, following the sight of the country's pair of Eric Murray and Hamish Bond winning gold in one of the most comprehensive displays of racing seen at an Olympic regatta.
They moved through a fast-starting French crew after 500 meters and then effortlessly pulled away from the rest of the field with their long, relaxed stroke, winning by two lengths of clear water and leaving the rest of the field to fight for the remaining places. France took silver and Britain the bronze.
The 30-year-old Murray and Bond, 26, have looked untouchable all season, regularly winning races by huge margins to make up for their disappointing performance at the Beijing Games where they missed the final as part of a four crew.
"Whatever happens in the future we know that we have achieved," Bond said. "Now we're there and nobody can take it away."
With another gold medal won on Thursday by the men's double, the performance confirms New Zealand as one of the strongest rowing nations around. Alongside Britain.
The host nation, which won the women's pair on Wednesday and has a bronze and a silver, also picked up two bronzes on Friday and its rowers are favorites to add to that medal collection in three more events on Saturday.
Germany won the other Olympic gold up for grabs on Friday, beating a young Croatian crew in the men's quad scull.
(Editing by Matt Falloon)