Emma Twigg completed an Olympic fairytale today when she won the women’s singles sculls in emphatic fashion.

Twigg, 34, utterly outclassed a strong field and finished more than four seconds ahead of much-touted Russian Hanna Prakatsen, with Austrian Magdalena Lobnig in third.

New Zealand rowing supporters, all too familiar with Twigg’s Olympic frustrations over the years, were desperately hoping she would win gold today to cap off her stellar career, and she delivered in style, leading the race all the way and drawing inexorably further ahead.

She finished in 7min 13.97s, with Prakatsen two lengths behind in 7min 17.39 and Lobnig recording 7min 19.72s.

The Hawke’s Bay rower was 21 when she appeared in her first Olympics, in Beijing in 2008, and placed ninth in the single sculls.

Four years later in London she was frustratingly close to a medal but had to settle for fourth. It was the same story in Rio de Janeiro in 2016, even though by then she had won a world title and was a strong medal hope.

Twigg retired after Rio and had a couple of years away from the sport to try to regain some perspective in her life.

When she returned, she had the strong goal of winning a medal, preferably gold, in Tokyo in 2020. She has won five world championship medals, but it was the ultimate, an Olympic medal, that had eluded her.

There was no Tokyo Olympics in 2020, but she pressed on and now, at 34 years of age, she is an Olympic champion.

It’s a story that would appeal to a Hollywood scriptwriter. No wonder there were tears in the eyes of so many New Zealand rowing fans when Twigg crossed the line.

Twigg said later that her message to other sportsmen and women who perhaps had disappointing results was that “if you believe in yourself and keep going and dreaming then this can be the result”.

She said she didn’t want to “light too many matches” early on, in the first half of the race. But once she took the lead she felt fairly confident. “It was part of the plan. I wanted to be in a position of power over the last 500 metres. I knew it was a tailwind and thought that anyone who came at me was going to have to do a lot.”

She said she had a momentary flicker of concern after finishing. “To be honest, I never heard the buzzer. I looked behind and wondered if I’d stopped too early, but then I saw the bubbles, so all good.”

Tokyo 2020 Olympic Summer Games
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