HEATHER Stanning and Helen Glover kept their unbeaten streak alive in Rio to reach the semi-finals of the pairs but it needed one last push from the duo to extend their winning run to 38 races and counting, writes Mark Woods.

Number 40, the reigning Olympic champions hope, will come in the final later this week but after an exercise in evading defeat that has lasted five years and diverted through two world titles, the British duo came so very close to finally slipping up.

With Denmark’s Hedveg Rasmussen and Anne Andersen edging ahead at Lagoa, it required evasive action to snatch an astonishing victory by just 0.23 seconds

Second place would have sufficed, Stanning noted. “We were just getting our first race done. It wasn’t the race that people probably expected to see but it’s the Olympics – everyone’s stepped up their game. We won, that’s what we needed to do. We’re into the semi-final. It’s all about the final at the end of the day. We just need to make sure we get there in good shape.”

There is no sense of complacency from a pair who strive for perfection and a little more, every single day. If anything, the Scot declared, it proved that the plans they have in place for such emergencies can withstand a troublesome test.

“We’ve worked a lot on our last bit of the race but it’s very rare we actually have to sprint to the end,” Stanning said. “So why not take that opportunity to execute something you’ve worked on in training? We’ve done a lot in our last 250, not that we’ve ever had to use it. But it gives us confidence we do have a last 250 we can execute well, regardless of where we are.”

Polly Swann lapped up her Olympic debut – four years after her ticket to London was revoked due to a back injury – as the women’s eight booked their tickets for Saturday’s final with victory in their heat. And by qualifying second fastest, the British crew will now take aim at the much-fancied Americans and shoot for gold.

“The crew we have is so strong,” the 28-year-old said, “We’re these sassy incredible girls. And anything is possible for us. Those American girls are just people. And they’re just going to be people on Saturday. We’re people too and we can absolutely demolish them.”

Angus Groom insisted the British quad sculls will target for a medal in the final, even though they progressed only by coming second to Germany in the repechage. And he believes the group has the balance to force an upset.

“We’re all bringing something a bit different to it,” the Glaswegian said.