It would have been unremitting misery if not for the reassuring presence of rowers Steve Redgrave and Matthew Pinsent in the coxless pairs.
Redgrave had already won gold in every Olympics dating back to Los Angeles in 1984, and in his partner Pinsent had a beast of a man who once had the greatest lung capacity of any sportsman on record.
The pair's approach was ruthless, focused and unemotional. After heading off the challenge of Australians David Weightman and Robert Scott, Pinsent celebrated while Redgrave slumped, shattered, in his seat.
Asked later what he was feeling, Redgrave said merely: "Relief. Achieving what you set out to do."
Post-race, Redgrave produced his infamous quip: “If anyone sees me going anywhere near a boat again they have my permission to shoot me."
Thankfully nobody acted on his words, as Redgrave was soon back on the water and won his fifth gold in Sydney five years later. Pinsent made it to Athens in 2004, where he made it four in a row.