Zac Purchase and Mark Hunter believe they delivered a statement of intent as they roared back into form with victory in their Olympic rowing heat at Eton Dorney Lake.

Purchase, who lives at Wallingford, and Hunter, from the Leander club at Henley, were at rock bottom five weeks ago after coming sixth for a second World Cup regatta in a row.

But the reigning world and Olympic champions have built a reputation for peaking at the biggest events, having overcome turbulent seasons to win the world championships in both 2010 and 2011.

Now they could do the same after beating in-form New Zealanders Storm Uru and Peter Taylor in their lightweight double sculls heat yesterday en route to Wednesday’s semi-finals.

Purchase said: “It was a great race for us because we had some convincing to do. Not only everybody here watching, but also ourselves.

“It is a really big confidence booster for us to be drawn against the Kiwis, the in-form crew this season.

“We knew we had to produce a good race to come out on top and to start off with a win we can now move on from that.

“It was a message of intent to ourselves. Everyone is aware we’ve had a pretty terrible season at the World Cups.

“It was a case of going out there and saying to ourselves and the rest of the team ‘we’re a crew to be reckoned with and don’t write us off’.”

Hunter said: “This is the Olympics and it was important to come here and kick off with a good start.”

Britain’s women’s eight finished third in a heat dominated by the United States, who are the reigning world and Olympic champions and unbeaten since 2006.

The eight includes cox Caroline O’Connor, an Oxford Academy teacher who lives in Henley where crewmates Katie Greves, Louisa Reeve, Victoria Thornley and Annabel Vernon are also based plus Lindsey Maguire, who lives in Wallingford.

They go into tomorrow's repechage.