International Rowing

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"It’s on home waters" - an insight into Great Britain’s Olympic Dream

In Beijing 2008, Great Britain surged into the fore as the world’s leading rowing nation. There is no doubt that they have a reputation and a recipe for success. With the Olympics 174 days away, what will some of the world’s most successful coaches do, and in particular, that of Great Briatin's coaches?

The Men

Jurgen Grobler has coached an Olympic Gold Medal at every games since 1972! In 1991 he arrived from the former German Democratic Republic where he took over as Leander Club’s Chief Coach. A year later, he joined British Rowing as the Chief Coach for Men. During this time he has personally coached GB gold medal crews in each of the five Olympic Games: Barcelona (’92) and Atlanta (’96) with the pair of Steven Redgrave and Matt Pinset. Later, in Sydney (’00) they went onto win the 4- with Matt Pinset going onto Athens in 2004 to win yet another gold in the M4-.

In 2008, the Beijing Olympic Games saw the M4- of Pete Reed, Andrew Triggs Hodge, Tom James and Steve Williams win gold under the watchful eye of Jurgen Grobler.

Modest to the core, he likes to downplay his part in it all. "If they win it's them and, if they lose, it's me”. Yet there is no doubt, Great Britain’s recipe for success, and that of their rowers, lies in the hands of Grobler.

Much speculation about what boat class Grobler will target for the London Olympics. In 2011, the pair of Reed and Hodge lost by 1.5 seconds to the New Zealand Pair of Eric Murray and Hamish Bond. However on closer analysis, the GB pair not only recorded the fastest overall 500m, but were faster in the last two 500m segments of the race! So, maybe, if they can hold the New Zealand pair in the first 1000m, they could better them in the 2nd 1000m? An option for Grobler, or is the risk too great? Reed and Hodge are impressive athletes. That said, so are Murray and Bond.

A more likely option lies in shifting the pair into an already successful M4-. The GB M4- has already proven that they can are a successful unit where in 2009 and 2011, they won gold at the World Championship. If Reed and Hodge are moved into the 4-, the knock-on would only strengthen the eight which lost to Germany by 2 seconds in Bled.

The men’s sculling team will no doubt have some interesting changes. Alan Campbell won a bronze medal in Bled (’11), 5 seconds behind an ever dominant and impressive World Champion Mahe Drysdale, who in turn has unfinished business after falling ill in Bejing. There has been much talk about him strengthening the crew sculling boats.

The M2x of Matthew Wells and Marcus Bateman were over 8 seconds behind Nathan Cohen and Joseph Sullivan, having previously won silver in Karapiro. The M4x were no doubt disappointed with their performance in Bled where they failed to make the A-Final.

This decision as, as illustrated in the most recent Rowing & Regatta Magazine lies in Jurgen Grobler’s hands, and his alone! Too many dreams rest on this decision for it to be any other way.

The Women

Paul Thompson joined the GB team in 2001 and was appointed as the Lead Coach of the Women for the 2004 Olympic Games in Athens where, under his guidance, produced three medal boats. After 2004, Paul was promoted to Chief Coach for the Women and Lightweights.

At the 2007 World Championships in Munich, Paul Thompson’s quad won gold, and he was awarded International Rowing Federation Coach of 2007 while the quad was awarded female crew of the year.

In 2008, he coached the women’s quadruple scull to a silver medal. Furthermore, there was a silver in the pair and the bronze in the double.  This was a major breakthrough for the GB Women’s team who’s first Olympic medal was in 2000.

Although there has not been as much speculation as to which boat class Paul will choose as the lead boat, Paul has a number of options available to him. The Double Scull with Anna Watkin’s and Katherine Grainger won by just over a second over Australia’s Kerry Hore and Kim Crow in Bled (‘11), who, a year earlier were beaten by  nearly 6 seconds at Karapiro Lake (’10). Will Kerry Hore and Kim Crow continue to close the gap? Or will Paul look into another option, the W4x, where in 2010, they won in Karapiro by over 2 seconds.

Paul also has interesting decisions to make regarding the W2- and the W8+. Will he strengthen the W8+ with members of the sculling team, a boat which has in recent years been closing the gap on the ever dominant Americans who only narrowly beat the Canadians by 0.7 seconds and the 4th selected British by 2.4 seconds.

The Lightweights:

Darren Whiter has one focus, the lightweight men’s double scull! In 2008 he coached Zac Purchase and Mark Hunter to a gold medal at the Beijing Olympic Games. This was Great Britain’s first ever lightweight Olympic Medal.

Mark Hunter has recently been awarded Olympic Athlete of the year for 2011 by the British Olympic Association. Zac Purchase too is a man who needs very little introduction having won numerous world championship medals.

Together the duo are formidable double with a total of 8 World Championship medals and a 2008’s Olympic gold medallists. However the NZL double of Storm Uru and Peter Taylor will no doubt look to make up the 0.3 seconds difference in Bled.

Great Britain:

Under the David Tanner’s management, there is no doubt that the target for the Olympic Games is to ensure Great Britain stay on top of the medal table as they did in Bejing 2008. It is rumoured that GB rowing has been offered the highest budget, well beyond any other GB sport for this Olympic games. No stone will be left unturned when Great Britain race on home waters in their quest for gold.