Tag Archives: coxless

Exclusive: As UK Sport"s record 355m investment in British athletes begins, Sportsmail speaks to those who have already seen gold from the…

EXCLUSIVE: As UK Sport's record 355m investment in British athletes begins, Sportsmail speaks to those who have already seen gold from the funding boost

, in which Great Britain won 65 Olympic medals and 120 at the Paralympics and finished third in the medals table in both events, but British sport has aimed high since National Lottery funding was introduced in 1997. It is hard to believe Britain won just one gold medal at the 1996 Olympic Games in Atlanta.

Joy: The Olympic Parade which celebrated all the British success during the Olympics and Paralympics

Joy: The Olympic Parade which celebrated all the British success during the Olympics and Paralympics

Glory boys: Steve Redgrave and Matthew Pinsent were the only GB gold medalists in Atlanta

Glory boys: Steve Redgrave and Matthew Pinsent were the only GB gold medalists in Atlanta

Here, some of the athletes who have benefited from UK Sport funding tell Sportsmail exactly what it has meant to them…

Sir Ben Ainslie, 36
Four-time Olympic gold medallist, sailing

‘Trying to become the first nation to better our performance after a home Olympics is a fantastic goal. For me, it shows just how far British sport has come.

‘I’m not thinking about Rio right now because I’m in San Francisco with my America’s Cup team but you never know – it’s still a few years away.

History: Ben Ainslie won a record fourth sailing gold medal after a titanic battle in London

History: Ben Ainslie won a record fourth sailing gold medal after a titanic battle in London

'I’m happy with the decisions I’ve made in my career so far and I’ll definitely be in Brazil in some capacity, even if I’m not racing.

Sir: Ainslee was knighted for his heroics

Sir: Ainslee was knighted for his heroics

‘I started receiving funding in 1997. I went to my first Olympics in 1996 and won a silver medal, but we didn’t do very well as a team. We won just one gold medal – in rowing, Sir Steve Redgrave and Sir Matthew Pinsent in the men’s coxless pair. It was a pretty poor performance overall.

‘Then UK Sport funding came in and I think, straight away, you could see a big change in the way we were able to train. We enjoyed a big jump up the medal table in Sydney (from 36th to 10th) and that continued all the way to London.

‘British sport became more
professional, but the rest of the world upped their game as well. When I
started travelling to compete internationally most people were sleeping
in tents or in the back of their cars and trying to hold down jobs as
well as training.

'There
were very few full-time athletes. I think that’ s been the biggest
change: we have always had the passion but we simply didn’t have the
time to train and recover properly.

‘I
was lucky because I was still studying, but I relied on my parents an
awful lot. I’m sure they were very relieved when funding came on, as a
lot of parents must have been.

‘The
medical support has been unbelievable. I had a back injury six months
before London and it really was a difficult time. I had to have surgery
and a lot of physio but the support I received was phenomenal. It made a
huge difference to me and my chances of winning that gold medal.

‘Could I have achieved what I did without funding It’s a difficult one. I was fortunate in that I had success early on and was able to attract commercial sponsors, but I couldn’t have done it without the coaching and medical support there in the background.

'It was about setting up a long-term strategy to win medals and they certainly got the right people and the right strategy to do that.’

Perri Shakes-Drayton, 24. Double European indoor champion, athletics

‘It meant a lot to win two gold medals at the European Indoor Championships (in the 400m and 4 x 400m relay) in Gothenburg. You train to win medals and to be a champion was even better.

'The training that I’ve done and any doubts I may have had have gone away. I can do it and I want more. It gave me that confidence that I am as good as the rest of the girls and I want to maintain it.

Champion: Perri Shakes-Drayton won gold in the Women's 400m at the European Indoor Athletics

Champion: Perri Shakes-Drayton won gold in the Women's 400m at the European Indoor Athletics

‘It meant a lot after the Olympics. I finished on a high and I kept running close to my personal best but it was a disappointment (failing to make the final of the 400m hurdles). But rewards will come. The European titles have put the Games behind me. It’s a good feeling.

‘The 400 metres isn’t my event and hopefully I can transfer that speeds to the hurdles now. I enjoy them – there is a lot more to think about, but I haven’t achieved what I want to do yet over the hurdles.

'I’m not saying “bye” to them yet. Hurdling comes naturally now. I see a hurdle and I know how to attack it.

‘I want to come home with a medal from the World Championships in Moscow in August. I want one and I have to win one. That’s my aim.

Pedigree: The British quarter cruised to victory in the Women 4 x 400m relay

Pedigree: The British quarter cruised to victory in the Women 4 x 400m relay

‘Chris Zah has been my only coach, for the past 11 years. He took me from the grass roots to the world-class athlete I am today. It’s not really common for that to happen, but we’ve grown as a team and learnt together.

‘We’ll stay in Mile End, not move to Loughborough. We’ll stay in that gritty, crusty gym in east London because it’s working for us. It’s a good set up and I’ m not going anywhere for the moment.

‘National Lottery funding just makes life so much easier for me. The money I receive in support helps with training camps – I’m going to Daytona in Florida for a month on April 2.

I don’t take it for granted because it makes life so much more stress-free. All I have to do is worry about getting to training on time and being the athlete that I have to be to achieve my goals.’

Becky James, 21. Double world champion, track cycling.

‘I couldn’t have made my career without Lottery funding, I’ve had it since I was 15 and it’s been a huge support for me. Without it, I couldn’t make a career out of cycling because women get paid differently to men if, say, I was on a road team.

'It gives you such a lift when you first get on the programme and you become part of British Cycling, too. It’s been a great help.

‘I’m sure I wouldn’t be a double World Champion if I had a part-time job. I worked until I left home – I used to work in a kitchen doing all the food prep and washing up, which wasn’t the most glamorous job. Then I did a bit of waitressing and then I worked in a cake shop for two years in Abergavenny – serving coffee and cakes. It probably wasn’t the most productive thing to do for my sport, but it was fun.’

Double: Becky James won two gold medals at the World Cycling Championships in Scotland

Double: Becky James won two gold medals at the World Cycling Championships in Scotland

Funding: UK Sport have been a key part of James' immediate success

Funding: UK Sport have been a key part of James' immediate success

Quillan Isidore, 16, joined UK Sport’s World Class Performance Programme as a Development athlete in November 2012 after winning the Boys Under-16 category at the UCI BMX World Championships in Birmingham last May.

Winner: James with her gold medal in the individual sprint

Winner: James with her gold medal in the individual sprint

‘I always looked up to people in the GB team and wished I could be one of them. It was a dream when I made it onto the Olympic development programme for BMX because there are only five of us: four boys and one girl. It’s really good when we all go away for training – that’s what I want to live my life like but I’m still at school so I have to be patient. But I’m proud to represent the British team and follow in the steps of people like Sir Chris Hoy.

‘I still live at home in south London so I get a set programme to follow from my coach. I’m very dedicated – I never miss training at all. We’re not the richest family so I’m really thankful for the support.

‘You can get pretty bad injuries in
this sport so it’s good to know the back-up is there, too. I’ve been
very lucky so far, but it’s impossible to be injury-free.

'I’m
aiming for the 2020 Olympics but I’ve got 2016 in the back of my mind. I
believe that if I work really hard it can be done. We’re all working
really hard to get up the rankings and try to get GB three spots in Rio.

‘I
do think BMX is becoming more of a recognised sport. I got into it
because my friend just took me to a track in Brixton one day when I was
eight. It only had about five jumps but I just loved the feeling of
getting my front wheel off the ground. I got my first bike for my eighth
birthday and have been hooked ever since.’

UK
Sport, funded by The National Lottery, is supporting Britain’s best
athletes on the #RoadtoRio. Follow their progress @uk_sport

London 2012 Olympic rowing: Great Britain win Gold in men"s four

Golden touch: Britain retain Olympic title in men's four after smashing the Aussies

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UPDATED:

10:56 GMT, 4 August 2012

Great Britain produced a sensational performance to beat Australia and win Olympic gold in the men's coxless fours.

Andrew Triggs Hodge, Pete Reed, Tom James and Alex Gregory led from the start to extend Britain's dominance over the Olympic event to 16 years.

Britain won their fourth successive coxless fours title by a quarter of a length from the Australians with the United States winning the bronze medal.

More to follow…

Golden touch: Great Britain's Men's Four of Andrew Triggs Hodge, Tom James, Pete Reed and Alex Gregory won the men's four final

Golden touch: Great Britain's Men's Four of Andrew Triggs Hodge, Tom James, Pete Reed and Alex Gregory won the men's four final

MEN'S FOUR FACTFILE

1979: Andrew Triggs Hodge born on March 9 in Aylesbury. Will go on to start rowing at Staffordshire University.

1981: Pete Reed born July 1981 in Seattle, United States. A Lieutenant in the Royal Navy, Reed will later take up rowing at the University of the West of England.

1984: Alex Gregory and Tom James both born on March 11. James will learn to row at Evesham while Gregory will take up the sport through the GB Rowing Start scheme.

2003: James makes his Great Britain debut in the eight, stroking the boat to bronze at the World Championships.

2005: Hodge and Reed win the Boat Race with Oxford and are part of the British four that wins gold at the World Championships.

2006: Hodge and Reed are part of the men's four that wins gold at the World Championships at Eton Dorney.

2007: James competes in his fourth Boat Race for Cambridge, tasting victory for the first time.

2008: Hodge, Reed and James beat Australia to win Olympic gold with a stunning late charge for the line.

2009: Hodge and Reed move into the pair and win silver at the World Championships. Gregory switches to sweep rowing and wins gold in the men's four.

2010: Hodge and Reed win silver at the World Championships, finishing just three tenths of a second behind New Zealand. Gregory is in the men's four crew that finishes a disappointing fourth.

2011: James returns to the GB squad and joins Gregory in the men's four that wins gold at the World Championships. Hodge and Reed again have to settle for silver behind the Kiwis.

2012: May – Hodge and Reed move back into the four alongside Gregory and James, winning World Cup gold at Belgrade and Lucerne.

June – The British four are beaten twice by Australia in the final World Cup regatta in Munich, taking silver.

August 4 – Britain win gold at the Olympic Games.

The race of our lives: Britain"s rowing four know they must defeat Aussies if they want to live up to the golden days

The race of our lives: Britain's rowing four know they must defeat Aussies if they want to live up to the golden days

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UPDATED:

21:12 GMT, 28 July 2012

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LIVE RESULTS |
EVENT SCHEDULE |
MEDALS TABLE

Pete Reed and his British rowing team-mates were watching a motivational film in London’s Olympic Village last week when a familiar face topped by his usual mop of unruly blond hair came into view with a typically bluff message.

‘Can we beat Australia’ asked London’s mayor, Boris Johnson. ‘Yes, I think you can.’

It was a moment, says Reed, that struck a nerve. ‘It really hit home with me personally,’ he said. ‘This will be the biggest race of our lives and we have a big job to do against Australia.’

Reed knows that if he, Andrew Triggs Hodge, Tom James and Alex Gregory are to continue the gold medal traditions of Britain’s coxless four and of men such as Steve Redgrave and Matthew Pinsent, they will, in all probability, be duelling with an Australian crew for a gold medal at Eton Dorney next Saturday.

Aussie bashers: Triggs Hodge, James, Gregory and Reed know they have a golden tradition to maintain

Aussie bashers: Triggs Hodge, James,
Gregory and Reed know they have a golden tradition to maintain

It is a prospect Reed, a lieutenant in the Royal Navy and the man who will make the strategy calls from the No 2 seat, is relishing. ‘We love to hate each other and we love taking on the Aussies. It brings out something special in all of us,’ he said.

‘We have the right people to maintain the tradition of the coxless four and we will thrive on the pressure. Being part of history and, hopefully, being part of history in the making hasn’t passed us by.’

History, though, will have a seat in the Australian boat as well. For the crew who pose the biggest threat to Reed’s men, and who beat the British team in a World Cup race only weeks ago, also have links to an illustrious past. Drew Ginn, 37 and seeking a fourth Olympic gold medal, is back in the boat where he won acclaim as a member of the Oarsome Foursome in Atlanta in 1996.

Ginn admits to making a reckless introduction to rowing in Britain at the Henley Regatta in the summer after his first Olympic gold. ‘I got into trouble when we dropped into a pub for a beer after qualifying for the final of the eights,’ he said. ‘I was wearing an Australia blazer and some guy called me a convict. I’d never heard that before.

‘He had on a University of London blazer, I remember. When he kept on, I head-butted him. Then I asked him, “How are you going at the cricket” I didn’t know the score but, apparently, we were slaughtering the Poms. It went down marvellously well!’

On the water: Great Britain prepare for their likely showdown with Australia at Eton Dorney

On the water: Great Britain prepare for their likely showdown with Australia at Eton Dorney

Ginn tells the story without bravado, yet he does not deny that the sporting rivalry between the nations, fostered through the decades, will be a pertinent factor at London 2012. ‘Both sides like to stir the pot,’ said Ginn, whose wife, Melanie, and children, Kyra and Jasper, will be cheering from the shore.

‘Sure, we’d like to beat the Poms on home soil. But in Australia you don’t bag someone unless you have respect for them. I like the idea of there being some rivalry between us, in a respectful way. I want to be part of the greatest coxless four race in history; that’s what motivates me.

‘If you are part of the greatest race, and you produce your greatest performance, then whatever happens is whatever happens. If a little needling spurs people on, why not’

Ginn missed the Sydney Olympics, forever remembered in Britain for Redgrave’s fifth gold medal, through a back injury that needed surgery. But through his close friendship with James Tomkins he returned to the sport to win gold medals in Australia’s pair in Athens, then at Beijing, where he rowed the semi-final and final with a ruptured disc that required a second operation.

‘At the Sydney Games I met Steve on the beach at Bondi about to go for a dip,’ said Ginn. ‘No one there would have known that he was a five-times Olympic champion. Later, the full story of Steve’s diabetes came out and put his achievement into perspective, how hard it had been. I never forgot Pinsent hugging him in the boat after they’d won. It was an inspiring moment.’

Best of enemies: England and Australia

Undoubtedly, Ginn is behind the resurgence of Australia’s coxless four in the past 12 months, with Josh Dunkley-Smith likened to Pinsent in strength and size.

‘Josh is a horse,’ said Ginn. ‘We know that the British team will be inspired by competing at home. But the flipside is that it brings on a lot of pressure. The Australian rowing team didn’t win a single gold in Sydney. The Olympics tend to be a harsh mistress and she’ll make you pay a price. I have been fortunate to come out on the right side of her but that’s partially because I have processed the moment, stressed about it, become excited about it and stressed about it again. If I haven’t raced the race 100,000 times in my mind, I have done myself a disservice.’

Like all Australian athletes in London, he will also have reminded himself of the pain inflicted on the national psyche by Britain finishing ahead of them in the Beijing medal table. Reed acknowledged the threat the Australians pose, illustrated in Munich last month, when he said: ‘We know the Aussies are quick.’

Yet there is a sense of calm, an outward appearance of strong resolve within a British crew rejuvenated by a four-week training camp, split evenly between time at altitude in Austria and at sea level in Portugal. They ceased playing board games some time ago.

Golden boys: Reed, James, Andy Hodge and Steve Williams won in Beijing

Golden boys: Reed, James, Andy Hodge and Steve Williams won in Beijing

‘All of us hate losing, so it’s not worth risking any bad blood!’ said Reed, who met his German girlfriend, Frauke Oltmanns, when she managed the team hotel in Portugal. ‘Hodgy reads a lot, so does Alex, who is also fascinated by animals, while TJ is a cool thinker who plays guitar. I’m into photography; it’s a nice mix and the four of us get on well.’

Reed, who celebrated his 31st birthday with his crew-mates on the day the Olympic cauldron was lit, knows the scale of the mission ahead when the British team are primed to excel like never before.

‘Beijing was special for Hodgy, TJ and myself,’ he said. ‘But we have to take this chance of winning at a home Olympics. I back myself, and the others, to have more in reserve than the Australians.

‘We have talked through the race, thought of every possible situation when we have been out on the water paddling. We have made sure we can communicate without speaking if the noise is too loud. I have visualised over and over what can happen.’

And does the last reel in your mind show you winning

‘Always,’ said Reed.

London 2012 Olympics: Rowing team going for gold

In Grob we trust! Legend coach back with rowing team to take on the world

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UPDATED:

01:56 GMT, 28 July 2012

Olympics 2012

They have long since put on hold careers such as soldier, Treasury official, PE teacher or prison officer to come together as what has been proclaimed ‘the best team British rowing has brought to the Games’.

That was the description applied this week by performance director David Tanner to the group of 47 athletes who will row down the 2,000-metre lanes at Eton Dorney in pursuit of their place in history.

At the top end of the course, sheep grazing in nearby fields will be visible. Then, as the muscles start to burn, the rowers will soon enough hit a wall of sound when approaching the corridor of huge metal stands housing 20,000 spectators. It will be a sporting theatre of very British contrasts.

Going for gold: The men's coxless fours look set to be among the medals

Going for gold: The men's coxless fours look set to be among the medals

If Tanner is right, this man-made lake will contain a rich seam of medals for GB. Rowing is the only sport that has delivered at least one gold to Britain in every Olympics since 1984 and the last three Games have seen the tally of medals go from three to four to a haul of six in Beijing four years ago.

GB rowing fans use the phrase ‘In Grob we trust’, putting their faith in the famed ability of head coach Jurgen Grobler to bring his crews to peak at the right time.

The current crop of rowers do not enjoy the same profile as the country’s cyclists, but if things go well they could come close to making a similarly weighty contribution to Great Britain’s aggregate total of medals.

‘We are never going to have the fantastic year-on-year things like the Tour de France, and none of us are going to be buying mansions off the back of this, but we accept our lot,’ says Andy Triggs Hodge, stroke of the coxless four and, with his shock of blond hair, one of the more recognisable figures.

Main man: Coach Jurgen Grobler

Main man: Coach Jurgen Grobler

‘But in terms of high performance and commitment we are up there with anybody. This is what we’ve been working for and there is a great feeling in the squad.’

The four has been the symbol of British excellence since Sydney 2000, seeing off all-comers at each Olympics and three of them — Triggs Hodge, Pete Reed and Tom James — are back to defend their title. (Incongruously, the other from 2008, Steve Williams, was last seen winning the final of Dancing On Ice Goes Gold).

They won by dramatically rowing down the Australians in the last 250 metres, although those same rivals believe they can reverse that result this year, with some Ashes-style sledging from veteran Drew Ginn spicing things up.

Ginn maintains that the GB four were ‘scared as hell’ by losing the most recent World Cup in Munich six weeks ago, when the Australians beat them in the semis and final.

A mixed bag of British performances in Germany slightly dampened original expectations that the home Games will bring a bumper haul, with the cognoscenti believing the count is likely to end up being between six and eight medals of different colours.

None of Grobler’s gold medal-winning crews have ever won the main regatta preceding the Olympics, so Munich may not be an accurate form guide. Since then there have been training camps in Austria and Portugal, designed to bring out the best when it matters most.

If anyone is most favoured for gold, possibly in any sport involving GB, it is the women’s double scull of Anna Watkins and Katherine Grainger, who have proved unbeatable in the past three years.

There will not be a dry eye in the house next Friday if the immensely popular Grainger ends up with something better than the silver medals she has taken home from the last three Olympics.

Less conspicuously in the pairs, Helen Glover and Heather Stanning have emerged from opposite ends of the kingdom — they were born in Cornwall and Scotland respectively — as genuine chances for a gold after an excellent build-up and they are first off in Saturday morning’s heats.

The latter, an all-round sportswoman who enjoys sailing and surfboarding, is a Sandhurst-trained Royal Artillery officer who could find herself in Afghanistan before the end of the year.

Golden girls: Heather Stanning (right) and Helen Glover have enjoyed an impressive build-up

Golden girls: Heather Stanning (right) and Helen Glover have enjoyed an impressive build-up

There are longer shots for gold, such as defending champions in the men’s lightweight double Zac Purchase and Mark Hunter, whose form has been ropier than expected, or their underrated fellow lightweights in the four.

British rowing is trying to shake off its fairly staid and middle class image and the poster boy for its growing diversity is Mohamed Sbihi, one of the powerhouses in the unpredictable and eclectic men’s eight, who on a given day might trouble the German favourites.

With a Moroccan heritage but brought up in Surbiton, Sbihi is GB’s first rower who is a practising Muslim, and has elected to postpone his fasting during the current Ramadan after discussions with his family and religious figures.

Instead, he has made a sizeable donation to a charity that gives food to deprived children in Morocco and he will visit there later in the year.

The challenges for GB will come from far and wide, with small nations like New Zealand especially strong in rowing.

The Olympics is the summit in this sport and while there is no name as celebrated as Pinsent or Redgrave among the GB 47, there is no greater chance to forge one than at a home Games.

The rowing coverage will be unlike ever before on TV, with the use of a 250,000 camera developed by the US military that follows the boats down the course. The camera is suspended on three wires stretched between two 92 metre towers at either end of the lake. The camera can rotate 360 degrees and drops to just eight metres above the boats.
BRITS TO WATCH

Women’s Coxless Pair — Heather Stanning and Helen Glover

The West Country-based duo have impressed in the three World Cups this year and won silver at the 2011 World Championships. Feared by their rivals, but they need to watch out for New Zealand in particular.

Men’s Eight

Injuries have meant reshuffling but they gave Germany a scare at the World Cup in Belgrade and are more settled after the return of stroke Constantine Louloudis. The eight includes Greg Searle MBE, who competed in his first Games in 1992 and came out of retirement three years ago.

Men’s lightweight coxless four

Chris Bartley, Rob Williams and brothers Pete and Richard Chambers have improved greatly this year and could upset Australia and Denmark.

Rowing London 2012 Olympics

British rowers have licence to tweet ahead of trials despite spat

Rowers have a licence to tweet ahead of trials despite feisty online exchange

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UPDATED:

22:01 GMT, 8 March 2012

British rowing bosses say they are relaxed about their oarsmen using social media despite a mini spat on Twitter between gold medallist Zac Purchase and fellow lightweight squad member Richard Chambers.

Purchase, who along with virus-hit partner Mark Hunter will miss this weekend's National Trials, upset Chambers by writing in his blog that his absence would give someone else 'the chance of glory for a change'.

Chambers fired back, tweeting: 'This is an arrogant blog and insulting to the rest of our Lightweight team'.

Outburst: Richard Chambers (left) blasted Zac Purchase on Twitter

Outburst: Richard Chambers (left) blasted Zac Purchase on Twitter

Purchase sought to defuse matters, replying: 'Would have loved to have raced, no offence was intended'.

Performance director David Tanner put any tension down to the looming selection process in which 26 rowers will go for 21 Olympic places.

'Social media is the last thing I would think about when I wake up,' he said. 'They are entitled to say what they think but overall rowers are extremely well behaved.'

Golden boy: Zac Purchase won the lightweight double sculls in Beijing

Golden boy: Zac Purchase won the lightweight double sculls in Beijing

Men's head coach Jurgen Grobler said: 'It's normal for there to be tension. We don't want them like sheep.'

Tanner described the Trials at the Games venue of Eton's Dorney Lake as 'the last major signpost' before selection is announced in April for the first pre-Olympics World Cup in Belgrade in May.

Hunter and Purchase are sure to be retained in the lightweight double scull, with Pete Reed and Andy Triggs Hodge expected to move into the coxless four.