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How stealing Australia’s top coach and learning a new approach transformed British Rowing

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By any requirements the turn-around of Britain’s Olympic rowing workforce this yr has been phenomenal. The leap from the angst-ridden 2021 silver and bronze in Tokyo to 4 golds, a silver and three bronze medals throughout the identical classes at this weekend’s World Championships within the Czech Republic seems miraculous. What on earth has occurred to result in such drastic improvement?  

The modifications are few, however essential, and the reply is that 12 months on from upheavals within the workforce there’s now a educated, skilled and cautious management which has created an setting through which the prevailing expertise can flourish. The workforce was by no means disastrously underperforming however the flood of fourth to seventh locations so prevalent in the course of the 2017-2021 Olympiad are actually being transformed into medals, which is able to bolster British Rowing’s claims on the nationwide sporting coffers. Medals do matter, as they’re the keys which unlock assets however to attain them each piece of the jigsaw should match.

The post-Rio decline

The grim interval started six years in the past, after the Rio Video games at which GB Rowing rode the luck of getting far fewer of the 2012 medallists retire than had been anticipated. Some went, however sufficient stayed on to strengthen what may have been an inexperienced workforce, placing Britain prime of the medal desk for the third time working. However that was adopted by plenty of departures, which partly defined the dismally poor 2017 Worlds results of 5 Olympic-class medals, none of which have been gold.  

A number of months later the modifications started with the resignation of long-serving efficiency director David Tanner. Apparently caught unexpectedly, British Rowing couldn’t appoint a alternative right away. Their new man, former canoeing and triathlon director Brendan Purcell, arrived mid-season after a confidence-sapping hole of three months. It wasn’t lengthy earlier than girls’s head coach Paul Thompson left too, lured to China by Sir Steve Redgrave amid rumours of unsuccessful purposes for Tanner’s job. The apparent answer – placing perpetually profitable coach Jurgen Grobler accountable for the ladies in addition to the boys – appeared to work at first with athletes embracing his powerful coaching programme and producing private bests. However it might have been a step too far for Grobler, who had grown accustomed to teaching particular person crews slightly than main the entire squad.

In the meantime underneath Purcell, who had clearly been employed partly so as to add a softer dimension to athlete administration rather than Tanner’s headmasterly method, the workforce collectively appeared to lose path. Poor Olympic-class outcomes continued: two and three bronzes on the World Championships of 2018 and 2019 respectively. Granted, loads of crews reached the medal finals and certified for Tokyo, however most have been unable to transform them to metalware.  No one remembers who got here fourth on the Olympics. 

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