Home UK News 'Humbled' Olympic rower set for Boat Race

'Humbled' Olympic rower set for Boat Race

by InterSpaceReporter

Boat Race training has been humbling experience – Cracknell
2019 Boat Races
Venue: River Thames, London Date: Sunday, 7 April Time: Women’s race 14:13 and men’s race 15:10 BST
Coverage: Live on BBC One, Connected TV and online from 13:20 BST.

“I was the only one who turned up with a pen and paper – there was no internet when I was at university.”

Enrolling at the University of Cambridge and being selected for the 2019 Boat Race has been a “humbling” experience for James Cracknell.

In the boat house, he is not seen as a two-time Olympic gold medallist, nor a six-time world champion. He is a Masters student who has had to work just as hard for a seat in Cambridge’s boat as all his other crew-mates.

On Sunday, he will become the oldest person to compete in the Boat Race. At 46, he is eight years older than previous record holder Andy Probert, the Cambridge cox in 1992.

Thirteen years have passed since Cracknell retired from elite rowing. But had he thought he would simply earn his Cambridge Blue blazer by name alone, he was soon brought back to reality.

“It’s been the most humbling experience I’ve been through,” Cracknell told BBC Sport.

“I walked through the door with a track record and by the end of the first week, that had gone.

“I’m sure there was a bit of respect there to start with, but that’s gone, because you don’t want to respect someone too much when you’re trying to get the same seat.”

‘My neurologist would have said no’

In 2010, Cracknell fractured his skull when he was knocked off his bike by a truck in Arizona as he attempted to cycle, row, run and swim from Los Angeles to New York within 16 days.

He also suffered bruising to the brain, later experienced memory loss, and his personality altered. But don’t expect less of him as a result.

“It had a really big impact on my health for a long time, and my behaviour for a couple of years, but to be honest the biggest effect has been people’s perception,” Cracknell said.

“You can understand certain injuries, and how long the healing time is. But people have a perception that [your mental faculties] are not going to be the same, whereas actually I wouldn’t have got into Cambridge when I left school.”

Cracknell, who graduated from Reading in 1993 with a degree in geography, is no stranger to a challenge.

Since retiring from competitive rowing, he has raced to the South Pole, finished 12th in the 156-mile Marathon des Sables – which was the best finish by a Briton at the time – and run the London Marathon on multiple occasions.

“Neurologists are great people, but if you listen to them too much, they’ll say what they think you can do,” Cracknell said.

“If I said to them that I wanted to go and study at Cambridge and I wanted to do the Boat Race, they would have said no.

“But you need people around you to challenge you, set your own limits, and work out how you’re going to get there.”

James Cracknell (left) won coxless four gold at the Sydney Olympics in 2000 alongside Steve Redgrave, Tim Foster and Matthew Pinsent. He retained the title four years later in Athens, with Steve Williams and Ed Coode replacing Redgrave and Foster.

Boat Race pride – and Tinder

Cracknell won gold in the coxless four at both the Sydney 2000 and Athens 2004 Olympic Games, as well as three World Championship titles in both the pair and four.

His former crew-mates have knighthoods. His current ones are young enough to be his sons – in an interview with the Daily Telegraph,