British Rowing chairman proud of crews and coaches despite disappointing medal haul

Bronze medal winning rower Moe Sbihi and his family

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Chairman Mark Davies has reflected on British Rowing's much criticised performance at the Tokyo Games but said that while ‘others might be losing their heads, we’ll be keeping ours’.

The performance was GB’s worst at an Olympics in terms of medals won since 1972, however, several crews finished just outside of the medals at the Sea Forest Waterway, and Davies believes they and their coaches should be proud of their efforts.

Only two crews, both featuring Maidenhead-based rowers, won medals, with Jack Beaumont, Harry Leask, Tom Barras and Angus Groom claiming a well-earned silver medal and Moe Sbihi part of Great Britain’s bronze medal winning men’s eight crew.

The men’s four, which included Windsor’s Ollie Cook and Marlow’s Rory Gibbs, veered off course in the final few hundred metres as they were pipped for bronze, while mother-of-three Helen Glover, from Cookham, produced a brave effort alongside Polly Swann as the women’s pair also came home in fourth.

Reflecting on the Games, Davies said: “First of all it’s clear we have a great set of young athletes.

“They gave us every reason to be immensely proud of them, as individuals and as a team, coming in one after the next in the most frustrating of all Olympic positions and front up at the rawest of moments. Having committed everything and come away with nothing, they were open and honest about their performances – what they gave, and where they fell short.

“But they excelled not just as plucky losers. Making more finals as a team than any other country bar the Netherlands, who matched them. They showed that they were there or there abouts in every one, which bodes well for such a young squad in the future.

“In two, we made the podium and in six we came fourth. This, after 80 per cent of the squad from Rio retired, such that the vast majority competing this week were Olympic virgins.

“I missed the flak the young New Zealand men’s eight got for finishing 6th in Rio, or that Emma Twigg had for her 9th, 4th and 4th-place finishes over three Olympiads. Both are now the most impressive of Olympic champions.

“We always knew that the Tokyo Olympics fell at a time when the team was in transition. A stunning start to the season artificially raised expectations, but victories against European competition were no real indicator of how we would fare against the rest of the world – including some crews that had been able to prepare free of COVID disruption.

“In turn, defeat to them should not cloud the bigger picture. We stepped on this week from our 2019 World Championship results, and if we were six whiskers away from doing so in style, we nonetheless took an important step towards Paris in three years’ time.

“There’s no getting away from the fact that sporting success is measured in black and white, nor that in all but two cases we were on the wrong side of the medal line. Of course, that outcome is disappointing to pundits, supporters, and those who watch rowing only once every four years – particularly when we have all been so spoiled by the stunning success of our sport for a generation. But we will cut through the noise of criticism to remember, first, that it will be far more disappointing to the team themselves, and second that – crucially – there are plenty of positives to take from their performance. Every crew improved through the Games; six came as close as you can come; and all took away learnings that will stand them in good stead. In short, they built a good, solid, and impressive platform to Paris, on which we will help them build. They should be proud of the progress they made. We are.”

Reflecting on the Games, Davies said: “First of all it’s clear we have a great set of young athletes.

“They gave us every reason to be immensely proud of them, as individuals and as a team, coming in one after the next in the most frustrating of all Olympic positions and front up at the rawest of moments. Having committed everything and come away with nothing, they were open and honest about their performances – what they gave, and where they fell short.

“But they excelled not just as plucky losers. Making more finals as a team than any other country bar the Netherlands, who matched them. They showed that they were there or there abouts in every one, which bodes well for such a young squad in the future.

“In two, we made the podium and in six we came fourth. This, after 80 per cent of the squad from Rio retired, such that the vast majority competing this week were Olympic virgins.

“I missed the flak the young New Zealand men’s eight got for finishing 6th in Rio, or that Emma Twigg had for her 9th, 4th and 4th-place finishes over three Olympiads. Both are now the most impressive of Olympic champions.

“We always knew that the Tokyo Olympics fell at a time when the team was in transition. A stunning start to the season artificially raised expectations, but victories against European competition were no real indicator of how we would fare against the rest of the world – including some crews that had been able to prepare free of COVID disruption.

“In turn, defeat to them should not cloud the bigger picture. We stepped on this week from our 2019 World Championship results, and if we were six whiskers away from doing so in style, we nonetheless took an important step towards Paris in three years’ time.

“There’s no getting away from the fact that sporting success is measured in black and white, nor that in all but two cases we were on the wrong side of the medal line. Of course, that outcome is disappointing to pundits, supporters, and those who watch rowing only once every four years – particularly when we have all been so spoiled by the stunning success of our sport for a generation. But we will cut through the noise of criticism to remember, first, that it will be far more disappointing to the team themselves, and second that – crucially – there are plenty of positives to take from their performance. Every crew improved through the Games; six came as close as you can come; and all took away learnings that will stand them in good stead. In short, they built a good, solid, and impressive platform to Paris, on which we will help them build. They should be proud of the progress they made. We are.”