Andy Holmes: Rower whose partnership with Steve Redgrave sparked a British renaissance in the sport

Andy Holmes, part of the gold-winning crew at the 1984 Los Angeles Olympics and gold-winning partner to Steve Redgrave at the 1988 Seoul Olympics, was part of Britain's rowing renaissance and helped provide the foundations on which Britain's now long-standing success in the sport is built. The LA gold ended a 36-year drought in the sport.

Holmes was seen as a focused and determined, yet unassuming individual. He always remained modest about his achievements. The youngest of three brothers, he was born in West London in 1959. From the age of 13, he took advantage of the summer holidays and worked on construction sites carrying bricks on to the scaffolding. He soon developed strong thighs and arms. It was while attending Latymer Upper School in Hammersmith that Holmes' talent for rowing was first noticed by the Montreal Olympic silver medallist Jim Clark. After leaving school Holmes completed a degree in French and briefly rowed at Kingston rowing club.

Clark helped Holmes to join the exclusive Leander club, then widely regarded as England's premier rowing club. Here, everything centred around excellence and competition, in particular the Henley Regatta. Initially, Holmes recalled, he was seen as a bit of an outsider. Although his technique was not great, his pure power was abundantly clear. He made rapid progress and, in 1978, at 19, won the Thames Challenge Cup at Henley Royal Regatta and was selected in the men's coxed four for the World Championships.

Three years later he was chosen for the British Olympic team's coxed fours at the 1984 Los Angeles Games. He joined- up with Richard Budgett, Martin Cross and Steve Redgrave, with Adrian Ellison as cox. Having beaten East Germany, the world champions, earlier in the year at the Lucerne Regatta, the team were upbeat about their chances, even before the Soviet-bloc boycott of the Games. They went on to beat the Americans and win Britain's first Olympic gold since London 1948. Holmes also made the headlines that day because it was revealed that he had funded his Olympic effort by working as a hod-carrier. Despite the success, the boat broke up quickly and Holmes went into "unofficial retirement".

He started rowing again for two reasons. Firstly, rowing had been included in the 1986 Commonwealth Games and he wanted to have the chance of winning all three major titles, along with the Olympic and World titles. Secondly, there was the fact that the East Germans had not taken part in LA.

Holmes and Redgrave joined up to row as a coxless pair. Following a meeting in a "greasy spoon" cafe in Putney and a session on the water, Holmes "felt that things clicked immediately". The pair went on to sweep aside all before them. In 1986 they won Commonwealth gold in the coxless pairs, and were part of the gold-winning coxed four. The same year, at Nottingham, the pair completed their trio of titles, winning the World Championships in the coxed pairs, with Pat Sweeney. 1987 saw the duo win another World Championship gold in the coxless pairs and silver in the coxed pairs at Copenhagen.

Their "untouchable" status made them firm favourites for gold at the 1988 Seoul Olympics and they duly obliged, beating the Romanians in the coxless pairs, which Holmes described as "more satisfying than the first because everyone in the world was competing". However, due to the punishing race schedule they lost out in the coxed pairs, winning bronze.

It was, none the less, an astonishing achievement and should have set the seal on their relationship. Once again, though, Holmes quickly found the team was about to break up. "Steve just didn't want to continue and to this day I'm not quite sure why," he recalled. They were never really close friends: "When we subsequently chose to go our separate ways, the press tried to make out that there had been a clash of personalities. But that simply wasn't the case."

Redgrave sought out a new partner, initially Simon Berrisford then Matthew Pinsent. Unable to find a suitable partner, Holmes considered sculling and bought a house at Banyoles in Spain, where the 1992 Olympics were to be held, but without a sponsor he retired and disappeared from the sport; it was seen as a big loss.

He set up a furniture removal company and found other diversions, including drumming in an occasionally convened rock band. In 2007, 17 years after leaving the sport he had helped to make famous, he returned, initially as a coach, when he became director of rowing at Furnival sculling club in Hammersmith and at the Langley Academy in Berkshire, and then into sculling.

Competing in Boston, Lincolnshire a couple of weeks ago, Holmes contracted leptospirosis, known as Weil's disease, an infection picked up from river water contaminated by the urine of infected animals, which attacks the major organs. He died in hospital. As well as four children with his first wife, Pamela, Holmes had a month-old daughter with his second wife, Gabrielle.

Andrew Jeremy Holmes, rower; born Hillingdon, West London 15 October 1959; married 1984 Pamela (three daughtes, one son), secondly Gabrielle (one daughter); MBE; died London 24 October 2010.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
News
A poster by Durham Constabulary
news
Arts and Entertainment
books New York Times slammed over summer reading list
Sport
Cameron Jerome
footballCanaries beat Boro to gain promotion to the Premier League
Arts and Entertainment
Performers drink tea at the Glastonbury festival in 2010
music
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebookA unique anthology of reporting and analysis of a crucial period of history
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Guru Careers: Software Developer / C# Developer

£40-50K: Guru Careers: We are seeking an experienced Software / C# Developer w...

Guru Careers: Software Developer

£35 - 40k + Benefits: Guru Careers: We are seeking a Software Developer (JavaS...

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant / Resourcer

£18000 - £23000 per annum + Commission: SThree: As a Trainee Recruitment Consu...

Ashdown Group: UI Developer - (UI, HTML, CSS, JavaScript, AngularJS)

£25000 - £40000 per annum: Ashdown Group: UI Developer - (UI, JavaScript, HTML...

Day In a Page

Abuse - and the hell that came afterwards

Abuse - and the hell that follows

James Rhodes on the extraordinary legal battle to publish his memoir
Why we need a 'tranquility map' of England, according to campaigners

It's oh so quiet!

The case for a 'tranquility map' of England
'Timeless fashion': It may be a paradox, but the industry loves it

'Timeless fashion'

It may be a paradox, but the industry loves it
If the West needs a bridge to the 'moderates' inside Isis, maybe we could have done with Osama bin Laden staying alive after all

Could have done with Osama bin Laden staying alive?

Robert Fisk on the Fountainheads of World Evil in 2011 - and 2015
New exhibition celebrates the evolution of swimwear

Evolution of swimwear

From bathing dresses in the twenties to modern bikinis
Sun, sex and an anthropological study: One British academic's summer of hell in Magaluf

Sun, sex and an anthropological study

One academic’s summer of hell in Magaluf
From Shakespeare to Rising Damp... to Vicious

Frances de la Tour's 50-year triumph

'Rising Damp' brought De la Tour such recognition that she could be forgiven if she'd never been able to move on. But at 70, she continues to flourish - and to beguile
'That Whitsun, I was late getting away...'

Ian McMillan on the Whitsun Weddings

This weekend is Whitsun, and while the festival may no longer resonate, Larkin's best-loved poem, lives on - along with the train journey at the heart of it
Kathryn Williams explores the works and influences of Sylvia Plath in a new light

Songs from the bell jar

Kathryn Williams explores the works and influences of Sylvia Plath
How one man's day in high heels showed him that Cannes must change its 'no flats' policy

One man's day in high heels

...showed him that Cannes must change its 'flats' policy
Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

Dominic Rossi of Fidelity says his pressure on business to control rewards is working. But why aren’t other fund managers helping?
The King David Hotel gives precious work to Palestinians - unless peace talks are on

King David Hotel: Palestinians not included

The King David is special to Jerusalem. Nick Kochan checked in and discovered it has some special arrangements, too
More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years

End of the Aussie brain drain

More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years
Meditation is touted as a cure for mental instability but can it actually be bad for you?

Can meditation be bad for you?

Researching a mass murder, Dr Miguel Farias discovered that, far from bringing inner peace, meditation can leave devotees in pieces
Eurovision 2015: Australians will be cheering on their first-ever entrant this Saturday

Australia's first-ever Eurovision entrant

Australia, a nation of kitsch-worshippers, has always loved the Eurovision Song Contest. Maggie Alderson says it'll fit in fine