Carl Smith: Rower who won eight world championship medals

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The Independent Online

Carl Smith, who was killed on New Year's Day at the age of 49 when his car hit a tree after going off the Epperstone bypass, north-east of Nottingham, was a world champion oarsman and coach of immense talent.

Smith began as a cox for Nottingham and Union RC at the age of 12 and went on to win eight world championship medals as an oarsman, including golds in lightweight double sculls (1986), lightweight fours (1991 and 1992), and as part of the GB lightweight eight in 1994. His medals embraced sculling and rowing, and there is little doubt that, had lightweight categories been part of the Olympic programme during his era, he would have stood on the Olympic podium.

Smith was a tall, wiry oarsman with an engaging smile and a quick sense of humour that fronted talent and modesty in equal measure. His world title in lightweight doubles with Alan Whitwell, on their home water in 1986, was as inspired as it was unexpected. He won two Commonwealth medals and a host of others at Henley and elsewhere. His achievements coincided with a golden era of lightweight rowing in Britain, sharpened by the gritty rivalry between Nottinghamshire County Rowing Association and London Rowing Club.

The County's eight of 1989 produced a sensational finale to Henley regatta when, with Smith in the No. 5 seat, they beat the Harvard Varsity heavyweights in a record time in the final of the Ladies' Plate. After County had uncorked the champagne, the Stewards awarded Harvard a re-row because a large twig had become attached to their boat's fin and impeded their progress.

Three hours later as the sun was going down, County lowered the record again in a famous victory, destroying a magnificent Harvard crew in a race witnessed by thousands who had stayed on after the prize-giving to fill the enclosures when the announcer heralded the start of the race. Never was a crew so fired up, and never did a crew exhibit such a fierce will to win.

The crew met at Henley last year for a 20th anniversary celebration, where Smith told me: "Our option was to forfeit the race, or show what our true worth was. We went out and did it. A flock of geese decided they wanted to be on the course at the start. There was tension in the crew and all down the crowd. It was phenomenal that we broke the record again."

Smith retired in 1996 and turned to coaching at Nottingham Rowing Club while carving a career as a quantity surveyor into senior management at the building services company Imtech NV. He was returning home in his beloved TVR 350 from a training session when the tragedy occurred. He was cut free but died of his injuries at the roadside. His death eclipses a shaft of sunlight on the rowing world. Smith was a lightweight superstar and a heavyweight in modesty, inspiration and example. He divorced his wife Ros in 2005, but they were planning to re-marry this year. He is succeeded by Ros and their children.

Christopher Dodd

Carl Bernard Smith, rower: born December 1 1961; married (one son, one daughter); died 1 January 2010.

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