Dr Acer Nethercott: Olympic rowing cox and noted academic

 

Acer Nethercott was a rowing cox who excelled in the worlds of sport and academia. He won an Olympic silver medal with the men's eight at Beijing in 2008, and the Performance Director of GB Rowing, Sir David Tanner, described him as "the top British cox of his time".

Nethercott was born in Newmarket in 1977 and grew up in Harlow. Following education at Mark Hall Comprehensive and Broxbourne he went up to University College Oxford to read Theoretical Physics and Philosophy. On graduation in 2000 he was awarded the Top First, together with the Gibbs Prize in Philosophy. After a year in the United States as a teacher and rowing coach, he returned to Oxford where he obtained his B.Phil in 2003 and embarked on a doctorate.

Nethercott had taken up rowing during his first year at university but soon moved to the coxswain role because of his physique, steering the women's heavyweight team to victory against Cambridge in 2000.

His former coach, Dr Conall Mac Niocaill, told The Independent, "Acer could light up your whole day with five minutes of banter about pants, philosophy, and his beloved Arsenal. He had a passion for life and an infectious enthusiasm that rubbed off on everyone he met. He took up coxing for fun and, in typical fashion, turned out to be brilliant at it."

In 2003 he coxed Oxford to victory in the Boat Race; in a thrilling finish Oxford won by a foot. John Adams, a team-mate, said of him: "Acer was a brilliant scholar, a sportsman of unrivalled focus and a very loyal friend, qualities that he brought also to his protracted struggle with brain cancer. He was his own man – one of a kind and will be sorely missed."

He won the 2004 seat after a tense competition with Peter Hackworth, the winning cox in 2002. In the event Oxford lost by six lengths following a dramatic clash of blades and the unseating of their bowman. The 2005 race saw an epic struggle: Christopher Dodd, reporting for this newspaper, noted Nethercott's use of colourful language to spur on the team.

"He was warned once by the umpire Boris Rankov after the first minute and once after the mile opposite the Crab Tree just when he had invoked an unprintable quotation from Pulp Fiction, a trigger to which his crew responded with a 20-stroke push that took them half a length ahead again." Oxford went on to win in an impressive 16 minutes 41 seconds.

"It certainly feels a lot better today than it did 12 months ago," Nethercott said afterwards. "Cambridge are a great crew but they came up against the big guns today. They have a great technique, but we were never just the big grunters we were made out to be in the build-up."

The Boat Race victories consolidated his renown and led him on to the international stage. In 2008 he won World Cup bronze at Lucerne and gold at Poznan, as well as silver in the World Championships in Munich. Successfully juggling his academic life with his love of the sport – he was a member of Molesey Boat Club in Surrey – Nethercott had written an 80,000-word doctoral thesis on "The Semantics of Complex Demonstratives" and received his Doctorate in the Philosophy of Language/Linguistics just one day before the team flew out to Lucerne that year.

The peak of his sporting career came in August 2008 at the Beijing Olympics. where the British men's eight beat the US – Olympic champions at the time – in the heats. They went on to win silver, just behind the Canadians. The team's bowman, Alex Partridge, enthused, "We've just won an Olympic silver medal, and I just rowed in the most enjoyable crew I ever rowed in, the best nine guys and the best two coaches. I couldn't ask for a better Olympic experience."

Nethercott's family said in a statement: "We were truly proud of him, not just for his achievements but also for how kind, generous and influential he was to so many he met and made an impression upon. Whilst taken from us far too early he really did lead a full life due to his verve and determination which resulted in elite academic and sporting achievements, as well as travelling the globe."

Di Ellis, Chairman of British Rowing, said: "Acer was a young man who always appeared as an independent spirit with a sense of fun but once in the boat was a determined competitive cox for his crew whether club, university or country."

Acer Gary Nethercott, rowing cox and academic: born Newmarket 28 November 1977; died 26 January 2013.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Voices
voices
News
general electionThis quiz matches undecided voters with the best party for them
Arts and Entertainment
Keira Knightley and Matthew Macfadyen starred in the big screen adaptation of Austen's novel in 2005
tvStar says studios are forcing actors to get buff for period roles
News
Prince William and his wife Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge show their newly-born daughter, their second child, to the media outside the Lindo Wing at St Mary's Hospital in central London, on 2 May 2015.
news
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA celebration of British elections
  • Get to the point
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

Ashdown Group: Trainee Consultant - Surrey/ South West London

£22000 per annum + pension,bonus,career progression: Ashdown Group: An establi...

Ashdown Group: Trainee Consultant - Surrey / South West London

£22000 per annum + pension,bonus,career progression: Ashdown Group: An establi...

Ashdown Group: Recruitment Consultant / Account Manager - Surrey / SW London

£40000 per annum + realistic targets: Ashdown Group: A thriving recruitment co...

Ashdown Group: Part-time Payroll Officer - Yorkshire - Professional Services

£25000 per annum: Ashdown Group: A successful professional services firm is lo...

Day In a Page

Fishing for votes with Nigel Farage: The Ukip leader shows how he can work an audience as he casts his line to the disaffected of Grimsby

Fishing is on Nigel Farage's mind

Ukip leader casts a line to the disaffected
Who is bombing whom in the Middle East? It's amazing they don't all hit each other

Who is bombing whom in the Middle East?

Robert Fisk untangles the countries and factions
China's influence on fashion: At the top of the game both creatively and commercially

China's influence on fashion

At the top of the game both creatively and commercially
Lord O’Donnell: Former cabinet secretary on the election and life away from the levers of power

The man known as GOD has a reputation for getting the job done

Lord O'Donnell's three principles of rule
Rainbow shades: It's all bright on the night

Rainbow shades

It's all bright on the night
'It was first time I had ever tasted chocolate. I kept a piece, and when Amsterdam was liberated, I gave it to the first Allied soldier I saw'

Bread from heaven

Dutch survivors thank RAF for World War II drop that saved millions
Britain will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power - Labour

How 'the Axe' helped Labour

UK will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power
Rare and exclusive video shows the horrific price paid by activists for challenging the rule of jihadist extremists in Syria

The price to be paid for challenging the rule of extremists

A revolution now 'consuming its own children'
Welcome to the world of Megagames

Welcome to the world of Megagames

300 players take part in Watch the Skies! board game in London
'Nymphomaniac' actress reveals what it was really like to star in one of the most explicit films ever

Charlotte Gainsbourg on 'Nymphomaniac'

Starring in one of the most explicit films ever
Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi: The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers

Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi

The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers
Vince Cable interview: Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'

Vince Cable exclusive interview

Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'
Iwan Rheon interview: Game of Thrones star returns to his Welsh roots to record debut album

Iwan Rheon is returning to his Welsh roots

Rheon is best known for his role as the Bastard of Bolton. It's gruelling playing a sadistic torturer, he tells Craig McLean, but it hasn't stopped him recording an album of Welsh psychedelia
Morne Hardenberg interview: Cameraman for BBC's upcoming show Shark on filming the ocean's most dangerous predator

It's time for my close-up

Meet the man who films great whites for a living
Increasing numbers of homeless people in America keep their mobile phones on the streets

Homeless people keep mobile phones

A homeless person with a smartphone is a common sight in the US. And that's creating a network where the 'hobo' community can share information - and fight stigma - like never before