Rowing: Cracknell takes year out to seek new challenges

Click to follow
The Independent Online

James Cracknell confirmed yesterday that he will be taking a year out from his rowing career, a day before his fellow gold medallist from the Olympic fours at this year's Olympics, Matthew Pinsent, was expected to announce his retirement from the sport after winning four consecutive gold medals at the Games.

James Cracknell confirmed yesterday that he will be taking a year out from his rowing career, a day before his fellow gold medallist from the Olympic fours at this year's Olympics, Matthew Pinsent, was expected to announce his retirement from the sport after winning four consecutive gold medals at the Games.

As Cracknell, a perennially smart cookie, observed, the announcements resembled London buses - you wait ages, and then two turn up together.

While the decision of his senior partner, due to be officially confirmed today, appears likely to be conclusive, Cracknell's course is of a more temporary nature. Having won consecutive gold medals at the Sydney and Athens Games, both times in fours, he wants to take a time out in which he will concentrate on other sporting goals.

His immediate targets are to run next year's London Marathon in less than three hours, and to take part in a London triathlon event. Cracknell noted the idea of training five hours a day, something he has done for the past 12 years, is something he no longer feels automatically committed to do.

He retains a genuinely open mind about whether he will return to the Olympic fray in pursuit of a third gold in Beijing, but will look towards next year's World Championships in Japan to gauge his position.

"If I see the lads win the world title, and I'm thinking that I'm pleased they won, I won't come back," he said. "If I'm thinking 'I wish I was there' I will probably come back."

Cracknell, who has a contract with ITV to cover a range of events including next year's Boat Race, will maintain his contact with the British rowing scene, if only to offer Alex Partridge, who dropped out of the four at the 11th hour before Athens because of a collapsed lung, the opportunity to train with him.

He believes, after training full out for almost a decade, that he has enough fitness in the bank to be able to take a year out and have a realistic prospect of returning to top flight competition.

One marker that Cracknell laid down yesterday, however, was that any return would have to see him reverting back from the bow side position he had been obliged to take up alongside Pinsent in the aftermath of the Sydney victory. That could see him form a natural pair with his friend Partridge in future years.

Cracknell paid tribute yesterday to those who had helped him along in his career, including Steve Redgrave and Pinsent, and, above all, the East German coach Jurgen Grobler.

But he added that he no longer felt the same hunger about training five hours a day, the necessary level required to produce Olympic-winning performances. A year out, he felt, might allow him to return physically and mentally refreshed and ready to take up the challenges of preparing for the Beijing Olympics.

"You have got to be ready to give 100 per cent to everything you do, otherwise it affects everybody else you are rowing with," he said. "There have been times when Matthew and I have been aware of other commitments, and that has been frustrating for Jurgen, who wants it to be 'rowing, rowing, rowing'. He is right. And both Matthew and I know that if we want to come back that is the way it will have to be."

Whatever his competitive future, Cracknell has ruled out becoming a coach, as his team-mate from the victorious Sydney four, Tim Foster, has become. "I don't have the patience," he said.

Comments