Herbert out to add to his crying gains

OLYMPIC GAMES: Garry Herbert's tears on the rostrum were one of the images of Barcelona. But, as he tells Mike Rowbottom, success this time will be much harder
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The Independent Online
For any spectator unfamiliar with the role of the coxswain, the scoreboard beside the finish line here yesterday spelt it out: "The person who directs the boat."

For Garry Herbert, cox to the British men's eight, the simple business of directing a boat is pretty low on the list of requirements. Somewhere near the top would be: "Passing on the winning habit."

That is something this 26-year-old barrister has acquired over the years since he became a recognised figure in the sporting world by coxing Greg and Jonny Searle to gold at the last Olympics.

Herbert's tears on the rostrum as he stood alongside his broadly grinning team-mates became an image to set alongside Gazza's tears in Turin, a moment when the deep emotions of sport were given unforgettable expression.

In the years that have followed, Herbert, Britain's leading cox, has had other triumphs, including a world title win - again with the Searle's - in 1993, an MBE, and, last year, a call to the Bar.

But it is for that moment that he is chiefly remembered outside rowing circles - and he is entirely comfortable with that.

"If I'm upset, I tell people. If I'm happy, people know I will express my feelings. People do come up to me and say, 'You were the one who cried' or whatever. That's OK. It brought a bit of recognition to the sport. Since Barcelona, the profile of the whole sport has just gone up."

Thus he and his friends from the close-knit rowing fraternity found themselves sitting prominently alongside the professional athletes at the BBC Sports Review of the Year. "The only difference was that while they went away to train the next day, we went back to college."

Herbert, as articulate as you might expect a barrister to be, has a major role as a motivator to a young eight whose preparations in the last two months have been severely disrupted by illness to three of the crew. Their performance yesterday, when they finished fourth in the preliminary, left much work still to be done before tomorrow's second chance in the repechage.

"Back in 1992, Jonny and Greg and I had a dream run to the Games," he said. "But when there are eight the chances of things going wrong are that much greater.

"We have had a miserable season, but I bring just a belief that things can be turned around. I've coxed boats that have been blown out of the water in the first round and then gone on to win the regatta.

"If you can say that these things have actually happened to you, people are more likely to listen."

While tears-on-the-rostrum was the image of Barcelona as far as the watching world was concerned, Herbert cherishes two other moments.

The first came when he eventually reached his mother, father and girlfriend in the stand. "It was so good that they were there to see what all the hard work of getting up at dawn and being gone for weeks on end was all about."

Another moment came two days after the victory, back in the Olympic village. "I was just sitting watching it get dark and Greg came up and gave me a great big hug.

"We had some good laughs doing television and all that media stuff, but things like that you can't buy."

However things turn out at these Games, Herbert will retire at the end of the season to concentrate on a law career which he hopes will involve work in the growing area of sporting cases.

But he will take with him memories of sublime moments which his sport has provided him with, moments which go beyond actual victory.

"It's when you feel in tune with the boat," he said. "The guys are happy, and you know they are happy. It becomes like an increasing circle."