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Greg Searle, Britain’s Olympic rebound rower

1st August 2012

In 2010, lured by London 2012, Team GB’s latest medal-winner returned to his sport after a decade away from it

Olympic rower Greg Searle takes to the water today in the hope of cementing his place in Olympic history. Proof that life really does begin at 40, the veteran rower won gold in Barcelona 1992 and bronze in Atlanta 1996, but officially retired after finishing fourth in Sydney 2000.

After a decade away from rowing, Searle, then 38, announced his comeback in 2010, setting his sights on one last shot of Olympic glory at London 2012.

The British men’s eight took bronze, behind Germany and second-placed Canada after an exciting race in which Searle and his team at one point edged ahead of the Germans.

 

 

Searle developed a love of rowing at Hampton School, in Middlesex. Inspired by his brother, Jonny, who won the Pricess Elizabeth Challenge Cup at Henley Royal Regatta, and by Martin Cross claiming the gold at the LA Olympics in 1984, he took up rowing in 1985, rowing for the school until 1990 and winning two Junior World Championship gold medals.

But it was at Barcelona 1992 that Searle really made his mark. Rowing with Jonny in the coxed pairs event, the siblings performed the race of their lives, rowing down the Italian brothers Carmine and Giuseppe Abbagnale, nine times World Champions and twice Olympic Champions, to take the gold medal in a nailbiting finish that went right to the line.

And when, flanked by the Herculean brothers, their cox, Garry Herbert, was overcome with sobs on the podium, the moment became a classic in British Olympic history.

Success continued, with Searle going on to win the World Championships gold medal in 1993 with his brother, and finishing third in the 1996 Atlanta Olympics in the coxless four event.

After Atlanta, he converted briefly to competing in the single scull, winning bronze at the 1997 Rowing World Championships. But agony awaited in Sydney in 2000. After making the the coxless pairs final with Ed Coode, the two were pushed into fourth place in the last strokes of the race, having led for much of the way.

The disappointment took its toll. Speaking to the BBC while training for London 2012, Searle said: “I competed in three Olympics. Then I thought it was right to retire, get a serious job, and have a family.”

He took to sailing, taking part in America’s Cup Challenger Series as a grinder, who powers the winches used to hoist and trim sails on a boat and kept fit by taking part in the London Marathon and London Triathlon, reaching the final of the BBC’s Superstars series.

He had two children – Josie, 9, and Adam, 6 – and became a director of Lane4, a company established by the former Olympic swimming champion Adrian Moorehouse imparts lessons learned in sport to the business community.

But, much to the delight of British rowing fans, the draw of a home games proved too much to resist for the 40-year-old, who came out of international retirement in the autumn of 2009 and trained with the GB senior squad during the winter.

“The 2012 Olympics is such a big pull,” he said. The thought is that, if it’s going to happen here, in this city, I want to be a part of it.”


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