FROM BRITISH ROWING
PHOTO BY PETER SPURRIER
London, UK – Jürgen Grobler OBE has stepped down as Chief Coach of the GB Rowing Team after 28 years with British Rowing.
Regarded by many as the greatest Olympic coach of all time, Jürgen has decided to end a glittering coaching career that has seen him personally coach eight gold-medal crews from Great Britain in each of the past seven Olympic Games. Before moving to the UK in 1991, he had an outstanding coaching career in rowing with the former East Germany.
Jürgen has coached some of Great Britain’s greatest Olympic champions including Sir Steve Redgrave, Sir Matthew Pinsent, Pete Reed and Andrew Triggs Hodge. His first two GB gold medals – in Barcelona (’92) and Atlanta (’96) – were with the pair of Redgrave and Pinsent.
As Chief Coach for Men, and latterly Chief Coach for Men and Women, Jürgen has directly coached 20 Olympic champions to 33 gold medals from eight crews for Great Britain. Additionally, a staggering 23 crews have medalled at World Championships since 1991 of which 16 took home gold.
Jürgen Grobler said: “I have had the most incredible experience with the GB Rowing Team working with fantastic British athletes for nearly three decades. This has been a hard and difficult decision but British Rowing has big plans for Paris 2024 and we want to organise it now to give the GB Rowing Team the best chance of success. I can’t commit for the nextfour years so I have resigned in order to let everything start now.”
Paying tribute to his remarkable Olympic career, International Olympic Committee President Thomas Bach said: “Behind every great athlete and every great team is a great coach. They are the unsung heroes of sport. So it gives me great pleasure to pay tribute to Jürgen Grobler who is an exceptional talent and someone who has benefited so many athletes. His dedication is a great example for everyone in the Olympic Movement. I wish him all the best for the future.”
Reflecting on his long history of success at Olympic Games and the impact he has had on the sport of rowing, Jean-Christophe Rolland, FISA President said: “Jürgen’s contribution to rowing as a coach is simply tremendous. He has one of the most impressive achievement lists in the rowing landscape and probably even beyond in the world of sport. Jürgen first coached a crew to an Olympic medal back at the 1972 Olympics when he was just 26 years old and then continued to coach Olympic medal-winning crews through to the last Olympic Games in Rio.
“Jürgen is very much respected among his peers and they all know of his knack of putting together the right combinations in team boats and also the knack of getting his crews to peak just at the right time. We will miss seeing Jürgen at international events especially seeing him biking along beside races – usually out in front.”
When Jürgen arrived at the Leander Club to coach in 1991, Steve Redgrave already had two Olympic titles to his name but Matthew Pinsent was just 20 years old with two senior bronzes. Jürgen moulded them into one of the best pairs of all time and, after Atlanta, presided over their move into the four which won gold in Sydney. With Tim Foster and James Cracknell, this crew won world titles in ’97, ’98 and ’99 and their race for gold in Sydney gained worldwide publicity, much of it attracted by Redgrave’s quest for a record fifth Olympic title.
Jürgen continued his winning streak throughout the early 2000s and into a hugely successful home Games at London 2012, where the British team dominated on the water. Most recently at the Rio 2016 Olympic Regatta, he delivered gold medals in both the men’s four and men’s eight. He was subsequently awarded Sports Coach UK’s Lifetime Achievement Award in November 2016 and Lifetime Achievement Award at the BT Sports Industry Awards in April 2017.
Reacting to his decision to step down, British Rowing Chief Executive Officer Andy Parkinson said: “On behalf of everyone involved in rowing in Great Britain, I would like to say congratulations and an enormous thank you to Jürgen for everything he has achieved during his 28 years with British Rowing.
“I am naturally very disappointed that Jürgen was unable to finish his amazing career at the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games scheduled this year as I am sure he would have finished on a high. What happens next is a discussion for another time – now is the time to celebrate a fantastic coaching career and an incredible person.
“I would like to wish Jürgen the very best for the future and look forward to seeing him on the towpath at our National Training Centre (Caversham) anytime. He leaves an inspiring legacy at Caversham, across the sport in the UK and around the world.”
Jürgen has been a key member of Team GB since 1992 and Sir Hugh Robertson, Chairman of the British Olympic Association looks back on his massive contribution during this time: “Jürgen Grobler has been an extraordinarily successful coach in one of Team GB’s most important sports. He has coached, inspired and supported athletes to deliver their best results when it mattered, Games after Games, across generations of athletes, and has been a key ingredient in Team GB’s phenomenal success. As a coach and as a man, he will be hugely missed.”
Jürgen has always believed that Great Britain’s success at international level has been the result of a solid partnership between British Rowing, Team GB and UK Sport. Dame Katherine Grainger, Team GB’s five-time Olympic medallist and British Rowing alumna said: “Over the last twenty years, it has been incredible to see Jürgen lead the men’s team onto the podium time and time again, coaching many athletes to fulfil their dreams and successfully represent Great Britain on the global stage.
“Whilst I was never directly coached by Jürgen, he was an undeniably influential figurehead of the rowing team. We shared an extraordinary time at the Sydney Olympic Games in 2000; my first Olympics and Steve Redgrave’s memorable last. Jürgen may have been finishing his partnership with Steve but he was just beginning a bright new legacy with the British men’s four. His ability to create successful crews year after year, decade after decade, is practically unparalleled. To this day it feels a tremendous privilege to have been part of British Rowing history and Jürgen has undoubtedly and deservedly cemented his name in the record books.”
Working with athletes every day has always been a huge motivation for Jürgen and four-time Olympic Champion Sir Matthew Pinsent was glowing in his praise of his former coach and mentor: “Jürgen has, for a number years, credibly laid claim to be the best rowing coach in history and I mark it as a privilege to have had him guide my career. He has single handedly constructed the longest winning streak in Olympic gold medals in Britain and his staying power and commitment alone are remarkable. He’s always coached with a deep passion for his sport and his athletes. He’s been one of the greatest assets for British rowing before, during and after our home Games in 2012.”
Jürgen is confident the GB Rowing Team will continue to take on the world’s best and challenge for medals at Olympic Games and World Championships having topped the medal table at the last three Olympic Games and two of the last three Paralympic Games. “For nearly 50 years of my coaching career I have been in the driving seat, working with athletes and fellow coaches. People trusted me to help them achieve their dreams but the show must go on and I really wish the British team well,” Jürgen said.
Mark Davies Chair of British Rowing added his praise while also expressing his disappointment that his career with Great Britain has come to an end: “He has been the architect of close to three decades of GB rowing dominance and he has defined how British Rowing is respected both internationally and domestically. I am very disappointed to see Jürgen go and I would have loved to see him stay through to the Tokyo 2021 Games but I believe we have a great team at Caversham to build on Jürgen’s legacy in Tokyo next year and beyond.”
British Rowing Director of Performance Brendan Purcell now has the task of creating and overseeing a new coaching structure at the GB Rowing Team and preparing British Rowing’s high-performance programme for the Tokyo 2020 Olympic and Paralympic Games and beyond. In the meantime, Brendan paid tribute to Jürgen for his outstanding service to the Team and rowing: “Jürgen has left a legacy in our sport of sustained medal success and a commitment to performance excellence that we have all been inspired and influenced by.
Our responsibility as rowers, coaches, sport science medicine practitioners and team staff is to use that inspiration and honour his legacy starting next summer in Tokyo and then onto Paris.”
Jürgen informed senior athletes, his crew and colleagues on 20 August that he has stepped down and Rio 2016 Olympic Champion in the men’s four Mohamed Sbihi paid tribute: “This news is emotional for me and is a big shock. Jürgen is a father figure to me. Everything I have achieved in my career is down to a handful of people and he is the main reason for my success.
“As a team we now have to honour his legacy through our performances over the next year and in Tokyo.”
World bronze medallist and women’s senior squad athlete Jess Leyden added: “I feel really privileged to have worked with Jürgen for the time that I did, both as a rower and as an athlete rep. He’s given so much to the sport and has achieved so much. We’ll definitely see him around the towpath, I’m sure.”
Jürgen acknowledged that there are many more people who have helped him to so much gold medal success. “I would like to thank the whole rowing family for their fantastic support throughout my entire career and in particular the British fans. They have travelled the world to support the team and I have always had big respect for that and also for the many parents and families who support the athletes through good times and bad behind the scenes.
“Also, teams within teams have always been so important to me. Take spares who didn’t make selection; their input was always just as crucial as they allowed the team to progress. The athletes will think that I just said that to make them feel better but I mean it. It was always about the team.”