Veteran rowing coach, 70, admits retirement looms
Britain’s most successful Olympic coach, rowing’s Jürgen Gröbler, will keep guiding his team for now, but may not stay until the 2020 Olympics, he told The Daily Tele
graph in Rio yesterday, after his four and eight won an exceptional pair of golds at Lagoa.
“At the moment I’ll definitely carry on, but if it’s four years I don’t know,” said Gröbler. “You have to be in the driving seat, I don’t like to limp.
“Time goes by, I’ve done 46 years as a front-line coach, it’s a long, long, long time.”
He turned 70 two weeks before his crews delivered the perfect birthday present, but does not look a day older than 55.
Gröbler’s unmatched career as a coach runs from 1972 to 2016, omitting only the 1984 Los Angeles boycott when he was coaching East Germany. He got out of there as soon as possible, coming to Britain to coach Sir Steve Redgrave in 1990. He has coached 26 different athletes to Olympic gold, 10 of them to two or more, and won titles at an extraordinary 10 straight Games in a row.
On Saturday the burly and usually calm German was close to tears as he watched the men’s eight, including London and Beijing champions Pete Reed and Andy T Hodge, claim the prize he has wanted his whole career – in addition to the women’s eight winning silver as GB topped the rowing medal table.
“It’s such a challenge,” he said, his eyes lighting up. Victory crowned a dominant Olympiad for the eight, regarded as the blue riband event of the sport.
There will be retirements from his squad once the dust has settled, Hodge, Reed and Matt Langridge being amongst the most likely. Powerhouse Moe Sbihi spoke after his own Friday win about wanting to carry on because he is “nowhere near his prime”, and would be a gold-standard leader to help bring Gröbler’s next generation up to fighting weight. It might be enough to persuade the coach to stay.
“It was very special,” he said as he admitted to nerves. “The eight was personal to me because I did it for four years, and we won it, and I didn’t want to lose the last race. Not for the guys, but a little bit personally for me. They did it, and there was pressure on everybody, and they did it in style.”
He will not be watching the race again yet, however. “I don’t need to,” he explained. “I have it here, in my head.”
End of the road: Jürgen Gröbler says he might not be coaching the squad in 2020