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STILL FIGH–TING

JAMES CRACKNELL, 15 YEARS AFTER RETIREMENT, IS ON THE VERGE OF MAKING HISTORY AGAIN
WORDS + PHOTOGRAPHY BENEDICT TUFNELL

“He is probably better suited to this environment now than he potentially was at the height of his rowing career.”

Framed by mountains and set deep in the heart of the Savoie region, Lake Aiguebelette is one of the largest natural lakes in France. It’s a hot August day in 1990 when the flagship of the British junior team, the coxless four, holds its nerve against challenges from both Australia and the German Democratic Republic team (as it was still known then) to win the junior world championship final by just over a length. A galvanising moment, it marks the first of many world championship golds for eighteen-year-old James Cracknell, a promising junior who will go on to be one of the sport’s biggest names.

Almost thirty years on it feels surreal to watch Cracknell, coated in a film of sweat, finishing a morning erg session in Cambridge University’s Goldie Boathouse, alongside teammate and 2019 Cambridge University Boat Club (CUBC) president Dara Alizadeh. What’s perhaps most striking about the pair is that on the day Alizadeh (now 25) was born, Cracknell was thundering down the track in the senior British eight racing at the 1993 world championships in Račice – three years on from that first junior gold in Aiguebelette.

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Still Fighting: James Cracknell, 15 years after retirement, is on the verge of making history again. Front Row Seat: Preparing for The Boat Race, by cox Matthew Holland 2019 World Rowing Indoor Championships: Long Beach, California