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LOSING TO WIN

GB’s golden boy: The two-time Olympic champion looks back on his career

Alex Gregory

Imagine that you are chief coach of a very successful rowing team. You are in the final stages of preparing for an Olympic Games. You have chosen your crews.Now you must choose your spare man – the best guy, out of those left on the squad, to sub into any crew at a moment’s notice and perform to Olympic standard.

Your squad has great strength and depth. But imagine that you choose one of the weakest and lightest amongst the heavyweights, a young guy who suffers from recurring rib stress fractures, whose most recent injury forced the rest of his crew to race with a sub, thereby resulting in their failure to qualify the quadruple scull for the Olympics. Here is a lad who has not quite overcome his chronic race-induced asthma. His condition is so physiologically debilitating and psychologically destructive that he has fainted and capsized mid-race at national trials and hazed-out in a world championship final.

You are Great Britain’s men’s rowing team chief coach Jürgen Gröbler. It’s 2008 and your spare man is Alex Gregory.

“That moment when Jürgen asked me to be spare man for Beijing changed everything. It was a turning point for me,” Gregory explains as we chat. Why? I ask. Why did he choose you?

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About Row360

Welcome to Row360, the world’s only global, independent rowing magazine. Row360 brings you features from around the world, profiling the best athletes, coaches, and others from the whole rowing community – Olympic, adaptive, college, club, ocean, and more.