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Crossing Over

A promising young East German becomes Britain’s most successful ever Olympic coach

An extract from the book More Power written by Chris Dodd and Hugh Matheson. Published by Harper Collins.

Henley Royal Regatta was a quintessential blend of Britishness in 1990. After a heady year in 1989, when it celebrated 150 years of rowing and garden-partying with a record entry for its fourteen events, it relaxed into its normal self. Normal, that is, for the home crowd, but surely bewildering to a quizzical family from, say, Magdeburg.

In the generally glorious summer of 1990, rain fell intermittently and heavily on the first two days, before sunshine and warmth prevailed for the weekend’s semifinals and finals. The two-by-two racing was enlivened on all five days by blustery crosswinds that fanned wobbly steering and controversy over umpires’ decisions.

Meanwhile, there was some serious rowing going on in the competition for Henley’s coveted trophies, witnessed by a visitor in transition from one indulgent elite to another, and who would give British rowing a charge of East European science and ruthlessness.

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