Tokyo Olympics: Team GB men’s coxless four rowing dominance ends as they finish fourth


James Cracknell today rose above claims he is delighted that Team GB’s coxless four team threw away their Tokyo 2020 final after they ‘forgot to steer’, but admitted he believes the mishap happened because somebody ‘ran out of juice’.

The Team GB quartet of Sholto Carnegie, Oliver Cook, Rory Gibbs and Matthew Rossiter were among the favourites as Team GB looked to win the event again for the sixth games running since Sir Steve Redgrave’s swansong at Sydney 2000.

After the race Mr Cook was in tears having said his failure to steer ‘cost them’ and Rossiter accused their ‘smug’ predecessors including Mr Cracknell of being ‘happy we have not continued the gold run’.

But Mr Cracknell, 49, who won gold in the same event twice in 2000 and 2004, ignored the allegations and instead praised the team, tweeting: ‘They’ve had a great season, only lost one race and came out to talk about it. I’m gutted they lost but nothing compared to how they’re feeling’, adding that the incident showed the ‘beauty, brutality and emotion of sport’.

With around 100m to go in the race the British men were in silver fighting to beat their Australian rivals, but their boat began zig-zagging across the Japanese lake and ‘fully biffed’ into the Italian crew in the neighbouring lane. By the time they had righted themselves they were fourth and out of the medals.

The BBC’s commentator Garry Herbert began yelling: ‘The British have got steering problems here. There’s going to be a crash’ while Mr Cracknell could be heard shouting ‘go, go, go’ before groaning as the boat went off course. In the studio Katherine Grainger, a gold medallist at London 2012, called the incident ‘frightening’ because the boat was ‘out of control’.

Afterwards the British crew was in tears with Oliver Cook apologising to his Olympic teammates and taking  responsibility for their blunder during a live TV interview. He said: ‘I screwed up a bit and as I was closing in at the end and taking big strokes going for the line and I forgot the steering and that’s what cost us to be honest, cost us a medal. All I can say is thank you to everyone who stayed up to watch and I’m really sorry we’re not coming back with something.’ 

James Cracknell, who won two golds in the same event in 2000 and 2004, was eviscerating in his appraisal of the performance, saying: ‘Someone in the British crew blew up. The only way your steering goes like that is when somebody totally runs out of juice’.  

Team GB were in the fight for gold but then they began zig-zagging into the Italian’s lane towards the end, after a crew member said he forgot to steer and ended up in fourth

Oliver Cook broke down in tears and claimed he was partially to blame for the end of Team GB's dominance in the coxless four, due to his steering error near the end of the race

James Cracknell, who won two golds in the same event in 2000 and 2004, was eviscerating in his appraisal of the performance, saying: 'Someone in the British crew blew up. The only way your steering goes like that is when somebody totally runs out of juice'.

Oliver Cook broke down in tears and claimed he was partially to blame for the end of Team GB’s dominance in the coxless four, due to his steering error near the end of the race. James Cracknell, who won two golds in the same event in 2000 and 2004, was eviscerating in his appraisal of the performance, saying: ‘Someone in the British crew blew up. The only way your steering goes like that is when somebody totally runs out of juice’.

As they began to lose the battle for bronze, the Brits failed to adjust their line across the water

As they began to lose the battle for bronze, the Brits failed to adjust their line across the water 

As a result they veered into Italy's lane - causing them to miss out on a potential silver medal

As a result they veered into Italy’s lane – causing them to miss out on a potential silver medal

Oliver Cook, Matthew Rossiter, Rory Gibbs and Sholto Carnegie of Team Great Britain react after coming in fourth during the Men's Four Final

Oliver Cook, Matthew Rossiter, Rory Gibbs and Sholto Carnegie of Team Great Britain react after coming in fourth during the Men’s Four Final 

His comments sparked a war of words with the hurting crew, who are believed to have had run-ins with Mr Cracknell, who is still a professional rower.

Matthew Rossiter suggested that previous Team GB winners of the event including Cracknell would be pleased it went so wrong for them. He said: ‘It’s just disappointing that those people will be really smug now that they are part of the legacy that won. That was a motivation to do well. I hope those people are happy we have not continued the gold run’.

Because the race is coxless, it is down to one of the rowers to steer the boat. One of their shoes is fixed to a foot plate that is attached to rudder strings. You simply move the heel of your foot in the direction you want to go – but on rare occasions it can go wrong, especially if the crew is tired or if winds are strong.

Australia took gold, Romania picked up the silver and Italy took bronze – but the latter have every right to feel hard done by as the British quartet nearly crashed into them during the final stages of the race, denying them the chance of a silver or an unlikely gold.

Of the errant steering, Rossiter said: ‘We fully biffed into the Italians. They are pretty p****d off because maybe we cost them the silver and sorry to those guys. 

‘It’s an outdoor sport and this stuff happens. It’s just heartbreaking when it’s you and not something on YouTube.’

Rossiter also said his illustrious predecessors will be ‘smug’ about their failure in Tokyo. 

Rossiter took aim at the legends, believed principally to include James Cracknell, who won two gold medals in the country’s most famous boat in 2000 and 2004.

He said: ‘It’s just disappointing that those people will probably be really smug now that they are part of the legacy that won.’

The comments are likely to be aimed at Cracknell, who is said to have had ‘run-ins’ with them before, according to the Daily Mirror.

The Olympic double-gold medallist, who appeared on Strictly, remains a professional athlete and competed in the Boat Race two years ago after a remarkable recovery from a serious head injury. 

In January Mr Cracknell revealed he became engaged to marry his girlfriend of 17 months, Jordan Connell.

The rowing champion, 48 – who met the American financier, 35 – when he studied at Cambridge University in 2018, confirmed the couple are set to wed in an announcement in a national newspaper.

Father-of-three James’ news came nearly two years after he split from presenter Beverley Turner following 17 years of marriage. 

The former couple broke up after a nine-year struggle following a crippling brain injury, which the TV host, 47, nursed him back to health from.  

Wedding bells: James Cracknell has revealed he's engaged to his girlfriend of 17 months, Jordan Connell (pictured in 2019)

Wedding bells: James Cracknell has revealed he’s engaged to his girlfriend of 17 months, Jordan Connell (pictured in 2019)

Trauma: The former couple split after a nine-year struggle following a crippling brain injury (pictured), which the TV host, 47, nursed him back to health from

Trauma: The former couple split after a nine-year struggle following a crippling brain injury (pictured), which the TV host, 47, nursed him back to health from 

The Olympian’s new fiancée, who is believed to divide her time between London and the US, spent 12 months training for an MBA at Cambridge Judge Business School while James studied for a masters in human evolution at Peterhouse College. 

The pair started dating after finishing their degrees and have been living together in west London throughout the coronavirus pandemic. 

James previously credited Jordan for his newfound confidence after his terrifying accident, and the former student cheerleader enthused she’s ‘ridiculously happy’ to have met her partner.

In an interview with Daily Mail in 2019, the blonde gushed: ‘I like to think I make him happy, too. 

‘When internet trolls were making cruel comments about his dancing and ‘wooden personality’ on Strictly I thought, ”How can you put that? You don’t know him.” I know he feels things very deeply.

‘I feel so strongly about bullying online. Try sitting down with the person you love when they’re upset by what’s being said because their children will read it. James does have an amazing personality. He’s funny and kind. 

‘It’s the little things he does like going out to track down a bar of Hershey’s chocolate for me, which is special because it’s so hard to find in the UK.’ 

James added: ‘One of the best things about going to Cambridge was, let’s face it, a lot of the students weren’t born when I won the Olympics. I really enjoyed meeting people who took me as I am.

‘To be honest, with Jordan the conversation was so easy and it was so nice to hang out with someone who had no preconceptions of who you were before.’

A source previously told MailOnline of their relationship: ‘They have become very close and since his marriage break up there are few people who would deny him the support of an attractive young woman.

‘The end of James’ marriage to Bev has been amicable and friendly but there’s always going to be regret and maybe loneliness when something like that happens so it’s great he’s going his own way.’  

The sportsman was left in a coma and sustained damage to the part of the brain that governs memory, personality, and speech after he was knocked off his bike by the wing mirror of a petrol tanker in Arizona.

Following his separation, Beverley reflected on how she helped him recover in an interview with The Times.  

The Happy Birth Book author said at the time: ‘A formerly quiet man, he couldn’t stop talking, but certainly stopped listening. I had my silent screams in the shower so the children wouldn’t hear. 

‘Acquired brain injury is contagious — the whole family catches it and soon everyone is snapping, sighing, arguing and slamming doors. After a brain injury a couple’s dynamic typically becomes one of parent and child, complete with nagging, resistance, resentment and sulking’.

Team GB women's four of Rowan McKellar, Harriet Taylor, Karen Bennett and Rebecca Shorten (L-R) also suffered the same fate as the men's coxless four as they finished fourth

Team GB women’s four of Rowan McKellar, Harriet Taylor, Karen Bennett and Rebecca Shorten (L-R) also suffered the same fate as the men’s coxless four as they finished fourth

Graeme Thomas (left) and John Collins also finished fourth in their men's double sculls final

Graeme Thomas (left) and John Collins also finished fourth in their men’s double sculls final

Earlier today, there was similar agony for the Team GB women’s four of Rowan McKellar, Harriet Taylor, Karen Bennett and Rebecca Shorten.

But their disappointment was joy for the Irish quartet of Aifric Keogh, Eimear Lambe, Fiona Murtagh and Emily Hegarty, who won their country’s first medal of the Games by pipping the British women to bronze.

Australia claimed gold in another close finish ahead of the Netherlands.

Graeme Thomas and John Collins narrowly missed out on a medal in the final of the men’s double sculls at Sea Forest Waterway.

The British duo pushed hard to catch China in bronze medal position over the final stages in breezy conditions but were unable to close the gap.Gold went to French double Hugo Boucheron and Matthieu Androdias by just 0.2seconds from Holland. 



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