From Gold to Grainger: Rowers Honoured

Dame Katherine Grainger. Picture: British Rowing.
Dame Katherine Grainger. Picture: British Rowing.

1 January 2017

Tim Koch would like to be made Thane of Cawdor:

The last day of each year in Britain sees the publication of the slightly baffling, mildly controversial, rather anachronistic, but still generally popular, Queen’s New Year Honours List. It contains various levels of awards which ‘recognise the achievements and service of extraordinary people across the United Kingdom’. One of the highest honours for a woman is to be made a “Dame Commander of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire” (DBE), the female equivalent of becoming a Knight and having the title ‘Sir’ (the end of the empire, lack of a suit of armour or an inability to slay dragons is no detriment to receiving such awards). This year, the Queen has made ‘Dr Katherine Jane Grainger CBE’ a Dame ‘For services to Sport and Charity’. Katherine was appointed a “Member of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire” (MBE) in 2006 and was made a Commander of the order (CBE) in 2013, both for her services to rowing, but this latest honour also recognises her charitable work and her wider sports related activities.

After winning silver in the double sculls at the Rio 2016 Olympics, Katherine Grainger became Britain’s most decorated female Olympian, having won five medals at five Olympic Games, including Gold at London 2012. A near 20-year career also saw her win six World Championship gold medals in coxless pairs, quadruple and double sculls. Off the water, Katherine is a board member of International Inspiration, the British Olympic Association’s Athletes’ Commission, and London Youth Rowing. She is also honorary patron or vice-patron of a number of other sporting and children’s charities. Other recent honours include been voted ‘the Olympian’s Olympian’ by fellow British athletes, receiving British Rowing’s Medal of Honour, and been made Chancellor of Oxford Brookes University.

Sir Harcourt Gold (1876-1952). He won three University Boat Races as stroke in 1886-1888, was Captain of Leander, 1898-1900. He coached 18 Oxford crews and the eight that won at the 1908 Olympic Regatta. As Chairman of the Henley Stewards, he secured the future of the regatta with the introduction of the Stewards’ Enclosure in 1919. In 1948, he became chairman of the Amateur Rowing Association and in 1949 became the first person to be knighted for services to rowing.
Sir Harcourt Gold (1876-1952). He won three University Boat Races as stroke in 1886-1888, was Captain of Leander, 1898-1900. He coached 18 Oxford crews and the eight that won at the 1908 Olympic Regatta. As Chairman of the Henley Stewards, he secured the future of the regatta with the introduction of the Stewards’ Enclosure in 1919. In 1948, he became chairman of the Amateur Rowing Association and in 1949 became the first person to be knighted for services to rowing.

Dame Katherine now joins the exclusive club that consists of rowers Sir Harcourt Gold, Sir Steve Redgrave and Sir Matthew Pinsent, plus two of the sport’s great administrators, Sir David Tanner and Dame Di Ellis.

Apart from Katherine, 21 other rowers and people associated with rowing were given honours this year. First-time Olympic and Paralympic medallists were appointed MBEs and Pete Reed and Andy Triggs Hodge, triple Olympic champions and already MBEs, were given OBEs. Thus, it will be a trip to Buckingham Palace for members of the 2016 Gold medal winning men’s eight, the men’s four, the TA mixed double scull, and the LTA mixed coxed four. Also lining up for MBEs will be two members of the rowing community in Northern Ireland, Robert Northridge (recognised for his services to rowing and community relations) and Terrence Monro (honoured for his voluntary services to sculling and rowing in Belfast).

The 2016 GB Men’s Eight – Gold at Rio, honours at home.
The 2016 GB Men’s Eight – Gold at Rio, honours at home.

There are some notable omissions from the list. While Pete Reed and Andy Triggs Hodge had their MBEs ‘upgraded’ to OBEs, fellow Rio Gold medalists, Heather Stanning and Helen Glover, did not. It may be strange to argue for logic in an essentially illogical system, but I wonder what the thinking behind this was? In the same vein, it is time for my annual gripe that Jürgen Gröbler has not received an honorary knighthood. As a non-Briton, he did get an honorary OBE in 2006, but I cannot help but feel that more is deserved by a man who has coached Olympic Gold winning crews for Britain in the all seven Games since 1992. Possibly he is tainted by allegations concerning his time in the former East Germany, but, as he has said, ‘I have to live with what went on in East Germany. I was born in the wrong place. It was not possible to walk away.’ Particularly considering some of the slime from the world of business that can currently call themselves ‘Sir’, somebody needs to reconsider properly honouring Jürgen. You would think that the Queen would be more sympathetic to a fellow German. Baron Gröbler perhaps?

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