26 January 2021
By Chris Dodd
Jurgen Grobler named his coaching mentors, favourite crews and most talented athletes in an interview with Martin Cross on Ludum.com, his first interview since leaving the top coaching job at GB Rowing. Cross, an Olympic gold medalist in 1984 who was still rowing for GB when Grobler arrived in Britain from East Germany in 1991, conducted a good-natured exchange for 90 minutes on 24 January. (Watch it here!)
Interviewer and interviewee skirted the question of whether the coach with 12 Olympic golds (four for DDR, eight for GB) and 50 years of experience at the highest level resigned or was pushed. But the coach admitted that when the crunch point came, he was reluctant to commit to another four years to Paris 2024. When he drove away from Caversham training centre down ‘Grobler’s Way’ for the last time, he felt relaxed about going into retirement. He admitted being humbled by the tributes from athletes past, present, future and several who never made it.
Asked by Cross if he would ever coach again, however, he said he had no wish to interfere at Caversham but was always willing to help people. Was he open to offers? ‘Yes’.
Cross explored Grobler’s approach to selection (not based solely on the fastest trial boats), training (ergos play their part) and psychology (not keen on outside interference). When asked which coaches he looked up to, Grobler named the Kiwi Dick Tonks, the Norwegian Thor Nilsen and – ‘this may surprise some people’ – Mike Spracklen.
Grobler’s most enjoyable crews to watch are the Dutch men’s quad, the U.S. women’s eight, the Kiwi pair of Eric Murray and Hamish Bond (‘Reed and Hodge were tremendous, but so were the Kiwis’), and the British pair Helen Glover and Heather Stanning.
The most outstanding British oarsmen at reading pace and race (I paraphrase) in Grobler’s eyes are Tom James and Tim Foster. James Cracknell scored as the most intriguing – ‘tremendously strong, always challenging, succeeded in the rare talent of changing sides after the Sydney Olympics.’ His take on the Searle brothers was that Greg was the strongest and best oarsman of his day while Jonny was completely different, a true crew-maker.
More on Grobler in More Power: The Most Successful Olympic Coach of All Time by Hugh Matheson and Christopher Dodd, published by HQ/HarperCollins.