13 November 2021
By Göran R Buckhorn
With more than 30 years of international coaching and leadership experience, Paul Thompson is well positioned to lead the Australian Rowing Team towards the 2024 Olympic and Paralympic Games when he takes on the position as RA’s Performance Director.
Rowing Australia (RA) announced on Wednesday, 10 November, that the federation’s new Performance Director is 57-year-old Paul Thompson, a well-known coach who has coached rowers in Australia, Great Britain and China to Olympic and World Championships medals.
During the last three years, Thompson has coached the Chinese nationals, which resulted in an Olympic gold medal in the women’s quadruple sculls at the 2020 Tokyo Games last summer.
He started his coaching career in Australia at the Australian Institute of Sport in the 1990s. Among his earliest achievements is coaching Kate Slatter and Megan Still to a gold medal in the women’s pairs at the 1996 Atlanta Olympic Games, RA mentioned in a statement. It was Australia’s first Olympic gold medal in rowing for a women’s crew.
In 2001, Thompson joined the British Rowing coaching staff and was head coach for women at the 2004 Olympic Games in Athens. He coached Katherine Grainer for 12 years until the 2012 Olympic Games in London, where Grainer and Anna Watkins won gold in the double sculls. In Thompson’s role as head coach for women and lightweights for the 2012 Games, his crews took three gold medals and two silver medals.
“On behalf of the [RA] Board, I would like to take this opportunity to welcome Paul as he takes on the role of Performance Director with Rowing Australia. Paul is highly credentialed and a well-regarded professional with a strong track record of success,” RA President Rob Scott said in a statement. “It is pleasing to see Paul return to Australia and now lead our High-Performance program, and for a new generation of rowers and coaches to benefit from his international experience. We see opportunities for growth and development across our Men’s, Women’s and Para Rowing programs and we are confident Paul will add a lot of value across our entire program, from the pathways to the elite level.”
Rowing Australia CEO Ian Robson added: “There is no denying Tokyo was an historic moment in time for Australian rowing, but with a shortened three-year cycle we must quickly turn our attention to Paris 2024 with ambitious goals to sustain and strengthen our Tokyo standings. Our high-performance program will benefit from Paul’s strong leadership skills and coaching acumen.”
Paul Thompson said: “It is a great privilege and honour to be appointed the next Performance Director of Rowing Australia. Australia enjoys a rich tradition of success in rowing, evidenced most recently by the results achieved at World Championships and the Tokyo Olympics and Paralympics. I was sitting in the stands in Tokyo when Australia’s two gold and two bronze medals came through and it was fabulous to see the emotion, strong teamwork and connectedness of the crews, their coaches and support staff.”
Thompson continued: “It is a huge responsibility to lead and evolve Rowing Australia’s High-Performance program as we embark on a shortened Paris cycle. I’m excited and looking forward to working with a quality team of athletes, coaches and support staff. The positive culture that we saw in Tokyo will be crucial to Australia maintaining its strong world rankings.
“As a first matter of business, I want to reconnect and re-engage with the Australian rowing community. This is my first time working in Australia in over 20 years and I respect the system has changed over time.
“I am passionate about engaging athletes, coaches and support staff at all levels of the pathway to prepare our programs for success in the long-term. There are firsts in our sport that Australia is still to achieve. I want to see Rowing Australia win its first Paralympic Gold Medal and our first Gold Medal at a home Olympics, when the Games come to Brisbane in 2032.”
Thompson joins RA from his role as Senior High-Performance Manager at the New South Wales Institute of Sport (NSWIS).