Sat. Oct 23rd, 2021


Updates on the Tokyo Olympics

A turbulent investigation into the poor performance of the British rowers during the Tokyo Olympics broke out on Friday after the team could not win a single gold medal, which sparked internal disputes over the training culture in Team GB.

Despite being the best-funded Olympic sport, the rowers won only two medals, a silver and a bronze.

The result was a bitter disappointment for Team GB, who set the record for most rowing trophies during the last three Olympic Games.

The failure to win gold for the first time since 1980 exposed divisions in the rowing team over the departure of former coach Jürgen Gröbler, who had mastered the country’s infamous tough Olympic training regime before resigning last year.

Team GB rower Josh Bugajski told reporters after winning bronze in the men’s eight that Gröbler “would destroy” [the] a few teammates’ souls and adds that he opened a bottle of champagne when Gröbler retired.

The comment was immediately contradicted by Mohamed Sbihi, Bugajski’s teammate in the eight, who dedicated his medal to the German coach, describing him as a “notorious winner”.

Sbihi, has won two Olympic medals under Gröbler, including gold in the four-free four at the 2016 Games in Rio.

The rowing section highlights the ongoing tension at the heart of Team GB following a series of bullying and abuse scandals in a number of sports in recent years, with athletes calling it a lucrative mentality that has contributed to toxic training environments.

In the run-up to Tokyo, British rowing received almost £ 24.7 million in government funding and the proceeds of the national lottery. James Cracknell, the double Olympic champion, questions the ‘return on investment’ after the team’s worst performance in two decades.

Team GB said it was trying to change the mindset within sports, such as by refusing to host medal projections, and believed it was putting unnecessary pressure on athletes.

Andy Anson, chief executive of the British Olympic Association, told the BBC earlier this week that British sports body Rowing was moving towards a new approach, focusing on the Paris Games in 2024.

“They are trying to change the culture of the sport. . . developed from a culture where it was one way of doing things, a fairly hardcore culture, and trying to switch to something where athletes get more support, ‘he said.

“It’s a change and it takes time, and you have to go through the transition, and rowing works very hard on it.”

Jürgen Groebler
Jürgen Gröbler was the boss of the country’s infamous tough Olympic training regime before retiring last year © Andrew Matthews / PA

Lady Katherine Grainger, five-time Olympic rowing medalist and chair of UK Sport, the UK’s Olympic and Paralympic Sports Investment Agency, acknowledged the performance was ‘disappointing at some level’, highlighting the generational change within the team since the Rio.

‘I think we only got eight athletes[this year]. . . who has ever been to a Games. We have never had anything like this, ”she said.

Ollie Wynne-Griffith, part of the team that won bronze in the men’s eight, describes the week as ‘fairly up and down’.

“It’s not the color we wanted, but there were a lot of fourth places in the team, a lot of mistakes, so it’s good to be on the right side of that one,” he said.

Vicky Thornley, who achieved Britain’s highest ever finish in the women’s singles, said: ‘Many athletes have retired after Rio. There are a few of us who went on, but we had to rebuild. “

Anson drew parallels with the English men’s football team, also known for his youth and relative inexperience.

He stressed that three years ago the group managed to reach the semi-finals of the World Cup, the biggest prize in the international competition, and that this year they lost finalists against Italy in the Euro 2020 tournament, after years long not advanced to the latter stages of competitions.

“We should not expect immediate results,” Anson said. “[England manager] Gareth Southgate does not just click on his fingers and [get] until the final. ”



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