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Surely his story is one to inspire others…..

Double Olympic champion James Cracknell became the oldest winner of the Oxford/Cambridge boat race held in April 2019. Most students are in their early 20’s but James Cracknell was part of the 2019 winning team at the grand old age of 46.

The James Cracknell story is a truly remarkable one with lots of twists and turns along the way. He  won his first Olympic gold medal in 2000 as part of the coxless fours with Steve Redgrave, Matthew Pinsent and Tim Foster. He repeated the feat in 2004 again with Redgrave, Pinsent but this time, Ed Coode. The amount of time athletes need to train at the top level is phenomenal and once someone stops training for their event it must be very hard to just stop, so Cracknell turned his hand to ultra endurance events.  He took part in an Atlantic rowing race, several marathons and a canoe marathon. He attempted and failed to beat the mixed tandem Land’s End to John O’Groats record to name but a few.

In 2010 whilst attempting to run, cycle and row across the US in 18 days he was knocked off his bike by a truck and suffered severe head injuries. At the time it was said that he was lucky to be alive and if it wasn’t for his crash helmet he may not have lived to tell the tale. He suffered some brain damage and felt his personality had changed.

It has been a long and arduous recovery but he still has completed further marathons and endurance races. In 2018 he signed up at Peterhouse at Cambridge University to do a MPhil degree in Human Evolution meaning that he was eligible to compete in the historic Boat Race. At 46 he became the oldest competitor to be part of the winning team and for that he will go down in the record books.

There was some cynicism about his degree and how he had got a place at Cambridge. Surely people should be looking at what he has achieved both in the rowing, endurance world and after such a serious head injury studying. His dedication and commitment must go a long way to prove to people that you can come back after a serious injury and surely his story is one to inspire others.

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Rowing into the record books

If you are part of the team that has just rowed across the Atlantic in less than 30 days – how do you celebrate ? With a cup of tea and enough food to feed an army!

Friends Dicky Taylor, George Biggar, Peter Robinson and Stuart Watts – also known as The Four Oarsmen – crossed the finish line of the Talisker Whisky Atlantic Challenge just after 2am on the morning of Saturday 13th January 2018.

They rowed into English Bay, Antigua, after 29 days and 15 hours at sea, beating the previous record by six days.

When back on dry land the four said that whilst it was great to see their family and friends, digging into pizza and burgers was a fantastic feeling, and not forgetting a good old-fashioned brew.

Mr Taylor said: “We’ve all just had two full breakfasts, we had so much pizza last night and we’re all still hungry. We’ve been without sugar the whole time and just rowed on fat so the cravings have been huge.”

The four team members lost a combined 38kg  which is virtually 6 stone, during the race.

The quartet entered the 3,000 mile race as a fundraiser for charities Mind and Spinal Research UK, in memory of Mr Biggar’s mother Anne Fisher and in support of Mr Robinson’s friend Ben Kende. Mr Biggar said: “We set out with it as a charity initiative for two charities. Anne Fisher , although a successful lawyer suffered from severe depression and in 2011 was found washed up on the beach near their home. The other chosen charity was selected  after Mr Robinson’s friend Ben Kende, a rising star of Hong Kong rugby, suffered a spinal cord injury in 2010. The accident left Mr Kende tetraplegic with limited use of his arms and no use of his legs. He was only 18 when this life changing injury happened.

So far The Four Oarsmen have raised over £250,000 for charity When the team started out they were one of 25 teams taking part and expected just to complete the task in about 40 days but they progressed well on their challenge and soon the record was in their sights. In fact family members had to rebook flights so that they could arrive at the finish destination to greet them.

The Race organisers said they believed the quartet completed the fastest Atlantic row of all time, as well as in race history.

The four friends were however unanimous over their decision not to take part in the race again, commenting that anyone else was welcome to break their record.