A remarkable war of words has engulfed Team GB rowers past and present after the men’s coxless four were unable to medal at Tokyo 2020.
The quartet of Matt Rossiter, Sholto Carnegie, Ollie Cook and Rory Gibbs came fourth in Tokyo after veering into the Italians in the adjacent lane in the final 500m.
The chaotic finish at Sea Forest Waterway saw GB’s run of five straight golds in the event come to an end, a streak which dated back to Sir Steve Redgrave’s final victory at Sydney 2000.
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After the race, Rossiter said: “It’s just disappointing that those people will be really smug now that they are part of the legacy that won.
“That was a motivation to do well. I hope those people are happy we have not continued the gold run.”
It has been widely reported that these comments were aimed predominantly at James Cracknell, who won men’s four gold in 2000 and 2004.
In response, Cracknell – who was supposedly critical of the team heading into the Olympics – told the Telegraph: "That is rubbish. If that was true, that would have been my sentiments in 2008, 2012 and 2016, and none of the athletes in those boats would have said that about me.
"The idea that I would be concerned about protecting my 'legacy' 17 years after I last raced at an Olympics is nonsense. I would be a pretty bitter person if, almost two decades after last competing, I didn't want the British boat to win.
I was gutted for the guys that their race ended that way, but I have always abided by the principle that anything I say on commentary, I would be happy to say to that person's face, and that is true for Matt in this instance.
The row reportedly stems from the departure of Jurgen Grobler, who left his role as British Rowing’s chief coach last year after a three-decade spell helped the nation become a powerhouse in the sport.
Earlier in July, Rossiter had said the “slightly older guard have enjoyed revelling in us not doing so well … to the point I’ve had to turn off my Twitter to leave it.
“Obviously there’s support but there’s certainly a vibe that some of our predecessors have been really supportive and some less so.”
Cracknell addressed Grobler’s exit last August, saying, “I was one of 20 Olympic champions he nurtured,” and though he tweeted “sacre bleu” when sharing a L’Equipe link in March which suggested Grobler could join the French team, the former GB rower has not been visibly critical of the current team – on Twitter at least.
Weighing in on the civil war, four-time Olympic champion Matthew Pinsent said: “I’m utterly flabbergasted. I’m absolutely stunned. As far as I know, there’s nothing to it.
“I don’t know what he’s talking about. I don’t know who he is referring to. What’s James said? I listened to James’s commentary the other day and he’s been nothing but complimentary about what they’ve done.
“I’ve heard of no negativity from anyone I’ve ever spoken to this crew. We’re proud of what they’ve done. What happened 20 years ago has no relevance to what happens in an Olympic rowing regatta now. It shouldn’t and I don’t think it did for this four. They have spoken about writing their own history.”
Meanwhile, Rossiter did not hold back when assessing their performance in the final on Wednesday.
“We fully biffed into them [the Italian team],” Rossiter said. “They are pretty p****d off, because maybe we cost them the silver. Sorry to those guys. It’s an outdoor sport and this stuff happens
“It’s just heart-breaking when it’s you and not something on YouTube.
“It’s rough to finish on that note. Coming fourth is the s******t place in the world. We’ve done so well in the last two years and then when it actually matters, we f****d it up. That’s sport.”
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