The illustrious Olympic career of Drew Ginn, winner of three Olympic gold medals and a silver, was ignited when a slot in the Oarsome Foursome coxless fours crew became available before the 1996 Atlanta Olympics. Andrew Cooper had withdrawn from the crew which had won gold in Barcelona in 1992, leaving James Tomkins, Mike McKay and Nick Green. Rowing selectors tried several candidates before settling on the 21-year-old. Ginn was a gifted athlete, having won school colours in four different disciplines at Melbourne’s Scotch College. He had impressed the Foursome’s coach, Noel Donaldson, when he went overseas with Australia’s under-23 eight in 1994. After a few early settling-in problems with his older team-mates, Ginn became a valuable member of the Foursome crew, which went on to win gold in Atlanta.
Ginn and Tomkins, 10 years his senior, later teamed up, and won the 1999 pairs world championship. They were favoured for gold at the Sydney 2000 Games, but Ginn was forced to withdraw, a prolapsed disc in his back causing horrific pain. Tomkins rowed at short notice with an emergency, Matthew Long --- and they won bronze. After two years of rehabilitation and recovery work, Ginn talked with Tomkins about trying again … and they agreed to give it a go. They rowed perfectly to win gold in Athens in 2004. Afterwards, with the 2008 Beijing Games ahead, Ginn linked up with Duncan Free, who had won bronze in quad sculls in 1996. They won two world titles together, then - despite further back pain for Ginn during the Games - went on to win Beijing gold in commanding fashion.
Ginn competed at his fourth Games in London where he was looking to win his fourth gold from as many attempts. Having won gold at the Athens and Beijing games in the pair he returned to the men’s four alongside William Lockwood, James Chapman and Joshua Dunkley-Smith in London.
The crew had finished with bronze at the 2011 World Championships before claiming a 2nd and then a 1st at World Cup events in the lead up the Games. Their strong form continued as they won their heat by almost three seconds and recorded a new Olympic record, before finishing second behind the British in the semi-final.
In what was an extremely close Olympic final, the Australians passed the halfway mark 0.61 seconds behind the British crew and were 0.69 seconds down with 500m to go. The British crew, buoyed by the home crowd support, managed to pull away slightly as the finish line approached eventually beating Ginn and his crewmates by 1.22 seconds. It was the Britain’s fourth consecutive gold medal in the event.
Harry Gordon, AOC Historian