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Silver a huge achievement: Ginn

5 August 2012

ROWING: Drew Ginn labelled his silver medal in the coxless fours “a huge achievement” – and as disappointing as it was not to get the gold, nobody will be arguing with him.

The Melbourne veteran and William Lockwood, James Chapman and Joshua Dunkley-Smith lost a colossal contest by just over a second to Britain’s Alex Gregory, Pete Reed, Tom James and Andrew Triggs Hodge, with whom they have enjoyed a fierce rivalry throughout the long build-up to the Games.

It meant that Australia finished the regatta without a gold, which Ginn said was disappointing given the high hopes Rowing Australia had coming into it.

Of course he was disappointed himself, too, but he said the initial feeling that the crew had let down their country, their teammates and their families would soon be put into perspective.

“What you have to get your head around is that a silver medal is still a huge achievement,” he correctly observed.

While most people believed that it was Ginn’s last hurrah after a truly outstanding career, he is not so sure.

Most veteran athletes, especially the successful ones, have trouble confronting their mortality when the time comes and even at 38 and with a body that has been through two lots of back surgery and is feeling the strain in other areas, he is no exception.

When he was asked about it in the international media conference, he couldn’t hold back the tears as he described how much effort goes into staying on top of a sport he loves with a passion.

With the much younger Dunkley-Smith putting a comforting arm around his shoulder, Ginn said: “It’s not easy. I’d love to go on, but it takes a toll. Everyone gives their everything, no-one holds back. We dig so deep that there has even been tears at training sessions.”

He said he and his wife had decided that whatever the result, they would let the dust settle before making a decision about the future. It could take until Christmas, he said.

Ginn is now Australia’s most successful Olympic rower with three golds and a silver from four Games compared to his former Oarsome Foursome team-mate and pairs partner James Tomkins, who won three golds and a bronze from six Games.

Ginn, who also has eight medals, five of them gold, from nine world championships, would almost certainly have an even better Olympic record if his back problems had not prevented him joining Tomkins in the pair in Sydney in 2000.

His back is no longer an issue, he said, but other wear and tear was, and he wasn’t sure whether he could summon the motivation to continue.

But he didn’t think he would make it back after Beijing four years ago when his back was so bad he had to be helped in and out of the boat and yet won the pairs gold medal with Duncan Free. Few more courageous gold medals have ever been won by an Australian athlete.

The tears, he said, were unusual – he hadn’t cried in public since his grandfather died 16 years ago.

“It comes, I think, from having my wife and kids here. It just means a lot to do this because we love it.”

After the race, the crew embraced their conquerors in an admirable display of respect and sportsmanship and then Ginn pulled them together for a long group hug among themselves.

“Nothing was  said, really. It was just acknowledging that we have had a great experience together,” he said.

He tipped that the others, especially the two younger ones, would go onto bigger and better things in the future. But they, like everyone else, will just have to wait and see whether he is there with them again.

Ron Reed in Eton Dorney

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