Rowing legend Free calls time on career
3 June 2012
Four-time Olympian Duncan Free (QLD) has officially announced his retirement
from rowing. The 2008 Olympic gold medallist in the men’s pair had been endeavouring to
compete at his fifth Olympic Games in London later this year but eventually
succumbed to an ongoing rib cartilage issue.
The 39-year-old Queenslander said although it was a tough decision, he was still extremely proud of his rowing career.
“The decision was tough and I'm extremely disappointed," Free said from the Australian Institute of Sport’s European Training Centre in Varese, Italy.
"I am quite proud that I was able to come back from the accident and trial for the Olympic Team, as 12 months ago I was unsure if I would ever be able to row again.
"I gave it my best crack and hung in there for as long as I could, but the body couldn't keep up as we were running out of time."
Free seemed destined to compete in London until he was hit by a car while cycling on the Gold Coast in May last year.
He sustained a fractured right femur in the accident but also longer term complications that caused stress fractures in his ribs.
Free paid tribute to a number of people who helped him throughout his career, but also in his recovery period over the past 12 months.
“Thanks must go to Rowing Australia, the Queensland Academy of Sport, the AIS, all the medical staff that assisted with my recovery, on and off water coaching staff and most of all the support of my family, particularly my wife Belinda,” Free stated.
Rowing Australia High Performance Director Andrew Matheson paid tribute to Free.
“Over the past two decades Duncan established himself as one of Australia and the world’s most successful rowers,” Matheson said.
“Duncan’s rowing ability was personified by the fact that not only was he Australia’s leading sculler for over a decade, but he then made the switch into sweep oar rowing and won Olympic gold.
“His accident last year was always going to be difficult to overcome but his character and determination was incredible and typify the man he is.
“He still has an important part to play in Australian rowing and will be able to pass on a great deal of knowledge.”
Free made his debut for the Australian Rowing Team in 1994 as part of the men’s quad scull.
He competed at 10 world championships across his career, resulting in two gold and two bronze medals.
Free made his Olympic debut in 1996 in the men’s quad scull, winning a bronze medal, before finishing fourth and seventh in the same event at both the 2000 and 2004 Olympic Games.
Free then switched to the men’s pair and combined with Drew Ginn (VIC) to win the 2006 and 2007 world championships, before winning gold with Ginn at the 2008 Beijing Olympic Games.