James Cracknell, 46, prepares to become the Boat Race’s oldest ever competitor

Former Olympic star James Cracknell has been pictured looking relaxed with his Cambridge teammates ahead of the men’s Boat Race this afternoon.

Cracknell, 46, who is studying for a Masters degree at Peterhouse, will be by a decade the oldest competitor to take part in the 190-year history of the event this afternoon.

The 165th men’s race is expected to start at 3.10pm after the conclusion of the women’s race, which started at 2.10pm and was won by Cambridge for the third successive time.

The Light Blues cemented their dominance over their traditional rivals, with new coach Robert Weber’s team storming into an early lead and refusing to relent.

Cambridge appeared close to a record time at the halfway stage, but eventually clocked 18 minutes and 47 seconds, some 14 seconds behind their winning time in 2017.

James Cracknell smiles as he prepares to take to the water with his Cambridge teammates in the Boat Race this afternoon

James Cracknell smiles as he prepares to take to the water with his Cambridge teammates in the Boat Race this afternoon

James Cracknell smiles as he prepares to take to the water with his Cambridge teammates in the Boat Race this afternoon

The Oxford (L) and Cambridge (R) teams compete during the Women's Boat Race this afternoon. The race was won by Cambridge for the third successive time

The Oxford (L) and Cambridge (R) teams compete during the Women's Boat Race this afternoon. The race was won by Cambridge for the third successive time

The Oxford (L) and Cambridge (R) teams compete during the Women’s Boat Race this afternoon. The race was won by Cambridge for the third successive time

A 28-year-old James Cracknell in 2001 (left), the year after he won gold for Great Britain at the Sydney Olympic Games. Cracknell, now 46, (right) strikes the same pose ahead of the weekend's Boat Race

A 28-year-old James Cracknell in 2001 (left), the year after he won gold for Great Britain at the Sydney Olympic Games. Cracknell, now 46, (right) strikes the same pose ahead of the weekend's Boat Race

A 28-year-old James Cracknell in 2001 (left), the year after he won gold for Great Britain at the Sydney Olympic Games. Cracknell, now 46, (right) strikes the same pose ahead of the weekend’s Boat Race

 Cambridge stroke Lily Lindsay has rowed internationally for the USA, but insisted nothing compared to a Boat Race victory.

‘There’s nothing like this,’ Lindsay told the BBC.

‘Training alongside my team-mates has been unbelievable. It’s been a pleasure.’ 

Posing for the Daily Mail last week ahead of the iconic race Cracknell, looked just as fit as he did in 2001, months after winning his first Olympic gold medal.

Last week, Cracknell revealed he and wife Beverley Turner had split

Last week, Cracknell revealed he and wife Beverley Turner had split

Last week, Cracknell revealed he and wife Beverley Turner had split

He may appear a little less tanned and more weathered but James Cracknell has clearly aged well over the past 18 years.

After winning gold in Sydney in 2000, he repeated the feat in Athens in 2004. He has returned to rowing 13 years after retiring and admits of his frame: ‘Although I look quite fit and athletic, it’s just a lot less powerful.

‘My legs are much thinner. Seventy per cent of the power in rowing comes from the legs. And the shoulders, everything looks like I’ve had the water sucked out of me.

‘I know what I weighed on the morning of the Olympics in 2004, and that was 95.7kg (15st 1lb). And then at the Boat Race weigh-in I was 89kg (14st). 

‘That is effectively a stone of muscle, really, which is quite useful in rowing.’

There is one other change to his body: ‘a few staples in my head’ – a reference to the serious brain injury he suffered in 2010 when a truck hit him while he was cycling across the US. 

In his years away from rowing, he crossed Antarctica and has competed in marathons and triathlons.

Cracknell revealed last week that he and his wife Beverley Turner had split after 17 years of marriage.

But he hopes their three children will be there to greet him – as a winner – on the finish line on Sunday.

On Saturday, coach Rob Baker said crew member James Cracknell’s private life will not distract Cambridge from winning tomorrow’s Boat Race.

He said: ‘The squad has dealt with it really well and James as well,” said Baker.” Clearly it is part of his world, given all the work he has done. No, I think, the guys understood that it was part of the year and it’s been fine.

‘I have met no one better at compartmentalising their lives and being able to focus on the task at hands than James. He is incredibly good at that. So, he’s been dealing with a lot of stuff, and he has been very open with the squad about that. And so everyone is aware that he manages himself incredibly well.’

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