Olympic legend James Cracknell to make dramatic return to rowing in boat race

James Cracknell will make a dramatic return to rowing by representing Cambridge in next month’s boat race.

The double Olympic champion, now 46, will become the oldest participant in the event’s history after becoming eligible through taking a Masters in Human Evolution at the university.

A possibly comparable comeback in recent times might be that of Greg Searle, who rowed in the Eight that won the bronze at London 2012 aged 40, but this will be unprecedented in the tussle between Oxford and Cambridge.

James Cracknell will return to rowing by representing Cambridge in the boat race next month

James Cracknell will return to rowing by representing Cambridge in the boat race next month

James Cracknell will return to rowing by representing Cambridge in the boat race next month

The Cambridge University Boat Club (L to R): Matthew Holland, Natan Wegrzycki-Szymczyk, Freddie Davidson, Sam Hookway, Callum Sullivan, Dara Alizadeh, Grant Bitler, James Cracknell and Dave Bell

The Cambridge University Boat Club (L to R): Matthew Holland, Natan Wegrzycki-Szymczyk, Freddie Davidson, Sam Hookway, Callum Sullivan, Dara Alizadeh, Grant Bitler, James Cracknell and Dave Bell

The Cambridge University Boat Club (L to R): Matthew Holland, Natan Wegrzycki-Szymczyk, Freddie Davidson, Sam Hookway, Callum Sullivan, Dara Alizadeh, Grant Bitler, James Cracknell and Dave Bell

The Cambridge team line up for a selfie after their unveiling in central London on Thursday

The Cambridge team line up for a selfie after their unveiling in central London on Thursday

The Cambridge team line up for a selfie after their unveiling in central London on Thursday

Cracknell retired from top class rowing in 2006, having banked two golds from the Coxless Fours at the Sydney 2000 and Athens 2004 Games.

Subsequently he has taken on a variety of high profile adventure and endurance challenges, some in the company of TV personality Ben Fogle.

In 2010 he was attempting to row and cycle across America when he was struck from behind by a petrol tanker on a quiet road in Arizona suffering serious head injuries.

The accident damaged the frontal lobes of his brain, causing epilepsy and a change in personality that he described in a book with his wife Beverley.

He will now take his place in the light blue boat on April 7.

The double Olympic champion (L), 46, will become the oldest participant in the event’s history

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James Cracknell pictured with his wife Beverley, his son Croyde (R) and his son's friend in October 2016

James Cracknell pictured with his wife Beverley, his son Croyde (R) and his son's friend in October 2016

James Cracknell pictured with his wife Beverley, his son Croyde (R) and his son’s friend in October 2016

In a statement, Cracknell said: ‘It’s impossible to appreciate what getting selected for The Boat Race is actually like.

‘Training so intensively and competing with a group of guys for the same seats in a boat whilst studying hard at a top University, you could easily fall apart.

‘The national team I was part of for so long could learn a thing or two from The Boat Race squads! 

‘Making the Blue Boat after a tough year is arguably my proudest achievement in rowing. But making the Boat is only the start, I and the other lads aren’t there for the kit and being selected, it’s about delivering on April 7th.’

CRACKNELL’S TRAVAILS SINCE RETIRING FROM ROWING 

In July 2010, Cracknell was attempting to set a new record of running, rowing, swimming and cycling from New York to Los Angeles in 16 days.

However, he was knocked off his bike by a petrol tanker in Arizona and suffered serious head and brain injuries as a result.

It took 25 staples to patch his fractured skull together and a further three months recovering in hospital as he learned how to walk and talk again. He didn’t even recognise his wife Beverley.  

Cracknell has publicly spoken of the effects of the accident, which at one stage left him unable to care for his children alone due to safety concerns.

‘When you’ve had a frontal lobe injury, you have to put a lot of energy into focusing on what you’re doing,’ he said in a Radio Times interview in 2012. ‘The peripheral stuff like moving a knife or hot teapot away isn’t there, so a kid can pull it and cause themselves trouble.’

Just six months after the accident, Cracknell somehow completed the Yukon Arctic Ultra, cycling 430 miles across icy terrain in Canada.

Cracknell has also enjoyed fame as an explorer on television alongside fellow presenter Ben Fogle. Their expeditions have seen them row across the Atlantic, trek through the Arabian desert and race to the South Pole.

In 2015, Cracknell and his son Croyde rescued a grandfather and grandson from danger in the sea in Devon.

Jim Greatorex and his grandson Emerson Fairclough got into difficulty before Croyde spotted them. Cracknell dived in ‘David Hasselhoff-style’ before ‘swimming under the water, picking the boy up and dragging him to shore.’ 

Link hienalouca.com

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