'Old man' Ginn rows on in bid for fourth gold

By Nick Mulvenney, Reuters

Posted at May 11 2012 03:12 PM | Updated as of May 11 2012 11:13 PM

SYDNEY - For a man who has a chance to become Australia's most decorated Olympic oarsman in London later this year, Drew Ginn is surprisingly dismissive of the importance of pedigree in achieving success at the Games.

Ginn is heading to London in search of his fourth Olympic gold in his fourth Games and is determined to upset the hosts by reclaiming the coxless fours title he won as part of Australia's "Oarsome Foursome" in Atlanta 16 years ago.

After winning more golds in the coxless pairs in Athens and Beijing, the 37-year-old has returned to the four-man boat for London, where he could better the Olympic record of compatriot James Tomkins and draw within a single title of Briton Steve Redgrave's historic haul.

"It's something I don't think about until someone mentions it," Ginn told Reuters in an interview at Australia's final team workout before they head off to Europe.

"It's not part of the process, not for me, not for us. The thing is every Games that you go to has to be treated as a completely separate event, that is what I've noticed, and no track record makes a difference.

"For us, the biggest thing is to get through the season and get to the final. And once you are in the final, anything can happen.

"It doesn't matter who you are or what you've done. And that's the attitude we've taken to it, and that's the attitude I've got to take to it as well.

"History and track records and stats and anything like that don't count for anything when you go into the Olympics."

Best talent

Ginn concedes that winning gold at the Eton lake in August will be a "battle", especially as the host nation, like Australia, have made the event a priority and packed their team with their best talent.

Since Ginn helped Australia win a second successive gold in the event in Atlanta, Britain have ruled supreme for the last three Games and are reigning world champions.

Flanked by his team mates and squinting in the bright morning sunshine at the Penrith Lakes where the 2000 Olympic regatta was held, Ginn warmed to his theme as he discussed the rivalry with the British.

"I think that crew that we've seen has been picked is a quality crew, there's no doubt about it and they've had the run of it for the last few Olympic Games, that's for sure," he said.

"But for our minds it's not focusing on them, or history or records, it's about focusing on us doing our best and we're up for the challenge and we certainly wouldn't be involved in the Games if we weren't there to take home a gold medal."

Ginn clearly puts a lot of thought into the "processes" of success and combines his rowing career with motivational speaking.

He had, he said, maintained his enthusiasm for this most gruelling of sports by working with new people and continually testing his limits.

Those limits were sorely tested by a career-threatening back injury that prevented him from rowing at Penrith in the Sydney Games and another which left him barely able to walk in the run-up to his Beijing triumph.

‘Still the jokester’

"I think any athlete with a bit of longevity has to deal with the highs and lows and deal with injuries and I think that's the mark of you as an athlete," he said.

"If you can hang around long enough and keep performing, you've probably been through a fair few life experiences."

His younger team mates James Chapman (32), Josh Dunkley-Smith (22) and Will Lockwood (23) clearly have great respect for Ginn but they also reflected his joviality and did not hold back with quips about the "old man".

"He's still the jokester, he still has the same maturity he had 16 years ago," Chapman said of his team mate.

"He keeps driving along and challenging us, not just with his experience but also physically. It's great for us to have him in the boat with us to go along for the ride."

Rowing Australia have set themselves an internal target of three golds in London and National High Performance Director Andrew Matheson would not be greatly surprised if the men's coxless four upset the British to provide one of them.

"It's going to be a great battle and I think we've got a really good mix of youth and experience in our boat," he told Reuters.

"The type of boat we're creating there is going to be a bit different to what they offer and I think it's a good crew that will take them on head-to-head beautifully."

Ginn is remarkably not even prepared to concede that London will be his last Games and will certainly make no pronouncements about his future before the Olympics.

"I've always kind of cringed and thought that's not necessary, you don't want to pile more pressure onto your performance," he said.

"And when you are rowing with younger athletes of really good quality, you kind of think, 'well what if? Is that possible?

"So if you are enjoying it, go on, if you're not, stop."

(Editing by Ossian Shine)