James Cracknell Olympic Champion podcast

057: James Cracknell on Endeavour

A note about Coronavrius
We, individuals, groups, communities, society look up to sporting heroes, we revere and admire their dedication, their persistence, their focus, the sacrifices they make to make the most of their often rare genetics and to do so on the greatest performance stage. As the world battles Coronavirus, we’re all going to be required to make sacrifices that we’ve never made before in pursuit of applying ourselves, to the collective goal of public health.

We’ve thought hard about whether while the world is taking dramatic turn, whether the appropriateness of us publishing podcast episodes about a topic of human performance is even relevant. Certainly we can appreciate that if you normally tune in but your head is elsewhere at the moment then it might be better to switch off, go an focus on what you need to do (which hopefully isn’t stock piling toilet rolls) and listen to this again when it suits you best.

We’ve decided to continue because perhaps these episodes can offer some inspiration, maybe an hour’s worth of distraction, perhaps to help refocus you on what you need to be doing. Also, there are a lot of people now distancing and isolating for the first time in their lives – I hope in some ways these episodes can be some supportive company and a positive influence as the worry and the noise surrounding the outbreak increases.

This week’s episode features my interview with James Cracknell.
Two time Olympic Champion in coxless four rowing, part of perhaps the most renowned rowing crew of all time the Sydney 2000 four – a team I was honoured to support. On retirement, James didn’t put his feet up, in fact almost the opposite. He crossed the Atlantic with Ben Fogle, raced to the South Pole, kayaked the length of the Thames, was at the time the fastest Briton to run the Marathon de Sables, competed in the Yukon Arctic Ultra and has run the London Marathon numerous times with a best time of 2:43 which for a 90kg guy is phenomenal (at the time of recording James was headed for the London Marathon in a few weeks, but the event has now been postponed for now to October). In 2010 James undertook Ride Across America and was hit by a petrol tanker suffering a contrecoup brain injury – he is now a campaigner for the use of bike helmets – which effectively saved his life.

Last year James became the oldest competitor and the oldest winner, in the history of the Oxford – Cambridge boat being twice as old as his crew mates and competitors and older than some of his crew mates dad’s. I worked with James in the pursuit of this goal and it was one of the most challenging cases I’ve worked on, to problem solve and innovate in such unique ways. James did so through some trying personal circumstances which played out in the press.

In this conversation James and I discuss his early in drivers, becoming part of a crew with some of the highest achievers in sport Sir Steve Redgrave and Sir Matthew Pinsent. Why he kept pushing towards goals after he retired from Olympic sport and his passions for public service and how through public policy he aspires to make the biggest difference to the people’s health and well-being. I do believe there is a lesson in here about creating intensity about doing what we need to do to accomplish something. I also think there is a message about feeling the fears but rather than being paralysed by them – acting upon them.

Happy listening, keep your distance and wash your hands folks!

Show notes

Steve and James discuss their long-standing relationship

Honesty and being unafraid to be unpopular

James’s return to high level sport and The Boat Race

James required a bespoke recovery programme that enabled him to come back stronger

The triple whammy of ultra-endurance endeavours, starvation on The Island and being 45!

Any reputation James had disappeared rapidly at the 5K ergo

Earning respect by beating Steve and Matthew

There are different ways to skin a cat!

James’s physiology

Being the best at everything that takes no natural talent

Defending titles and building on success.

“Anyone can win once”

Switching sides and doing the double

The part vanity has to play in winning or losing


Setting extraordinary goals

The challenges full time athletes face!

Motivating other people, being a burden, enjoying sport and rewarding yourself

Relationships, perspectives and differences

Swapping lycra for goretex or a gown at Cambridge and the binary nature of winning and losing

Strictly what’s the worst that could happen?!

Do not show weakness. Do not show the opposition you are tired.

Showing vulnerability

Don’t let them see you being sick

Winning by a second or 4, break the world record…no?!

Drop the flowers and don’t cry

Politics and influencing policy and behaviours



James on Twitter https://twitter.com/jamescracknell

An Instagram https://www.instagram.com/jamescracknell/

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