Belfast Telegraph

The man who turned Chambers brothers into rowing champions

By John Mulgrew

He is the man responsible for putting a Co Londonderry town at the forefront of international rowing success.

Bobby “Crafty” Platt is celebrated as the godfather of rowing in Coleraine, and has been coaching Olympic competitors and gold medal winners for years.

At a sprightly 89-years-old and with a history of rowing dating back to the 1940s, Bobby first captained Bann Rowing Club in 1959 and again from 1972 to 1983.

But it was as a coach he excelled — nurturing multiple rowers to Olympic standard at Coleraine Institute school.

Among his successful pupils are the Chambers brothers — Peter (21), and Richard (26), the former winning gold in the men’s lightweight pair at the World Championships in Slovenia on Thursday for Team GB.

His older brother has also walked home with two gold medals at an international level and been involved in rowing since he was a youngster.

Bobby’s accolades over the years have also been numerous.

In 2005 he received an MBE for his services and in 2009 was given the BBC Sports Unsung Hero award for Northern Ireland.

As president of the Bann Rowing Club in Coleraine, he is still very much involved hands on in the running of things.

A modest man to say the least, Bobby has said his wife of over 60 years was the strength which kept him going through the decades.

“My wife Roberta has supported me over these years.

“I got involved in the 1940s in Coleraine and coached up until last year.

“I coached Alan Campbell and Richard Chambers at school — they are fantastic as well as the whole crew. They are all very determined boys and very conscientious. Coleraine has been at the forefront for years, since 1842. Coleraine was probably the most successful in Ireland — and that’s quite an achievement.

“It’s been exceptional — we’ve had our ups and downs, but I'm very proud of them.”

The rowing mentor has modesty and humility running through his veins, and puts the town’s success down to a combination of raw talent and the work of others.

Another of Bobby’s rowing prodigies, Alan Campbell (28), is competing in the single sculls finals in Slovenia later today.

His mother, Jenny, said Bobby has been behind her son all the way to the top: “Bobby, he just sees potential skill — and he has been fantastic over the years.”

Background

Coleraine has had a number of success stories in this year’s rowing World Championships in Slovenia this week. On Thursday, 21-year-old Peter Chambers took gold in the final of the men’s light weight pair, representing Team GB. Also, today, Alan Campbell, from Coleraine, will compete in the finals of the single sculls. The World Championship event is one of the most prestigious in the sport.

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