Belfast Telegraph

Coach Chambers hopes putting his oar in will help others fulfil their dreams


Steven Beacom

It's been quite a week for Northern Ireland Olympic hero Richard Chambers. On Monday he announced that he was quitting rowing.

The same day he started his new job as assistant coach with Cambridge University Boat Club.

Yesterday he attended his brother Peter's wedding in London.

And this morning he was back at work.

Busy, busy, busy. Chambers has enjoyed every moment.

The news that, at 31 years of age, Chambers was retiring from the sport he has excelled at for over a decade may have come as a surprise to some but the man himself has revealed that even before competing at his third Olympics in Rio over the summer, he knew that his career was going to take a new direction.

Ideally Chambers would have loved to have gone out on a high in Brazil, winning the double sculls event with Will Fletcher for Team GB, but it wasn't to be.

Nor was a desire to race on to the Tokyo Games in 2020.

"Going to the Olympics I wasn't willing to say yes or no when I was asked about competing in the future. Even before the Rio Games, though, I knew coaching was the route that I wanted to take," says Chambers, who won silver at the London 2012 Olympics with brother Peter beside him in the lightweight four event.

"I studied Construction Management at University but I know rowing better than I know anything else. For the last 11 years I have trained full-time and rowing has been a part of my life since I was 14 or 15 and for years coaching is what I've wanted to do.

"From an athlete's perspective I know rowing very well and now I want to learn how to articulate that as a coach and help other people achieve what they want to achieve."

Landing his first coaching role with Cambridge University Boat Club and working with the renowned Steve Trapmore, an Olympic gold medal winner from Sydney 2000, was quite a coup for Chambers.

He explains that he had to go through the normal recruitment process, sending his CV and covering letter before successfully coming through an interview.

While delighted to accept the role, Richard acknowledges that with having to be on site at Cambridge throughout the week it will be difficult not seeing his wife Abigail and their two young children Joshua and Alexandra as much as he would like.

"My family are down in Maidenhead and I'm up in Cambridge now," he says.

"I'm living above Goldie Boat House and it means I will only see Joshua and Alexandra once a week but that is something we have to work out as a family.

"Joshua has just started school. He will be five in October and Alexandra is two and a half.

"It will be tough but we have to figure it out as we go along."

Being at Cambridge means being involved in the single most famous rowing event in history - the University Boat Race on the River Thames against Oxford.

April 2, 2017 is already a date imprinted on the former Coleraine Academy pupil's mind.

"I had always looked at the Boat Race as far beyond my reach not just as an athlete but to be involved in it," says Chambers modestly.

"I feel privileged to work in this environment with such an incredible coaching staff and someone like chief coach Steve Trapmore who I can learn so much from and someone as an athlete that I would have looked up to.

"Also the athletes as well, they are an incredible bunch. They are driven and passionate and listening to them you can't help but be inspired by them.

"The Boat Race is so unique. It is two university crews, it is over a four and a quarter mile course which is three times as long as the Olympic course and you have all the elements of mother nature and the River Thames coming into it. In one race you can get so many different situations. It can be calm or incredibly rough and you have to prepare crews for that.

"Cambridge Boat Club have one aim each year and that is to beat Oxford in the Boat Race. People have this perception that it is very upper class and all public schoolboy, but when you are in the middle of it there is a different feel to it.

"The facilities are good but not incredible at Goldie Boat House where we do our land training.

"Guys rock up from all different corners of the world, from America, Germany, Austria and Australia and there are lots of British guys as well.

"They come here because they want to row in the Boat Race and beat Oxford. That's what they talk about and what has to be done to beat Oxford.

"These are young guys who are students and they could go off and live the student life but the age of 19, 20, 21 and even the post-graduate students at 25, 26 they are showing some serious discipline and commitment to give the socialising up so that they train, take part in the Boat Race and beat Oxford University.

"No other Boat Race in the world is like it and everyone knows about it."

Chambers won't just be coaching. He will learn other skills in his new role.

"Once the guys start term in October it will be training in the morning and training in the afternoon and in between that there will be a lot to do with administration," says the two-time World champion.

"I'll have to make sure the equipment is in good order. I have a trailer driving course next week when I'll be learning how to drive with a trailer and doing boat repairs. We are not just coaches. We have to maintain the upkeep of the Boat House as well. We have to do a bit of everything."

It will be a far cry when all was done for him and his team-mates competing for Team GB.

Chambers has many wonderful memories to reflect on.

"The big one is London 2012 and winning the silver medal, both for good and bad reasons. I'll always be an Olympic silver medallist and will always have that medal and the memories of that day, but we were also so close to the gold," he says.

"Becoming World champion was special. The race in 2010 in New Zealand when there were five crews within one second of each other and we won it by something like 0.07s was incredible and also the first time I became a World champion in 2007 was fantastic.

"My first ever GB vest was at Under-23 level and that was the start for me. I never realised that it would be the start of a long career and it proves to people that they can achieve a great deal. I was a nobody in the world of rowing but with hard work, effort and application it shows what can be done.

"I've had an opportunity to travel all around the world from Beijing to Rio with the Olympics and I also had the opportunity to compete in a home Olympic Games.

"Not many can say that and in London I was in the boat that won a medal with my brother Peter. That was great for our family."

Belfast Telegraph


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