Olympic champion calls for more sport in schools

“Two gold medals don’t get you a job,” said Andrew Triggs Hodge yesterday. PHILIP BARKER reports from the SJA’s latest BT Sport-sponsored sporting lunch, held in a Thames-side pub 10 days before the Boat Race

Andrew Triggs Hodge
Andrew Triggs Hodge made a call at the SJA lunch for more and better schools sport. Photo by Andrew Redington/Getty Images

Double Olympic champion rower Andy Triggs Hodge caught the election mood yesterday with a challenge to the next government to make sure those of school age have proper access to sport.

“If education ministers understood the role of sport, then the whole participation thing would be turned around. If they don’t address it, kids’ participation in sport will suffer,” he said.

Triggs Hodge, who was part of the Olympic gold medal-winning crews at the 2008 and 2012 Games, is a proud member of Molesey Boat Club, which has tried to encourage youngsters in local state schools to take up rowing.

“Kids who started it changed their outlook on education and everything. Rowing relies on life skills and to see those kids transform as juniors was marvellous,” Triggs Hodge told the guests over lunch in a Chiswick pub.

Even so, Triggs Hodge admits that his club and British sport as a whole were not ready for the huge wave of enthusiasm which followed the London Olympics. “Molesey had to turn kids away. Our facilities were full, our boats were maxed out, our time on the water maxed out, we just could not take any more.”

Triggs Hodge is convinced that his sport must try and emulate cycling in a drive to increase participation. “The sport needs to change to really open the doors for participation. We rely on the clubs too much. It comes down to funding,” he said.

Triggs Hodge recently announced that he would not be racing in 2015, following a recurrence of glandular fever. But he is set to join the commentary team for the University Boat Race on April 11. It is an event which keeps rowing in the media spotlight and attracts huge crowds along the Thames, from Putney to Mortlake.

On his way to victory: Trigss Hodge stroking the GB coxless four to another wor
On his way to victory: Triggs Hodge stroking the GB coxless four to another Olympic gold

A member of a winning Boat Race crew in 2005, Triggs Hodge recognises that for some, the appeal is hard to fathom. “In the grand scheme of things the Boat Race has never had any relevance. It was set up purely between Oxford and Cambridge and even if it was sealed off from the rest of the world, it would still exist. It has now become public and blown up into this huge event.

“I don’t think it is fair to call it elitist. There’s a broad range of society, especially with the women coming on. It sends a good message, that is you can train hard when you are young and not sacrifice academic work.

“People watch it because it is something different. If they have someone at schools saying why don’t you come down and have a go, it might be the spark that encourages them.”

At 35 years old, after a season off the water, Triggs Hodge faces a race against time to be in contention for a spot in the Great Britain crew for the Rio Olympics. “To take such a long time off the sport has a big impact. I still love training and I have missed that dearly. The winter is the time we make our biggest gains. If you are coming back like Katherine Grainger, you need one winter to bed-in the training load and the second to push on. I will only have one winter and you have got to be careful, if you overdo it it is not too hard to relapse.”

Triggs Hodge’s young son Sebastian has been a compensation in his time away from the sport and he admits that priorities have changed as he contemplates a career after sporting retirement. “I’ve been a full-time dad and seen how small the rowing bubble is and when you take a peek outside, it is quite mind-blowing. It has been invigorating.”

As part of the hugely successful four which maintained Britain’s golden sequence of success in the event for a fifth successive Games, he is all too aware of a selection policy which has little room for sentiment. “Christmas is the cut off. If I were to relapse two months from the Olympics, that really shafts the crew. If I am not in position to make the boat go faster, I do not deserve to be in the crew. If I don’t earn that place I would not want to take someone else’s seat.

“I was lucky I had London. Rowing had Siemens, which it wouldn’t have had and I had personal sponsors because they wanted to be associated with a London Games. I am in a so much better position than so many guys but although two gold medals opens doors, it doesn’t get you a job after the Games.”


Mon Apr 13: SJA Spring Golf Day, Wimbledon Park GC. Booking details here

Tue Apr 21: Young sports journalists social event, Covent Garden

Wed Apr 22: SJA 2015 annual meeting. Details have been sent to all SJA members

Wed May 13: SJA York Races Day, sponsored by Ladbrokes, at the Dante Festival. Click here to book your places

Tue May 26: Young sports journalists social event, Covent Garden

Tue July 14: Young sports journalists social event, Covent Garden

Mon Sep 14: SJA Autumn Golf Day, Muswell Hill Golf Club