Paul Thompson MBE, Chief Coach for Women leaves British Rowing

After nearly 18 years with British Rowing, Paul Thompson MBE has stepped down as Chief Coach for Women as he looks to focus on the next chapter of his coaching career, including continuing his work with GB hockey and the newly established UK Performance Coaches Association


(c) Naomi Baker

Paul Thompson MBE has stepped down as Chief Coach for Women after nearly 18 years with British Rowing.

During Thompson’s tenure his GB Rowing Team squads have had outstanding success. At the London 2012 Olympics, the Women and Lightweights Squad’s results alone, three gold and two silver medals, would have topped the overall rowing medal table.

Great Britain was also the top performing women’s rowing nation at both the London 2012 and Rio 2016 games. Amongst these results were a host of firsts including Great Britain’s first lightweight men’s gold medal at Beijing 2008, the first women’s gold medals at London 2012 and Great Britain’s first Olympic medal in the women’s eight at Rio 2016.

As Lead Coach for Women and subsequently Chief Coach for Women and Lightweights, Thompson has overseen or coached 14 Olympic medal winning crews for Great Britain. He coached Dame Katherine Grainger for 15 years, as she went on to win five Olympic medals making her Great Britain’s most decorated female Olympian.

Thompson has personally coached crews to win medals at each of the last six Olympic Games for Great Britain and Australia.

Paul Thompson said: “It has been the most incredible 18 years of my life. It has been challenging and extremely rewarding, as well as a team effort. It is such an honour and privilege to lead, coach and work with the most phenomenal group of talented athletes, incredibly gifted coaches, outstanding support staff and dedicated administrators of the GB Rowing Team; I owe them so much. However, for me, it feels like this is the right time to move on and look for my next challenge.”

“This gives me the chance to spend more time with the family and the opportunity to focus on the next chapter in my career, including my work with GB Hockey and the new UK Performance Coaches Association.”

“With two medals in 2017 and a host of A finals in 2018 from a new squad, fabulous coaches and support staff, I am confident that Great Britain’s women rowers will perform with distinction, creating their own legacy, leading into and at the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games.”

Brendan Purcell, Director of Performance at British Rowing said: “Paul has overseen remarkable success during his time with the GB Rowing Team. He has worked tirelessly to support so many athletes achieve their dreams on the international stage.

“We have worked through this decision together and we are both confident that the squad and the coaches are in the best possible place at this stage in the cycle as we head towards Tokyo 2020.

“With Paul moving on, we will take this opportunity to review the set-up of the women’s squad to ensure we have the right structure in place for Paris 2024 and beyond.”

Andy Parkinson, CEO of British Rowing said: “Under Paul’s leadership, the women’s squad have delivered many world-leading and memorable performances on the water at the biggest competitions, inspiring many to take their first step into rowing.

“On behalf of all the staff, I’m hugely grateful for the contribution Paul has made to both the GB Rowing Team and, more widely, the development of women’s rowing in this country and we wish him all the best for the future.”

Thompson was awarded an MBE in the 2013 New Year’s Honours for his services to rowing and the London 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games; he is a recipient of an Australian Sports Medal and was World Rowing’s Coach of the Year in 2007. Thompson recently begun his post as Independent Non-Executive Director at GB Hockey.

Anna Watkins, who won gold alongside Dame Katherine Grainger at London 2012, said: “I was fortunate enough to spend my entire rowing career with ‘Tommo’ at the helm. As a young athlete, I remember the huge learning curve as I worked to meet his high standards. He taught me that the two key ingredients for success were performance and consistency, which I struggled to maintain in the teeth of his training programme, but then found I was able to break world records on the ergo and win medals on the world stage.

“As my crew coach for London 2012, he worked out every aspect of what I needed to do to perform at my best and then created the environment for that to happen. I went out to race at the Olympics confident that we were the best prepared team on the water and we went on to prove that.

“I will always be grateful to Paul, for the lessons learned both on and off the water, which have been incredibly valuable to me, not only when competing but in life beyond. I wish him every success in his next steps.”

Jess Eddie, who won silver in the women’s eight at Rio 2016 said: “Paul has been a fundamental driving force within the British women’s team for the entirety of my international career.

“He raised the bar for British women’s rowing, and under his programme and leadership created the strongest team in the world. His expertise and enduring quest for knowledge and learning put him at the top of the tree in his field of coaching, leading the team on to many memorable and historic Olympic medals.

“Paul’s hard work and relentless drive to get the most out of those around him and his athletes has brought the British women’s rowers onto the world stage, where we now expect to bring back multiple Olympic medals. His dedication and commitment to British Rowing is exemplary, and he will leave some big shoes to fill.

“He expects a lot from his athletes, and he certainly challenged me to get the most out of myself; something I will be eternally grateful for. I wish Paul the very best for his future career.”

UK Sport Director of Performance Chelsea Warr said: “On behalf of UK Sport and the wider High Performance System I would like to thank Paul for his huge contribution to the GB Rowing Team across nearly two decades.

“Paul has overseen phenomenal success including Great Britain becoming the top performing women’s rowing nation at both London 2012 and Rio 2016. Paul has supported and enabled so many aspiring rowers to pursue their sporting dreams, many proudly going on to represent their country and inspiring us all.

“Paul leaves an impressive legacy in British Rowing, one that I know the programme will continue to build on towards Tokyo and beyond.”

Mark England, Chef de Mission at the British Olympic Association said: “Paul has had a huge influence and impact on the success of British Rowing, and indeed Team GB, at the Olympic Games.

“His record speaks for itself and any coach of his calibre will be missed, but we wish him well and hope he remains a strong ally of the British Olympic Association (BOA).

“On behalf of the BOA I would like to thank Paul for all that he has done for sport in this country.”