When photos of James Cracknell appeared last week in which he kissed his new, blonde – and younger – girlfriend just weeks after his divorce from his 17-year-old wife, critics quickly claimed he was showing all the classic signs of a midlife crisis.
But today, the double Olympic gold medalist and star of the upcoming series Strictly Come Dancing claims in a screaming honest interview that the truth is much more complex.
The 47-year-old reveals how a devastating brain injury that left him in a coma for five days, changed his personality and struggled to confront him and his wife Beverley Turner.
He insists that their marriage had been broken for some time before the couple announced their divorce in March of this year. Their divorce was completed in July.
& # 39; I would have left myself long before we parted, & # 39; admits the father of three. & # 39; I don't think I could have kept it as long as she did.
& # 39; Bev really had a hard time. She had one husband for the first eight years we were married and a very, very different one for the rest.
James Cracknell opened his split of wife Beverley Turner in a painfully honest interview
Cracknell insists that his marriage had been broken for some time before the couple announced their divorce in March of this year
& # 39; Maybe I didn't take them [the marital problems] seriously enough and there were improvements that I should have made. I thought it would be good to go out of the storm.
& # 39; The reality is that when I started thinking, & # 39; OK, I really have to do something here & # 39 ;, Bev had already done so much trouble that she was done understandably.
& # 39; It's hard if you have three children. It's hard to find the time to talk and if you don't open up and show how you really feel – what I was doing – then it's hard to live in that situation. & # 39;
The responsibility for the split, he says, was to both of them: & If I am completely honest and would ask if one of us was the best versions of ourselves, I would say no.
& # 39; I think I was a better version of myself in the last year of our marriage and Bev was the best version of myself in the two years before, which was not ideal.
& # 39; We made an effort, no one more than them, but unfortunately they didn't coincide. That was poor planning on my part. & # 39;
The couple's nightmare began in 2010 when James was hit from behind by a truck while cycling in Arizona while making a documentary for the Discovery Channel.
He broke his skull and caused a brain injury and epilepsy that both stay with him. His personality had also changed dramatically, affecting his temperament, memory and concentration.
The responsibility for the split, he says, was up to both of them: & # 39; If I am completely honest and would ask if one of us was the best versions of ourselves, I would say no & # 39;
The rower, who won gold medals at the 2000 and 2004 Olympic Games in Sydney and Athens, says that 80 percent of those suffering from a brain injury will get a divorce, but adds that he and Beverley & # 39; were determined not to to be statistics & # 39 ;.
That was until James decided in 2018 to become an adult student and enroll in an MPhil in Human Evolution at Peterhouse College, Cambridge. He also decided to try the Boat Race and became the oldest winner in his history in April when he took his place on the Cambridge team.
There is no James argument that Beverley – the mother of his three children, Croyde, 15, Kiki, ten and eight-year-old Trixie – had the patience of a saint.
Even after he announced he was leaving his family to study, she fought hard to save their marriage.
James says he believed going to college was a chance to & # 39; press the reset button & # 39 ;. & # 39; I knew we were in trouble & # 39 ;, he says. & # 39; It was our last die, to have time away [apart], to show that the reasons why we liked each other in the beginning were still there.
There is no James argument that Beverley had the patience of a saint. Catherine Tyldesley with James on the stage of the launch show & # 39; Strictly Come Dancing & # 39;
& # 39; But that didn't happen because we parted so soon after my departure [to Cambridge]. In reality [the marriage] was already broken. I think the reality is that I had to do something else.
& # 39; I didn't want to go and do a repeat of what I had previously done in terms of the physical thing. I wanted to challenge myself mentally, but I underestimated how broken it was for both of us, deep down.
& # 39; I don't think I had enough time to talk about it. I underestimated the amount of work [the course] that would last academically, and I underestimated how interesting it was. I knew that it would be a difficult year, but I believed that on my return I would be different, more the person Bev wanted, and that we needed a break from each other.
& # 39; I think Bev felt ignored because I just lived my own life, a bit like a tenant, there are but not present.
& # 39; That wasn't fair to her or the kids, so I wanted to press the reset button. But once you're too far downstream, it's hard to come back.
& # 39; Then she was suddenly home with three children and I was gone. The reality is that you don't want the kids to hear rows. They are old enough to remember that, so if we can separate amicable ways, that's the best way to do it. & # 39;
His new love is the American financier Jordan Connell, presumably in her early 30s, who he met in Cambridge.
Last Saturday afternoon, Strictly star James Cracknell, 47, confirmed his relationship with new girlfriend Jordan Connell
Photos of the couple – published last Sunday by The Mail – showed them passionately walking and kissing in a park in London near the home of James.
The romance is all the more refreshing, he says, because Jordan had no idea who he was, or about the brain injury – or & # 39; hidden illness & # 39; as he puts it – that his marriage torpedoed. The relationship seems serious and stable, so much so that Jordan wants to move from New York to London in the coming months when her new boyfriend starts filming for Strictly.
& # 39; It's an absolutely new chapter in my life & # 39 ;, he says. & # 39; It's great with Jordan. I was lucky in Cambridge that I had met many people that I would not normally have met, but I never thought it would be my girlfriend.
It was great that I met her because I was so busy. I got up at 6 am to go rowing every morning and the rest of my time I was buried in books. I have never read so much in my life.
& # 39; What I found really refreshing is that Jordan, because she's from New York, had no idea of rowing. She knew nothing about it.
& # 39; She treated me the way I was. She had no knowledge of me or anything I had experienced in the last eight years – although she soon learned that I am nonsense in answering my phone.
& # 39; It is very nice to be with Jordan and I am very lucky.
James Cracknell cuddles with the American financier Jordan Connell, whom he met while studying philosophy at Cambridge
& # 39; But I feel even happier to have three great kids who have a great mother. & # 39;
James & # 39; comments about his marriage are still tinged with grief.
& # 39; No one is the same person after 17 years of marriage as on the first day & # 39 ;, he says.
& # 39; But if you live with it long enough and if one or both of you loses the belief that it will get better, then it is terminal.
& # 39; Ultimately, you think: do you want to grow old with this person? Do you like the same things when you go on vacation?
& # 39; For me it was always about the destination, not the journey. For Bev, the opposite is the case. & # 39;
James says the accident caused him and his ex-wife & # 39; a bad hand & # 39; has worried, but accepts that most relationships & # 39; bad hands & # 39; to experience. The couple remains on good terms, while Beverley yesterday defended her ex-husband against claims that he has a midlife crisis that is popping up strictly. The TV and radio presenter, 45, tweette: & # 39; This is really unfair. He is a driven man. Olympians can't just sit still! He will always set goal after goal. He is just an athlete doing a reality show. & # 39;
James says the accident caused him and his ex-wife & # 39; a bad hand & # 39; has worried, but accepts that most relationships & # 39; bad hands & # 39; to experience
Meanwhile, James says he still has to figure out what the new family dynamic will be. Since the split, he has moved to his own flat a few miles from his former marital home in Chiswick, West London, which is close enough to really help.
& # 39; The most important thing is the bond with my children & # 39 ;, he says. & # 39; Figure out what works.
& # 39; It is very difficult to wake up and your children & # 39; not immediately visible in the morning, so we have to find that new normal, that new dynamic between us. Ten months was not always to live at home. Since the accident I have spent so much time there with the children and that will never be the default again.
& # 39; That is very difficult, but then you make so much better every day when you are with them.
& # 39; That is something that I have to learn in the coming months – although they are so ashamed of me [on Strictly]. I'm not sure how much they want to see. & # 39;
James admits that the accident has caused him a major trauma. Three years later he lived in a world that doctors described Beverley as & # 39; Planet James & # 39 ;. It was a place where he would often forget details from the previous day and felt that people were talking to me very loudly and very slowly, as if I were French & # 39 ;.
& # 39; I was like, & # 39; I understand you, but I will not remember the conversation tomorrow, & he said. & # 39; I would not remember meeting them the next day. I have a very good memory until the accident, but I have no memory of the event or weeks and months thereafter.
Photos of the couple – published last Sunday by The Mail – showed them passionately walking and kissing in a park in London near James & # 39; s house
& # 39; I didn't really have many memories of 2010, but I do know that I have become more stubborn, selfish and committed. The two areas of the brain that were really hit were the right side and the front. I didn't have a lot of social filter or a lot of capacity to plan and organize – high executive position – and that was part of the problem.
& # 39; I was misunderstood. It is a misunderstood disease, a hidden disease that really affects people around you, and it definitely bothers Bev. & # 39;
James is now vice president of Headway, a charity that supports people with brain injuries and to which he has asked The Mail Sunday to make a donation.
However, the accident does not seem to have upset him – he was recently seen on a Honda VFR800F engine as he left the BBC studios after the strict launch party in White City.
Former England goalkeeper David James, TV Anneka Rice and former Coronation Street star Catherine Tyldesley are also among the line-up for the show, which starts next weekend.
& # 39; I am a good dancer at certain times of the night, but the show is not on then, it's a bit early, & # 39; he jokes.
His reason to sign up, he says, is to mark a new chapter in his life. He wants to learn how to let himself go, not want to win at all costs and – more importantly – learn not to worry about showing weakness or vulnerability.
He says that Beverley supports his decision to continue strictly, although & # 39; the kids like & # 39; No! & # 39;
Only time will tell if this Dad Dancer had listened better to his children.
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