Rowing continues at Team GB as the eight men’s bronze medalist appears to leave teammate out of the picture
Rowing continues within Team GB’s eighth squad as Ollie Wynne-Griffith appears to deliberately omit teammate Josh Bugajski from a celebratory social media post after criticizing ex-coach Jurgen Grobler
- Jurgen Grobler left British Rowing last year after a dispute over his contract
- Grobler’s tenure at Team GB was fraught with gold medals – but he caused division
- Josh Bugajski stood out for his absence in the photo of Ollie Wynne-Griffith
- Bugajski had accused Grobler of ‘destroying’ athletes with his training regimen
- Grobler’s biographer Hugh Matheson thinks younger rowers forced him to quit
- Sir Steve Redgrave was also advised not to join the coaching lineup in 2018
Chaos plunged into the toxic British rowing squad on Saturday, when former head coach Jurgen Grobler’s most outspoken critic appeared to have been cut out of a celebratory photo of their medal ceremony by his own teammate.
Josh Bugajski, who won bronze in the men’s eight on Friday, caused a rift among his fellow rowers when he accused Grobler of “destroying” athletes with his harsh training regimen.
But on Saturday, Ollie Wynne-Griffith, who was rowing the same boat, posted a photo to Instagram with the caption: ‘Pictured: Eight great guys. Olympic bronze medalists.”
Team GB placed third after a fiercely competitive men’s round of 16 at the Sea Forest Waterway
Tensions have risen between Josh Bugajski (far left) and Ollie Wynne-Griffith (sixth from left)
Wynne-Griffith posted this photo to Instagram and appeared to cut out teammate Bugajski
Bugajski, who is standing on the ceremonial pontoon at the end of the line, is cut out of view, leaving only seven rowers and helmsman Henry Fieldman in view.
This latest joust comes after Sportsmail learned that the Olympic squad was divided on whether Grobler should stay or go when the topic of his future aired about a year ago.
In the end, he was effectively pushed out last August, as the new hierarchy at British Rowing wouldn’t let him stay until the end of the postponed Tokyo Olympics – a one-year extension of his previous contract – and instead insisted that he moved to Paris 2024, by which time he would be 78.
It is understood that Grobler, who turned 75 on Saturday, has worked as an adviser to the French rowing team in the run-up to Tokyo and that the arrangement will be formalized in the coming weeks.
He would like to spend more time in that part of Europe because his son and family live in Switzerland.
“Jurgen would never agree to the length of the contract that was offered to him in name, and to demand that he accept those terms was like putting a gun to his head,” a source told this newspaper.
Jurgen Grobler (front) oversaw a successful but divisive spell at the head of British Rowing
“They wanted him out and wanted to change the ethos from a hardcore approach that he stood for and a more modern and what they call ‘transparent’ way of working. Yes, it was part of the so-called culture war.’
The direct result for Great Britain here is 14th in the rowing medal table, with just one silver and one bronze to show for £24.6 million in National Lottery funding.
Great Britain led the list at the last three Olympic Games. France finished fifth in the standings.
Writing in The Mail on Sunday, Hugh Matheson, Grobler’s biographer and Olympic silver medalist in eighth in Montreal in 1976, wondered if the younger members of the squad had expelled the German.
Hugh Matheson has wondered if some of the youngsters on the team forced Grobler to quit
“The younger athletes who have Paris 2024 in their sights, along with some less likely to make it to the team this time around, wanted immediate regime change.
“Those older and more successful rowers for whom Tokyo was the last hurrah, wanted Grobler’s hand on their shoulders through to the podium.”
Grobler was the most powerful man in British rowing, working with the respected former performance director Sir David Tanner, since coming to the country in 1991 and coaching Sir Steve Redgrave to his last three of five Olympic gold medals.
But he was a controversial choice, given his background in the state-sponsored doping program of his native East Germany.
Sir Steve Redgrave was advised against joining Team GB’s coaching lineup three years ago
Current director of rowing Brendan Purcell, along with Steve Trapmore, has redesigned a team that was in charge of the eight, one of four ‘head Olympic coaches’ with specific but limited responsibilities.
Intriguingly, Redgrave was interested in taking on Purcell’s role three years ago, but was told his application would not be to the liking.
Purcell denies that the rowers were consulted about Grobler’s position. “Sometimes you have to make that phone call,” he said.