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James Cracknell

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

James Cracknell
Cracknell in August 2009
Personal information
Born (1972-05-05) 5 May 1972 (age 47)
Sutton, London, England
ResidenceLondon, England
Alma materKingston Grammar School

University of Reading

Peterhouse, Cambridge
Height1.93 m (6 ft 4 in)
Weight98 kg (216 lb)
Beverly Turner (m. 2002–2019)
CountryGreat Britain
SportMen's rowing
Event(s)Coxless fours
ClubLeander Club
Coached byJürgen Gröbler
Mark Banks

James Edward Cracknell, OBE (born 5 May 1972) is a British athlete, rowing champion and double Olympic gold medalist. He was married to TV and radio presenter Beverley Turner, he and his wife have three children.[1] Cracknell was appointed OBE for "services to sport" in the 2005 New Year Honours List.

YouTube Encyclopedic

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  • ✪ James Cracknell & Beverley Turner: "Touching Distance" | Talks at Google
  • ✪ James Cracknell - Anything is Possible


MATT BRITTIN: So let's give a very warm Google welcome to James Cracknell and Beverley Turner, please. Welcome. [APPLAUSE] MATT BRITTIN: Have a seat on the comfy chairs-- BEVERLEY TURNER: Thank you. MATT BRITTIN: --here with us. So welcome to Google. BEVERLEY TURNER: Thank you. MATT BRITTIN: And it's the first time we've met. But James and I met a little bit when I was crashing out of the bottom of the British rowing team as he was escalating his way up towards a couple of gold medals. So it's very nice to welcome you. BEVERLEY TURNER: We want to work here. MATT BRITTIN: You want to work here? [LAUGHTER] JAMES CRACKNELL: No, you don't want to work. You just want to have a [INAUDIBLE]. BEVERLEY TURNER: Yeah. I don't want to work here. I just want to have lunch here and use the library and the gym and sleep in the library. [LAUGHTER] BEVERLEY TURNER: Obviously, no. MATT BRITTIN: Don't give anybody ideas. That's not what we want them to do. So maybe we could start the conversation with-- and we'll give everybody a chance to have a chat with you as well. But we were just looking at some video there, which was, I think, the beginning of James' race across America, which is when he had a bike accident. We'll talk about that as well. But Beverley, just tell us a bit about what that was. What stage in your life was that? And what was James doing? BEVERLEY TURNER: Funny enough, James has never seen that. So that was actually the first he's ever seen that. I was actually giving birth the day that transmitted on television. So I vaguely remember watching it. When he was actually doing the trip in America, it was July 2010. And it was a coast to coast trip for the Discovery Channel, could he be the quickest man to go under his own steam using Olympic disciplines, because it was 2012 as well. So running, cycling, rowing and then swimming to the Statue of Liberty, that was the plan. Anyway, he got as far as Arizona and then ended up spending a month in hospital, which was definitely not the plan. JAMES CRACKNELL: Odd that you should laugh whilst saying that. [LAUGHTER] BEVERLEY TURNER: It's just so ludicrous, really. So we're two and a half years out from the accident. MATT BRITTIN: So two and a half years later. And James, you were watching that for the first time. You haven't seen that footage before. Do you remember much of it? Or how much do you remember before? JAMES CRACKNELL: I remember that was the bit as it was going into the round. I remember that stage of it. I remember actually right up to where I got hit by the truck. So we left from Santa Monica Pier, which is the end of Route 66. So I got into Death Valley. And then I was running through Death Valley, which is about 75, 80 miles, and then back on the bike, up Route 66 to Lake Erie. And then I was going to row Lake Erie. And so I can remember the bit of Death Valley was just-- I think, it's just been re-awarded the hottest temperature ever recorded on earth. And it was 50 degrees. Even at night it was 40 degrees. And I think it probably went on to say that I consumed on the run, which took about, maybe, though 18, 20 hours, something like that-- MATT BRITTIN: So that was 18, 20 hours to run how far is that, really? Is that three marathons? JAMES CRACKNELL: I said between 75 and 80, I think. MATT BRITTIN: 80 miles? BEVERLEY TURNER: It was three back-to-back marathons. JAMES CRACKNELL: Yeah. I wasn't [INAUDIBLE] pacing it. MATT BRITTIN: OK. [LAUGHTER] JAMES CRACKNELL: It was more fairly steady. But still, I drank 35 liters of fluid in that time and still lost eight kilos. It's just so hot. And you get running past signs that are minus 100 meters below sea level. And don't stop, turn your air conditioning off. Though I actually hadn't any when I was running. But it is a pretty brutal place, considering it's developed country. BEVERLEY TURNER: Horrible. Horrible. I was actually there to watch him finish the run stage, which is unusual, because any of the trips that he normally does are so remote that you can't be there to give him a hug, because he crossed the finish line in the South Pole or whatever it is. MATT BRITTIN: But this was near Vegas. [LAUGHTER] BEVERLEY TURNER: Yeah. MATT BRITTIN: So this one-- BEVERLEY TURNER: You spotted that one. I like that. Yeah. So I'd had a weekend in Vegas-- [LAUGHS] MATT BRITTIN: Yeah. BEVERLEY TURNER: --and then drove into Death Valley. But there's no mobile signal. It is appropriately named Death Valley. It's brutal. It's a horrible environment to be in. And James was at the peak of his physical fitness, I would say. I think, even as a rower for all those years and having won two Olympic gold medals, I think he was at his physical peak, actually, at-- what was that, 38 years old. About 38? Yeah. JAMES CRACKNELL: Yeah. as I mentioned, I was piggy backing of two guys who were pretty good. So otherwise, you're running on your own. MATT BRITTIN: Yeah, we're not buying that. [LAUGHTER] MATT BRITTIN: We'll come onto what you've been doing subsequently in a minute. But just fill in the blanks a bit for me, James. So when I knew you, you were sleeping on people's floors and eating baked beans out of a can and trying to break into-- BEVERLEY TURNER: Oh, he still does that. [LAUGHTER] MATT BRITTIN: --trying to break into the British rowing team. You then had a couple of Olympics which were frustrating for you. And then you won a couple of Olympic gold medals. And people will probably know that about you. So just tell us a bit about that you won Olympic gold medals. And then you became this bold adventurer type with that slightly camp guy from the TV. BEVERLEY TURNER: Yeah. JAMES CRACKNELL: [LAUGHS] MATT BRITTIN: So what happened? JAMES CRACKNELL: Yeah. No, thanks. That's a good snapshot of-- BEVERLEY TURNER: It's your CV, right? JAMES CRACKNELL: Yeah. No. I think retiring from sport is difficult. You only need to look at the last five or six weeks as to what's happened to people you think should be happy who came back for different reasons. Take Michael Schumacher. Why would someone come back who'd won that match. And then not come back in the team that could have given him the opportunity to win. You take Ricky Hatton who struggled after retiring and didn't go out in the way he wanted after fighting many [INAUDIBLE]. You take Freddie Flintoff. He didn't retire on his own terms, because of injury and not looking after it. So he went back into the boxing ring. I think it is really hard to retire and come to terms with the decision. And a psychologist told me that it takes you two years to genuinely retire and not look at sport in the same way and think, oh, I wish I could do that. And so I managed to not compete for a year after the Athens Olympics. And you get invited to parties for about a week after the Olympics. And then the invites go rrr. And I was at all these parties when the slightly camp bloke from the TV comes up-- I hope you're not watching Google, Ben-- and said, I'm going to do a rowing race across the Atlantic. Do you want to do it with me? I was like, can you row? He goes, no. I go, no, no, no. And then I realized that I didn't have a goal for the first time in a long time. And I thought about it for a month. And I thought, actually, it might be a really good distraction. And it gave me time to think about whether I wanted to row in the Beijing Olympics or not. MATT BRITTIN: So at that stage, you were still thinking you probably would? JAMES CRACKNELL: I was thinking because of that run up to Athens with a whole lot of injuries. And I went from a two-man boat to the four-man boat. And as far as our first race as the four-man boat, was the Olympics. So I just wasn't ready to commit to another four years straightaway. And that's the real difference, is this. MATT BRITTIN: By then, you were already a couple. BEVERLEY TURNER: Yeah. JAMES CRACKNELL: We had a 10-month-old little boy at that stage. MATT BRITTIN: So you've seen James go through the Olympics. BEVERLEY TURNER: Yeah. MATT BRITTIN: And win the second medal, yeah. BEVERLEY TURNER: Yeah. I think the word you're looking for is "supported" James going through the Olympics. [LAUGHS] MATT BRITTIN: Supported. BEVERLEY TURNER: Not seen. MATT BRITTIN: OK. BEVERLEY TURNER: Yeah. MATT BRITTIN: Tell us more about that. [LAUGHTER] BEVERLEY TURNER: You know it's hard being the partner of an Olympian is really hard. I watched London 2012. And you see Mo Farah's wife there on the sidelines. When he's won, she'll just look so wonderful. And I just thought, oh, you've been through hell, haven't you? Because the big sacrifices that the Olympians inevitably have to make, it's everything. It's the complete focus of their life. And so, as the partner, you're standing going, come on. When is this Olympic final? Let's get it over with. And then we can get on with our life. And James obviously won the gold medal. That was all marvelous. And then he said he was going to row across the Atlantic for two months, which was not what I had in mind at all. I was thinking maybe a holiday or spend some time as a family, because we'd actually spent very little time as a family. So I was really hacked off about it. And Ben Fogle's wife was very supportive. JAMES CRACKNELL: I didn't enjoy it, if that's any consolation to you. BEVERLEY TURNER: No. You hated it. Actually, I liked the fact that you didn't enjoy it. [LAUGHTER] BEVERLEY TURNER: But when he came back, it was actually the best thing he'd ever done. MATT BRITTIN: It was? BEVERLEY TURNER: It was the best thing he ever did. Yeah, it was. MATT BRITTIN: Why was that? Why do you say that? BEVERLEY TURNER: Because, as James was saying, as a sportsman, I think, when you're retiring or you're trying to work out what you're going to do with the rest of your life, when you're in your 30s, it's such an identity crisis because what do you do? How do you go from living such an exciting and demanding and challenging day to day existence and all the adulation that comes with winning an Olympic gold medal? JAMES CRACKNELL: Matt rowed, by the way. So you realize that's not how it is at all. [LAUGHTER] JAMES CRACKNELL: Yeah. The adulation really did not happen. MATT BRITTIN: I certainly don't remember any adulation. JAMES CRACKNELL: No. [LAUGHTER] MATT BRITTIN: So not necessarily quite so successful. BEVERLEY TURNER: But you know James can't sit still long enough to do a job like you do, Matt. That's the difference, is he needed to be on the move. And so actually, to have this trip, which made him decide what he wants to do. And he wanted to make his hobbies into his job, which is to do this kind of thing. MATT BRITTIN: So he found this by chance, thanks to a chance conversation at a party. BEVERLEY TURNER: Yeah, with Ben. Yeah. And then, obviously, raced to the South Pole and did all the various marathons and stuff like that. MATT BRITTIN: It seems to be there's an important difference between being a supportive wife watching somebody trying to win an Olympic gold medal and waiting for him to phone in that he's crossed the Atlantic in a rowing boat. And that is what's the worst that can go wrong in a rowing race is, well, you might not get the medal. I know about that. It's not quite the same thing as the danger that is being at sea. BEVERLEY TURNER: Yeah, it's funny though. MATT BRITTIN: And since then, he's done lots of dangerous things, right? BEVERLEY TURNER: Yeah, but they're not really dangerous. He's not a base jumper. [LAUGHTER] BEVERLEY TURNER: I know it sounds a bit crazy, but I'm such a safety girl. I'm a seat belt and a condom type of girl, and not at the same time. JAMES CRACKNELL: We have three children. That's not [INAUDIBLE]. BEVERLEY TURNER: Yeah. Clearly not. MATT BRITTIN: Not always. BEVERLEY TURNER: But I've always been-- JAMES CRACKNELL: But statistically unlucky. BEVERLEY TURNER: From being very young, I've always been about self-preservation and safety. MATT BRITTIN: I think that should be the title of your next book. [LAUGHTER] MATT BRITTIN: "Seat Belts and Condoms." BEVERLEY TURNER: "Seat Belt and a Condom." And so I'm quite careful. And so, for me-- JAMES CRACKNELL: Well, not really. [LAUGHTER] MATT BRITTIN: Keep going. Keep going. We're with you. BEVERLEY TURNER: So anyway, I actually always worried more when he went on his bicycle. MATT BRITTIN: Right. BEVERLEY TURNER: For me, that was the most frightening thing. MATT BRITTIN: Just in around London. BEVERLEY TURNER: Just going out of the door on his bicycle. Or he used to ride a motor bike. I had much more of a problem with that than I did-- because with all of these trips there are safety measures in place. And the Atlantic row was probably, actually, the most dangerous. JAMES CRACKNELL: Yeah. I think the things that I've done, they may be remote, but it's going to be your mistake that is a problem. The Atlantic is slightly different, because there are tankers that are on auto-pilot. And you need to make sure you're aware of it. BEVERLEY TURNER: [LAUGHS] Now you tell me. JAMES CRACKNELL: But the South Pole, it's generally a deserted environment. It's your decision in the environment. Whereas, on a public highway, you are liable to other people making mistakes. You can't control the people's behavior, if that be on a street in London or a train or a plane or on a road. Whereas, in the South Pole, there may be a knocked off penguin. But it's, pretty much, everything else is going to be down to you. MATT BRITTIN: Yes. BEVERLEY TURNER: Yeah. MATT BRITTIN: So you did the rowing across the Atlantic thing. You did the South Pole expedition. I think quite a few people have seen that on the TV, the documentary that you made there which, again, looked like very, very tough conditions. JAMES CRACKNELL: Tough conditions, yeah. It was tough in that the temperature was not very nice. It's not an easy place to go, because everything takes so much longer to do. MATT BRITTIN: In the TV show, it looked like you also-- the difference between James Cracknell as a somewhat extreme Olympian and the other more regular guys in the team, it certainly looked like you were pushing it harder than the-- I've read the book. And I think your view is that you were portrayed in a little bit of an extreme way in that, in terms of [INAUDIBLE]. JAMES CRACKNELL: Yeah. I think, in terms of-- you know as well. In a sports environment, you end up racing a boat and training with eight people. And your thoughts and opinions may be here and here, either end of the scale. But there's always the target, which is to win. And so that brings you back together. Whereas, if you're with people whose end goal is not the same-- well, it's to get there, but not get there as quick as you can-- there isn't that same focal point to bring you back together. So it was very useful for me in terms of learning how to work with other people. But there's a mentality of a elite or full-time sportsman that is different from some people. You think, well, Bev, you've come to a few Olympic receptions that we've been to. And I didn't take this quite as positively as she meant it. Well, I hope she meant it to be. She was like, show me a room of Olympic gold medalists, and I'll show you a room full of insecure people. [LAUGHTER] JAMES CRACKNELL: I was like, hm. BEVERLEY TURNER: It's true though, isn't it? MATT BRITTIN: It's true. BEVERLEY TURNER: It is true, isn't it? You know that. JAMES CRACKNELL: Sort of judging you basically-- [LAUGHTER] BEVERLEY TURNER: Come on. All you Olympic gold medalists, it's true. I think that there has to be something about wanting to prove yourself, prove yourself. But thank goodness. I did also say-- JAMES CRACKNELL: Or being judged by something other than yourself. MATT BRITTIN: Yep. JAMES CRACKNELL: Fulfillment and belief in yourself. MATT BRITTIN: I can see that. JAMES CRACKNELL: And judging by a kind of target of other people. BEVERLEY TURNER: It's an exterior kind of validation. MATT BRITTIN: Well, I guess that's your thing about finding your next thing which is going to validate you or give you the goal, et cetera. BEVERLEY TURNER: Exactly. JAMES CRACKNELL: Which I don't think is a particularly mentally healthy place to be. I think the guys I went with, Ben and Ed, they found self fulfillment in a different way, rather than it being something extra that is outside. MATT BRITTIN: Yeah. Just getting there would be fine for them. JAMES CRACKNELL: Yeah. MATT BRITTIN: But you wanted to get there and beat the Norweigians in your first attempt. JAMES CRACKNELL: Yeah. BEVERLEY TURNER: There won't be a second. JAMES CRACKNELL: Be rewarded. [LAUGHTER] JAMES CRACKNELL: But then we'd also said-- I'd taken the philosophy in training that, with me and with them, if we make it as uncomfortable and as hard as possible here, which I'll make it worse here than it is there, no day there is going to feel that bad. Whereas, if you don't train that hard before we go, it's going to be really horrible. If it's nasty, we're just going to go, oh! And we're miles from anywhere. MATT BRITTIN: So just on that point, I cycled in this morning through Richmond Park. And having read your book, I had in my mind the image of you climbing over the gate at Richmond Park with a bicycle tire, which you were then going to drag around the park in training for this event during the night so not to disturb the kids. JAMES CRACKNELL: Yeah. I have to say that-- MATT BRITTIN: That's what you were doing. JAMES CRACKNELL: Yeah. Yeah, because it's very hard to recreate pulling a sledge. So you basically drag a tire. Not a bicycle tire. It's more like a lorry tire. [LAUGHTER] JAMES CRACKNELL: But the reason I had to climb the fence is because every year they have a month where they cull the deer in Richmond Park. It's like eight miles around the outside. And so it's generally open 24 hours a day to people on bikes. So there's lots of weirdos cycling around at midnight. But then they have cars. And they obviously have proper jobs. And they can't get out during the day. And so they lock the gates then. So I had to climb over, drag this bloody tire over the fence, and then walk around. And every so often, you'd hear a crack of a rifle. [INAUDIBLE] So it's real lucky I didn't go in my antler hat. [LAUGHTER] JAMES CRACKNELL: So I was all right. And at that stage, you were pregnant with Ki Ki, weren't you? But we had a family and everything else. It was more beneficial to us, as a family, if I trained when the others were asleep. So do admit I was a bit of a weirdo going around the park in the middle of the night pulling a tire. BEVERLEY TURNER: It's true. I was just going to say, people said, obviously, all that training, he must be very selfish. And actually, he did used to be. But I think what James has managed to do quite well-- and I think anybody who works and has long hours-- is it's so hard to find any kind of time to put exercise or anything into your day. I don't really get to do any. But there was one night when he was training for the Marathon des Sables, which was another event that is on one of the DVDs, on the book, actually. And we'd been to a black tie event in London. And I was actually driving. And we came out. And James gets out of his suit and puts on his running gear. And it's midnight. And I said, what are you doing? He said, well, I'm going to run home. [LAUGHTER] BEVERLEY TURNER: So I drove down the A4 back out to Chiswick where we lived from the center of town. And James ran home. And I think he pretty much beat me there, I think. MATT BRITTIN: That's pretty normal. I used to do that all the time when I was pissed. [LAUGHTER] MATT BRITTIN: You just glossed over another thing that-- I want to move forward a bit. But just briefly, Marathon des Sables, James, how far do you run in that? JAMES CRACKNELL: It's a series of marathons in the Sahara desert. There's a marathon every day for six, seven days. And then, one day, they decide you do two marathons. But you carry all the food and everything you need for the week. MATT BRITTIN: It's literally over sand dunes, isn't it? JAMES CRACKNELL: Yeah, sand dunes and rocky [INAUDIBLE] and that sort of just being in a tent with no [INAUDIBLE]. MATT BRITTIN: We're sort of throwing around Olympic gold medals and gold medalists as though they were two a penny. But I think one of the remarkable things is it's quite hard to get an Olympic gold medal. We're taking them for granted here now. But also, you're the fastest Brit, I think, ever to have finished a Marathon des Sables. JAMES CRACKNELL: Yeah. No, I was-- MATT BRITTIN: It's pretty impressive for a guy of 100 kilos. JAMES CRACKNELL: I was really thinking. And I was really chuffed, because I decided to do it. Well, there's two [INAUDIBLE]. The first one, I was at the South Pole. And we'd had the thing about being honest with each other. As I said, I was training very hard for it. And we had also said we'd be really honest. So if we were struggling, it didn't matter what weight we all took, as long as the three of us and all our kit got to the South Pole. So some day, if you were feeling good, you'd take more. If you weren't, you wouldn't feel bad about giving someone else some weight. And over the first week, the others were struggling a bit. So I took some of their weight. And then I started to struggle. And I didn't say. And so I got really nasty blisters and pneumonia on my left lung. And that really slowed us down. And I was at South Pole and feeling really not very good. And it's also weird I was at the South Pole, for various reasons. And this one comes into the tent and he goes, oh, you think those blisters are bad, you should do the Marathon des Sables. I don't know why, at that point, I thought that'd be a good idea. [LAUGHTER] BEVERLEY TURNER: He was like, yeah. That's a really great idea. JAMES CRACKNELL: I know. I'll go running in the sand. But the second reason was, I wanted to show, in a competitive environment, I could make the right decision at the right time. So stopping in the middle of a race was quite alien to me. But two minutes, five minutes there would save an hour further down the line. And for me, making that decision then was something I wouldn't have done in the past. And I think that's why I did do better there is that I made the right decision at the right time. BEVERLEY TURNER: Yeah. And actually, it's an amazing program. It's my favorite film of all of James' films. It's just a fantastic filmmaker called David Harrison. And it's just the most brilliant documentary. And like you say, it was Easter time. And I was with the kids down in Devon. And just got the odd phone call to say, he's alive. He's fine. And then, when he called and said, oh, well, actually, I came 12th. And how many people were-- JAMES CRACKNELL: There was 1,000 did it that day. BEVERLEY TURNER: 1,000 runners. JAMES CRACKNELL: That year. BEVERLEY TURNER: He came 12th. Oh. Well done! JAMES CRACKNELL: The guy who won it-- BEVERLEY TURNER: The fastest ever Brit. The fastest ever Brit, which is amazing because they're all tiny little gazelles, aren't they? JAMES CRACKNELL: Well, the guy who came over and we did some sort of heat testing for the documentary before we went. And the guy who had won it the previous year came over, a Moroccan guy called Mohammad. And we just ran in a 50 degree chamber on the treadmill. And he got off the plane from Morocco, gets to the chamber. And the first thing they do is give him a thermometer to stick up his bum, because his core temperature could be monitored. And if health and safety is breached, you could be dragged out. And so he wasn't delighted about that the first thing. This is not a very good country. [LAUGHTER] JAMES CRACKNELL: But we ran for an hour in 50 degrees. And I lost four kilos. And he lost half a kilo. And that's just how attuned to-- BEVERLEY TURNER: He was up to here on you. JAMES CRACKNELL: He was not very big. And you get the same amount of water every day. So they give you water, but you carry your own food. So he was like showering in it. Whereas, I was every drop was a prisoner. MATT BRITTIN: So I'd like to move it on to what happened at your accident and then after it. But just before we do that, so all of the stuff you've done up to the point of the race across America, what would you say was the hardest? And what would you say you're most proud of? JAMES CRACKNELL: I think I was most proud of the Marathon des Sable in terms of making the right decision at the right time. And having learned from the others, and showing that, in a competitive environment, I could separate the two. In terms of the hardest, I think, for the first week of the Atlantic I found really hard because everything I'd done previously, as you said at the start, is what's the worst that could happen? Well, you might lose the race. But even in the start of the Athens Olympics, I always make sure we're straight in the lane. And I could see the finish tower 2,000 meters away, which is our race distance. And as much as you should be thinking positive things, I thought, cor, that's a long way. [LAUGHTER] JAMES CRACKNELL: But the difference between that and, say, the Atlantic is that it's the first race I've done where you couldn't see the finish line. And even after you row a week, we're still 3,000 miles away. And that was getting my head around a target that seemed so far away. And even if you break it down into chunks that are big enough to take something out of the overall distance, but small enough to get your head around was really hard. And it took me a week to get myself into the right space to-- MATT BRITTIN: So mentally ready? JAMES CRACKNELL: Yeah. BEVERLEY TURNER: He kept ringing and crying on the phone. JAMES CRACKNELL: Yeah. It was that way. Not a very good time. BEVERLEY TURNER: Ben Fogle cried a lot. Ben Fogle does cry a lot most of the time. MATT BRITTIN: Right. Yeah. OK. [LAUGHTER] BEVERLEY TURNER: But James doesn't tend to cry an awful lot. MATT BRITTIN: Oh, yeah. BEVERLEY TURNER: He'd ring on this big satellite phone, wouldn't you? [LAUGHS] MATT BRITTIN: But you sound like you weren't very bothered. BEVERLEY TURNER: No, I wasn't. I was just like, yeah, suck it up. You chose to be here. The children are-- Cory's fine, thank you. [LAUGHTER] JAMES CRACKNELL: The ability to be positive in any situation is something that I've learned as well. MATT BRITTIN: I see how the supportive wife-- BEVERLEY TURNER: [LAUGHS] Yeah. MATT BRITTIN: But let's go to a different phone call. So you got a phone call telling you that James was in hospital. And what happened then? What happens next? BEVERLEY TURNER: Well, that was, as you said, I was back in Vegas having a lovely time. And I got a call at 6, 7 o'clock in the morning, I think it was, just to say, oh, don't go back to London. You need to get to Phoenix. James has been hit by a truck. And at that point, I didn't know what the prognosis was going to be. I didn't know anything. In fact, one of the trainers on that film was one of the guys who rung me. And I was on my own in Vegas. I think human beings are much better at coping, probably, than we imagine we're going to be. And I think women, particularly, are good. And I think we kind of go into coping strategy, coping mode. And I got to Phoenix and booked a flight and got there. And I didn't know when I got off that flight whether he was going to be alive or dead by the time I got off. I didn't know much about the injury. I knew that he'd been helicoptered from the side of the road. It obviously was very serious, because they were saying you have to get here. And they would never do that. The team would never say, Bev, you need to come out. Because, as you can see, he has a lot of people that look after him on those kind of trips. And I was met in the hospital by a really lovely American doctor. And it was all kind of very odd. It was sort of like it's so familiar to you because of "ER" and American television medical dramas that it's sort of odd. But it's strangely familiar in the same way. And obviously, he was heavily, heavily sedated and had a collar that was-- and to all intents and purposes he looked fine. He looked quite well, because he was fairly well. He was very well, except that he'd had a very bad-- JAMES CRACKNELL: Well? BEVERLEY TURNER: Well, you weren't very well. But I mean, at that time in your life, you were-- MATT BRITTIN: But physically, he was in good condition. BEVERLEY TURNER: Physically, you were in great shape is what I mean. And so he had a tan and he'd been running. And it sounds ridiculous doesn't it? But it was the perfect introduction, actually, to brain injury as the hidden illness because, amazingly, to be hit from, we think, about 70 mile an hour petrol tanker, the wing mirror to the back of the head, he didn't have a broken bone in his body. He should have had a broken neck. He should have never been able to walk again, really. And he was so lucky. Bike helmet, that wasn't luck. But he sustained a frontal lobe injury, what they call a contrecoup. So it's like the brain swings forward in the head. So even though the impact is to the back, the injury is to the front of the brain. And James' parents came out not long after. My mom came out. And then James started to come round. JAMES CRACKNELL: Don't look at me for answers. BEVERLEY TURNER: I know. You have no idea do you? You can't help me out at all can you? And they'd established fairly quickly that he was going to live. And then they had said, oh, you know, we need to watch to see if we need to do brain surgery, if the brain continues to swell. I mean, in some ways, it was great that we were in America, because the care there for that kind of injury-- well, for anything in that kind of setting-- is the best in the world. And so we had a month in Arizona, in Phoenix. MATT BRITTIN: And how long was it before James came round and was able to converse with you? BEVERLEY TURNER: Well, I can't really remember. It was a few days of touch and go. And the thing is they couldn't say, he will be fine. They just can't say that about the brain, because it will affect people in different ways. And in fact, the severity of James' injury, there's just no way that he should be able to stand here and talk to you like this. It's incredible. And then he did start to come round and was clearly mad as a box of frogs. MATT BRITTIN: He was incredibly posh, you said. BEVERLEY TURNER: He was incredibly posh. He started talking in this accent. [LAUGHTER] MATT BRITTIN: That's too long with Mattie Pinsent, though. JAMES CRACKNELL: [LAUGHS] Yeah. BEVERLEY TURNER: And Ben Fogle, isn't it? MATT BRITTIN: Yeah and [INAUDIBLE]. BEVERLEY TURNER: And just sort of asking to use the water closet and talking about, [WITH ACCENT] "Oh, when I was in the household cavalry, there was this one occasion--" And it was freaky, trippy. Like you would think it was past life stuff, seriously, the craziness that was coming out of his mouth. And as much as we laugh about it now, we laughed about it then. His parents and I were just doubled over some days in the hospital, because it was just ridiculous. But I think, again, it's kind of that coping strategy. And I think mother nature's very clever. You need something to drag you through those dark times when it seems so desperate. And he was bloody hilarious. [LAUGHS] MATT BRITTIN: Right. So you were just pleased he was there and being funny and coming out of it. BEVERLEY TURNER: Yeah. It was a bit like that. And I found out I was pregnant nine days after the accident. MATT BRITTIN: Right. So he's lying there and-- BEVERLEY TURNER: With child number three. MATT BRITTIN: Number three child inside you, and he's in this situation. BEVERLEY TURNER: Yeah, that was a low point, to be honest. Well, it was and it wasn't. In some way it was great. But in another way, it was oh god, how am I going to deal with this? Because we weren't quite sure what the care was going to be, how we were going to manage the recovery. And really, throwing a new baby into all that as well was difficult. MATT BRITTIN: And you took him home after a month or so. Is that right? JAMES CRACKNELL: Well, I think what would have been weirder for you was-- because the staff see a traumatic brain injury victim so regularly, that they're sort of normal. It's like, oh, they always do that, as though you're some part of a new civilization. So when I was sitting up and able to eat, they bring you a starter, a main course and desert. And I just mixed it all together, because you're not really sure what you're doing. And I still have no sense of taste or smell. So it doesn't really matter what. It could be anything. And so Bev says that she and my mom and dad looked at me just pouring my custard on top of my-- BEVERLEY TURNER: Chicken. JAMES CRACKNELL: Pasta or on top of my burger. [LAUGHTER] JAMES CRACKNELL: And the staff, oh, they always do that, as though I've suddenly joined this group. MATT BRITTIN: This class of people. JAMES CRACKNELL: And at that must have been really hard for them. And then, on top of that, I then insult the nurse, which I didn't think was an insult. BEVERLEY TURNER: No, you insulted everybody. JAMES CRACKNELL: No, I didn't think it was an insult. It's that I asked her if she was a running back, which is an American football position, because apparently, she had a very, very powerfully built backside. [LAUGHTER] JAMES CRACKNELL: Slash large. MATT BRITTIN: Right. Perfectly fair question. BEVERLEY TURNER: He asked her if she'd put some time in with the Pittsburgh Steelers. [LAUGHTER] JAMES CRACKNELL: But that's because-- if you'd known anything about American football, I did watch a bit of it-- there's this guy, a running back, which is like-- MATT BRITTIN: Don't try and justify. BEVERLEY TURNER: No, no, no. [LAUGHTER] JAMES CRACKNELL: It's a position of-- so if you take in Rugby-- BEVERLEY TURNER: There's no logic to it. JAMES CRACKNELL: It's the center. So the guy runs anywhere. What [INAUDIBLE] used to play and [INAUDIBLE]. And there's this guy with the Pittsburgh Steelers who must have won the Super Bowl a couple of years before. And he had a very powerful backside. He was called the Fun Bus. BEVERLEY TURNER: Yeah, I think you called her the Fun Bus, actually. JAMES CRACKNELL: And I might have actually called her the Fun Bus by mistake. BEVERLEY TURNER: I think you did. And then he rang me-- JAMES CRACKNELL: I can't remember exactly. BEVERLEY TURNER: --in the hotel one morning. And we had to confiscate phones and change email passwords and everything, because he was trying to-- this is a couple of weeks in-- he was trying to communicate with the outside world and still thought he was fine. There was no problem. Everybody else had gone mad. He was completely normal. And he rang me at the hotel and said, you've got to bring me some extra kit to the hospital. And I said, right. OK, what do you mean? And I'm thinking where is this going? And he said, I need some running kit. And I need some extra kit, orange preferably. And I said, why? And he said, because I'm representing Holland in the synchronized pooing championships. [LAUGHTER] BEVERLEY TURNER: Seriously. Seriously. MATT BRITTIN: I can't-- I don't know. JAMES CRACKNELL: It's OK. BEVERLEY TURNER: Our nine-year-old loves that story. MATT BRITTIN: Yeah. BEVERLEY TURNER: Our nine-year-old boy thinks that is brilliant. MATT BRITTIN: I think you could organize an event to do that. BEVERLEY TURNER: Yeah. JAMES CRACKNELL: Again, that's one I'll take Matthew Pinsent in. [LAUGHTER] MATT BRITTIN: OK. JAMES CRACKNELL: He's a big fellow. He's got skills in that area. MATT BRITTIN: I guess, for all of us sitting here, people who didn't know you previous to the accident, you look like a very happy pair who get on well and known each other forever. But Bev, he's quite different from before. BEVERLEY TURNER: Yeah. MATT BRITTIN: Well, to some extent. He's obviously not as different as when he was posh and pooing for Netherlands. [LAUGHTER] MATT BRITTIN: He's still a bit different. BEVERLEY TURNER: Yeah, he is. He is different. I mean, we're probably both different, because the experience has changed us. But yeah, it's been a very long, slow, difficult road of two and a half years of recovery. But the frontal lobe controls your personality. And it's how you understand emotion. It's how you communicate. James won't remember any of the time of coming home from the hospital. But he was very angry. And it's typical, unfortunately, of how we look after people in this country who have a brain injury. We send them home. They go home to families with small children. And they are a completely different person. They bear no resemblance to the kind and considerate-- MATT BRITTIN: And you're talking in the general now. BEVERLEY TURNER: In the general term. But it applies specifically to James, yeah. And actually, what it does, when I say it bears no resemblance, the way the neurologist described it to me is he will be more of himself. So people with frontal lobe injury often become a kind of evil caricature of themselves. So if you can imagine your partner's worst traits and magnify them by 100 and take away all the good stuff, that's kind of what you're left with. He's not like that now. I should just point this is two and a half years. MATT BRITTIN: That what it was like when he landed back at home after a month. BEVERLEY TURNER: Yeah. Yeah. And it was like that for a long time. But I think, actually, the drive that we were talking about at the beginning of the chat, the whole wanting to be as good as he could possibly be, James, just in very typical fashion, has applied that mentality to his recovery. And I think the exercise actually helped. He was in the gym every day. And he has been since the day of the accident. That getting physically well, trying to be fit and healthy, I think, has put him in great stead. MATT BRITTIN: But in this case, James, you're going to the South Pole. It's clear how you're going to train for that. You're going to try and win an Olympic gold medal in rowing. It's clear how you're going to train for that. In this context you've said, I'm trying to get back to being James Cracknell. There's no roadmap for that. So what have you done to try to recover what you want to recover of yourself? JAMES CRACKNELL: Yeah, you're right. That's the one thing. There is no objective scale to work onto, it's a little bit subjective. And people often don't say what they think. They may say something, after they've seen you, to someone else. But they never really say it to your face, whether you're different or you get angry slightly differently. It's like, I guess, doing something productive, except I wasn't able to go back to, say, a writer of a newspaper or get back to other work. So I would-- getting fit was something I could control. And then I'd have to see the neurologist, neuropsychologist, occupational therapist. And you spend a lot of time talking about yourself and about issues that you've probably avoided. And we didn't really see a sports psychologist when I was competing. We were, luckily, in a team, so we'd talk to each other about it. And so it was something that was alien to me. It was taking me time to get to a position where I understood that this is an area that I had to work on as well and to really buy into it to progress. Because it's not fair on Bev or the kids, if you're reacting differently or quicker to a certain situation than you would have in the past. Because Bev's had a different husband for the last three years than she had for the first seven. And my little boys had a different dad for the last three years than they had for the first six, because I get angry and non-consistent. I think that all kids especially want is a consistency in their life. And they find behaving like his age one minute and then like a really grumpy grand dad the next minute is hard in terms of being fixated on certain things like table manners, of which I'm not the best at anyway. But if it just means eating a meal, it's not fun for him to be with me. And that's been the hardest. BEVERLEY TURNER: They're running into hooks. MATT BRITTIN: Yeah, literally. BEVERLEY TURNER: I mean, on a good day I go, well, who wants to be married to the same man for 10 years anyway? Not me, [LAUGHS] you know? I was ready for a new one. But then, on a hard day, it can be quite difficult. MATT BRITTIN: Yeah. And James, was there a period during which you had to accept that you were different? Because it sounds like you felt everything you were doing was normal. Was there a period during which you realized that things had changed? You said people weren't treating you differently. But you were conscious they were saying something afterwards. JAMES CRACKNELL: Yeah. I'd say yes, in a number of different ways, because the Olympics were here. And I got back to working. And I worked for a local company that organized the Olympics. And so I had to do this speech to one of the Olympic sponsors on behalf of [INAUDIBLE]. And I'm in a briefing before. An afterwards, talking about some other things, and he said, yeah-- you hit every one of them-- that was very good, especially for a guy with a brain injury. And then right since the accident I haven't wanted to be judged on any other scale. So it was a bad thing to use as, that's very good, especially for someone who's had cancer. Go off and pump yourself with drugs. The attitude is you don't be judged along any other [INAUDIBLE]. And that's been one of the things that has been hard. And then also, with our third child, we needed to get a bigger house. And then we found out we had to try to get a mortgage. And they're like, well, we can't guarantee your earnings over the next 10 years. And I'm saying, well, who can? But it's not because of that. It's because of, bang, a brain injury. This, whether it's practical, emotional or being judged, is very difficult. And the one thing that I've found, from the medical, to friends, to colleagues, is that people are very quick to impose a ceiling on you and think, well, you won't be able to do that. So if people lower their expectation of you and then that affects your expectation of yourself. And if you only aspire to that ceiling, that's the only place you're going to reach. And also I think there are too many dream takers there, whether it be you're in a pub with mates and you're going to ask that girl out. And they go, she's out of your league. You'll never bother. When I said, I want to go to the Olympics, you went, oh, a lot of people have tried to do that. And so, if you listen to those things, you're never going to do it, whether it's starting a business and someone goes, most fail in three years. And all those things chip away at someone's belief to go for it. And then that's really happened over the last couple of years. And I just think it's very hard for someone who maybe wasn't so-- I say stubborn as though it's a bad thing. MATT BRITTIN: Stubborn's a good word. JAMES CRACKNELL: Yeah. Someone as stubborn as me, they think, well, I'm going to prove you wrong or justify what you say. Rather than just treat me as a statistic, you need to justify that. And I think it's really important for anyone who's not just suffered a brain injury, but who's going through a tough time or wants to achieve something else or wants to move their life on not to feel they're being imposed on by other people. And then the limits are being set by something from outside. MATT BRITTIN: But at home, it sounds like people aren't imposing that on you. They're expecting you to-- JAMES CRACKNELL: Well, I hope so. And it's been difficult. MATT BRITTIN: How do you do supporting role now? BEVERLEY TURNER: The biggest thing is the nag of trying to get him to rest a bit and slow down. That's probably one of the hardest things. And then I don't know. Now I might have to kind of let him get on with it. I spent a lot of time, especially when he first came out of the hospital and he wanted to go and enter the Great North Run in a wheelchair-- [LAUGHS] MATT BRITTIN: So you spent some time saying no at that. BEVERLEY TURNER: Yeah, exactly. And so I had to do quite a lot of stepping in at the beginning and just going no, no, and dealing with his agents and just trying to-- just being the jailer and just saying, I know he seems OK to you. But trust me, he's not. And so I had a lot of time doing that. JAMES CRACKNELL: So that's interesting, because you wanted to get me into a wheelchair when we were in America. BEVERLEY TURNER: What do you mean? JAMES CRACKNELL: When we flew back from America. BEVERLEY TURNER: [LAUGHS] JAMES CRACKNELL: See? BEVERLEY TURNER: Yeah. JAMES CRACKNELL: Getting out of the hospital, we're checking into the airport. So I had the type of doctor with me on the plane. And checking in, the lady said, can you use a wheelchair to take to the plane? BEVERLEY TURNER: Of course, he was just like [INAUDIBLE]. JAMES CRACKNELL: I was, I can walk. I'm fine. And Bev goes, take the wheelchair. We'll get to the front of the queue. [LAUGHTER] BEVERLEY TURNER: Get in the bloody wheelchair. There's a massive queue. JAMES CRACKNELL: So in the end, the compromise was Bev put the bags in the wheelchair and pushed to the front of the queue. BEVERLEY TURNER: I said, I'm pregnant. Do you mind? JAMES CRACKNELL: So apologies to anyone that was there. BEVERLEY TURNER: I was going to sit in the wheelchair. But yeah. It's not that pride and that stubbornness, which can be difficult. But actually, like I say, it's probably why his recovery has been so good is because of that mentality of saying, I will prove you wrong. MATT BRITTIN: So there's lots more the book. And it's not actually a book, really, about the sporting endeavors at all. It's about rebuilding a person, I guess. BEVERLEY TURNER: I think so. There's quite a bit, I guess, of some rowing stuff, childhood stuff to just kind of give you a sense of who James was before the accident. JAMES CRACKNELL: I like the way you build up the rowing and the childhood into just stuff. [LAUGHTER] BEVERLEY TURNER: But actually, we couldn't not write this book. We have been through-- MATT BRITTIN: What drove you to write it then? Why did you write it? BEVERLEY TURNER: Because there is so little out there for people with a brain injury in terms of how you support families and how you cope with it. There was one little book that I was given by a physio in hospital in Phoenix called, "Where is the Mango Princess?," which is an amazing book written by the wife of a brain injured man who was a journalist as well. Her book is amazing. And she's actually, sadly, died. But inspired by that largely, we thought, well, we've got to do it. James has been asked to do his biography so many times before. And he's always just gone, I'm not ready to do anything. I'm not doing anything. And actually, we just thought, well, there's a reason for this. We can't not write it. And in fact, the response we've had from families who have had similar injuries has been immense. MATT BRITTIN: Well, I know we were saying over lunch that [INAUDIBLE] get to know you James as well, but his name came up during the summer. And he said, oh, yeah. He made that great video about wearing a bike helmet. And so now, actually, people are being encouraged to wear a bike helmets as a result. But I want to give people, while there's a couple of minutes left, any chance for anybody to ask questions of this amazing couple. Now is your opportunity. BEVERLEY TURNER: Oh, my god. Oh. MATT BRITTIN: Nobody? JAMES CRACKNELL: Yep. MATT BRITTIN: Yeah. Oh. [LAUGHTER] AUDIENCE: Thank you, very much, first of all, for coming in and sharing your story. Very inspiring. I have a question for both of you, really. You talked about your kids before. And I guess, if one day one of them comes up to you and says I want to become a professional athlete, what would your response be? What would your advice be, given all you went through? JAMES CRACKNELL: Well, I guess it would depend how old he was or she was. BEVERLEY TURNER: Yeah. Did you see that? A little bit sexist. MATT BRITTIN: Yes. I saw that. I saw that. [LAUGHTER] MATT BRITTIN: He's going to be a swimmer. JAMES CRACKNELL: No. The one's nine. The others haven't really started anything yet. BEVERLEY TURNER: No. I see our little girl is the most competitive. The middle one is the most competitive. Our nine-year-old has not got this competitive drive at all. He's a very, very good swimmer. And we're doing everything we can to encourage them at the moment. But I think it's our middle one I'm going to have to watch. Everything is a competition-- finishing desert, putting your shoes on, putting your coat on. I won, Mommy! So actually, in a way, with her, I spend a lot of time saying, it's not a competition, Ki Ki. And yet, with our eldest, sometimes he needs a bit of a push. So I think they all sort themselves out, whether they want to be athletes or not. JAMES CRACKNELL: No, I think it's more they not specialize too early is what I would say. That if he came now, at nine, saying I want to be a swimmer, I would go, do you really want to count tiles for the rest of your life? There's a reason why swimmers give up at 25. I think just to enjoy sports, try many different ones. And then, if you are best at the one you enjoy most, then that's the one for you. We don't want to pressure them into it. But we're also not going to let them give up straightaway. BEVERLEY TURNER: And I think, also, education as well. That would be what I would-- you know we both-- well, I swam, actually, so I'm just ignoring the digs. [LAUGHTER] BEVERLEY TURNER: But we both went to university. I would encourage them to do that. But get your studies as well. JAMES CRACKNELL: So we've got a slightly bad place in our house because her mom is a swimming coach. And her brother went to the Athens Olympics in the British swimming team, which is brilliant. Well, that was a bit of a jab. [INAUDIBLE] used to come down. You've get a very stiff back rowing, generally, is one thing that you kind of go, oh, I've got this sore back today. The coach would go, just go swimming. [LAUGHTER] JAMES CRACKNELL: So for me, it's more rehab than a sport. [LAUGHTER] MATT BRITTIN: That's about right. JAMES CRACKNELL: And the coach wouldn't go, just go and scrummage for an hour or something if you've got a bad back. But it really drilled home swimming as the devil sport when, at the Olympics-- BEVERLEY TURNER: [WHISPERS] Answer the question. MATT BRITTIN: Yes, OK-- the Olympics, that there's-- BEVERLEY TURNER: [INAUDIBLE]. JAMES CRACKNELL: Yes, OK. Don't interrupt. [INAUDIBLE]. BEVERLEY TURNER: [LAUGHS] No. Carry on. JAMES CRACKNELL: That [INAUDIBLE], her brother, was competing as well. And his two events were on the same morning as my heat and my semi. And so I can understand Bev going, her parents going. But even my parents went to watch him swim. [LAUGHTER] JAMES CRACKNELL: And their logic was, you'll be in the final. I was like, you haven't got a by. [LAUGHTER] MATT BRITTIN: Very unsupportive. JAMES CRACKNELL: Yeah. MATT BRITTIN: Very unsupportive parents James had is the answer to that question. BEVERLEY TURNER: Yeah. AUDIENCE: Hi there. So I have a husband who always has a crazy running or cycling scheme. And the latest one is like run the Lebanon Mountain Trail, not to give you any ideas, of course. But do you carry the veto in your household? So is there a time where you can say, no, you're not doing that? Or do you feel like, no, just kind of let James go? BEVERLEY TURNER: I never did before the accident. I never said he couldn't do something. I'd look at the safety, look at how it would work out with the lifestyle. But I completely trusted him to go and do them. Whereas, actually, post-accident now, I kind of go, no, that's not happening. And then he actually did an amazing trip-- again, the Discovery Channel filmed it, which is to the Yukon, which is the coldest race on earth-- after the accident. And I spent hours on the phone to the medics, to the insurance people, to the production-- just making sure that everything was done to make it safe. And that was the condition that he had to go under, that people he was with understood the nature of his injury and they understood him and knew him well enough to know when his behavior might be just fatigue and when it might be actually something that he was actually struggling with. I think, once you have children, it's much easier to make demands, because it's a shared responsibility. And I think you just have to keep talking about them, don't you, ultimately. JAMES CRACKNELL: But the other thing is-- BEVERLEY TURNER: And make sure all the safety is in place that possibly can be. JAMES CRACKNELL: And that's a really interesting question, because the hardest thing for me-- and we should go back to the other question-- is being-- because when I had the accident and woke up, that everyone was used to me not being me, because it had been-- my first memories are six or seven weeks after the accident. That everyone had become normalized to me not being quite-- first, not being at all normal and then being slightly more normal. But I've had a couple of seizures, which are related to lack of sleep. Although there's the three or four hours where I don't remember anything and wake up in hospital. It's been the reaction of having been with Bev and our kids beforehand, and then seeing them a few hours later, afterwards. And for them, I was suddenly the daddy that was not well in Phoenix. And that is why I hadn't seen them before from me being normal in the evening. Then the next time I saw them, I was the unwell person again. Whereas, I actually felt OK. It's just I had a seizure and had to go to hospital. Yeah, the bit I never saw of how horrible it was for them, it was really hard to me. And that, whether it would be the Atlantic or the South Pole, a lot of it has been going without sleep. That's something that I can't do any more. So in terms of an event, that's the one thing Bev will always ask. BEVERLEY TURNER: Yeah. The epilepsy is quite a big deal now for me. JAMES CRACKNELL: Because after every seizure, you can't drive for a year. So I've only been able to drive for two weeks since the accident three years ago, which then places more stress on Bev because she's the only one who can drive. So she's almost got four kids. AUDIENCE: Thank you. MATT BRITTIN: Thank you, Michelle. Another question? AUDIENCE: Thanks, so much for coming. I was reading the other day that the eight fastest rowers don't necessarily make the fastest boat. JAMES CRACKNELL: I would argue that, yeah. [LAUGHTER] AUDIENCE: I was wondering how you dealt with that. Back in Athens, for instance, you might have had four fantastic athletes. But how do you mold that into a great team? And link to that how you dealt with your row across the Atlantic. Can I assume that you were, perhaps, a slightly more strong athlete than Ben? [LAUGHTER] AUDIENCE: Maybe? JAMES CRACKNELL: Yeah. No. It was interesting going to that event. You think, well there's this area of expertise where I will have more understanding or will be better at. Actually, it's one small part of the big jigsaw because, at the Olympics, you do feel like you're doing everything because you're doing all the training. But you almost forget or ignore the physiologist, the coaches, the nutritionist, other people helping you. And when you have to do all of that yourself, the rowing is actually only a very small part of that. And a lot of it, as I said before, was keeping positive, make the right decisions at the right time, and the ability to keep going is actually-- OK, when we were actually rowing, would the boat get faster when I was rowing it than when he was rowing it? Yeah. It probably would. But spread over 50 days and 3,000 miles, it gets reduced significantly. And I think it's the ability to stay positive and determine to hit your objective that is as important, rather than that speed. So I think it does level out, and especially as your decisions you make in that process about the little things. And ultimately, then it would be the technology or the equipment or something would let you down that you had to mend out there, because you're [INAUDIBLE] someone else. MATT BRITTIN: James, just talk about so your first gold was Redgrave's last gold. And you're in the boat with him and Matt. So there was quite the expectation. JAMES CRACKNELL: I felt his fifth slightly overshadowed my first. MATT BRITTIN: Yes. It was a bit rude of him. But also, he was going through all kinds of medical traumas himself, his colitis and everything else. So you end up actually always carrying the load that he was bringing to the boat as well. That must have been quite a difficult team to put together in that context. JAMES CRACKNELL: It was difficult. And that's where rowing is, as you know, Matt, is very different from other sports. It's not like playing football for Barcelona. And I'm sure they're all good footballers. But if I was playing for Barcelona, I'd give the ball to Messi as soon as possible. With rowing, in a four-man boat, you are only 25% of it. Yet you're relying on three other people to deliver their 100%. And you each do have a vaguely specific role. They're doing 90% of the same thing. You need to be stronger in one area than the other. And in the four hours in for, say, the Sydney Olympics, rowing with-- you think we've got 29 gold medals in London. We got one in Atlanta. And that was Redgrave and Pinsent. But for me, coming in, yes, there was the pressure of the Olympic history from them. But also, from my perspective, was none of us had any gold medals, because that's the one we all wanted. It didn't matter what you had in your bag at home. That was kind of irrelevant on the start line. And what I tried to get to them, which annoyed them quite a lot, was that what was good enough there is not going to be good enough now. And so if you are going to produce in four years what you did four years ago and expect to win, you're not going to get anything. AUDIENCE: You told them this? JAMES CRACKNELL: I did tell them that. Yeah. MATT BRITTIN: Daily, from what was said. JAMES CRACKNELL: Daily. And basically, I would try to just make sure I'd beat them in training every day, because it would generally annoy them all for a while. [LAUGHTER] JAMES CRACKNELL: And the more angry they got, they would probably take it out elsewhere on the other people. [LAUGHS] MATT BRITTIN: That was actually a great documentary you guys made. Was it gold-- JAMES CRACKNELL: "Gold Fever," yeah. MATT BRITTIN: "Gold Fever." If you want to look on YouTube, you'll find it. JAMES CRACKNELL: Yeah. BBC followed us for four years. Steve got diabetes. And it was hard. You think anyone you've met is stubborn, you have no idea. When he got told he had diabetes, he wouldn't believe the doctor. And he would have a lack of insulin, glycemic situation where you'd find him asleep in a corner. And he would just refuse to take it at that stage. And even at the Olympic final, I had sugar taped to my feet, just in case he had got it wrong. It took him a few weeks to realize, he may actually have diabetes. But he never, ever used it as an excuse or felt sorry for himself. He was just, I've got something I've got to deal with. And that's fine. MATT BRITTIN: It sounds like you're taking that attitude to your life at the moment. So I think we have to wrap it up there. Huge thank you to Bev and to James for coming. [APPLAUSE]



Cracknell began rowing whilst attending the independent Kingston Grammar School[2] and rowed at the Junior World Championships in 1989 and 1990, winning a gold medal in 1990. He graduated from the University of Reading as a Bachelor of Science (BSc) in Human Geography in 1993, followed by a PGCE at the Institute of Education and a Master of Science (MSc) from Brunel University in 1999.[3] Moving into the senior squad, Cracknell made numerous appearances in the World Rowing Championships; however, he did not win any medals prior to the 1996 Summer Olympics. He qualified in the double scull for the 1996 Games, but fell ill with tonsillitis and was unable to race.[4] In 1997, he won a seat in the men's coxless fours, with Steve Redgrave, Matthew Pinsent and Tim Foster. With this crew, he won the World Rowing Championships in 1997, 1998 and 1999 (with Ed Coode replacing the injured Foster), and finally the gold medal at the 2000 Summer Olympics. In August 2000, the month prior to winning gold in Sydney, he took part in a 3-part BBC documentary entitled Gold Fever. This followed the coxless four team in the years leading up to the Olympics, including video diaries recording the highs and lows in their quest for gold.

With Redgrave then having retired, Cracknell swapped from rowing on strokeside to bowside to join Pinsent in the coxless pairs. The pair won the World Championships in 2001, when they also won the coxed pairs, and 2002. However, in 2003 a disappointing season was capped by a failure to win the World Championships, and Pinsent and Cracknell were shifted into the coxless four, with Steve Williams and Alex Partridge. Ed Coode replaced the injured Partridge in time for the 2004 Summer Olympics and this crew won the gold medal in Athens, beating world champions Canada by 0.08s.

He came second in the pairs division of the 2005–2006 Atlantic Rowing Race in "Spirit of EDF Energy", partnered by Ben Fogle. Although they took first place in the line honours of the pairs event (overall, they were third to finish the race behind the two men's fours), the use of ballast water during the race resulted in the pair being moved to second position of the pairs event in accordance with the race rules. The event helped raise money for Children in Need.[1]

They made landfall in Antigua at 07.13 GMT on 19 January 2006, a crossing time of 49 days, 19 hours and 8 minutes. In February 2006, he announced his decision to retire from competitive rowing. Shortly after, Through Hell and High Water, a BBC/Twofour television programme of Cracknell and Fogle's experience of the Atlantic race, was aired. The pair wrote a book called The Crossing: Conquering the Atlantic in the World's Toughest Rowing Race, about their trip.[1]

On 4 March 2006, Cracknell's home was burgled; his Olympic gold medals were stolen, together with his wedding ring and a computer containing 20,000 words of a new book and family photographs.[5] The gold medals were subsequently recovered by a neighbour's dog where the thief had discarded them. The thief, Mark Murphy, 30, was caught and jailed.[6]

He ran the London Marathon on 23 April 2006, in a time of 3 hours, finishing over an hour ahead of his rowing teammate Matthew Pinsent.

In January 2008 Cracknell set up Threshold Sports with Julian Mack and Charlie Beauchamp.

In December 2008 he set off yet again with former teammate from the Atlantic Row, Ben Fogle, and Dr Ed Coats (the winner of a nationwide search),[7] this time to take part in the inaugural Amundsen Omega3 South Pole Race. The team traversed the 473.6 miles suffering frostbite, infected blisters, dramatic weight-loss, pneumonia and exhaustion and came second only to a pair of Norwegians (over 20 hours[8]). The BBC aired a 5 x 1-hour, prime-time Sunday night series of the adventure, On Thin Ice (Twofour), in June–July 2009. The series was accompanied by a self-penned book of the race, Race to the Pole (MacMillan).[1]

In July 2008 Cracknell competed in the European Triathlon Championships for GBR for his age group and in November 2009 he took part in the New York Marathon. In April 2009, James completed the 125-mile non-stop Devizes to Westminster Canoe Marathon in a two-man racing K2 kayak with canoe partner Bernie Shosbree.[9]

James Cracknell at the London Triathlon 2007
James Cracknell at the London Triathlon 2007

In August 2009 Cracknell attempted to break the non-stop Land's End to John O'Groats mixed tandem world record along with Olympic gold medallist Rebecca Romero. The pair got just past Johnstone Bridge in Scotland before being forced to stop due to problems with Romero's knees. They were on course to break the record by over three hours.[10] The attempt was to launch the 2010 Ride Across Britain that Cracknell's company organised

In April 2010 Cracknell became the highest placed Briton ever in the 25-year history of the Marathon des Sables, finishing 12th. His exploits were filmed for a Discovery Channel documentary The Toughest Race on Earth to be aired in October 2010. This highest ever placing was beaten in 2013 by another Briton, Danny Kendall who finished 10th.[11]

Six months after his cycling accident which damaged his frontal lobe (see below), Cracknell competed in the Yukon Arctic Ultra. He finished second in the 430-mile race across the frozen Alaskan countryside, beaten only by British cyclist Alan Sheldon who beat Cracknell's 163:20 with his own 99:30.[12] Cracknell's participation in the race was filmed for the documentary The Coldest Race on Earth aired on the Discovery Channel.[13] He ran the 2012 London Marathon in just under three hours, one of the fastest celebrities, but behind Nell McAndrew.

In 2018, Cracknell enrolled at Peterhouse at Cambridge University to study for a MPhil degree in human evolution.[14] On 7 April 2019, Cracknell became the oldest competitor, and oldest winner, for Cambridge in the 2019 Boat Race; at the age of 46 he became the oldest rower in the event's history by 10 years.[15]

In 2019, he took part in Strictly Come Dancing and was partnered with Luba Mushtuk, but was the first celebrity to be eliminated from the show after losing the dance off to David James and Nadiya Bychkova.

Presenting and journalism

Cracknell has presented sport on ITV and Channel 4. He covered The Boat Race 2007 with Mark Durden-Smith for ITV and is the presenter of ITV's coverage of the British Superbike Championship. He is also the main presenter of Channel 4's Red Bull Air Race World Series coverage. He is a contracted columnist with The Daily Telegraph writing about various topics including sport, motoring, gardening, cookery and others.


A prominent supporter of the NOtoAV campaign in 2011 Alternative Vote referendum, Cracknell was announced, on 2 June 2013, as a Conservative Party candidate for South West England and Gibraltar in European Parliament election of 2014,[16] but despite being placed third on the Conservative party list was not elected.

Charitable activities

From 27 February 2008 James Cracknell covered over 1,400 miles from Britain to Africa in 10 days, rowing, cycling and swimming. He rowed from Dover, England to Cap Gris Nez, France, then cycled to Tarifa, Spain, and finally swam across the Strait of Gibraltar from Tarifa to Punta Cires, Morocco. The comedian David Walliams joined him for the final part of his journey providing support from his previous experience of swimming the English Channel.[17] The money raised by the challenge went towards the BBC's Sport Relief charity, with highlights of the action broadcast on 14 March. He was the celebrity guest at The WiG GiG which raise over £10,000 for Macmillan Cancer Support.[18]

In January 2009, James took part in the Amundsen Omega 3 South Pole Race with his TV presenter friend Ben Fogle and Dr Ed Coats as members of Team QinetiQ,[19] finishing in second, 20 hours behind the winning Norwegian team.[20] The race and the reasons behind was broadcast on BBC Television during summer 2009 in the series On Thin Ice. The trio raised funds for the children's medical research charity Sparks, chosen as the charity partner in memory of Cracknell's niece, Eva, who died at six days old after suffering oxygen deprivation at birth.[21]

On Saturday 3 October 2009, Cracknell and Ben Fogle started a 60-hour (estimated) journey from Edinburgh to London riding a rickshaw in support of SSAFA. They aimed to arrive in time for the Pride of Britain Awards ceremony on Monday 5 October 2009.[22] They had to endure storm force gales in Scotland and Northumberland on their first day of the 450-mile ride.[23] Early on the last day they made a stop at Etonbury Middle School in Arlesey, off the A1 road to London, where about 100 children welcomed them and to wave them on their way.[24]

Cycling accident, helmet advocacy

On 20 July 2010, Cracknell suffered a hit from behind by a petrol tanker whilst cycling during an attempt to cycle, row, run and swim from Los Angeles to New York within 18 days.[25] The accident happened at around 5.30am on a quiet stretch of road outside Winslow, Arizona. He has attributed his survival to the fact he was wearing a cycle helmet at the time,[25] which was "shorn in two".[26] In the crash he suffered a contrecoup injury to the frontal lobes of his brain.[27][28] In 2012 Cracknell and his wife wrote Touching Distance about his life before and after his brain injury, which has left him with epilepsy and a changed personality, including a short temper.[29] Since the accident he has been conspicuous in advocating the use of bicycle helmets.[30][31]

Personal life

In 2002, Cracknell married TV presenter Beverley Turner, with whom he lived with in Chiswick. The couple had three children – a son, Croyde (born October 2003), and two daughters, Kiki (born March 2009) and Trixie (born April 2011). They announced their separation on 29 March 2019 after 17 years of marriage. [32]


Olympic games

World championships

Junior world championships

  • 1990 – Gold, Coxless Four
  • 1989 – 10th, Coxed Pair

Boat Race


  • James Cracknell (1972–2001)
  • James Cracknell, MBE (2001–2004)
  • James Cracknell, OBE (2004-date)

National honour


  1. ^ a b c d "Official Biography". Archived from the original on 8 July 2009. Retrieved 4 October 2009.
  2. ^ Tozer, Malcolm, ed. (2012). Physical Education and Sport in Independent Schools. John Catt Educational Ltd. p. 288. ISBN 9781908095442.
  3. ^ ‘CRACKNELL, James Edward’, Who's Who 2014, A & C Black, an imprint of Bloomsbury Publishing plc, 2014
  4. ^ Rob Bagchi (7 December 2011). "50 stunning Olympic moments No4: Steve Redgrave's fifth gold medal". The Guardian. London.
  5. ^ Steele, John (4 March 2006). "Cracknell's gold medals and wedding ring stolen". The Daily Telegraph. London. Retrieved 3 October 2009.
  6. ^ "Cracknell medals burglar jailed". The Daily Mail. London. 27 July 2006. Retrieved 3 October 2009.
  7. ^ Gordon, Bryony (8 October 2008). "James Cracknell's race to the South Pole". Retrieved 31 October 2017.
  8. ^ [1][permanent dead link]
  9. ^ "Non-stop canoeing race continues". 11 April 2009. Retrieved 31 October 2017.
  10. ^ "Deloitte Ride Across Britain: End to End - UK Cycling Events". Deloitte Ride Across Britain. Archived from the original on 4 August 2009. Retrieved 31 October 2017.
  11. ^ [2] Archived 14 April 2014 at the Wayback Machine
  12. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 6 October 2011. Retrieved 5 August 2011.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  13. ^ "Homepage". Archived from the original on 10 April 2011. Retrieved 31 October 2017.
  14. ^ Bryant, Tom (13 March 2019). "James Cracknell set to become oldest Boat Race competitor at 46". The Guardian. Retrieved 19 March 2019.
  15. ^ White, Jim (14 March 2019). "James Cracknell selected by Cambridge at 46 to become oldest-ever Boat Race competitor". The Daily Telegraph. Retrieved 19 March 2019.
  16. ^ "James Cracknell: Why I'm standing as an MEP". The Daily Telegraph. London. 2 June 2013.
  17. ^ "David Walliams and James Cracknell swim 12-mile Strait of Gibraltar in 4 hours 36 minutes". 8 March 2008. Archived from the original on 16 April 2009. Retrieved 13 March 2008.
  18. ^ "Hair-raising charity bash". Ealing Times. Retrieved 31 October 2017.
  19. ^ "Team QinetiQ Home Page". Retrieved 4 October 2009.
  20. ^ "Norway beats Britain in Pole race". BBC News. 23 January 2009. Retrieved 4 October 2009.
  21. ^ "Race to Save Tiny Lives". Archived from the original on 16 April 2009. Retrieved 4 October 2009.
  22. ^ "Ride of Britain". Archived from the original on 1 October 2009. Retrieved 5 October 2009.
  23. ^ "Ben Fogle and James Cracknell endure storm during charity rickshaw challenge". The Daily Mirror. 5 October 2009.
  24. ^ "Ben Fogle and James Cracknell stop off at Arlesey school on their 450-mile charity rickshaw ride". The Comet. 5 October 2009.
  25. ^ a b Jamieson, Alastair (27 July 2010). "Cracknell's life was saved by his crash helmet, which took the full force of the impact from the tanker's wing mirror". The Daily Telegraph. London.
  26. ^ Todd, Ben (21 April 2011). "No helmet, James? Cracknell minus the head protection that saved his life in cycle smash". London: Mail Online. Retrieved 11 August 2011.
  27. ^ "Merida UK news Latest from James Cracknell". 23 March 2011. Archived from the original on 22 April 2012. Retrieved 11 August 2011.
  28. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 10 October 2011. Retrieved 11 August 2011.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  29. ^ Grice, Elizabeth (19 October 2012). "James Cracknell: Hopefully, we'll get back to where we once were". The Daily Telegraph. London. Retrieved 19 November 2012.
  30. ^ Bloxham, Andy (8 January 2011). "James Cracknell on the bike accident that nearly killed him". The Daily Telegraph. London. Retrieved 11 August 2011.
  31. ^ "Use Your Head". 8 August 2011. Archived from the original on 7 October 2011. Retrieved 11 August 2011.
  32. ^ Ward, Victoria (29 March 2019). "James Cracknell and his wife Beverley Turner split after 17 years". The Telegraph. ISSN 0307-1235. Retrieved 2 April 2019.
  33. ^ "Neil Chugani: Executive Profile & Biography - Bloomberg". Retrieved 31 October 2017.

External links

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