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Wednesday, 25 October, 2000, 12:42 GMT 13:42 UK
Spracklen's 'crumbling pyramid'
British women's quadruple sculls team
Britain won Olympic silver in the women's quadruple sculls
Richard Phelps - Olympic rower and Five Live commentator - discusses the reasons for Mike Spracklen's departure as women's chief coach.

As everyone knows, the height of a pyramid is a function of the width of its base.

The same simple rule applies in the sports arena and especially in the sport of rowing - if you don't have a wide base from which to select your top crews, the ultimate speed of those crews will be limited.

It is this rule that is the most likely reason for the non-renewal of Mike Spracklen's contract.

While he has achieved the target set by British rowing, an Olympic medal, that success has come at a cost - the depletion of those willing or able to train at his national centre.

Steve Redgrave
Spracklen coached Steve Redgrave to his first Olympic gold medal

To put it bluntly, the base of Spracklen's 'pyramid' is not sufficient to mount a campaign for Athens.

Without a doubt, Spracklen is an exceptionally talented coach who is responsible for some outstanding Olympic and World Championship performances.

Notably he coached Steve Redgrave to his first gold medal in the coxed four in 1984 and repeated that success with Steve and Andy Holmes in 1988.

He then left the UK for Canada where he coached their gold medal eight at Barcelona in 1992.

'Prodigal son'

Four years later, Mike had a lean Olympics. His crew (the US men's eight), who were World Champions in 1994, finished a disappointing fifth.

Following that, 'the prodigal son' returned to Great Britain as women's chief coach.

Spracklen duly delivered. In true alchemist fashion, he (or rather his crews) won a gold and silver at the 1998 World Championships - the first ever British gold in heavyweight rowing.

The man could do no wrong, unless of course you were one of those that had fallen out of favour.

By the time the Olympics started those in this latter group out-numbered those who were in favour. As well as the women's eight, the silver medal pair from 1998 had left him to be coached elsewhere.


The man could do no wrong, unless of course you were one of those that had fallen out of favour
  Richard Phelps on Mike Spracklen

In his defence, it was those in Spracklen's ever-declining group that delivered the goods in Sydney, but at what price?

He is reported to have described those outside as "whingers", which demonstrates the nature of his relationship with some of the athletes who will comprise the Athens team.

Mike will tell you that he did what was asked of him. No one can deny that and once again British rowing is indebted to him, but the overall situation with the women's squad was not sustainable.

Which leaves British rowing looking for a new chief coach and the hope has to be that they will find one soon.

It takes a very high pyramid to win an Olympic medal and, by definition, a wide base.

That base under Mike Spracklen was declining and, if Britain's women are to repeat the success of Sydney, it needs to start growing.

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See also:

23 Sep 00 |  Rowing and Water Sports
GB women land historic silver
23 Sep 00 |  Rowing and Water Sports
Redgrave's golden glory
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