Molesey Boat Club's Olympic Legacy
MBC's Greg & Jonny Searle won gold in Barcelona
The thread of Olympic gold runs right through the heart of Molesey Boat Club.
Turn up at the club on almost any Saturday and you are likely to see at least a couple of Olympic champions taking to the water. The legendary achievements of Gold Medallists like Jonny Searle, or Martin Cross are woven deep into British rowing’s illustrious history.
And that strand runs right through the present too. The seven-strong Molesey contingent in Team GB for 2012 contains no less three Olympic champions: Tom James, Andrew Triggs Hodge and Jonny Searle’s kid brother, Greg. All of them travel to London with strong hopes of adding yet another Olympic Gold medal to their laurels. If they are successful, they will help to inspire the future generation of Olympians currently training at the club: ready to take on the torch for future generations.
Triggs Hodge, Molesey’ Captain in 2008 to 2012, experienced this seamless process. In 2002, he was a young recruit to the Club’s Under 23 programme, soon to be fast-tracked into the British National Squad. It was a journey that would lead him to an Olympic four’s Gold in Beijing. But crucially it was a path that two of his protégés felt able to follow. Understandably then, Triggs Hodge felt nothing but pride as Molesey’s Moe Sbihi and James Foad, won seats in Britain’s Olympic eight.
Some years earlier, the young Sbihi and Foad were cutting their teeth racing against Molesey’s all-star Olympic veteran eights. Coxed by Olympic champions Garry Herbert, or Adrian Ellison, the crews have drawn on some of the sport’s most legendary names. They have included Sir Matthew Pinsent, winner of four Olympic Gold medals and, before his dramatic return to the sport, Greg Searle. Of course, The Searle brothers, together with Garry Herbert won their Olympic Gold in Barcelona.
In one of the sport’s most unforgettable contests, the British hunted down the fast-starting Abbagnale brothers from Italy to claim their victory by the narrowest of margins. Molesey’s very own Steve Gunn coached them to that triumph. It was a feat that put the Surrey club firmly on the list of the world’s most famous rowing clubs.
And Molesey’s international links continue to the present. Jean-Christophe Rolland, is not only France’s greatest Olympic champion but also a legend in the sport, not least because of the dramatic way he took his pair’s medal in the Sydney Olympics. Today, Rolland is a regular in Molesey’s group of ex-internationals. And top competitors from Germany, Australia and the USA join the Frenchman to make up the crew.
Unsurprisingly, debates in Molesey’s clubroom as to who might win the key medals in the Olympics are hotly contested. But one thing is for sure, whatever their national allegiance, all the club members feel a deep sense of affiliation to Molesey’s ‘Magnificent Seven’: the seven men who will carry the Club’s banner into the 2012 Olympics as part of the British rowing Team. Here’s three cheers for the men in black: Moe Sbihi, James Foad, Cam Nichol, Tom Ransley Greg Searle, Tom James, and Andrew Triggs Hodge.
By Martin Cross
Author of Olympic Obsession (available in all good book stores)
Guardian rowing correspondant and BBC Radio 5 Live commentator.
MBC's Andrew Triggs Hodge & Tom James won gold in Beijing