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James Cracknell

Biographical information

Medals OG
Gold 2
Silver 0
Bronze 0
Total 2
TypeCompeted in Olympic Games
Full nameJames Edward•Cracknell
Used nameJames•Cracknell
Born5 May 1972 in Sutton, Greater London, England (GBR)
Measurements192 cm / 100 kg
AffiliationsLeander Club, Henley-on-Thames (GBR)
NOC Great Britain


James Cracknell’s first success came as a member of the British coxless fours that won the World Junior Championships in 1990. After graduating with a degree in geography from Reading Universty Cracknell became a regular member of the British squad but his first Olympics was ruined by a bout of tonsillitis which made him pull out of the Atlanta Games. In the winter of 1996-97 he was chosen to partner multiple Olympic champions Steven Redgrave and Matthew Pinsent in a new four with the long term aim of competing at the Sydney Olympics. The quartet went on to win all three subsequent world titles and in 2000 took the Olympic title thereby helping Redgrave gain his fifth successive Olympic gold. With the retirement of crewmates Redgrave and Tim Foster, Pinsent and Cracknell were reinvented as a pair and immediately met with success. In 2001 they won a decisive victory at the World Championships and the next year recorded a rare double by winning world titles at both coxed and coxless pairs in the same year. They were strong favourites for the Athens Olympics but a crushing defeat at the 2003 World Championships forced a radical rethink of their plans and they moved back into the four for the 2004 season. The crew struggled with illness and injury prior to Athens but in the Olympic final they held out for victory by a miniscule 0.08 seconds over a fast charging Canadian crew.

This race was the last of Cracknell’s career and he soon moved into a career in the media. He became a television presenter and newspaper columnist as well as a fundraiser for various charities by competing in extreme physical challenges. He took part in the 2005-6 Atlantic Rowing Race, the London and New York Marathons, the Amundsen Race to the South Pole and the Sahara Desert based Marathon des Sables (the so-called “World’s toughest race”) as well as completing marathon cycling and canoeing events. In July 2010 Cracknell was attempting to run, cycle, swim and row from Los Angeles to New York in 16 days when he was found comatose on a desert highway near Winslow, Arizona, He had suffered a traumatic brain injury probably as a result of being side-swiped by the wing mirror of a passing petrol tanker. He has made a strong recovery from his injuries.

In 2018, Cracknell enrolled at Cambridge University to study for a Masters degree in human evolution and made a return to rowing which culminated in a winning appearance in the 2019 Oxford-Cambridge boat race. At 46 he was older than any other rower to ever take part by nearly a decade.

He has a personal best in the marathon of 2:43:12 set at the age of 45.


Games Discipline (Sport) / Event NOC / Team Pos Medal As
1996 Summer Olympics Rowing GBR James Cracknell
Double Sculls, Men (Olympic) Great Britain AC
2000 Summer Olympics Rowing GBR James Cracknell
Coxless Fours, Men (Olympic) Great Britain 1 Gold
2004 Summer Olympics Rowing GBR James Cracknell
Coxless Fours, Men (Olympic) Great Britain 1 Gold

Olympic Records

Records may have been broken subsequently during the same competition.
Games Date Sport Event Phase Mark Pos
2004 Summer Olympics 18 August 2004 Rowing Coxless Fours, Men Semi-Finals, Heat Two 5:50.44 1

Olympic family relations

Special Notes