We chatted with Sir David Tanner, British Rowing’s performance director, during his recent visit to Nathan Benderson Park. Below is his biography from BritishRowing.org, followed by our questions and his answers.
Great Britain won three medals at the 2000 Olympic Games in Sydney, four in Athens in 2004, six in Beijing in 2008, topping the rowing medal table, and in London 2012, won nine medals, four of them gold to once again earn the accolade of ‘best Olympic nation’. Until London, no rowing nation in the modern era had won more than six medals at an Olympic Games.
In 2002 Sir David introduced rowing’s ‘Start’ programme, an innovative talent identification initiative, which produced five of GB’s 10 Olympic champions in London. In the same year, he launched Great Britain’s Paralympic rowing programme which produced two golds in Beijing and one in London.
In 2006, his brainchild the Redgrave Pinsent Rowing Lake at Caversham was opened as the GB Rowing Team’s high performance base.
Sir David first came to the forefront when he coached the ‘Ealing Four’ in the late 1970s, starting them from scratch as schoolboys from Ealing Grammar School and taking them through to win three World Championships medals at Junior and Senior level and an Olympic bronze in Moscow in 1980.
In the days before Lottery Funding for sport he had a full-time career in education and was headmaster for 10 years at a large West London comprehensive. During this time he was Great Britain’s Senior Team Manager from 1991-1996 which included the Barcelona and Atlanta Olympics.
After Atlanta, with the prospect of lottery funding for rowing for the first time he was recruited to the full time role of Performance Director with British Rowing.
He is an historian, a Fellow of the Royal Society of Arts and a Freeman of the City of London. He is a governor of two schools; one his local comprehensive school, Orleans Park, and the other Shiplake College in Henley-on-Thames. He received an OBE for Services to Rowing in the 2003 Queen’s Birthday Honours, a CBE in the New Year’s Honours of 2009 and a Knighthood for his services to the 2012 Olympic & Paralympic Games in 2013.
He lists classical music, education, history, archaeology and good food and wine as his outside interests.
This is your third trip to Sarasota-Bradenton, Florida. What are your rowers from across the pond saying about the area and the 2017 World Rowing Championships?
Tanner: People are pretty excited to be coming. I have been telling people that Sarasota-Bradenton is a pretty good place to be. People from Britain enjoy coming to the United States. I think people are really looking forward to the climate here and I think it will be really well organized.
What are your overall thoughts about the venue, Nathan Benderson Park?
I think it’s outstanding. I think the wave breaker is really good. We are an outdoor sport and wind is not something we like, so that is a really good innovation. There is also plenty of space which is important.
You got to work with, arguably, the greatest rower of all time, Sir Steve Redgrave. Can you talk about that experience?
He is a very determined man and a very good, fair operating guy who knows about winning. The big impact he has had on rowing in Great Britain has been exactly that. Like any successful and high level athlete, he is challenging to work with, but in a good way. You want people to be like that. I know him very well and he is still doing very good things in rowing.
A few weeks ago, it was announced Heather Stanning would be retiring from the sport. Tell us about the impact she has had on British Rowing.
She has been phenomenal. The partnerships she’s has with Helen Glover has been made in heaven. It works on a personal level, plus a technical and performance level. It’s a big loss, but she is 31 years old and it’s her time. She will be successful in whatever she does.
A few years back, you were knighted. How significant was that for you?
This was very special to me. I received it from the Queen at Windsor Castle in 2013. It’s an honor that money can’t buy. It was the first time a performance director received knighthood. I was amazed.