Oh What a Difference a Year Makes

British Olympian Jack Beaumont Survives Accident to Row in Rio, Here



By Priyanka Ketkar — Posted on October 21, 2016

He has raced in the Olympic Games and one-on-one with a prime minister, and this weekend he will race in his first Head Of The Charles But the Jack Beaumont rowing story everyone wants to hear is the one about the day he thought his career had come to an end in a terrifying accident.

One year ago, during the pre-world championships training camp, Beaumont, rowing in a double, was seriously injured in a collision with a GB men’s eight. Initially he thought he was going to drown, as he found himself in the water and just couldn’t move. All he knew was that there was a lot of blood and his back and hip hurt a lot. Once he was pulled from the water and taken to the hospital, he was told that he had fractures in his spine.

He assumed the worst.

“I thought it meant I had to stop rowing. And actually, it was heart breaking because it was a year from the Olympics games which was what I had been aiming for and it looked to me like I was never going to row again.”

But he recovered quickly and this summer was in the mix for a spot on the GB Olympic team. But when the boats were settled, Beaumont found himself the first man out. It seemed as though of his dream of following on his father Peter’s footsteps—an Olympian back in the 1988 Seoul Games—would have to wait another four years. “To not be selected in the first place to the Olympics was heart-breaking, because I have had quite a cruel year with injury anyway and I tried really hard to get that spot and I didn’t get it, and I was gutted and then I sort of moved on and said ‘Ok fine! Whatever! I didn’t make the team!’ And I got over it.”

But just as  the accident wasn’t the end of his Olympics dream, neither was not getting selected the first time around. As fate would have it, one of his teammates, Graeme Thomas, was sent back from Rio due to illness and in came an opportunity knocking at Beaumont’s door; in his case, in the form of a phone call.

Jack Beaumont was now officially on the GB Team for the Rio Olympics.

As elated as he was with the news, Beaumont is humble enough to accept how heartbroken he was by the fact that his teammate couldn’t fulfil his dream. “It was heart-breaking actually. I didn’t want to take his place. Of course I wanted to be in Olympics and everyone dreams about that; and so did he. It was his dream too. And it’s not fair. He earned his spot. I felt a bit bad taking it, but of course you have to take your opportunities.”

It is not the first time though that Jack Beaumont replaced someone in the team. In fact, for almost two years, he was mostly on the periphery of the team. He was a spare in the European Championships in 2015. Then this year he won a silver medal at the World Cup race in Lucerne as a spare, and rowed in Rio, where his quad finished fifth in the final, again as a spare. “I kind of got the nickname ‘Supersub’ for a while” he says with a wide grin, without any regrets of being spare who got his chance.

The 22-year-old Beaumont has an ever-smiling, ever happy demeanour. “I think the guys in the team think of me like some sort of a jester that just keeps laughing. I think, they think that something is wrong with me because I am laughing all the time! I am just happy! Now, is that a crime?” And he reckons that this spirit is probably what kept him going despite his accident.

His love for rowing literally knows no bounds. Although he is currently getting his degree in Criminology, he doesn’t plan to work in any other field than rowing for the indefinite future. He greatly admires Norwegian Olaf Tufte, whose bronze in the Rio single came at the age of 40. Maybe he will get to compete then, maybe not, he says. But he knows he’ll still be rowing then. “I am going to row for the rest of my life, I just love it. I never rowed to row the Olympics. I rowed because it was a hobby and I enjoyed rowing.”

Away from the water, Beaumont plays the guitar and is a big heavy-metal music fan. But his life has never been very far from rowing. He has even lost a rowing competition to new British Prime Minister Theresa May. Back when Beaumont was in school and Theresa May was the member of Parliament from Maidenhead, a small town in England where he grew up, she used to attend several school events, one of which was Beaumont’s school’s rowing competition. Young Jack won student division and got to square off against the MP. May, rowing in high heels, posted a time that bested Beaumont’s. “I was just 11 but I was still embarrassed; but now she is the Prime Minister and you know the head of our country and it is a funny thing to remember.”

Would he like a rematch with the PM then?

“Yeah! I would be quite interested to see Theresa May do another 250 metre race on the rowing machine, in her high heels and see if she could beat me now!”

But rematches with May will have to wait. Beaumont and partner Peter Lambert will be rowing in the Men’s Championship Doubles at the 52nd Head of the Charles Regatta, where they will be facing the all-star pairing of Australian Mahé Drysdale and Norwegian Olaf Tufte, Irish lightweights Paul and Gary O’Donovan, as well as fellow Leander Club and GB Olympic teammates John Collins and Jonathan Walton, who finished fifth in the men’s doubles in Rio this summer. He likes the Irishmen’s chances, respects the imposing resumes of Drysdale and Tufte, and would probably most like to beat Collins and Walton. “We have all raced with each other at some point. We all live in each other’s pockets! I’d love to get one over them and beat them but realistically, they are a fantastic double. It would be fun to beat them because we would get to tease them about it but really, they are our teammates and at the end of the day I want to see us all do well.”

He also sees the race as wide open, because nobody’s sure about anyone post-Olympic fitness. “You know, we are not the best prepared for here and after Rio, we have had quite a bit of time off and we have not been training a lot.”

Whatever the result come Saturday, Beaumont, like so many thousands of rowers before him is savouring his first Head of the Charles experience.  “I have heard [so many stories of the] legends of the Head of the Charles Regatta,” he said. “So many [people] have said that this is the most amazing race that they have ever done. And we will race as well as we can. But really we are here for the great experience.”

Follow Priyanka Ketkar at @PriyankaKetkar



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