James Tomkins
Personal information
Born (1965-08-19) 19 August 1965 (age 58)[1]
Sydney, New South Wales
OccupationFinancial Services
Height200 cm (6 ft 7 in)
Weight98 kg (15 st 6 lb; 216 lb)
ClubMercantile Rowing Club
Coached byNoel Donaldson
Medal record
Men's rowing
Representing  Australia
Olympic Games
Gold medal – first place 1992 Barcelona Coxless four
Gold medal – first place 1996 Atlanta Coxless four
Gold medal – first place 2004 Athens Coxless pair
Bronze medal – third place 2000 Sydney Coxless pair
World Championships
Gold medal – first place 1986 Nottingham Eight
Gold medal – first place 1990 Tasmania Coxless four
Gold medal – first place 1991 Vienna Coxless four
Gold medal – first place 1998 Cologne Coxed four
Gold medal – first place 1998 Cologne Coxed pair
Gold medal – first place 1999 St. Catharines Coxless pair
Gold medal – first place 2003 Milan Coxless pair
Commonwealth Games
Gold medal – first place 1986 Edinburgh Eight
Bronze medal – third place 1986 Edinburgh Coxed four
Updated on 7 December 2016.

James Bruce Tomkins, OAM, OLY[2] (born 19 August 1965) is an Australian rower, seven-time World Champion and a three-time Olympic gold medalist. He is Australia's most awarded oarsman, having made appearances at six Olympic games (for three gold and one bronze medal);[3] eleven World Championships (for seven world titles including one in each of the five sweep oar events);[3] four Rowing World Cups (for two titles) and eighteen state representative King's Cup appearances – the Australian blue riband men's VIII event, (for fifteen victories, ten as stroke).[3] Tomkins is one of only five Australian athletes[3] and four rowers worldwide to compete at six Olympics. From 1990 to 1998 he was the stroke of Australia's prominent world class crew – the coxless four known as the Oarsome Foursome.

Club and state rowing

Tomkins took up rowing at Carey Baptist Grammar School. He stroked the Carey First VIII in both of his senior years, 1982 and 1983. His long senior club career was with the Mercantile Rowing Club in Melbourne.[3]

Tomkins was selected in Victorian state representative King's Cup crews contesting the men's Interstate Eight-Oared Championship at the Australian Rowing Championships on eighteen occasions from 1985 to 2004. Tomkins was in winning Victorian King's Cup crews on fifteen occasions, for ten of which he was in stroke seat.[3]

Tomkins competed in Mercantile colours in the National Regatta at the Australian Rowing Championships in coxless pairs and in coxed and coxless fours from 1985. He won Australian national titles at those Australian Rowing Championships in 1985, 1987 and 1988 in a 2-; in 1986 and 1987 in a 4+; and in 1988 and 1990 in a 4- with other members of the Oarsome Foursome.[4]

International representative rowing

In 1985, Tomkins first made the Australian national team as stroke of the senior men's eight for the 1985 World Rowing Championships in Hazewinkel Belgium. The Australian eight finished in ninth place.[5] In 1986, the Australian eight stroked by Steve Evans won a gold medal at the 1986 World Rowing Championships in Nottingham, England with Tomkins rowing in the six seat.[6] That same crew rowed to victory at the 1986 Commonwealth Games in Edinburgh, and Tomkins won a Commonwealth Games gold medal. Tomkins also stroked a coxed four to a bronze medal at those same games.[7]

At the World Championships in Copenhagen 1987 Tomkins was in the six seat when the men's VIII finished in fourth place[8] and at the 1988 Summer Olympics, the Australian eight finished fourth with Tomkins again rowing at six.[9]

In 1990 with his Mercantile clubmates Samuel Patten and Mike McKay and Nick Green from the Melbourne University Boat Club, Tomkins began racing an Australian representative coxless four. Their success was immediate. They won the 1990 and 1991 World Championships.[10][3] After Andrew Cooper replaced Samuel Patten, they followed up with a gold medal at the 1992 Summer Olympics in Barcelona.[10] The crew's success gained them the nickname Oarsome Foursome and lifted the profile of rowing in Australia. The crew repeated its gold medal performance at the 1996 Summer Olympics, this time with Drew Ginn replacing Andrew Cooper.[10]

At the 1998 World Championships, the Oarsome Foursome raced and won the men's coxed four world title with Brett Hayman in the stern.[10][3] Tomkins, Green and Hayman also took the world title at that same regatta as a coxed pair.[10] In 1999, the boat would go on to try out, but lose the 1999 Australian selection trials in a coxless four. Tomkins and Drew Ginn decided to switch to a coxless pair and won the 1999 World Championship.[10] This win established Tomkins as the first man to win a gold medal at World Championships in each of the five sweep rowing events.[3]

Tomkins and Ginn had planned to row the pair at the 2000 Summer Olympics in Sydney, but while in Europe preparing for the games, a severe back injury requiring surgery sidelined Ginn. On short notice, Tomkins teamed with team alternate Matthew Long, (who had to switch from stroke side to bow side) and they raced a surprising third at the Lucerne World Cup race. Tomkins and Long were selected to represent Australia, and at the Olympics, they finished third behind France and the United States, just 1.3 seconds out of first place.[10]

Tomkins (stroke): 1990 Australian M4-.

Returning to a coxless pair in 2002, Ginn and Tomkins beat the heavily favoured British crew of Matthew Pinsent and James Cracknell in a world cup race before finishing a close fourth at the 2002 World Championships. In 2003, Ginn and Tomkins reversed the prior years result winning the 2003 World Championship, with Pinsent and Cracknell placing fourth.[10][3] In 2004, Pinsent and Cracknell moved to the coxless four to better their chances for a medal. Ginn and Tomkins would go on to win the coxless pair at the 2004 Summer Olympics, leading at every mark, beating Croatia by 2 seconds, with South Africa claiming the bronze.

Tomkins was selected in the men's eight for the 2007 World Rowing Championships in Munich, placing a disappointing 4th.[10] He competed in his sixth Olympic Games at Beijing[3] following the disqualification of the Russian Federation boat as a result of a doping scandal. Tomkins was the Australian flag bearer at the Opening Ceremony. Tomkins and his crew finished last in the final of the men's eight and 6th overall at the Beijing Games.[3]

He is one of four athletes to compete in rowing at six Olympics, along with Romanian Elisabeta Oleniuc Lipă in 2004, Canadian cox Lesley Thompson, and Estonian Jüri Jaanson.[3]


James Tomkins was announced as the 2008 Victorian Father of the Year by the Father's Day Council of Victoria Inc.

In 2010 he was inducted as a member of the Rowing Victoria Hall of Fame and that same year the International Rowing Federation awarded Tomkins the Thomas Keller Medal for his outstanding international rowing career. It is the sport's highest honour and is awarded within five years of the athlete's retirement, acknowledging an exceptional career and exemplary sportsmanship.[3]

In 2012 he was inducted into the Sport Australia Hall of Fame[11] and was elected to the IOC Athletes' Commission. He will serve as an IOC member for eight years.[12]

Tomkins also helped to build the Carey/Yarra Yarra Boat Sheds on the Yarra River in Melbourne. There is an eight named after him in Carey boatshed.


Olympic Games


World championships


FISA World Cups

The Kings Cup


Commonwealth Games

See also


  1. ^ "James Tomkins". rowingaustralia.com.au. Rowing Australia. Archived from the original on 23 February 2014. Retrieved 21 February 2014.
  2. ^ "WOA Leadership". World Olympians Association. Retrieved 16 August 2021.
  3. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p q "Tomkins career at Guerin Foster". Archived from the original on 28 April 2018. Retrieved 28 April 2018.
  4. ^ 1988 Australian Championships at Guerin Foster
  5. ^ "1986 World Championships". Archived from the original on 11 May 2018. Retrieved 28 April 2018.
  6. ^ "1986 World Championships". Archived from the original on 11 July 2018. Retrieved 28 April 2018.
  7. ^ "1986 Commonwealth Games". Archived from the original on 28 April 2018. Retrieved 28 April 2018.
  8. ^ "1987 World Championships". Archived from the original on 10 September 2018. Retrieved 28 April 2018.
  9. ^ 1988 Olympics
  10. ^ a b c d e f g h i Tomkins at World Rowing
  11. ^ Hall of Fame
  12. ^ "Results of the IOC Athletes' Commission Election". Archived from the original on 29 August 2015. Retrieved 11 August 2012.