Tom James
Tom James MBE.jpg
Personal information
Birth nameThomas James
Born (1984-03-11) 11 March 1984 (age 38)
Cardiff, South Glamorgan, Wales
Height190 cm (6.2 ft)
Weight85 kg (187 lb)
CountryGreat Britain
SportMen's rowing
Event(s)Coxless Four, Eight
College teamCambridge University
ClubMolesey Boat Club
Coached byJürgen Gröbler
Medal record

Thomas James MBE (born 11 March 1984) is a British rower, twice Olympic champion and victorious Cambridge Blue.[1] In a British coxless four in 2012 he set a world's best time which still stood as of 2021.

Background and early life

James was born in Cardiff[2] and spent part of his childhood in Berlin, Germany as his father was an officer in the British Army,[3][4] but considers his hometown to be the village of Coedpoeth, near Wrexham.[1][5]

James was educated at Packwood Haugh School near Ruyton-XI-Towns,[6] and then at The King's School, Chester. He was a keen sportsman and played football and rugby before being diagnosed with Osgood–Schlatter disease, forcing him to switch to rowing instead.[3] While at King's, he was schoolmates and shared a boat with fellow Olympian Chris Bartley.[1][7] He went up to Trinity Hall, Cambridge in 2002, obtaining his undergraduate degree in engineering in 2007.[1][8]

Rowing career

The Boat Race

Whilst at Cambridge University, James was a member of Cambridge University Boat Club (CUBC) and took part in The Boat Race four times in five years between 2003 and 2007 (taking a year off to train for the 2004 Summer Olympics).[1] He was elected president of CUBC for the 2006–07 academic year.[1]

Having concentrated his efforts on the Olympics in 2004, James returned to Cambridge in 2005. Both universities had extremely strong intakes that year, with Cambridge boasting several world champions and the Oxford crew including Olympic silver medalist Barney Williams. Oxford won the epic contest by 2 lengths in a time of 16 minutes 41 seconds.[9] In 2006, the weather was particularly bad, and Cambridge lost again, this time by 5 lengths.[10]

After three years of disappointment, James returned to the boat race one final time in 2007, this time as President of CUBC. In a race where Cambridge were strong favourites based on the team members' individual successes, the light blues showed their class by staying in touch while Oxford had the advantage, and pushing on with tidier rowing from the halfway point. They rowed on to win by a length and a quarter, finally providing James with a victory at the fourth attempt.[11]


Having won a bronze medal in 2001 with GB Junior eights and silver in 2002 at the World Rowing Junior Championships, James won his first senior international vest in 2003.[1] He stroked the Great Britain Eight, which won a bronze medal at the World Championships in Milan.[1]

Following this success, James decided that training for the Olympics and studying for his engineering degree were incompatible. He took a year off from his studies at Cambridge, and trained with the Leander Club in Henley-on-Thames. The buildup to the Olympics for the GB Men's Rowing Squad was somewhat disrupted due to illness, injury and variable form. James fell ill the night before the Heat in the Olympic competition – a devastating blow and whilst he returned for the repechage, the crew failed to make the final.

After taking a break from international rowing, James returned to the British Team in 2006, forming a pair with Oxford rival Colin Smith.[12] The duo raced to a surprise silver behind reigning world champions New Zealand at the Lucerne World Cup regatta to earn selection for the world championships at Eton's Dorney Lake, making the final and finishing sixth.

In Summer 2007 he was subbed in for Alex Partridge in the flagship British rowing boat, the coxless four, which won Henley Royal Regatta in July 2007 and then took silver seven days later in the Lucerne World Cup Regatta.[13]

He was then selected in the GB coxed four for the world championships in Munich, but was promoted to the bow seat of the eight when the original incumbent fell ill on the morning of the heats. The crew made the final, securing GB qualification for the Beijing Olympics, and took the bronze behind Canada and Germany.

Reunited with Colin Smith in a pair, James finished second at the GB final trials regatta in March, 2008, to put himself well on course for a place at his second Olympics. He was then selected for the GB coxless four along with Andy Triggs-Hodge, Steve Williams and Pete Reed.[14]

After a difficult early season, with both James and Triggs-Hodge picking up injuries, the four raced together for the first time in Poznan in the final World Cup event of the season, finishing third. The GB four then dominated their heats and semi finals at the Olympics Beijing. In the final, however, the Australian four led for most of the way. Only a dramatic push by the British boat in the closing stages made the difference; they won the nail-biting final to become gold medallists in a time of 6 minutes 6.57 seconds, beating the Australian four by 1.28 seconds.[15]

At the 2011 World Rowing Championships in Bled, Slovenia, James raced in the men's four with crew-mates Matt Langridge, Ric Egington and Alex Gregory winning a gold medal ahead of Greece in second and Australia in third.[16][17]

During the 2012 World Rowing Cup in Lucerne, James rejoined Gregory in the fours while Reed and Triggs Hodge were switched over from the pairs. They set a new world record during the heats at the second regatta with a time of 5:37.86.[18] At the Olympics, they beat main rivals Australia in the semi-finals, and then repeated their win in the final.[19] For James, Reed and Triggs Hodge, it was their second gold medal in the category, following their win in Beijing four years prior.

Honours and recognition

Post box in Wrexham painted gold to celebrate Tom James' gold medal win at the 2012 Summer Olympics
Post box in Wrexham painted gold to celebrate Tom James' gold medal win at the 2012 Summer Olympics

All British gold medal winners at the 2012 Olympics were honoured with appearing on Royal Mail postage stamps, and having a post box in their home town painted gold. James' "golden" post boxes are located in Wrexham[20] and Coedpoeth.[5][21]

He was awarded the Freedom of the Borough of Wrexham after successfully defending his gold medal in the coxless fours event at the 2012 Olympics.[22][23]

He was appointed Member of the Order of the British Empire (MBE) in the 2009 New Year Honours.[24]


James lives London.[25] He was appointed a Steward of the Henley Royal Regatta in 2014.[25] Since retiring he has also done some commentating during the rowing season, mostly at the Henley Royal Regatta and The Boat Race.[26][27][28]

James retired from professional rowing in November 2013.[29][30] Having previously worked for the management consultancy Oliver Wyman[31][32] James now works as Head of Product and Operations at Executive Nexus.

On 2 January 2015 James was a member of the winning team on Christmas University Challenge, representing Trinity Hall, Cambridge who defeated Balliol College, Oxford, the University of Edinburgh and the University of Hull. His teammates were world champion cyclist Emma Pooley, novelist Adam Mars-Jones, and actor Dan Starkey.[33]



World championships

Junior World championships

World Cups

The Boat Race

GB Rowing Team Senior Trials

See also


  1. ^ a b c d e f g h "Profile: Tom James". BBC Sport. 1 December 2008. Retrieved 5 December 2010.
  2. ^ a b c d e "Athlete Profile: Tom James". Retrieved 5 August 2012.
  3. ^ a b "Father tells of pride as Tom James claims second Olympic gold medal". WalesOnline. 4 August 2012.
  4. ^ "Rowing: James gives Light Blues a fresh look as brotherhood rules waves". The Independent. 5 April 2003.
  5. ^ a b "Rower Tom James's gold post box and stamp honour". BBC. 5 August 2012.
  6. ^ "Second Olympic gold for Old Packwoodian Tom". Packwood Haugh School. 14 August 2012. Archived from the original on 7 March 2013. Retrieved 2 February 2013.
  7. ^ "2012 Olympics: Former King's School Chester rowing partners Tom James and Chris Bartley reflect on London 2012 Olympic medal wins". Chester Chronicle. 9 August 2012.
  8. ^ "Annual Review 2005–2006" (PDF). University of Cambridge Sport. p. 26. Archived from the original (PDF) on 17 September 2012. Retrieved 2 February 2013.
  9. ^ "Oxford capture Boat Race success". BBC. 27 March 2005. Retrieved 5 August 2012.
  10. ^ "Oxford triumph in 152nd Boat Race". BBC. 2 April 2006. Retrieved 5 August 2012.
  11. ^ "Cambridge claim Boat Race victory". BBC. 7 April 2007. Retrieved 5 August 2012.
  12. ^ Quarrell, Rachel (8 July 2006). "Britons to fore in Lucerne". The Daily Telegraph. Retrieved 5 August 2012.
  13. ^ "GB four maintains World Cup form". BBC. 13 July 2007. Retrieved 5 August 2012.
  14. ^ "Final GB rowers named after trial". BBC. 16 July 2008. Retrieved 5 August 2012.
  15. ^ "How James drove his crew to glory". WalesOnline. 23 August 2008.
  16. ^ Cross, Martin (4 September 2011). "Double gold for Britain ends World Rowing Championships on a high". The Guardian. Retrieved 2 February 2013.
  17. ^ "2011 World Rowing Championships". World Rowing Federation. Archived from the original on 19 March 2016. Retrieved 20 August 2020.
  18. ^ "Great Britain's men's rowing four smash world record". The Guardian. 25 May 2012.
  19. ^ "Rower Tom James wins Wales' second Olympic gold". BBC. 4 August 2012. Retrieved 5 August 2012.
  20. ^ "Rower Tom James's gold post box and stamp honour". BBC. 5 August 2012. Retrieved 5 August 2012.
  21. ^ Gold Post boxes
  22. ^ "Wrexham freedom for Olympic gold medallist Tom James". BBC. 21 September 2012.
  23. ^ "Wrexham Olympic double gold medalist Tom James to get the Freedom of the Borough". WalesOnline. 27 March 2013.
  24. ^ "No. 58929". The London Gazette (Supplement). 31 December 2008. p. 18.
  25. ^ a b "Meet the three newest stewards". Henley Standard. 7 July 2014.
  26. ^ "Henley announces all-star commentary and presentation line-up". 11 June 2015.
  27. ^ "Boat Races both live on BBC, as women's race takes equal billing as men's on the Tideway for the first time". BBC. 9 April 2015.
  28. ^ "The 160th Boat Race". BBC. 6 April 2014.
  29. ^ Barretto, Lawrence. "Tom James: Double Olympic rowing champion retires". BBC. Retrieved 4 December 2013.
  30. ^ "Tom James retires from rowing". British Rowing. 28 November 2013.
  31. ^ Jacobs, Emma (9 June 2016). "Lucrative business careers await retired sports stars". Financial Times.
  32. ^ "Double Olympic gold medalist rower, Tom James, and now Oliver Wyman consultant quoted in the Financial Times". 3 December 2016.
  33. ^ "University Challenge Victory". Trinity Hall, Cambridge. 2 January 2015. Retrieved 3 January 2015.