Olympic rowing: Tom James a winner says school coach

Tom James (centre) Tom James (centre) rowing with fellow Welsh Olympic rower Chris Bartley (front rower) for The King's School in 2000

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A coach who helped shape rower Tom James into a champion says the Welshman's determination will help him overcome his recent health concerns.

James, from Wrexham, who has been treated for a heart condition, is part of the GB men's coxless four who began their Olympic title defence on Monday.

And they comfortably secured a place in Thursday's semi-final.

Duncan Little, who coached James at his former school in Chester, said the rower had always been strong minded.

"He's a winner," added Mr Little, who will watch the heats on TV at home.

Start Quote

He's single-minded and determined and likes winning”

End Quote Duncan Little Tom James's former coach

James, from Coedpoeth, would become the first Welsh athlete to win gold medals in back-to-back Olympics since equestrian rider Richard Meade in 1968 and 1972.

Cyclist Nicole Cooke had hoped to achieve that distinction, but her attempt to follow up her Beijing gold in the women's road race failed when she finished 31st in London on Sunday.

James has suffered injury and health concerns in recent years, taking a year off following his gold medal success in Beijing before back trouble kept him out for most of 2010.

Earlier this year he said he had been suffering from a heart condition which caused an abnormal rhythm and was having treatment to bring it under control.

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His heartbeat would reach 220 beats per minute, even after light exercise, but the condition is not uncommon for people under 30.

James worked his way back to full fitness and won the final spot in the boat for the Olympics.

He missing training last Wednesday because of a raised heart rate but said it had just been a precaution because he felt tired.

Mr Little said he did not believe the health issues would unduly affect James, who learnt to row from the age of 13 at The King's School.

"He's single-minded and determined and likes winning," he said.

He added: "I taught him originally when he started. He had the determination and he didn't mind pain. He was hard.

"We would tell him what the targets were and he would just do it."

But Mr Little said he believed the GB rowers would face tough competition from the Australian team.

"They [the GB team] are winners, there's no two ways about it but there's other good people around," he said.

"I would think it's 'even-stevens', and they are the two favourites, but no gold medal is easy.

"We're talking really tight margins."

David Blackham, director of rowing a The King's School, Chester, said both James and fellow Welsh Olympic rower Chris Bartley keep very much in contact with the school where they learned to row.

"We are very proud of them," he said. "They inspire kids coming through the system.

"In every way they do feel connected with them.

Tom James during Monday's coxless four heat Tom James during Monday's coxless four heat

"We've got 60 kids coming down for their first session tomorrow so they will be watching and hopefully inspired by what these guys do."

James, who made his Olympic debut in the eight-man boat at the 2004 Athens Olympics, is now one of the experienced members of the British rowing squad.

The World Championship and World Cup winner said earlier this month that he may retire from rowing after the 2012 Games to start a new profession.

Meanwhile, Swansea swimmer Georgia Davies was eighth in Sunday night's first women's 100m backstroke semi-final, with a time of 1:00.56.

In the morning's heats she set a faster time than teammate Gemma Spofforth who finished third in the semi in a time of 59.70.

Other Welsh athletes competing on Monday include boxer Andrew Selby in the men's flyweight first round.

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