After its worst Olympic performance for 45 years, the culture war engulfing British Rowing has taken an extraordinarily toxic turn, with men’s eight bronze medallist Josh Bugajski accusing former coach Jurgen Grobler of “destroying” athletes.
In a remarkable interview, laying bare the strife behind the country’s most dismal medal return in an Olympic regatta since 1976, Bugajski alleged that Grobler, who retired in August 2020, had made his life a misery for three years with his brutal training methods.
“I’m going to be brave and say something that the crew don’t want me to say,” said Bugajski, bowman of the eight that took bronze here at Tokyo’s Sea Forest Waterway. “I cracked open a bottle of champagne when Jurgen retired. I had three very dark years under him. And I think I’d be a coward if I didn’t say that on behalf of the guys who are stuck at home, because they got a darker side of Jurgen and they aren’t in the team.
“There were some people he just seemed to take a disliking to. What he did to them was just destroy them – destroy their soul, destroy everything they had. He had complete power. If you didn’t get funding for a boat, your funding was never going to go up. I was pretty much broke for a year or so. My relationship suffered, my friendships suffered. Everything suffered. I’m very grateful to have a wonderful fiancée, a wonderful family back home. They look after me whenever they can.”