January 22 - Steve Williams (pictured), Britain’s double Olympic champion, has confirmed that he has retired from competitive international rowing.
The 33-year-old Leander Club member, who took a year off after earning a gold in the four at the Beijing Olympics to go with the one he had won four years earlier in Athens, told insidethegames: "I’m hanging up my oar."
Although Williams has made no official announcement of his decision, he said he had made his position clear to David Tanner, British Rowing’s performance director.
"I spoke to David at the time of the Fours Head of the River in November," said Williams, who added he had no plans to return to the sport at international level.
As he spoke, ironically, he was looking out over the Eton Dorney lake which will host the London 2012 Olympic rowing events.
Williams and his fellow Beijing gold medallists Andy Triggs Hodge, Peter Reed and Tom James, along with lightweight double scull champions Zac Purchase and Mark Hunter, congregated at the site to have casts of their hands and feet made as part of a commission by the National Lottery honouring British Olympic and Paralympic Games gold medallists since 1948.
This quiet man of the British rowing team leaves the international scene with a record of towering achievement – as well as the gold medals he won at the last two Olympics, he has four World Championship golds.
After teaming up with James Cracknell, Matthew Pinsent and Ed Coode at the Athens Olympics, Williams remained as the main building block for the Beijing four.
Williams is now turning his attentions to developing his career in motivational speaking, where he is drawing on his competitive experiences of the last ten years, his theme being "Winning in tough times, leading in tough times".
A crucial part of his presentation is his discussion of how the four coped with finishing a disappointing fourth in the World Championships which preceded the Beijing Games despite being favourites for the event.
"Steve keeps his cards very close to his chest," said Hodge.
"All of last year none of the rest of us knew if he was going to carry on and he’s never actually said he’s going to stop.
"He is not a flamboyant person, he’s not attention seeking.
"That has been his strength as a rower."
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May 2009: Mike Rowbottom on why Peter Reed had to carry on until London 2012
August 2008: Golden pond for Britain's rowers as they win coxless fours again
August 2006: Double gold for Britain at World Rowing Championships