AUSTRALIAN Paul Thompson has been honoured with an MBE for “services to rowing and the London 2012 Olympic Games”. He received the award from Prince Charles in a ceremony at Buckingham Palace yesterday. Thompson is Chief Coach for the British Women and Lightweight rowing squads.
“It’s certainly a long way from riding my pushbike around the streets of Canberra to being in the ballroom of Buckingham Palace”, Thompson told AAP after receiving the honour.
He added: “We’ve had a pretty successful year with the rowing team and I’m proud to be associated with that team.”
Under Thompson’s stewardship, Team GB’s women’s double scull, Katherine Grainger and Anna Watkins, triumphed with an Olympic Gold at Eton-Dorney last year. They pushed Australia’s Kim Crow and Brooke Prately into the silver medal position.
Overall, the British women and lightweight rowers at London 2012 had a best-ever Olympic performance of four gold, two silver and three bronze medals. This surpassed the previous tally of eight rowing medals won in 1908, when the Games were also held in London.
Thompson, a graduate from the University of Canberra, was a former Australian squad rower whose career was cut short by a bicycle accident whilst training in his early 20s. He began his coaching career at the Australian Institute for Sport. In 1996, he coached the women’s pair to an Olympic Gold Medal, Australia’s first for women’s rowing, and then to a silver medal at the Sydney Olympics in 2000.
In 2001, Thompson became coach to the British Rowing Squad and became Lead Coach for Women in 2004 leading the team to three medals at the Athens Olympics. He was then promoted to ARA Chief Coach for Women and Lightweights and went on to acquire British nationality in 2007. This was followed by a silver medal for the women’s quadruple scull at the 2008 Beijing Olympics.
Thompson plans to stay with Team GB at least until Rio 2016.