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The GB Rowing Team is the high performance arm of British Rowing. Rowing is the nation’s most continuously successful Olympic sport, having won a gold medal in every Olympic Games since 1984, and has won six Paralympic golds since the sport was introduced to the Paralympic Games programme in 2008.
GB Rowing Team
Rower // Men's Squad Date of Birth: 26th Nov 1985 (36 years old)
Club: Reading University Boat Club Height: 198.00 Hometown: Reading
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Sam Townsend got into rowing through the GB Rowing Team Start Programme and has gone on to set a number of sculling milestones during a successful career.
Sam Townsend represented his country at junior and U23 level before moving up to the seniors. Sam was a key member of the GB men’s quadruple scull that won historic World Championships silver and bronze medals.
He has also raced in two Olympic finals – in the double at London 2012 and in the quad at Rio 2016.
Sam’s senior career has seen him help set new milestones in GB men’s sculling and race in two Olympic finals
©Peter Spurrier/Intersport Images
Olympic Finalist Men's Quadruple Scull
European Bronze Medallist Men's Quadruple Scull
World and European Silver Medallist Men's Quadruple Scull
World Bronze Medallist Men's Quadruple Scull
Olympic Finalist Men's Double Scull
Sam was once again selected in the men’s quadruple scull for the 2016 season alongside Peter Lambert, Angus Groom and Graeme Thomas. They finished fifth at the European Championships in Brandenburg and then qualified for the final at the Lucerne World Cup. Peter had to withdraw through illness on the morning of the race but, with Jack Beaumont subbing in, the quad still won a superb silver medal. They finished off the podium at the Poznan World Cup, though, again having to settle for fifth place.
A difficult build-up to the Rio 2016 Olympic Games saw Thomas have to withdraw through illness just four days before the regatta began. Beaumont again came into the boat and the new-look crew finished fourth in their opening heat. They were continually improving, though, and were strong runners-up in their repechage before finishing a fine fifth overall with a battling effort in the final.
Sam has raced in the men’s quad throughout this Olympiad and helped to qualify the boat for Rio 2016 with a fourth-placed finish at the 2015 World Championships in Aiguebelette.
That was a good result following a season where injury and illness led to a number of changes to a boat that had been settled for the previous two years. Charles Cousins was injured just before the European Championships in Poznan but Beaumont stepped in to help Sam, Graeme Thomas and Peter Lambert win a fine bronze medal and set a new championship record along the way.
Angus Groom replaced Beaumont in the quad that won an impressive gold at the World Cup in Varese but illness meant the crew did not race in Lucerne. Cousins returned for the World Championships and helped the quad produce a storming second half to their final but they couldn’t quite catch the leading trio.
After beginning 2013 with a gold medal at the Sydney World Cup, the now familiar line-up of Thomas, Townsend, Cousins and Lambert raced together for the first time at Eton Dorney. They finished fifth there and, with Jonny Walton subbing for the injured Thomas in Lucerne, improved to fourth before winning bronze at the World Championships in Chungju – the first-ever World medal for a GB men’s quad.
The crew continued to make great strides during 2014, winning silver at the European Championships in Belgrade before adding World Cup gold in both Aiguebelette and Lucerne. Mature and confident performances saw them win their heat and semi-final at the World Championships in Amsterdam to set up a showdown with Ukraine, who had beaten GB to the European title. The final was close-fought but Ukraine were just able to hold off a dramatic late surge from the Brits, who missed out on gold by just nine-hundredths of a second.
Sam was part of the quad during 2009 and stroked them to World Cup silver in Banyoles and Lucerne. However, Sam caught mumps just before the World Championships in Poznan and, with other members of the crew also taken ill, the quad had to withdraw after their heat.
He enjoyed better fortunes the following year in New Zealand as Sam, Charles Cousins, Bill Lucas and Stephen Rowbotham became the first GB men’s quad to reach a World Championship final since 1982, finishing fifth. They also won bronze medals at the World Cups in Munich and Lucerne, with Sam and Bill having started the 2010 season with double scull silver in Bled as part of a GB one-two.
Tom Solesbury joined Sam, Bill and Stephen in the quad during 2011 as GB won World Cup silver in Lucerne before finishing seventh at the World Championships in Bled.
Sam and Bill formed a new-look men’s double during 2012 and won a silver medal at the World Cup in Belgrade. They were then sixth and fourth in Lucerne and Munich respectively before making the London 2012 Olympic final, where they placed fifth.
A footballer and cricketer during his school years, Sam was identified as a potential rowing champion by the GB Rowing Team Start Programme and joined the centre at Reading RC in 2002 aged 16.
He was crowned as British Junior Ergo Champion the following year and made his GB debut at the 2004 World U23 Championships in Poznan, finishing 11th in a men’s quad that also included Alex Gregory.
Sam was tenth with the eight at the 2005 World U23s in Amsterdam and made his senior debut in the same boat at the Poznan World Cup the following year, finishing ninth.
He raced in the men’s quad throughout 2007, finishing 15th on his senior World Championships debut in Munich, and narrowly missed out on Beijing Olympic qualification during the 2008 World Cup series. He switched to the single for the European Championships in Athens, winning the B final.
Club: Reading University Boat Club
Boat: Men’s Squad
Coaches: Paul Stannard
Learnt to Row: Reading University with the GB Rowing Team’s Start Programme
Original Club(s): Reading University Boat Club
Sam was a keen cricketer and footballer growing up. He won the Berks & Bucks Cup in soccer at the age of 16 and claimed a hat-trick while recording figures of 5-37 playing for Highmoor CC.
It was while he was at Chiltern Edge School that he was recruited into the GB Rowing Team’s Start Programme and he went on to become British Ergo Champion at junior and U23 level.
Sam remains a keen sportsperson and says if he wasn’t a rower he would like to be involved in another team sport – “preferably one with a little less training!” He is also a fan of tennis player Novak Djokovic, admiring his ability to produce his best performances when it really counts.
His perfect meal is a duck and pineapple curry with a king prawn pad thai, which he would enjoy with his wife Tasha, parents, brother Ben, sister-in-law Julie and nephew Ted. “I am very close to my family and it’s always great for us to all get together for dinner.”
Sam would also take his wife to a desert island with him, along with chocolate digestives and a rugby ball. When he is not pottering around the garden or coaching at Reading University Boat Club, he is “totally hooked” on Game of Thrones and watches The Simpsons almost every day.
He graduated from Reading University in the summer of 2010 with a 2:1 degree in Rural Environmental Science.
Sam is Lottery Funded through UK Sport.
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