Family keeping Tokyo dreams alive for Olympic rowing champion Moe Sbihi

By Tom Harle
April 9 2020, 17.25

A heart-to-heart with his wife helped convince Olympic rowing champion Moe Sbihi that his Tokyo dream is still alive and kicking.

The 6ft 8in star, who won gold in the coxless four at Rio 2016, was laid low by a rib injury in November with the Olympic Games beckoning.

With the Tokyo Games now rescheduled to July 2021, a choice word from Sbihi’s wife Rachael helped keep the fire burning.

“If you miss a day of training at our level it has a huge effect. I missed two months,” said Sbihi, speaking on behalf of The Official Estate Agent of Team GB, Purplebricks.

“Rachael goes through it all with me and she has seen through my false bravado when a poor result comes in and sees that it hurts me.

“She reminded me that the postponement gives me a fantastic opportunity. She told me I couldn’t quit, I couldn’t stop now because of the work I’ve put in.

“She’s on the brunt of it every single day and to hear that from your number one fan is great.

“It’s very easy to feel sport is everything in life but there are more important things, seeing your friends and family and being around people you love.

“It’s nice to have levellers around you, people who don’t care about what happens day-to-day. They just ask you how you are and you move on.

“I now feel like I have a chance to show myself, more than anything, what I can do in my swansong.”

Sbihi’s determination is redoubled by the reality Tokyo could be his final Games. He’s been at the forefront of British rowing for over a decade and retirement is looming large. The backing of one of the most successful coaches in Olympic history isn’t a bad way of staying motivated, though.

PurpleBricks and Team GB at Crystal Palace Sports Centre, London, UK. Rower, Moe Sbihi Picture: Ben Stevens

Sbihi has been entrusted as Britain’s crew-maker – a role held by Sir Steve Redgrave and Matthew Pinsent in the past – by legendary head coach Jurgen Grobler.

The German has coached a crew to a gold medal at the last seven Olympic Games and his storied methods include pushing athletes hard in punishing altitude at Sierra Nevada.

Sbihi revealed the demands of the role of making the boat go faster, insisting Grobler gives Britain an edge that no other nation on the start-line in Tokyo can cope with.

“Jurgen has been able to get his crews to perform on the day for such a long time in Olympic finals,” said Sbihi.

“Often the interim years have been successful, but there have been years he’d not have won the World Championships, not been the lead boat and had to make drastic calls.

“It’s hard to believe in the end goal of gold when you’ve not won at the Worlds, but Jurgen will always make you believe it’s possible on the day. That’s so empowering.

“He’s given me the role of crew-maker, and it’s hard because I’ve not always been performing in the manner I’d want.

“You can’t always be the number one performer. Darren Fletcher wasn’t the best player in the United team but he was always the one that Alex Ferguson relied on.

“Jurgen’s made me feel like that guy, the leader of the squad who enthuses other people to get them performing. He called me instantly after the postponement was announced.

“His experience will be vital for us and something many nations won’t have so that’s a positive for us.”

Purplebricks is the UK’s leading estate agent and offers customers a transparent and convenient way to buy, sell, or let.

As the Official Estate Agent of Team GB, they are supporting the national squad in the build-up to Tokyo. For more information contact [email protected] or visit

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