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on 11 November 2012
Normally, sportsmen and women publish their achievements very frequently after hitting form and fame.The question is when their story is first known, do they decide to then behave strangely, as for instance Georgie Best Good, the Bad and the Bubbly or Paul Gascoigne, simply because they were really always odd, or in order to keep up their cash flow with explanations on their latest fetes of violence and drunkard stupidity. This was the first book published by an Olympic athlete when the London Games in August 2012 closed, and, as in the case of the cyclist Victoria Pendleton Between the Lines: My Autobiography, it is most informative, exciting, well argued, and beautifully written.

Like Pendleton, Greg Searle who has now retired (possibly again) he traces his peaks and troughs, and hisaccomplishments right up to the London summer Games, and so is current. It can be looked in terms as arevealing sociological study. Unlike human interest sob stories of a child from a down-and out working class family made good, such as Charlie Chaplin, or those coming from immigrants, including Mo Farah, Greg Searle, and his elder brother Jonathan or "Jonny", came from a very middle class backgrounds, attending a good school at Hampton and taking part in an elitist sport such as rowing against the crème of Eton - their sole claim of being the underdogs; his brother going on graduating via Oxford, or in his case from a newer university, at London South Bank, where he carried on his sport, both thereafter becoming members of the Molesey Rowing Club, a rival to the much acclaimed Leander Club, frequented by their famous contemporary legends of Steve Redgrave, Matthew Pinsent, and James Cracknell, and in past times, the Bushells, Don, the father, and Richard, his son, Olympic gold medallists at the earlier London Games in 1908 and 1948. The success of rowing depends on much bonding, often from similar social backgrounds, so it will irritate Guardian readers who believe in greater equality for black / Asian minorities and gays throughout society - especially as Searle never mentions any instance to challenge this established tradition or that it is undergoing change.

Greg, his brother, and cox Garry Herbert, reached their peaks early in their careers at the Barcelona Olympics(he at 20), winning gold in August 1992 against the reigning double Olympic and seven times World champions, the Italian Abbagnale brothers in the coxed pairs race. It was thought at the time to be the birth of a new era for them in the coxed pairs with their repeat win in the World championships against the Italians at Racice in 1993; unfortunately, it was not to be as the competition was then discontinued.

The removal of that cup of glory propelled him to regain those height in other rowing events: winning bronze in the coxless fours at Atlanta, four years later; briefly trying with less success in the single sculls, and then the coxless pairs in 2000 with Ed Coode, when he hit his lowest point. For after leading much of the final the pair was first overtaken by the very united France, and then edged out of the medals by the Australian and the American teams, a foot from the silver, inches from bronze, and coming fourth feeling "a million miles from the podium".

Once the London nomination was won Greg decided to try his last attempt at a come back and race for a second gold twenty years after Barcelona. The author looks back from a moment in 2009 at end of a World championship, in Poznan, when this vital life changing decision was taken to train hard towards joining the eights team.

The tale takes on an active front participant / rear observer approach on the different training schemes proposed by the different national and overseas coaches, John West, the NZ Harry Mahon, and the former successful DDR coach Jürgen Grobler, with Greg commenting on how he was feeling, and asking himself what he should next do to be up for the big one: the next trial, the World championship, and the London Games. At times he admits his headstrong immovable manner proved to be both his strength and weakness, and he always felt a sense of inferiority over the gold medallist accepted brethren from Leander. If the book is an accurate account even at his lowest point Greg soon pulled himself out of the rut, recognising any gains even in defeat as at Sydney to be respected, learnt from, and passed on to the next generation of rowers knocking loudly at the door.

He no longer just saw the goal of entirely crossing the line first; he started to identify the preparation in terms for his fellow rowers around him, then the wider Team GB which over the years he started to know better, his family, and in particular all his supporters. Looking at himself in the mirror he had to start being less hard with himself. If victory was not fought for now, how long must we all wait, that was the question? He realised his foes were definitely not ecessarily his rivals in the race, they were his equals; it was the scribblers in the media he had to be wary of, as they could raise you one day, and then drop you the next, something which the disappointed swimmer Rebecca Adlington discovered to her cost in 2012. Overall, there existed many more loyal friends out there. He (and I) was most surprised to be remembered, and receive support years later from his former rivals the Italian rowers, who always love winners - Italians don't remember seconds or near misses, in particular they admire good, honest sportsmen, and those who enjoy training, relaxing or living in certain quiet Italian spots. For them, Greg had a little bit of Italy in him.

He shows the differences how he lived before all the sponsorships became more freely available after the launch of the National Lottery, and the breadth of his sporting interests during the lull - from taking part in two London marathons,a London triathlon, in BBC's Superstars, and in GB Challenge for the America's Cup in New Zealand. He admits overallhe was pretty fortunate, but when at Eton Dorney in August 2012 he finally realised he had not won gold a second time, but bronze again, he still felt the numbing sense of failure of Sydney having been lifted and finally laying the ghost. The team had done its best against the Olympic champions, the Germans, and up to the 1500 m mark they had been shown not to be so invincible. Why it was not silver, won by Canada Olympic champions in Beijing, Greg does not say; perhaps he was lost for words of joy, or perhaps it no longer mattered, his sporting life was part of history and of legends. Now his current challenge centres on his lovely family, in the same way the family had been centred on him over the previous twenty years. Success is always based on the idea If not now, when? A nice worded title, with a zing to it.

It is an excellent real-life story which when the time comes - as occurred both in the film Chariots of Fire [DVD] [1981] and recently in Mike Bartlett's stage version of Chariots of Fire, the producers will refuse to respect simply for effect. It shows everyone how one can progress in the face of adversity
in all walks of life if there is a will and plans; it demonstrates how to work as a team; and stresses that the greatest talents of each individual in the team will never equal the sum of all its parts: all eight are of part of the team, but most of all the team, the ninth man, its unity becomes the magic strength of victory. Greg Searle's dash to become the first Olympic writer is worthy of that missed second gold medal. Highly recommended.
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on 18 January 2015
Greg Searle gives a fantastic insight into his life and Rowing career, and journey from his fantastic success aged 20 with his brother in 1992, through his comeback to the Olympic final in 2012 aged forty. The best thing about this book was it's honesty, and the highs and lows and sacrifices that even a gifted athlete have to endure to achieve in one of the worlds toughest sports. I would highly recommend this book to anybody, as it gives a heartfelt insight into the life of an Olympian, anybody who wants to achieve in life should read this book, If not now, when...
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on 22 August 2012
First things first, this isn't a sugar-coated or censored account of Greg's rowing career in the way you might expect with a book timed for release at the Olympics. It's a highly detailed and searingly honest account, packed full of personal anecdotes and sporting analogies. I feel it's a must-read for anyone interested in rowing over the last 20 years and has plenty of raw emotion to interest a wider audience of sports fans. I particularly enjoyed reading about the Hampton School training methods - if only I could have read it 20 years ago and improved my approach to rowing as a junior!

I read this on a Kindle. All formatting is absolutely fine and there are several photos included at the end of the book.
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on 26 August 2012
Few have the physical and mental attributes that go to make an Olympic champion. Greg Searle has been blessed with both and his sporting palmares shows he made the most of it. But his story - brilliantly crafted and paced here - is more than the typical story of an athlete. Greg opens up to the failures and mental traumas that exceptional athletes face as well the stories of his many successes. His honesty in questioning the impact his early success had on his motivation is admirable and the story itself is one of a person reflecting on how they have matured as a human being as well as an athlete.

With rare eloquence and honesty not often seen in this genre he makes a compelling case for getting off your arse and trying to achieve your goal.

Gold, Bronze, Bronze - not bad going for a F**witt!
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on 24 August 2012
This a fascinating book detailing the ups and downs of being an Olympic champion and what it takes to make a comeback. At times this book is painfully honest about mistakes made and how they could have been avoided, an honesty which you do not always find in such books. Highly recommended to anyone who has an interest in elite sport and what it takes to be successful.
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on 31 December 2012
Well done Greg, a great read, i had a 25 year gap between my competitive rowing and although not competing at the same level i can fully appreciate the challenges you faced ! There's life left on the old dogs yet !
Good luck in your new challenges.
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on 29 April 2013
First full-length book that the 20 year-old male recipient had read for some time. A keen rower, it was just right for him.
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on 12 February 2014
Great story. Lots of details which take you into the mind of an Olympian and it's so refreshing to hear someone say a little about the mistakes they made as well as what they did right.
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on 5 January 2013
Very inspiring, a great read from his early years at Hampton school where he took up rowing to his Olympic success and on through his later years when he took up the mantle again to further success. Accolades to Gary Herbert.
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on 28 January 2014
Reads easily a real page turner, a great insight into what it takes and the feeling of being an Olympic athlete
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