“YOU look around the room and it’s incredible to think that he deserves to be in that company.
“It was a pretty amazing night.”
That’s how Inverloch real estate agent Dennis Ginn summed up his attendance at
the Sport Australia Hall of Fame’s 34th Induction and Awards Gala Dinner last Thursday, October 11 when his son Drew was inducted as an Athlete Member, crowning an illustrious career.
“Everywhere you looked there were Olympic goal medalists and other sporting greats.
“As well as Drew, Richie Benaud was (posthumously) raised to legend status and others inducted at the same time were Darren Lockyer for rugby league, Wendy Botha for surfing, Robyn Maher for basketball and Gai Waterhouse for racing.”
Also inducted with Drew were the late Allan Moffat, Harry Kewell (soccer) and Sam Coffa (weightlifting) with Kurt Fearnley AO (athletics, wheelchair racing) receiving the Don Award at a glittering event in a packed Crown Palladium.
Here’s how Rowing Australia hailed the honour accorded to one of their own:
In a career that witnessed iconic success, heartbreak and one of the most courageous performances in Australian Olympic history, Drew Ginn OAM cemented himself as an extraordinary performer during the nation’s most successful period of rowing.
Winning three gold medals and a silver across four Olympic Games, Ginn’s feats were recognised last Thursday with his induction to the Sport Australia Hall of Fame.
A member of Australia’s fabled Oarsome Foursome, Ginn is the fourth and final athlete of the gold-medal winning coxless four at the 1996 Atlanta Olympics to be inducted into the Sport Australia Hall of Fame, joining teammates Nicholas Green OAM (2001), Michael McKay OAM (2007) and James Tomkins OAM (2012).
Green and McKay were there on the night to welcome their brother rower while Tomkins is with the Australian Junior Rowing team in Buenos Aires.
Ginn becomes just the 14th rower across three centuries to be inducted into the Sport Australia Hall of Fame.
One of Australia’s most decorated Olympic athletes in Australian sport, Ginn also collected five golds, a silver and two bronze medals from eight world championships during an international career that stretched 16 years.
In 2014, the International Rowing Federation awarded Ginn the Thomas Keller Medal for his outstanding international rowing career. It is the sport’s highest honor and is awarded within five years of the athlete’s retirement, acknowledging an exceptional rowing career and exemplary sportsmanship.
While Ginn’s glittering resume speaks for itself, the 43-year-old is adamant that none of it would have come to fruition without the support and dedication of his teammates and the support of his family.
“It’s very humbling,” Ginn said.
“We perform as a group, so I wouldn’t be in this position now if it wasn’t for them.”
“For me it’s not about the individual recognition, because you get to do what you do as a crew, but I know it’s very special to be recognised in this way and I’m very grateful.”
A local BMX champ as a skinny kid, Ginn was introduced to rowing when he attended Scotch College in Melbourne where his potential was soon acknowledged.
Ginn first represented Australia in the eight at the under 23 level in 1994. Two years later as a 21-year-old, Ginn replaced the retired Andrew Cooper in the famous ‘Oarsome Foursome’ at the 1996 Atlanta Olympics, going on to secure Australia’s second successive gold-medal in the event.
“As a young athlete you back yourself in that position, I had a lot of enthusiasm, but I had a great set of mentors in terms of Mike, James and Nick who had been there and I think they recognised that as much as I was enthusiastic and passionate on the outside, I was still just a kid on the inside who hadn’t been there or done it, and they were happy to support me on the way though.
“The days before the Olympics final were the hardest,” Ginn added.
“Sitting on the start line at the final I actually felt quite calm, I was excited, but I was actually pretty confident because I had the guys in my boat. I remember looking out and noticing every other boat had an Olympic champion or world champion, and then I looked in front of me and I had James Tomkins, Nick Green and Mike McKay, and I thought ‘wow, what better team to be a part of?’ – it was pretty special.”
But disaster followed success in the lead up to the Sydney 2000 Olympics when, after dominating the world paired with James Tomkins he suffered a potentially career-ending back injury and missed the games.
“I was devasted,” Ginn revealed.
“As a young athlete I thought everything was going to be fine and thought that my body would be able to handle a bigger load, and it couldn’t. It was a massive reality check and at the time it was really hard for me, for my wife, family and for my friends around me, because everyone goes through it with you.”
But “persistence beats resistance” according to Drew and after a tough rehab he went on to win Olympic gold with Tomkins in Athens 2004 and with a new partner Duncan Free in the same event at Beijing in 2008.
At his fourth and final Olympics, in London in 2012, Ginn teamed up with William Lockwood, James Chapman and Joshua Dunkley-Smith to win a silver behind the all-conquering British crew.
He also won five golds at World Championship level.
Thereafter, Drew briefly returned to cycling with some success. In 2015 he set an Australian record for the distance covered in 24 hours, 836km at the Brunswick velodrome, a feat which raised $40,000 for the Tour de Cure cancer fund.
Sporting peers hail Drew’s oarsome career