THE Great Dane
Cameras and the media bustle around athletes at the olympic Games.
Coaches remain relatively hidden. in a private room above the
boathouse at the shunyi olympic rowing Park, Coach Bent Jensen was
dealing with more than nervous athlete issues.
© Iain Brambell
Jensen is best known for his ability to make
lightweight men row fast, most notably Danish
lightweight men. Since moving to Canada in
2006, Jensen continued to make lightweight
men go fast but there was a new angle to his
coaching style. Jensen had cancer.
Competing on the international circuit,
Brambell says he got to know some of the
athletes he rowed against but rarely got to
know other coaches. Brambell, however, had
a feel for Jensen. “Bent was always there with
his athletes. He didn’t know much English,
but he always said ‘hello’ to us.”
This attitude meant the athletes were
relatively unaware of how Jensen was doing.
“None of us could comprehend how serous
his illness was,” says Brambell.
Bent Jensen with his Olympic
bronze medallist crew of Iain
Brambell, Jon Beare, Mike
Lewis and Daniel Parsons.
Canadian lightweight rower Iain Brambell and
crewmate Jon Beare had retired from rowing
after the Athens Olympics. Veterans of the
lightweight four at two Olympic Games, they
wanted to work with Jensen. “He was 100 per
cent the reason both of us came back,” says
Brambell. “This was an opportunity to be part
of Bent’s programme.”
He’d literally be confined
to his room and we’d still find
just as much inspiration.
Brambell and Beare had been rowing against
Jensen’s Danish crews for years. “We had heard
stories about how the Danes trained,” says
Brambell. “We were rowing two to three times
a day, six days a week while the Danes had full-time jobs and didn’t row if the water was bad.”
In Canada, Brambell got to know Jensen as
a coach. “It didn’t matter how stressful or
difficult the training was, Bent was always
relaxed. He made things fun. Even though
he was battling with cancer, no matter how
difficult it was for him, he always kept his
sense of humour.”
“All of the way through (cancer treatment)
Bent never took time away really,” says
Brambell. “If he did we knew it was serious.”
Jensen went so far as to plan the training
programme around his treatments. “Bent
would come out with us for the morning
row. He’d then go to chemo and return the
next morning,” describes Brambell. Jensen
would then time his post-treatment recovery
for when the crew was not on the water.
Jensen, now 60 years old, started treatment
for a second time in the middle of 2008.
This did not stop him from persisting with
his coaching programme almost as normal.
The lightweight men’s four had qualified for
Beijing and, after finishing fourth at the >>