In truth, then, he seemed just another young
Aussie hopeful – his crew eventually finished ninth.
Even he – and self-belief has never been a quality
that was in short supply chez Tomkins – could not
have guessed how much his future performances
would impact his chosen sport. The very next year
Tomkins’ eight won World Championship gold.
coach. Reedy went on to explain: “He operated
on a di;erent plane to everyone else, with an
intuitive understanding of how to move a boat.”
But wind forward 23 years from Hazewinkel.
Tomkins would have six Olympic Games under his
belt. Rowing had changed so much, yet Tomkins
was somehow still there, doing what he loved,
racing and hanging out with the guys. And by
then, he’d pulled millions of strokes - some of the
most impossibly long, fluid and dynamic strokes
you could imagine. And all that without really
seeming to try that hard. It was that style which
created the ripples, which would have a profound
Unsurprisingly, that understanding gave him
and his Melbourne-based internationals the
confidence (and perhaps arrogance), to create
Australia’s unforgettable ‘Oarsome Foursome’. The
title was coined by a Melbourne journalist and
reflected that four’s dominance of the event. They
won back to back Olympic golds, in Barcelona and
Atlanta, along with world titles in 1990 and 1991.
Any Australian will be able to sing the song that
went with the Oarsome Foursome’s ad for Goulburn
Valley canned fruit on television in those days. In
2004, the foursome released a general fitness DVD
entitled Oarsome Foursome Fitness. They had made
rowing popular in Australia.
“Jimmy made nonchalance an art form and that
could really get to some people,” said his former
teammate Paul Reedy, now a leading international
Tomkins’ fluidity had even more impact in a
pair. His combination with Drew Ginn had an
e;ortless speed. And in the 1999 World >