The Olympic Pilgrim

GREG Searle has won Olympic gold and – at London 2012 – bronze, but his favourite colour remains green.

“I feel very proud to have been a part of it.”

“Building into it, I was so focused on myself, I didn’t have time to think about what it would be like for the rest of the city and rest of the country, but I think everyone was hit by Olympic fever.

“Now life’s a blank canvas and I’m really enjoying spending time with my family, seeing my dad and coming to games like [Dagenham v Argyle], just enjoying all the aftermath of London 2012.

He said: “There’s been a big change since the Olympics. In the Olympics, I was totally focused on looking after myself, very clear goals, clear objectives.

Greg, who also won Olympic bronze in the Coxless Fours at Atlanta 1996, might get more time to see his beloved Greens now that his glittering rowing career is over, and his life can get back to something approaching normal.

“I guess the financial side makes life really hard. Sort of the opposite to the Olympic team that I’ve experienced, where we have had the investment and, because of that, we’ve been able to train hard and train well, and you’ve seen the results.”

“It’s been a bit sad to see that you put the effort in but don’t get the results.

“It’s been really tough times,” said Greg, who has been a guest at Home Park before, with brother Johnny, his Coxed Pairs gold medal-winning partner at the 1992 Barcelona Olympics.

Like all Argyle fans, he has felt the pain of recent seasons, as the club battled to survive administration.

“It was easier when it was Reading and Crystal Palace. It’s a bit harder when it’s Orient and Dagenham.”

“They don’t live in Plymouth any more so I get to away games, but I don’t get to many home games.

“He grew up in Plymouth, and so did my mum, so I’ve been a Plymouth supporter since I was born and I used to come down to the Westcountry for my holidays, with my grandparents.

“It’s probably my old man’s fault,” he said.

Greg, 40, is based in Surrey, but – thanks to dad Paul and mum Judy – has green blood.

The most famous member of the 545-strong Green Army at the London Borough of Barking and Dagenham Stadium will have been proud of the way the Pilgrims dug in and held on to finish with a hard-won point.

On Tuesday night, Greg was himself among the spectators – smaller in number, but equally fervent – just a few lengths from the scene of his recent success as Argyle drew 0-0 at Dagenham.

The 6ft 6in veteran rower was a towering part of the Team GB Men’s Eight that finished third in front of a massive, patriotic crowd at Eton Dorney three weeks ago.
Greg Searle’s autobiography, If Not Now, When? is published by MacMillan, on August 30