James Tomkins is one of only four people in the world to have rowed at six Olympic Games.
He represented Australia at every Olympics from 1988 to 2008 competing in eights coxless fours and coxless pairs — winning three gold medals and a bronze. He also won a string of World titles between 1986 and 2003, in eights, coxless fours and coxless pairs.
Outstanding in coxless pairs, famous for a foursome, he also began and ended his 20 year international career in World Championship-winning eights.
Despite this versatility and durability he is perhaps best remembered as part of the “Oarsome Foursome” the coxless four which won World titles in 1990, ‘91 and ’98 and which won Olympic gold in 1992 and 1996. (In ’92 Tomkins was teamed with Nick Green, Mike McKay and Andrew Cooper; by the time of their ’96 success Drew Ginn had replaced Cooper).
Tomkins came to prominence in 1986 as a member of a World Championship and Commonwealth Games-winning eight.
He had to make a critical decision on his sporting future the following year when he was recruited by AFL club Melbourne in the pre-season draft. Ultimately his enthusiasm for rowing prevailed. It was to be a fruitful decision: Along with his success in the fours he won world titles in the coxless pairs in 1991, 1998, 1999 and 2003; a FISA World Cup in the coxless pairs in 2002 and Olympic gold in the coxless pairs in 2004.
His final Olympic appearance as a competitor was in 2008 aged 43, in the eight which finished sixth. The same year he was a member of the eight which won the FISA World Cup.
Along with his international success James Tomkins notched up 15 national titles in Kings Cup crews between 1985 and 2008. He eventually retired, aged 45, in 2010. He has been an inspiration for many people to pursue sport beyond the prime of youth.
He was awarded an Order of Australia Medal in 1997 and was named in the 2003 FISA crew of the year. Fittingly he carried the flag for Australia at his final Olympics, at Beijing in 2008.
He now serves on the IOC Athletes Commission.