Tim McLaren OAM was inducted into the Sport Australia Hall of Fame in 2023 as a General Member for his contribution to the sport of rowing – coach.
McLaren’s commitment to rowing across more than 40 years – both as a competitor and as a coach and educator – stamped him as one of the sport’s most influential contributors.
His impact on and off the water was significant, both in Australia and internationally.
McLaren came agonisingly close to winning an Olympic gold medal in the quad sculls at the 1984 Los Angeles Games, taking home a silver after a long delay in deciding the result.
But it was in the next phase of his rowing journey that would add to his sizable legacy.
As coach of the University of Technology Sydney (UTS) Rowing Club, he mentored a wave of Australian representatives and Olympians, including the double sculls gold-medal winning team of Peter Antonie and Stephen Hawkins at the 1992 Barcelona Games.
McLaren’s influence wasn’t solely confined to Australia. He was recruited to help set up the California Rowing Club before later being appointed as the head coach of USA Rowing.
He led the American rowers through until the end of the 2012 London Olympic Games.
He returned to Sydney, and to the UTS team, as he continued to work with young athletes.
His impact here and abroad included taking his wealth of knowledge and experience to various parts of the world including to China, Great Britain and the United States.
If Tim McLaren’s contribution to the sport of rowing had been solely reserved for his own athletic achievements, it would have been significant enough.
But there was more, much more to come.
Having first competed in surf boats as a part of the Bulli Surf Life Saving Club team which won an Australian championship, and having shown promise in first-grade rugby league, McLaren ultimately chose to concentrate on the still water in chasing his sporting dreams.
It would prove to be a wise choice.
Within a year of joining St George Rowing Club, he competed at the Australian Rowing Championships and the following year would win the first of four national titles.
His biggest moment came at the 1984 Los Angeles Olympic Games when he was part of the Australian quad sculls team which came agonisingly close to winning a gold medal.
In a nail-biting finish that took judges almost 10 minutes to decide the winner, McLaren’s crew led almost from start to finish before being narrowly overtaken by West Germany.
They had to settle for silver by the barest of margins, though it was a performance of considerable note given it was only the second time the crew had raced together.
McLaren’s contribution to rowing would become more considerable in the years ahead in a different form. He would go on to become one of the sport’s most respected and knowledgeable coaches, with his influence felt both in Australia and internationally.
A teacher and applied science masters graduate, McLaren was well suited to educating both young and experienced rowers, with his technical expertise being among his many talents.
He was appointed as Tasmania’s first state rowing director of coaching, helping to transform the sport in the state before he moved back to New South Wales where he became the foundation coach of the University of Technology Sydney (UTS) Rowing Club in 1992.
It was a role he held for almost 15 years as he mentored athletes in all aspects of the sport, helping them to compete successfully at state, national and international levels.
His work in preparing a raft of Olympians to compete at the highest level was acknowledged here and abroad, with one of his cherished moments coming when he helped to guide Peter Antonie and Stephen Hawkins to the double scull gold medal at the 1992 Olympic Games.
He would also guide other Australian crews to medals at the Atlanta, Sydney and Athens Olympics, with his work with Australian teams attracting the interest of rival nations.
He has operated as an advisory coach in China and at Cambridge University in England and he moved to the United States to help set up the California Rowing Club.
He was elevated to the head coach role of the US men’s rowing team shortly after the 2008 Beijing Games and helped to take the team to the London Olympics four years later before he chose to return home to Sydney, and to the UTC role.
His impact on the sport saw him take under 23s and senior world championship crews to gold, silver and bronze returns.
His contribution to rowing was acknowledged when he was awarded an Order of Australia medal (OAM) in 1998 for services to elite rowing and coach education.
Honours & Achievements
- 1998: Awarded the Medal of the Order of Australia
Photo courtesy Getty Images.