Meet the 17-year-old Brit who broke the rowing internet

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Gabriel Obholzer 2
Gabriel Obholzer 2

By Tom Harle

It takes some row from a 17-year-old to spark Reddit threads, tweets from Matthew Pinsent and audible gasps from commentators.

But that's exactly the phrase to describe Gabriel Obholzer's incredible 2km erg clocking of 05:54.7. Some row.

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The teenager lowered the previous record by a second in June - labelled a 'seriously fat erg' on forums - with 5:57.2.

He then blew it out of the virtual water five months later, sparking a sensation at the online staging of the British Rowing Indoor Championships.

"I felt like it was my goal," said Gabriel hours after stepping off the machine.

"It felt tough, it felt like a long time, but I felt I was in control for the whole thing and I put myself in a position where going into the last 500, the record was going to happen.

"Seeing Matthew Pinsent tweet about me was amazing. He's a guy you idolise as a rower and I was super happy to see it."

Obholzer's 500m splits were 01:28.8, 02:58.6 and 04:27.7. He went out at 40 strokes per minute and upped to 36 coming home.

You won't catch him resting, though. "Well, the world (U18) record is 5:45. I might not get there, but I definitely want to drop a couple of seconds before the end of the year."

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To say Gabriel comes from good rowing stock would be an understatement.

Father Rupert won Olympic bronze in Atlanta in the four with Jonny and Greg Searle and Tim Foster, later umpiring the Boat Race.

And South African-born uncle Anton was part of the British eight that finished fourth at Seoul 1988.

"Rowing certainly runs in the family and they have given me great support, especially during COVID-19," he explains.

"I haven't been able to train with my club, so I've just trained with Dad instead. He's definitely still got it."

What does Dad make of his son's exploits? "It's not my doing!" Rupert insists. "Saying I'm proud would imply I feel somehow responsible, but I am impressed.

24 Mar 2001:  Umpire Rupert Obholzer follows the two crews during the 147th University Boat Race between Cambridge and Oxford held on the River Thames, in London. Cambridge won the race. \ Mandatory Credit: Gary M Prior/Allsport
24 Mar 2001: Umpire Rupert Obholzer follows the two crews during the 147th University Boat Race between Cambridge and Oxford held on the River Thames, in London. Cambridge won the race. \ Mandatory Credit: Gary M Prior/Allsport

"As a parent, sometimes you think: 'is this quite appropriate, the levels of training' but then you wonder what my parents thought. At his age, I was pretty obsessive.

"Him cycling laps of Richmond Park in the dark and rain isn't a good plan. But he's focused, and you don't make progress without being a little bit extreme."

Gabriel learned to row at Radnor House School in Twickenham and is one of the latest success stories for Chiswick-based Tideway Scullers, now schooled at Emanuel.

On his club's contribution, the rower says: "Tideway have just been instrumental.

"I spend so much time there, I've developed great friendships and good relationships with my coaches."

A new weights programme, drawn up alongside coach Chris Williams, has been key to recent feats.

A place in the GB junior squad is Gabriel's next big target, and then university - perhaps more likely college in the USA - beckons.

Beyond that, he makes no secret of his ambition to become the latest Obholzer to row for Britain at the Olympic Games. Mark your card for LA 2028.

"The Olympics is the long-term goal," he says. "It would be amazing to do that. Hopefully. I just want to keep going, keep improving like I've done this year and get to a place where that goal becomes a reality.

"Following in my dad's footsteps is probably my main, long-term goal."

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