Serial medal-winning rowing coach Juergen Grobler has begun work with France's team after insisting he was "a little bit sorry" to see the poor performance at the Tokyo Olympics of the once-mighty British team he left behind.
Grobler, 75, who began coaching in communist East Germany before a golden 28-year reign at the helm in Britain, has been recruited by France to deliver success at the 2024 Paris Olympics.
His track record is second to none -- his best-known charge, five-time Olympic gold medal winner Steve Redgrave, is widely considered to be the greatest rower of all time.
Grobler's association with France follows his awkward departure from the British setup in August 2020, one year ahead of the pandemic-delayed Tokyo Games.
The German said then he was not prepared to commit for another four-year Olympic cycle.
One British rower, Josh Bugajski, unleashed a tirade against the absent Grobler in Tokyo, accusing him of "destroying" people by lavishing his attention on his favoured rowers and discarding the rest.
"I really enjoyed the time in Britain, I had good support from everybody," Grobler said last week when he met the media as the French team's new "high performance executive consultant" at its headquarters in Nogent-sur-Marne outside Paris.
Grobler said "I feel a little bit sorry" for the British team's performance in Tokyo where the traditional powerhouse of European rowing flopped, failing to win a single gold medal and bringing home just one silver and one bronze medal.
He downplayed his impact on the team: "I'm not a guru... there was a lot of potential. There is a thin line between winning and losing."
Grobler insisted the decision to leave the British setup was made jointly by him and British Rowing. "We decided together," he said.
Now he turns his attention to the French setup with less than three years to go till Paris hosts the Games.
Grobler's recruitment is seen as an example of France bringing in a big-name coach to give a rapid boost to performance before the home Olympics.
He said though the French federation was "never the richest". British Rowing, in contrast, has received 22 million pounds ($29.8 million) of funding through to the 2024 Olympics.
"We shouldn't be scared by other nations," Grobler said. "We are not short of water, there are a lot of things here.
"The training programme is technically good. If we can have a little more physical preparation, we will be physically stronger and they will go faster."
The 2024 goal for the French team has been fixed by the national technical director -- to get eight boats in finals with the aim of winning four medals, double what French rowers brought home from Tokyo.
How will they do it? Grobler, a notoriously hard taskmaster, said by 2024, his rowers "should know all the trees on the side" of the course at the Vaires-sur-Marnes Nautical Stadium where the Olympic events will be held.