Daniel Topolski

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For the stand-up comedian and actor, see Dan Antopolski.
Daniel Topolski
Born (1945-06-04)4 June 1945
London, England, UK
Died 21 February 2015(2015-02-21) (aged 69)
London, England, UK
Nationality British
Other names Dan Topolski
Occupation Rower, rowing coach, commentator, author, travel writer

Daniel Topolski (4 June 1945 – 21 February 2015) was a British author, rower, rowing coach and commentator on BBC television. He studied at the University of Oxford where he represented the Blue boat twice, in 1967 and 1968. In 1977, he won a gold medal at the World Rowing Championships. He coached the Oxford University Boat Club crew on fifteen occasions, leading them to victory twelve times, including a ten-win streak. He also coached British squads at two separate Olympic Games. After retiring from coaching he commentated on rowing at the Olympic Games and Boat Races.

Early life[edit]

The son of the Polish artist Feliks Topolski and actress Marian Everall, Daniel attended the Lycée Français Charles de Gaulle in London, before going to Westminster School and New College, Oxford, where he read geography.[1] He was taught sculling by his father, on Regent's Park lake in London, and captained Westminster School's rowing eight.[1] While at Oxford, he rowed in the University Boat Race on two occasions. In the 1967 race, rowing at number seven, he helped Oxford to their third consecutive victory. The following year, this time rowing at bow, he suffered defeat.[2][3] Relatively lightly built for a rower, he gained 24 pounds (11 kg) to qualify for the 1967 race.[1]


Topolski's rowing career included a gold medal in the 1977 World Championships in Amsterdam, in the lightweight eights, and a silver medal in the 1975 World Championships in Nottingham, in the coxless fours.[1][4] During his rowing career, Topolski appeared at the Henley Royal Regatta on 74 occasions, winning the Henley Medal four times.[1]

He was the finishing coach for Oxford University's Boat Race crew from 1973 to 1987.[5] Of the fifteen Boat Races in which he was coach, Oxford won twelve including an unbroken run of ten victories between 1976 and 1985. This run of success and its continuation after Topolski's departure brought Oxford to a point in 1992 where they had won sixteen of the last seventeen races and were within one victory of equalling Cambridge's overall total of wins.[6]

Toploski coached the British rowing squads competing at the 1980 and 1984 Olympics.[7] He also coached the British women's eight between 1978 and 1980.[1] He acted as a commentator for the BBC at the 2000 Sydney, 2004 Athens and 2008 Beijing Olympics.[3]

Outside rowing, Topolski worked as a researcher for the BBC until 1973. He published two travel books. Muzungu: One Man's Africa (1976) was based on his travels in Africa for eight months in 1972. Travels with My Father: A South American Journey (1983) was based on a tour of South America with his father in 1981, which resulted in his arrest and imprisonment in Paraguay.[1] He also published two books about rowing, The Oxford Revival (1985) and True Blue: The Oxford Boat Race Mutiny (1989; with Patrick Robinson).[1] He wrote for The Observer for more than twenty years.[1]


Topolski won the inaugural William Hill Sports Book of the Year in 1989 as the co-author (with Patrick Robinson) of True Blue: The Oxford Boat Race Mutiny. The book tells the story of the 1987 Boat Race and the disagreement amongst the Oxford crew known as the "Oxford mutiny".[5] It was made into a 1996 film.[6] In 1994 he won a Travelex Radio Award for the BBC series Topolski’s Travels.[4] In 2013 he was made an honorary fellow of New College, Oxford.[1]

Personal life[edit]

Topolski was married to actress Susan Gilmore and had three children: Emma (a jazz singer),[8] Tamsin and Luke.[4]

Topolski died on 21 February 2015 following a lengthy period of ill health. Five-time Olympic gold medallist Steve Redgrave said: "Rowing will miss him dearly and so will I."[6]



  1. ^ a b c d e f g h i j "Daniel Topolski, rowing coach – obituary". The Daily Telegraph. 22 February 2015. Retrieved 22 February 2015. 
  2. ^ Burnell, p. 81
  3. ^ a b "Daniel Topolski – Rowing Coach". Abingdon Management & Consulting. Archived from the original on 25 April 2012. 
  4. ^ a b c "Daniel Topolski, former Oxford coach and Observer writer, dies aged 69". The Guardian. 21 February 2015. 
  5. ^ a b Baker, Andrew (6 April 2007). "When mutineers hit the Thames". The Daily Telegraph. Retrieved 25 March 2011. 
  6. ^ a b c "Daniel Topolski: BBC commentator Topolski dies aged 69". BBC Sport. 21 February 2015. 
  7. ^ "Daniel Topolski, Esq Authorised Biography". Debrett's People of Today. Retrieved 22 February 2015. 
  8. ^ "Emma Topolski". The Station Sessions. Archived from the original on 25 April 2012. 


Awards and achievements
Preceded by
No award
William Hill Sports Book of the Year winner
Succeeded by
Paul Kimmage