Tall story of British Olympic rowing hopeful

In the absence of steeplechaser Jo Ankier, 6ft 9in Oxford-based rower Josh West is the only Jew competing for Team GB in Beijing

Originally from Santa Fe, USA, West, 31, started rowing aged 17 as a fresher at Yale. While there, taking geology and international studies, he competed in the Harvard/Yale race.

However, he decided to continue his studies at Cambridge, and went on to take part in four Oxford/Cambridge boat races, being on the winning crew in 1999 and 2001.

He also won the prestigious Ladies Plate at Henley in 1999 and in 2001 sufficiently impressed senior GB selectors to be paired with Rick Dunn for the World Championships, where they finished fifth.

At the 2002 World Championships, a move to the 4s as a late replacement for the injured Ed Coode gave him a taste of real success as the crew took silver, finishing just 0.2 seconds behind the Germans.

In the Athens Olympics that year he was selected for the 8s, who ended a disappointing ninth after being affected by illness in the semi-finals.

The winter of 2005 was devoted to his doctorate at Cambridge but he continued to train, finishing 3rd in the pairs in the GB senior trials.

West remained in the pairs for the World Cup events in Eton, Munich and Lucerne before a return to the 8s for a fourth place finish in the World Championships in Japan.

Another selection for the 8s in 2006 gave him 5th in the 2006 worlds at Eton. West, who is the tallest member of the Team GB squad, now holds a research fellowship in geochemistry at Oxford University.

But his dream is to help maintain the legacy of Sir Steve Redgrave, who won gold medals at five consecutive Olympics from 1984 to 2000.

    Last updated: 10:44pm, August 7 2008