Strictly's James Cracknell insists new girlfriend was not the reason for his divorce

Albertina Lloyd
Entertainment reporter, Yahoo UK
James Cracknell has opened up about the collapse of his marriage (Credit: PA)

James Cracknell has insisted it was his personality-altering brain injury that caused the end of his 17 year marriage.

The rowing champion and father-of-three - who is competing in Strictly Come Dancing this year - finalised his divorce from TV presenter Beverley Turner, 45, in July. Last week the 47-year-old Olympic-medalist was picture kissing his new girlfriend, American financier Jordan Connell, believed to be in her early 30s.

Read more: James Cracknell tipped to join Strictly line-up

Cracknell told the Mail On Sunday: “I would have left me a long time before we split. I don't think I would have stuck it with me as long as she did.

“Bev had it really hard. She had one husband for the first eight years we were married and a very, very different one for the rest.”

James Cracknell and wife Beverley Turner in 2016 (Credit: PA)

The couple - who are parents to 15-year-old son Croyde and daughters Kiki, ten, and Trixie, eight - found their lives turned upside down in 2010 when Cracknell was hit by a lorry while cycling in Arizona, filming a documentary for the Discovery Channel. He suffered a fractured skull, causing a brain injury which dramatically altered his personality, affecting his temperament, memory and concentration and also left him suffering from epilepsy.

In 2018 he decided to become a mature student at Cambridge University. He also joined the Cambridge crew for the Boat Race, and in April, became the oldest winner in its history. It was during his time at the university that he met girlfriend Connell.

Read more: James Cracknell becomes oldest Boat Race winner

Cracknell said: “It's a definite new chapter in my life. 'It's great with Jordan. I was lucky at Cambridge to have met lots of people I wouldn't usually have met but I didn't think for one second one would end up becoming my girlfriend.

“What I found really refreshing is that because Jordan is from New York, she had no perception of rowing. She knew nothing about it.

'She treated me as I was. She had no knowledge of me or anything I had been through over the past eight years – though she quickly learned I am rubbish at answering my phone.

“It is really fun being with Jordan and I feel very lucky.”

But the athlete admitted his divorce had taken its toll on his relationship with his children.

Catherine Tyldesley and James Cracknell attending the Strictly Come Dancing launch (Credit: PA)

He said: “It is very tough waking up and not seeing your children first thing in the morning, so we need to find that new normal, that new dynamic between us. Ten months was a long time not to be living at home all of the time. Since the accident, I've spent so much time there with the kids and that is never going to be the default setting again.

“That's really hard, but then you make every day that much better when you are with them.

“That is something I have to learn over the next few months – though they are going to be so embarrassed about me [on Strictly]. I'm not sure how much they'll want to see.”

Cracknell will show of his dance moves for the first time in the Strictly launch show which airs on BBC One next Saturday. It will also be revealed which professional dancer he is to be paired with for the competition.

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