Acer Nethercott, Olympic rowing cox and silver medallist, has died from brain cancer aged just 35. The Univ alumnus twice coxed the Blues to victory in the Boat Race, in 2003 and 2005, and won a silver medal after coxing the Team GB men’s Eight at the 2008 Beijing Olympics. It is understood he had fought off brain cancer for several years.
Sir Ivor Crewe, Master of University College said: “We were extremely saddened to hear of the death of former University College student Acer Nethercott, who passed away peacefully over the weekend following a lengthy illness.”
Friends said he had suffered quietly with the illness, leading to shock and sadness at reports of his death. Alex Partridge, who rowed in the GB men’s eight that Nethercott coxed to Olympic silver, said: “Fierce, keen and eager is what I understand Acer’s name to mean and his personality matched.”
He added: “I think he had struggled with illness over the last couple of years but kept it to himself. That’s just testament to fact he wanted to be known as Acer the guy we always knew him as, and not the guy struggling with illness.”
Acer read Physics and Philosophy at Univ between 1996 and 2000, and began coxing in his first term at Oxford. He achieved the top mark in the university for physics and philosophy as an undergraduate. After teaching for a year in America, he returned to the University in 2001 and until 2008 completed an MPhil and a DPhil in Philosophy, also managing to spend time studying at the Sorbonne in Paris.
According to Master Crewe, he was an active member of the College community: “During his years at Univ he was a member of the University College Boat Club, the Univ Cross Country club and the Oxford University Fidelio Orchestra.”
Acer was involved in the University’s Boat Club throughout his time at Oxford. He coxed the women’s Blue Boat in 2000, and took them to their first victory over Cambridge in nine years. Shortly afterwards, he coxed the Isis crew in the 2002 Reserve Boat Race and went on to cox the Blue Boat in 2003, in what was known as the epic ‘one-foot’ men’s race, so called because Oxford won by such a tiny margin. After losing to Cambridge in 2004 he returned in 2005 to steer Oxford to victory once more.
Not long afterwards, in the summer of 2005, he began coxing the Great Britain men’s eight, a role he filled for four years. Master Crewe said: “He was celebrated for winning a silver medal as cox of the GB Men’s Eight at the Beijing Olympics in 2008.”
However he was diagnosed with glioblastoma multiforme, a highly aggressive brain cancer, in 2010. He trialled for the 2012 Olympic team after successful surgery and chemotherapy but had difficulties steering due to vision problems caused by his treatment.
Master Crewe also added: “He was an enthusiastic supporter of University College, and often spoke fondly of his Univ days.”
“Our thoughts are with Acer’s family, friends and colleagues at this difficult time.”
Others paid tribute to this important figure for rowing in Britain. “A great person, one of the best coxes in the world, I always enjoyed his company”, said Garry Herbert, 1992 Olympic gold medal-winning cox. Chairman of British Rowing Di Ellis said she was “deeply saddened” by his death.
The president of the University College Boat Club, Crispin Smith, broke the news to members, praising him for his “spectacular academic method” and for having “never forgot Univ despite his successes”.