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history of australian rowing at olympic games

Olympic Games—Tokyo 1964

The modern designed racing boats which were used by other nations with mixed success in the 1960 Games, and successfully at the 1962 World Championships, were used extensively at these Games. Australia again used older designs to its detriment.

The men's eight used a new boat which was donated by the Gillette Company and so bore its name. Sydney boat builders Sargent and Burton incorporated new design features which they thought would counter the new international trends in boat building. In fact some of these Australian modifications lacked empirical wisdom proving that not all change is for the good. The boat was delivered just one week before the shipping date for Tokyo. Anxious trials revealed that the stern dragged in the water with conspicuous adverse effect. The boat was therefore discarded.

Men's coxless four

Hastily a repaired boat available from another Sydney boat builder George Towns was renamed Gillette and shipped without even the possibility of first trying it on the water. The great advances in boat design had simply left Australia behind. The Americans, led by John Kelly Jnr, had commissioned the Italian boat-builder Donoratico to build several boats incorporating new technology including the moulding of the shell rather than tacking it to the frame.

The skin of the poorly constructed Australian eight flexed like a diaphragm and despite some quick-fix attempts the boat, if not the crew, was out of its class. For the petite final the men's eight was loaned use of one of the American Donoratico boats, the John B Kelly. Although rowing in it for the first time, and in no way being adapted for the Australians, the crew was able to row its fastest time by far. All appreciated the experience and realised the need to compete on even terms with equipment, rowing technique and training.

Bob Aitken and David Boykett purchased and imported an Italian Donoratico eight to Australia. The mould was quickly copied by Australian boat-builders. Considerable controversy arose from the use of the new craft and there were widespread calls from throughout Australia for the boat to be barred. Coach Alan Jacobsen stated in his report:

"It was quite clear that an improvement of at least 10 seconds could have been possible if the crew had trained in the boat, and it was equally obvious that our Towns boat had a disadvantage of 15 seconds to 20 seconds."

Sydney Rowing Club also imported a Stampfli four which remained the best four in Australia for some 20 years.


Australia entered all events after the AARC had determined to make every effort to be represented in the seven event programme. The men's eight was the number one graded crew and showed good training form. The crew was a strong, race-hardened crew consisting of the oarsmen from the successful Banks and Mercantile clubs from Victoria. They had profited from racing at the Perth Commonwealth Games in 1962 where they won. Also they benefited from competing in the First World Rowing Championships at Lucerne in Switzerland, where they defeated, among others, the USA crew which, with a few changes, won the gold medal at these Games.

The Interstate Championships were conducted at Penrith. It had been hoped that Lake Burley Griffin Canberra may have been completed in time to stage the event there. The strong Victorian crew won the eight event, Peter Edwards the single scull and the Victorian crew won the coxless four.

Men's double scull

Further selection trials were conducted at the Second National Championships held at Lake Burley Griffin. The regatta was nearly called off due to lack of water but heavy rain in the preceding week resolved the problem. The course was far from ideal. The course was not buoyed and raced at an angle to the bridge thus reducing the angle available to row through. It was reported that the officials were also perhaps not as helpful as they should have been. The Sydney Rowing Club coxed four won their race, the Mosman crew won the coxless pair, Wade of Mosman and Pearce of Balmain won the double scull and Nagambie won the coxed pair. The unofficial coach of the Nagambie pair was Alfred Lodding, father of the bow man Neil Lodding.

Australian Team

Men's Single Scull - Ninth

Men's Double Scull – Eliminated in repechage

Men's Coxless Pair – Ninth

Men's Coxed Pair – Ninth

Men's Coxless Four – Eliminated in Repechage

Men's Coxed Four – Tenth

Men's Eight – Eighth

Manager: Alec McLeish (VIC)
Grading Committee: Robert Aitken (VIC), Edward J Curtain (NSW) and John (Jack) F Howson (WA)
Jury: Robert Aitken (VIC)


Bad weather and a disturbing wind prevailed, but there was nothing to be done about these conditions. In spite of FISA's attempts to reduce the effect of the wind including lowering the water level, unfair conditions prevailed. The final of the eight was delayed and run in the dark lit by flares and the head lamps of fire service vehicles.

The manager of the Australian rowing team, Alec McLeish, commented that "it is obvious that Australia is not in world rowing class". The coaches and crews recognised that the equipment and international competition were key factors.

Men's Single Scull

E1: 1st GER, 2nd TCH, 3rd NED, 4th AUS, 5th MEX
E2: 1st USA, 2nd URS, 3rd ARG, 4th JPN
E3: 1st SUI, 2nd NZL, 3rd POL, 4th CAN
R1: 1st NZL, 2nd NED, 3rd JPN
R2: 1st ARG, 2nd TCH, 3rd CAN
R3: 1st URS, 2nd AUS, 3rd POL, 4th MEX
Final B: 7th NED, 8th CAN, 9th AUS, 10th MEX, 11th JPN, 12th TCH
Final: 1st Vyacheslav Ivanov (URS) 8:22.51, 2nd Achim Hill (GER) 8:26.24, 3rd Gottfried Kottmann (SUI) 8: 29.68, 4th Alberto Demiddi (ARG) 8:31.51, 5th Murray Watkinson (NZL) 8:35.57, 6th Donald Spero (USA) 8:37.53 (13 scullers)

Peter Edwards, unfortunately, had a poor row in the heat which caused him to meet the gold medallist in the repechage. This meant he was relegated to the petite final where he came third and so ninth overall.

The great Russian Ivanov also had a poor row in the heat but won through the repechage to the final. It was there that he made the unimaginable feat come true: three gold medals in the same event in three Games. He won by four seconds. Ivanov staged a huge finish taking many seconds off the second placed Hill in the last 500 metres. In doing so he blacked out before hitting the line.

In his book Winds of Olympic Lakes, he wrote "I don't remember how long it was before consciousness gradually returned . . . I mustered the last ounce of my strength, raised my head and couldn't believe it: there was clear water ahead of me and nobody in these last 50 metres to the finish. I wondered whether it was a case of delirium and that I was having hallucinations.. I managed to find an extra bit of strength, picked up the oars and crossed the line first."

Men's Double Scull

E1: 1st USA, 2nd GER, 3rd SUI, 4th GBR, 5th AUS
E2: 1st URS, 2nd NED, 3rd JPN, 4th MEX
E3: 1st TCH, 2nd BEL, 3rd FRA, 4th ARG
R1: 1st SUI, 2nd BEL, 3rd JPN
R2: 1st GER, 2nd ARG, 3rd JPN
R3: 1st FRA, 2nd GBR, 3rd NED, 4th AUS
Final B: 7th GBR, 8th NED, 9th BEL, 10th JPN, 11th MEX, 12th ARG
Final: 1st URS (Cleg Tyurin, Boris Dubrovsky) 7:10.66, 2nd, USA (Seymore Cromwell, James Strom) 7:13.16, 3rd TCH ( Vladimir Andrs, Pavel Hofmann) 7:14.23, 4th SUI 7:24.97, 5th GER 7:30.03, 6th FRA 7:41.80 (13 crews)

Men's Coxless Pair

E1: 1st NED, 2nd SUI, 3rd AUS, 4th USA, 5th JPN
E2: 1st CAN, 2nd DEN, 3rd ARG, 4th URS, FIN excluded
E3: 1st GER, 2nd GBR, 3rd URU, 4th POL
R1: 1st FIN, 2nd SUI, 3rd URU, 4th URS
R2: 1st DEN, 2nd POL, 3rd AUS
R3: 1st GBR, 2nd USA, 3rd ARG, 4th JPN
Final B: 7th SUI, 8th POL, 9th AUS, 10th USA, ARG & URU scratched
Final: 1st CAN (George Hungerford, Roger Jackson) 7:32.94, 2nd NED (Steve Blaisse, Erbst Venemans) 7:33.40, 3rd GER (Michael Schwan, Wolfgang Hottenrott) 7:38.63, 4th GBR 7:42.00. 5th DEN 7:48.13, 6th FIN 8:05.74

The winning Canadian crew was comprised of the reserves for the eight and they were allowed to enter in the pairs as consolation. Their first race together was the heat and Hungerford was recovering from illness. They raced a classic underdog race in the final by getting a one and a half length lead and then hung on desperately. It was not only Canada's only win at the regatta, but also at the Games. Because no one gave them a hope there were no Canadian journalists there to record the event.

Men's Coxed Pair

E1: 1st USA, 2nd NED, 3rd TCH, 4th AUT, 5th GER
E2: 1st FRA, 2nd URS, 3rd AUS, 4th YUG, 5th EGY
E3: 1st POL, 2nd ROM, 3rd DEN, 4th ARG, 5th JPN
R1: 1st URS, 2nd GER, 3rd AUT, 4th DEN
R2: 1st TCH, 2nd SUI, 3rd ROM, 4th YUG, 5th EGY
R3: 1st B+NED, 2nd AUS, 3rd ARG, 4th JPN
Final B: 7th GER, 8th AUT, 9th AUS, 10th ROM, 11th SUI - ARG scratched.
Final: 1st USA (Edward Ferry, Conn Findlay, H Kent Mitchell) 8:21.23, 2nd FRA (Jacques Morel, Georges Morel, Jean-Claude Darouy) 8: 23.15, 3rd NED (Jan Bos, Herman Rouwe, Frederik Hartsuiker) 8:23.42, 4th URS 8: 24.85, 5th TCH 8: 36.21, 6th POL 8: 40.00. (16 crews)

Men's Coxless Four

E1: 1st DEN, 2nd ROM, 3rd CAN, 4th AUS, 5th JPN
E2: 1st GBR, 2nd USA, 3rd NED, 4th ARG, 5th ITA
E3: 1st GER, 2nd URS, 3rd FRA, 4th AUT
R1: 1st USA, 2nd FRA, 3rd JPN, 4th AUS
R2: 1st ITA, 2nd URS, 3rd CAN, 4th ARG
R3: 1st NED, 2nd ROM, 3rd AUT
Final B: 7th URS, 8th AUT, 9th ROM, 10th FRA, 11th CAN, 12th JPN
Final: 1st DEN ( John Hansen, Bjorn Haslov, Erik Petersen, Kurt Helmudt) 6:59.30, 2nd GBR (John Michael Russell, Hugh Arthur Wardell-Yerburgh, William Barry, John James) 7:00.47, 3rd USA (Geoffrey Picard, Richard Lyon, Theodore Mittet, Theodore Nash) 7:01.37, 4th NED 7:09.98, 5th ITA 7: 10.05, 6th GER 7:10.33 (14 crews).

Men's Coxed Four

E1: 1st GER, 2nd USA, 3rd TCH, 4th AUS, 5th JPN, 6th CUB
E2: 1st ITA, 2nd NED, 3rd NZL, 4th NOR, 5th EGY
E3: 1st URS, 2nd FRA, 3rd POL, 4th FIN, 5th DEN
R1: 1st POL, 2nd USA, 3rd NOR, 4th EGY
R2: 1st NED, 2nd DEN, 3rd TCH, 4th FIN
R3: 1st FRA, 2nd NZL, 3rd AUS, 4th JPN
Final B; 7th USA, 8th NZL, 9th NOR, 10th AUS, 11th DEN – TCH scratched
Final: 1st GER (Peter Neusel, Bernhard Britting, Joachim Werner, Egbert Hirschfelder, Jurgen Oelke) 7:00.44, 2nd ITA (Renato Bosatta, Emilio Trivini, Giuseppe Galante, Franco De Pedrina, Giovanni Spinola) 7:02.84, 3rd NED (Alex Mullink, Jan van de Graaf, Frederick van der Graaf, Robert van der Graaf, Marius Klumperbeek) 7:06.46, 4th FRA 7:1.92, 5th URS 7:16.05, 6th POL 7:28.15. (16 crews).

The Australian four suffered from insufficient on water training arising from poor training conditions in Australia. Phil Cayzer recalls that the conditions both on the Parramatta and Nepean Rivers were appalling all winter. The crew raced well in the heat but finished fourth. The crew was not quick enough to get the one placing through to the final in the repechage. In the petite final, the crew sprung an oar which prevented them from sprinting effectively to the line.

On the podium, after the medal ceremony, an extract of Beethoven's 9th symphony greeted the first German victory, since the agreement concluded by the officials of the FRG, the GDR and IOC stipulated that no German national anthem would be played. The public was delighted.

Men's Eight

E1: 1st GER, 2nd USA, 3rd ITA, 4th YUG, 5th AUS
E2: 1st TCH, 2nd CAN, 3rd JPN, 4th NZL, 5th CUB
E3: 1st URS, 2nd FRA, 3rd EGY, 4th KOR
R1: 1st ITA, 2nd FRA, 3rd NZL, 4th CUB
R2: 1st USA, 2nd JPN, 3rd KOR
R3: 1st YUG, 2nd CAN, 3rd AUS, 4th EGY
Final B; 7th FRA, 8th AUS, 9th CAN, 10th JPN, 11th NZL, 12th KOR
Final: 1st USA (Joseph Amlong, Thomas Amlong, Harold Budd, Emory Clark, Stanley Cwiklinski, Hugh Foley, William Knecht, William Stowe, Robert Zimonyi) 6:18.23, 2nd GER 6:23.29, 3rd YCH 6: 25.11, 4th YUG 6:27.15, 5th URS 6:30.69, 6th ITA 6:42.78. (14 crews).

This was the first appearance of the South Koreans. It was also the first non Varsity representation from the Americans for 60 years with the crew coming from the Vesper Club in Philadelphia. The cox was a 46 year old accountant who defected to the USA after being a member of the 1956 squad from Hungary. His first Olympic appearance was in the 1948 Coxed Four.

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