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australian rowers profiles and history

Nick Chatziyakoumis

Naftokomilo Rowing Club (GRE) then Yarra Yarra Rowing Club (VIC)

From the Yarra Yarra Rowing Club newsletter 'Yarra Yabbie' January 2023

Nick in Melbourne in 1956

Remembering the life and rowing career of Nick Chatziyakoumis

My father Nick was born in Rhodes, Greece during the time of the Italian occupation (from 1912 to 1943). His family ran a local café. His schooling was in Italian, this second language served him well in life allowing him to stay connected with many Italian friends in Australia. Following school his first job was at the local printer. During the war however, he continued to work there under duress with no pay as demanded by the occupying forces on the island. 

Early on in life, he began his love affair with water sports, particularly rowing. His passion and commitments to the sport saw him reach a National level of competition within two years, and his completive spirit began to drive a path for the rest of his life that included migrating to Australia. While he was serving in the Greek Navy he continued his rowing career, consistently achieving wins at an elite level. He was twice crowned European Champion in single scull and won at a National level on 19 occasions. This competitive spirit and love for the sport allowed him to travel to many parts of Europe at the time, where often his success facilitated meeting Royal families, keen to meet this remarkable sportsperson from the island of Rhodes. It was during this time that he earned the nickname “Nick the Greek”. The highlight of his sporting achievements was his selection to represent Greece in rowing at the 1956 Olympic Games in Melbourne.

Following the games, he settled in Melbourne, marrying in 1959. Nick had two children, Jack and Flora. He worked in the car industry on the GMH assembly line as a highly skilled tool maker for this industry. His affair with rowing and the water never waned. He continued to remain fit and active, venturing out on the water to fish at every opportunity. In retirement he often returned to Rhodes to visit family and his beloved Naftokomilo Rowing Club, remembering his wonderful younger years as an athlete. While visiting he would often provide coaching to new rowers. He was a generous and outgoing character in life, one who was always ready to share one of his many stories of his past. So many words have been used by people to describe Nick, one that summarises much of his legendary man Nick the Greek, was “he was a real cracker”.

Highlights of Nick’s rowing achievements

On behalf of the committee and all members of Yarra Yarra Rowing Club, we offer our condolences to Jack, Gail and his family on the passing of his father Nick. Reading this and knowing Jack as we do, puts into cortex the love of rowing (and of cars) that Jack has inherited from his father. Jack, this is a wonderful tribute to him.

Vale Nick Chatziyakoumis.

Jim Skidmore
June 2024

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