In Books, Olympics, Sports

This story is part of the book I’m authoring titled, ‘Rings to Cubicles: Inspiring Lessons of Grit, Perseverence and Sportsmanship from Olympic Athletes for Corporate Professionals‘. Read more about the book here

It’s a compilation of inspiring real-life stories from Olympic Champions. Here is one very fascinating story. Read on.

Winning an Olympic Gold Medal is considered the ultimate in sports. Hundreds of elite athletes have done that across many Olympic events. We don’t remember them all. There are very few that stays in our memory.

Bobby Pearce’s Rowing victory at the 1928 Amsterdam Olympics is one such.

But first, about the rower. Bobby hails from a family of accomplished rowers. Both his father and grandfather participated in the World Rowing Championships. His grandfather won it in 1885. Not surprisingly, Bobby took to rowing early in his life. By 14, he had already won his first open event and a few years later was crowned the National Single Sculls Rowing Champion. It was no surprise that Bobby was selected to represent Australia in the 1928 Amsterdam Olympics.

The Amsterdam 1928 rowing regatta was held on the Sloten Canal, and in the single sculls, there were fifteen competitors from fifteen different countries.

Bobby easily beat his competitors in the initial rounds. His biggest challenge was to come during the quarter-finals Not from his rowing competitor but from a family of ducks !!

In the quarter-finals race, Bobby was easily leading Victor Saurin of France. While he was well ahead of the Frenchman, he heard the spectators on the river banks loudly shout out to him and gesturing wildly. He looked over his shoulders to find a duck and her ducklings right in the path of his boat. He stopped rowing, slowed down his boat to a halt and precariously leaned forward to rest on his oars. By the time the duck family had crossed to safety, his competitor had already overtaken him with a lead of five boat lengths.

Bobby restarted his rowing and so good was his strength that he not only overtook his French rival but went on to beat him by over 30 seconds. In fact, Bobby’s time was the fastest among the eight scullers, even including the stoppage time for the ducks!!

Bobby then famously went on to win the 1928 sculling gold with a record time that stood for nearly half a century. He later became the first Australian to defend an Olympic title at the 1932 Los Angeles Games.

Even though Bobby is considered one of the greatest rowers in the world (Two Olympic Gold Medals, Three World Sculling Championship Titles), it is his humane consideration for the family of Ducks that won people’s hearts and made him popular.