My father; the Olympian who wasn’t

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A large part of my book is given over to my relationship with my father, who rowed at the same standard as others who competed at the Olympics, but who did not in fact ever represent Britain. There were three moments at his rowing career where he came closest to this breakthrough:

The first was in 1948, when my father was just 18 years old. London was the Olympic host city and the rowing events were based in Henley. My father did not take part in the Olympic trials (he was still a schoolboy) but raced at that year’s Henley regatta and was part of an eight which won the Ladies Plate, defeating the best adult rowers of thatyear. Leander, who had won the Olympic trial, were at Henley, and raced my father’s crew over variosu short-distance time-trials, the schoolboys winning. (Presumably they would have lost over a full distance).  Leander won silver at the Olympics a month later.

In 1950, again at Henley, my father won the single sculls, beating Tony Fox, who would represent Britain in the 1952 Helsinki Olympics (where Fox came fourth in the single sculls, the best performance by a British sculler from 1924 to the present day) and at the 1956 Olympics in Melbourne. My father did not keep up his sculling, but focussed on the more glamorous world of eights rowing, in which he represented Oxford in the 1950 and 1951 boat races.

The 1951 Boat race, in which my father took part, was a double “trial”. The winners of the race had been invited in advance to the United States where they were to race against Yale and Harvard. The winners were also expcted to represent Britain at that year’s European championships.

The 1951 Boat race would turn out to be one of the most dramatic, and humiliating, races in that competition’s history. I’ll be posting further about it through this week.

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