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  • 16-Jul-2023 2:50 PM | Ruth Robertson

    Argonaut Olympian Issue #6

    As a club, we are honouring our past and present Olympians by documenting their achievements and establishing a permanent archive.

    An Argonaut Olympian is an athlete who has been a competitive member of the club prior to competing at the Olympic Games. Until 1972, Canadian athletes represented their club as well as their country at the Olympics. By 1976, a National Team system was developed in Canada that ended club representation at the Games. Other than footnoting this difference, there is no need to further distinguish the athletes for our purposes. Under the original system, the Argonaut Rowing Club produced more Olympic crews than any other club in North America with a total of 13 crews and scullers and at least that many more gone on to Olympic glory since.

    When approached to be the subject of this article, George McCauley insisted that the entire Argonaut Olympic Eight crew’s three-year career together be profiled. George is a life member of the Argonaut Club who has been involved as an athlete, manager, and archivist for 69 years.

    George McCauley and the 1952 Helsinki Olympic Crew – Games of the XV Olympiad

    Seventy-one years ago, George found his “sea legs” rowing inside the Toronto break wall in a Canadian Navy heavy cutter as a 14 year-old Sea Cadet. One day he witnessed an Argonaut Men’s Eight crew fly past him through the water. George thought to himself, “that’s the type of boat I should be rowing in.”

    When school started at Western Tech that fall, coach Doug Wells gave an inspiring recruitment speech in the auditorium. Western Tech had produced many great Argonaut rowers in the past and most of the 90 raucous teenage boys in the audience that day signed up for a chance to row crew and compete. Wells’ speech motivated George, who had also been a champion swimmer and basketball player at Western, to try out for a crew.

    In 1946, George rowed in the Western Tech Straight Four crew and won at the Canadian Schoolboy Championships. In 1947, George rowed in bow at Canadian Henley but the team was not successful. This changed in 1948, when George rowed in bow seat with another straight four to win the Canadian Schoolboy Championship once again.

    In 1947, a former Argonaut champion oarsman, Harry Kaysmith, showed up at the club to assist head coach, Ken Cromwell, and immediately began to display his winning ways. In 1948, Coach Kaysmith produced a winning Junior 155 lb. Eight with George in six-seat.

    At the 1949 Canadian Henley Regatta, Argonaut’s Senior 155 lb. eight, with George still in six seat, had the lead metres from the finish line when the stroke collapsed into Jack Russell’s lap causing the Argonauts to lose the race by a couple of feet. This failure to finish on stroke’s part was not acceptable to the crew and caused their immediate breakup leaving George and Jack without a crew.

    Undaunted by adversity, George carried on winter training indoors on crude rowing machines with leather belts wrapped around a drum. Training paid off for George, as he was one of two Senior lightweights invited to row in the Junior Heavyweight crew in 1950. In his very first experience as stroke, George went on to win the Canadian Henley with most of his future Olympic teammates and suddenly, the dream was alive.

    In 1950, it became obvious that it was Coach Kaysmith’s long-range plan to assemble a heavyweight crew to win the next Canadian Olympic trials. His disappointment, of not making the 1928 Argonaut Olympic Eight was such that he had promised himself if he couldn’t row in an Argonaut Olympic Eight, he would coach one. It was for this reason that he showed up at the Club to volunteer as a coach. Thus began Kaysmith’s long and very successful coaching career.

    The 1950 Junior Heavy Eight had the necessary brawn but couldn’t seem to produce any wins and part of the reason was that the boat had five first-year men so a change was required. It was that year the CAAO changed the rules to allow two senior lightweights to row in a Junior Heavy Eight. This allowed Coach Kaysmith to invite senior lightweights George and Jack to join the Junior Eight two weeks before Canadian Henley.

    This set in motion a shuffling of the crew resulting in George assuming stroke seat for the first time in his life. Coach Kaysmith then placed Jack in seven seat, a position he had for the rest of his career. This addition to the crew and a change in some other positions appeared to be the answer to the Junior Heavy Eight’s problems and this Argo crew went on to victory at the 1950 Canadian Henley Regatta.

    To complete the transformation to a world-class crew, the “great” Ted Chilcott took over in bow seat. Chilcott was endorsed by the legendary John B. Kelly, who referred to him as the “best oarsman he ever knew.” Chilcott and Bo Westlake, another member of the Junior 1950 crew, had won the 1948 Olympic trials in a straight four but were not sent to the London Olympic Games. This was a sure medal win wasted.

    Coach Kaysmith now had the makings of his Olympic crew that included: Ted Chilcott, Jack Taylor, Bo Westlake, Frank Young, John Sharpe, Mervin Kaye, Jack Russell, George McCauley and Norm Rowe as Cox. The crew quickly became the pride of the Argonaut Rowing Club, especially with the anticipation of the upcoming Olympics. Comparisons were even being made to the members of the bronze medal winning, 1928 Olympic Crew who were still around the club. The 1928 Olympics was also a great success for Argos Joe Wright Junior and Jack Guest, considered to be the world’s two best scullers, who combined to win silver in the double sculls.

    The next two seasons included intense competition with the crew travelling to the U.S. East Coast to take on the “titans of rowing” at the New York Athletic Club, Vespers and Penn Athletic Club. In order to do this, Kelowna based boat builder, Gordon Jennins, built a shell in three pieces to be re-assembled on site wherever a race was taking place. Travelling to weekend events meant leaving on Friday night and breaking the crew into three carloads to transport the athletes, the coach and one-third of the boat strapped snugly on top of each car. They would race on Saturday and return on Sunday. This was an exhausting but exhilarating time that brought the crew together as a team. They raced hard, they jelled, and they learned to win.

    1952 Olympic Trials

    Argo heavy eight shown with a lead of almost two boats of open water over favourite U.B.C. heading towards the finish at the 1952 Olympic trials in St. Catharines, ON.

    The crew descended, full of swagger, into St. Catharines for the 1952 Olympic trials. The main competition was the U.B.C. crew who didn’t know what hit them when the Argo crew engaged their trademark three and ten stroke start giving them a boat-length lead after 10 seconds. The Argos went on to win by nearly two boat-lengths of open water and won the honour of representing Canada at the Helsinki Olympics with a qualifying time faster than that of the U.S. Navy crew who went on to win the gold medal at the Games.

    It was a well-kept secret that the Thursday evening before the Olympic trial race, George came down with a serious stomach flu that lasted until Saturday morning- race day. Not having a spare rower, Coach Kaysmith decided to keep George’s health condition a secret and hoped for the best. George recalls, “I hadn’t been in a boat for two days while I was sick. Coach carried the boat, the President of the club carried my socks and I was able to walk out on my own. I just kept wondering, how far could I go before I collapsed. I believe that the crew rowed the best race of their lives in part because they feared the feeble condition of their Stroke.”

    After the Olympic trials, the Canadian boats, including the Argo eight, a four and a double were shipped out of Montreal in the storage hold of a freighter along with automobiles. The freighter ran into a hurricane in the North Sea that broke the cars loose from their hold and crushed all three boats into matchwood.

    Hopes on hold in Helsinki

    Upon their arrival in Finland, the Argo crew received the devastating news that their boat had been smashed beyond repair during the voyage across the Atlantic. Surprisingly, the news did not come from a Canadian official but rather from an Irish oarsman. The crew had to be satisfied with practice-track workouts for three days while arrangements to borrow equipment were being made with the University of Helsinki. Finnish boats were stroked from the opposite side and that had a major impact on the next days of training. The crew seating changed so that the seven seat became the stroke and the stroke moved back to seven seat and so on down the boat.

    The crew had been in Finland for 13 days operating under challenging conditions and had to keep their focus on the upcoming battle with the world’s finest crews. For days, the crew ran around a practice track, and then for the next 10 days, they borrowed the University of Helsinki’s port-stroked eight with seven man, Jack Russell becoming stroke. At the same time, Coach Kaysmith was scouring Europe looking for boats with simple criteria - that they be seaworthy and with owners who would allow major alterations in order to convert from port-stroke to starboard-stroked boats. In other words, “boats that had been written off by their own clubs.”

    Coach Kaysmith found a rowing club in Stockholm that had a derelict old tub of a port-stroked eight. The Canadian team accepted it and was determined to do whatever would be required to convert to starboard stroke. After almost two weeks in Helsinki, they finally got back to their regular seat positions in the wreck of the converted Swedish eight.

    George McCauley decked in formal Canadian Olympian attire as he sets foot on dry land in Helsinki.

    When he heard about the Argo situation, boat-builder Gordon Jennins paid his own way over to Helsinki to help. He agreed to carry out the necessary work to convert the Swedish boat. He worked virtually nonstop for 48 hours to complete the task. He wasn’t able to make a “silk purse out of a sows ear,” but made it possible for the crew to get back to their accustomed seats. Without the help from Gordon Jennins, the Canadian crew wouldn’t have even participated in the Games.

    During these trying days, Tom Allison and Bill Ross from the Argonaut Club were trying to arrange for transport of a brand new JenCraft eight that was sitting in the Argonaut boathouse in Toronto. Club members were busy building a wooden packing crate to ship the boat to Helsinki. The crew’s spirits were lifted.

    State of Euphoria Crushed

    The crew’s state of euphoria was soon crushed when the plan to ship the boat was considered to be too expensive for the club. The crew was told they would have to compete in the borrowed equipment. This decision caused much debate for years with many believing that a price tag couldn’t be put an Olympic medal, especially for this promising crew.

    On the Friday night, the Argonauts were finally able to take the Swedish boat for a trial row complete with six Canadian, one Swedish and one German oar. They had two practices on Saturday and their first heat against Yugoslavia, Australia, Romania and Finland took place on Sunday. George recalls the events of that day, “As the stroke of a crew renowned for their incredibly fast start out of the blocks, I am hard pressed to describe the sinking feeling when all four of our opponents in the first strokes from the starter’s flag leaped ahead of us by one full length or 62 feet. This had never happened to us before. We knew immediately that the heavy old Swedish tub had no natural run in her and that we were going to have to ‘pole her along each stroke’ playing catch up for slightly over a mile to the finish line. It took all of our strength to keep going but we did with a vengeance. I am proud to say that we passed the Finnish eight and came in fourth in the fastest heat of the day timed at 6:09:9.”

    In the repechage (second chance heat) the next day, the Argonaut crew met Sweden in what turned out to be a precedent-setting Olympic rowing event. Encouraged by their performance the day before, the Canadians set out to beat the Swedish crew for a chance to advance to the semi-finals. The start was a replay of their first race and the Argonaut crew again found themselves one length down off the start but knew if they pulled together, they could finish ahead.

    The First Ever “Photo-Finish”

    Canadians race to the first ever photographed dead heat in the repechage against Sweden. Both teams advanced to the semi-finals of the 1952 Olympic rowing regatta in Helsinki, Finland.

    After trailing the entire distance, the Canadian Eight gradually wore the Swedes down. They took the rate up to 40 strokes per minute in the last moments of the race and tied the Swedes on the last stroke. This was the first time that photo-finish equipment was used in Olympic rowing. The judges immediately called for a photo and after lengthy debate, a winner couldn’t be determined and the heat was declared a “tie.” Both the Canadian and Swedish teams advanced to the semi-finals.

    In the semi-finals, all winners would advance to the finals and others eliminated. The Argonauts were drawn against a fine German crew. Like the other races, the Argos were left at the start and after a grueling struggle, they finished one open length behind the Germans who turned in a time of 6:19:3. Thus ended a gallant attempt by the Argonauts of Canada, against all odds, to win an Olympic medal. The determination and teamwork displayed by the Argonaut eight in the face of overwhelming adversity was much admired by the entire rowing fraternity at Helsinki. To have performed as well as the Argonauts did without any chance to win a medal drew praise from competitors, regatta officials and spectators alike. This Argonaut crew, like other Argonaut Olympic crews before them, did the Club and Canada proud.

    In the history of our club, the 1952 Crew marked the end of an era as they represented the last Argonaut big-boat club entry into the Olympics as the composite and then National Team system starting replacing club-only entries.

    Looking back, George says, “there was something magical about our crew. We rowed as one unit and were incredibly fast. In fact, we didn’t know how good we really were. To be the fastest starters, a crew must be totally and completely together. Our racing start was the best in the world.” Sixty-three years later, George still considers the surviving members of his crew including: Mervin Kaye, Jack Taylor, Bo Westlake, Frank Young, Jack Russell, and Normie Rowe, as his closest friends.

    At the 2008 ARC boat-naming ceremony surviving members of the heavy eight are shown from back row left: Jack Taylor, Bo Westlake, Frank Young, Mervin Kaye, Jack Russell, George McCauley and Norm Rowe (coxwain).

    Bonded by adversity, this crew (seven of nine surviving) kept in touch and met annually throughout the decades following their adventure. At the ARC 140th birthday party in 2012, an emotional tribute was paid to, and among, the crew and there was nary a dry eye in the house.

    The Rowing After-life

    Still a young man post-Olympics, George became a firefighter in 1955 and remained active for 35 years. While not winning Olympic gold, George did just that in his professional career winning the honour of Canadian Firefighter of the Year in 1985. As Captain of his detachment, his truck was the first responder at a High Park apartment blaze that year. Of the two of his crew assigned to accompany him, one refused to enter the building and the other abandoned him on the way to the scene. Alone and without a mask, George grabbed the fire hose from the hallway standpipe, crawled towards the inferno and over the body of an unconscious man. George then dragged him out of the unit and to safety where he was revived and George went back to search for more victims.

    George and his wife Mary (deceased), have two daughters – Nancy and Catherine and four grandchildren. He has been active at the Argonaut Club ever since his Olympic adventure; first as club Secretary for many years, then General Manager, and later in life tending to our archives and enabling us to access our rich history of competition dating to 1872. Our large, back-bar picture features this very crew rowing to a dead heat in Helsinki.

    George McCauley - Rowing Biography, Notable Achievements

    BIO & Selected Notable Achievements

    • 1929 - Born in Toronto, ON
    • 1945 - Attended Western Technical and Commercial School
    • 1946 - Joined high school rowing squad
    • 1946 - GOLD Canadian Schoolboy Jr. Men's 4-
    • 1948 - GOLD Canadian Schoolboy Sr. Men's 4-
    • 1948 - GOLD - Canadian Henley in Jr. Ltwt Eight
    • 1950 - GOLD - Canadian Henley in Jr. Men’s Eight
    • 1951 - GOLD in U.S. Middlestates Regatta in Sr. Men’s Eight
    • 1952 - GOLD – Canadian Olympic Trials
    • 1952 – eliminated in semi-finals – Helsinki Olympic Games

    Grant Sommers

  • 16-Jul-2023 2:36 PM | Ruth Robertson

    Argonaut Olympian Issue #1

    We are honouring our past and present Olympians by documenting their achievements and establishing a permanent archive. An Argonaut Olympian is an athlete who has been a competitive member of the club prior to competing at the Olympic games. Until 1972, athletes represented their club as well as their country at the Olympics. In 1976 a National Team system was developed in Canada, thus ending club representation at the games. Other than footnoting this difference, there is no other discrepancy between the two systems for the purpose of this exercise.

    The Argonaut Rowing Club has produced more Olympic crews than any other club in North America while that system existed fielding a total of thirteen crews and entries. Many more members have since competed in National Team programs and have been winning gold medals at the Olympics and World Championships with consistency for nearly three decades. This is the first of the series, compiled non-chronologically, of our athletes that have donned the double blue and gone on to compete in the Olympic Games.

    George Tintor, 1976 Montreal Olympics - Games of the XXIst Olympiad

    Sitting at his desk in Zurich, Switzerland, George Tintor reflects on the sport that he loves and has largely forgiven for past disappointments. After a hiatus of 27 years, he returned to the sport with a vengeance in 2007 and has routinely visited the Argonaut Club since then. His life has been a charmed one from his childhood growing up in High Park and attending Parkdale Collegiate to joining the Argonaut Rowing Club as a Junior at age 14. By 19 he was competing at the Montreal Olympics as the youngest male rower from any country present. Still on the National Team in 1980, and looking to improve on his eighth place finish in the men’s eight, he was unable to compete as the Moscow Games were boycotted. George retired from the sport that year but the foundation for success had been laid. By the next Olympics, the 1984 Games in Los Angeles, the men’s eight would win their first ever gold and the first of three golds won to date by a Canadian crew in this event - every one of which has had an Argonaut Olympian in the boat.

    The hook, a poster

    A boy in grade nine struts the long hallway to class. Thirsty, he stops at a nearby fountain, takes a drink of water and as he straightens his tall frame he finds himself staring face to face with a poster that would change his life…

    The Argonaut Rowing Club was in the habit of recruiting by poster in those days and it was just one of these ads that caught George’s eye in the hallways of Parkdale Collegiate. He was coached and mentored at Argos first by the late D’Arcy Burgon and later by Forbes Marnoch who can still be seen rowing at the club on an almost-daily basis. George has fond memories of his early days at the club, in his words:

    “I am honoured to have been coached by both of them.”

    It is quite evident that Forbes and George have continued a lifelong friendship with frequent visits the past few years. George can be seen sculling in Forbes’ single or hopping in a double or quad for a workout. Before joining the Junior National Team, George and his brother Nick won the Canadian Schoolboy Championships (CSSRA) in 1974 in the pair. That summer, George and Keith Caines went on to be Canadian junior champions, also in the pair, and represented Canada at the World Junior Rowing Championship in Ratzeburg, Germany, finishing 6th.

    George Tintor and Keith Caines, 1974 Canadian Junior Champs in the men's pair rowing a 1972 Ayling boat built by Dick Sims at the Argonaut Rowing Club (current workshop/doubles bay)

    Penn plucks rising star at Double Blue

    The 1974 edition of the Double Blue Awards Gala featured Olympic gold medalist Ted Nash as keynote speaker. Then head coach at the University of Pennsylvania and always keeping an eye out for new talent, the charismatic speaker “easily convinced me to go to Penn” according to George. Within a year he would be rowing at the summer games for Canada. In 1977, as a sophomore, George stroked the Penn varsity eight. Notable wins included the San Diego Crew Classic and the Adams Cup versus Harvard and Navy, ending Harvard’s four year winning streak.

    Olympic fever hits Canada

    In the summer of 1976 our country was gripped with anticipation hosting the first Olympic games on Canadian soil. These were the games where Nadia Comaneci had the first ever perfect score in gymnastics and repeated the task six more times; the legendary Pertti Karppinen won his first of three consecutive gold medals rowing in the men's single and women won the right to compete in rowing events for the first time in history.

    George Tintor rowing in six seat at the 1976 Montreal Olympics.

    During the late 1970’s, although a National Team program was developed under the guidance of former Argonaut head coach Tudor Bompa, advanced training sciences such as calculating lactic threshold were still years away. The team had no dedicated training facility and split time working out on Burnaby Lake in Vancouver and in St. Catharines, usually with club coaches. Other than in 1976, the crew selection process could almost have been described as ad hoc:

    “I had five different coaches on the national team in five years, almost all of whom were club coaches who were parachuted in at the last minute. The only non-club men’s coach was Al Roaf from Vancouver, who coached our eight in 1977.”

    Clearly there was a cost in switching to a national system after seventy years of club representation at the games. George’s eight wasn’t expected to qualify for the 1976 games but did. They weren’t expected to do very well but did, finishing second in the B final. For many though the experience was a disappointment given the hype of the Summer Olympics in Canada and the Men’s Eight being considered little more than an afterthought on the Canadian Olympic Rowing Team.

    Time heals, 27 years later

    There’s a saying, once an oarsman… for George Tintor it was an invitation to row:

    "Some old friends from Vesper Boat Club in Philadelphia asked me to join them in a 10k masters race at the Monaco Coastal Regatta in Feb. 2007. I had been training on the erg and felt fit enough to join them. We finished second in that race and I was hooked again. When I got back to Zurich, I joined the Grasshopper Club and started rowing again. My goal was to take a crew back to Monaco and win, which we finally did in 2009."

    Life after rowing

    It’s true, there is. In George's case he ended up graduating with a BSc from the University of Pennsylvania, an MBA at Columbia University and a successful career in investment banking in New York, London and finally in Zurich, the home of his wife Isabel. They have three daughters – Diana, Marina and Anoushka – all of whom are great fans, in recent years, Anoushka has chosen to row and is a great competitor in the Tintor spirit!

    The big question

    How many medals will Canadian rowers win at the 2012 games? GT says 5!

    Good luck in all the challenges you take on in 2012 George, but you probably won’t need it.

    George Tintor - Rowing Biography, Notable Achievements

    • 1957 - Born in Toronto, grew up in High Park.
    • 1972 - Started rowing in grade 9 at age 14 at Argonaut Rowing Club for Parkdale Collegiate crew in the spring of 1972. He was first coached by D’Arcy Burgon and later by Forbes Marnoch.
    • 1973 - Won Argonaut RC Oarsman of the Year Award
    • 1974 - Won Canadian Schoolboy Championships for Parkdale Collegiate in the men’s pair with brother Nick. Won Canadian Championship junior pair with Keith Caines.
    • 1974 – 75 Junior National Rowing Team member.
    • 1976 – 80 National Rowing Team Member.
    • 1976 – 78 University of Pennsylvania crew, coached by Ted Nash
    • 1976 - Canadian Olympic Team finishing 8th in the Men’s Eight event at the Montreal summer Olympics.
    • 1980 - Canadian Olympic Team 1980 – Moscow summer Olympic games boycotted by Canada, did not compete.
    • 1980 - Retired from rowing competitively.
    • 2007 – Left retirement to row at masters regattas in Switzerland and abroad, joined Grasshopper Club of Zurich, rows at Argos when visiting Canada.
    • 2011 – Competed in 12 masters races including wins at the Monaco Coastal Regatta, Swiss Nationals, Swiss Rowing Ass’n 125th Anniversary Regatta and Armada Cup winning a total of 10 times in these regattas in various sweep and sculling events.

    Medal Count - Rowing Events – Games of the XXIst Olympiad – Montreal, CAN

      Gold Silver Bronze Total
     East Germany  9  3  2  14
     Bulgaria  2  1  0  3
     Soviet Union  1  4  4  9
     Canada  0  0  0  0


  • 16-Jul-2023 2:17 PM | Ruth Robertson

    Argonaut Olympian Issue #8

    We are in the midst of honouring our past and present Olympians by documenting their achievements and establishing a permanent archive. An Argonaut Olympian is an athlete who has been a competitive member of the club prior to competing at the Olympic games. Until 1972, athletes represented their club as well as their country at the Olympics. In 1976 a National Team system was developed in Canada, thus ending club representation at the games. Other than footnoting this difference, there is no other discrepancy between the two systems for the purpose of this exercise.

    The Argonaut Rowing Club has produced more Olympic crews than any other club in North America, while that system existed, fielding a total of thirteen crews. Many other members have competed in National Team programs and have been winning gold medals at the Olympics and World Championships with consistency for nearly three decades. This is the eighth of the series, compiled non-chronologically, of our athletes that have donned the double blue and gone on to compete in the Olympic Games.

    Part 8 – Joseph Wright Jr. – 1928 Amsterdam Olympics, 1932 Los Angeles Olympics Games of the IX & X Olympiads

    Joe Wright Jr. training at Argonaut Club circa 1927.

    With one of world's greatest oarsmen and coaches as your father, Joe Wright Jr. had big shoes to fill if he chose rowing as his sport. But that, along with Argonaut football, is exactly what he did in establishing himself as one of the best scullers on the planet in the pre-depression era of rowing. What Joe Sr. was to sweep rowing, a powerful workhorse rowing mostly crew races, Joe Jr. was the lithe thoroughbred with a finesse more suited to sculling. And for a few years, possibly no one in the world, except maybe Bobby Pearce, could beat him. Joe Sr. garnered countless headlines, but Joe Jr. had a few too:

    “Joe Wright All-Time Sculling 'Great'", “Wright Among World's Best”, “Headed for Olympics", "Wright Presented with 'Olympic Shield of the Athlete', "Two Joe Wrights Enriched 75 Years of Canadian Sport"

    While his dad excelled at everything from track and field to swimming and boxing beyond his rowing career, Joe Jr. played Argonaut football and rowed, and that he did very well. Joe Sr. was a famed oarsman and equally so as a coach, also his son's coach, in a stellar career spanning over four decades. Joe Jr.'s career was more like that of a supernova. He began rowing in 1924 at age 18 and began peaking just three years later at 21. That year he was a few strokes away from winning English Henley’s1927 Diamond Challenge Sculls when he snagged a rope and lost the race.

    Rowing Career and Argonaut Football

    Joe Wright Jr. didn't win anywhere near the 137 titles his father did over the decades but in the 1927-29 era virtually no one in the world could beat him. The Diamond Sculls cup awarded to the fastest male sculler at English Henley was considered adequate evidence that you were the world's fastest sculler as there was no amateur, only professional, world championships in those days. Professional races were much longer, more like head races of 3-5 miles with tens of thousands of spectators betting huge sums of money on the races. While young Joe didn't win in England in '27 he was the fastest boat at the regatta until he snagged a boom rope with a substantial lead a few metres from the finish and had to settle for second place. He left no doubt in '28 when he beat Jack Guest and became the first, and only, Argo in history to win the coveted event. The difference in competition in the generation since Joe Sr. is important historically as transatlantic travel for sport was rare in the early part of the 20th century and the rowing regatta at Joe Sr.'s St. Louis Olympics was really a North-America-only event whereas 19 nations competed in rowing at the Amsterdam Olympics in 1928. By 1932 Joe had married and the rowing spark was gone as quickly as it came as he did not qualify for the final in the single at the Los Angeles games marking the last big international race in his rowing career. He continued to play football for the Argonaut Football Club and this led to a Grey Cup victory in 1933 with Joe Jr. playing in the center position and in the game had three interceptions. This was the highlight of a 11-year Argonaut football career spanning from 1924-33 and 1936. Our rowing club started the football club in 1873 as a means for rowers to stay in shape in the off-season and we maintained ownership of it until the 1950's when it was sold for approx. $400,000.

    The 'Pearce' in the Room

    Famous handshake - Joe Wright Jr. and Bobby Pearce shake hands at the 1928 Olympic Games.

    Many would have trouble hearing claims of Joe Wright Jr. as the world's greatest in the era of Bobby Pearce - the big Australian who moved to Canada and won Olympic gold in the single sculls in '28 and '32 (for Australia), and won the Diamond Sculls in '31. He also won three professional World Championships and was presented with the Lou Marsh Trophy in '38 when he retired undefeated. In 1950 Joe Wright Sr. beat Pearce in a narrow vote to become Canada's athlete of half century. But at the 1928 Olympics Pearce won gold and Joe Jr. didn't make the final. Rowing progressions however, were more complicated then with heats, two repechages, quarters, semis, and finals and Joe Jr. made the mistake of entering three events over a week of racing. This might not sound overwhelming, especially since he was a spare in the eight, however his doubles event with partner Jack Guest ran the gamut and they had to race six times before a winner was decided. Add in four singles races and Joe Jr. found himself double racing on several days. Joe's ego might have got the best of him as he was the only rower out of 245 at the regatta to enter more than one rowing event at Amsterdam. The outcome might well have been different had he focused on the single only to take on Pearce with fresh legs.

    This excerpt is from Joe Jr.'s Canadian Sports Hall of Fame Story:

    His performance at the Canadian Henley was particularly notable, as a tight schedule left him with a seemingly impossible task. Wright was set to compete against American champion Garret Gilmore in the quarter-mile race and then, less than half an hour later, square off against Pacific Coast champion, Adams, in the 550 yard event. Even Joe, Sr. was doubtful as to whether his son could pull through two gruelling back-to-back events against the best rowers on the continent. Before the race, Joe calmly declared: "I'll tell you what I'll do. I'll go out and win the quarter mile from Gilmore and when that's over, I'll lick Adams." And so he did.

    March 28, 1906

    Joe Wright Jr. (left, stroke) and Jack Guest at Argos preparing for 1928 Olympics.

    It's a beautiful thing when the stars align and that they did on this date in 1906 when both Joe Wright Jr. and Jack Guest were born in Toronto, within hours of each other, and would become two of the top scullers of their era. Twenty-two years later they would both be rowing at the Argonaut Club and entering the double winning silver at the Olympics. Both Jack Guest and Joe Wright Jr's fathers were coaching and heavily involved in the interests and success of their progeny. Word has it that the Guest camp was not happy with Joe Wright Jr. rowing the single at the Amsterdam Olympics (Guest did not) as it added several additional races to the six heats and finals they had to race in the double. Favoured to win gold, they had to settle for silver and Wright failed to medal in the single due to the fatigue of competing in 10 races within a week. This led to a split after the Olympics and Guest moving to the Don Rowing Club, which he represented in his 1930 Diamond Sculls victory.

    The Peerless Four

    Joe Wright Jr., Bobby Pearce, Lou Scholes, Jack Guest row past the new Henley grandstand in St. Catharines, ON to a standing ovation in 1931.

    In the time of Joe Wright Jr., the world's best scullers were Canadian, or lived in Canada. The 'Peerless Four' were four Diamond Sculls winners at English Henley; the only four in Canadian history and all from the same era. Lou Scholes won in 1904, Wright in 1928, Guest in 1930, and Pearce in 1931. While Bobby Pearce lived in Canada, he was an Australian citizen at the time. The Henley Royal regatta however, tags clubs, rather than nationalities, for victories so thePeerless Four represent the only four Canadian club wins in the 173 year history of the Diamond Sculls at English Henley.

    Fifty years after Joe's Diamond Sculls win a special ceremony was held to present him with a medal called "The Olympic Shield of the Athlete" in early 1979. Then Minister of Sport and Fitness, Iona Campagnola said: "Your experiences have had a very profound effect on Canada's rowing community and indeed on the Canadian community at large ... your contributions of yesteryear have given our rowers of today strong traditions on which to build."

    A few Argos still remember Joe Jr. Both George McCauley ('52 Olympic crew) and Zeke O'Connor ('52 Argo Grey Cup winner) remember his feistily, fun-loving temperament and his zest for life. Like his dad, his persona was larger than life in those days where a Diamond Sculls win would get you a ticker-tape parade on Bay St. and tens of thousands showing up to celebrate with you. Joe Wright Jr. married three-time Olympic swimming Champion Martha Norelius in 1930 and they had a daughter Dianne who still lives in Toronto and she had seven children of her own. Joe later divorced Martha and married Dorothy Nicholson. Joe fell ill at times in his rowing career and later in life suffered from serious ailments from 1974 until his death in 1981. His earlier illness in the 30's might have ended his rowing career sooner than he wished, but for a while young Joe went supernova and the world basked in his light.

    So who was the greater rower, Joe Junior or Senior? Check out Joe Wright Sr.'s feature on the website decide for yourself!

    Medal Count - Rowing Events – Games of the IX Olympiad – Amsterdam, NLD

       Gold Silver   Bronze  Total
     USA 2 2 1 5
     Great Britain 1 2 1 4
     Canada (7th) 0 1 1 2

    Medal Count - Rowing Events – Games of the X Olympiad – Los Angeles, USA

     Gold Silver   Bronze  Total
     USA 3 1 0 4
     Great Britain 2 0 0 2
     Canada (8th) 0 0 2 2

    BIO & Selected Notable Rowing Achievements

    • 1906 - Born in Toronto, March 28th
    • 1924 – Joined Argonaut Rowing Club
    • 1924 - Gold, C.A.A.O Champs Sr. Men's 8+
    • 1925 - Gold, U.S. Middle State Regatta, Sr. Men's 8+
    • 1925 - Gold, American Henley Jr. 1X - Record set
    • 1925 - Gold, American Henley Int. 1X - Record set
    • 1925 - Gold, American Henley Sr. 1X - Record set
    • 1927 - Canadian National Champion, Men's 1X
    • 1927 - American National Champion, Men's 1X
    • 1927 - 2nd, Henley Royal Regatta, Diamond Sculls 1X
    • 1928 - Gold, Henley Royal Regatta, Diamond Sculls 1X
    • 1928 - Silver, Amsterdam Olympics, Men's 2X *
    • 1928 - Bronze, Amsterdam Olympics, Men's 8+ *
    • 1928 - 5th, Amsterdam Olympics, Men's 1X *
    • 1929 - Competed, Henley Royal Regatta, Diamond Sculls 1X
    • 1930 - Competed, Henley Royal Regatta, Diamond Sculls 1X
    • 1932 - Competed, Los Angeles Olympics, Men's 1X
    • 1924-36, Toronto Argonaut Football Club, Center position
    • 1930 - Married, Martha Norelius, 3X Olympic swim champion
    • 1933 - 21st Grey Cup Champions, Center position
    • 1955 - Inductee, Canada’s Sports Hall of Fame in 1955.
    • 1979 - Presented with the "Olympic Shield of the Athlete"
    • 1981 - Died June 7th, in Toronto

    *Wright was the only oarsman to compete in multiple events at 1928 Olympics.

    Grant Sommers 2017

  • 16-Jul-2023 2:07 PM | Ruth Robertson

    Argonaut Olympian Issue #7

    We are in the midst of honouring our past and present Olympians by documenting their achievements and establishing a permanent archive. An Argonaut Olympian is an athlete who has been a competitive member of the club prior to competing at the Olympic games. Until 1972, athletes represented their club as well as their country at the Olympics. In 1976 a National Team system was developed in Canada, thus ending club representation at the games. Other than footnoting this difference, there is no other discrepancy between the two systems for the purpose of this exercise.

    The Argonaut Rowing Club has produced more Olympic crews than any other club in North America while that system existed fielding a total of thirteen crews. Many other members have competed in National Team programs and have been winning gold medals at the Olympics and World Championships with consistency for nearly three decades. This is the seventh of the series, compiled non-chronologically, of our athletes that have donned the double blue and gone on to compete in the Olympic Games.

    Part 7 – Joseph Wright Sr. – 1904 St. Louis Olympics - Games of the III Olympiad

    If you stand on our docks, listen hard enough, and let your imagination entertain you, you might hear Old Joe’s voice booming across Lake Ontario, telling his Jr. Boys crew to “pull harder, drive with the legs, pull together!” Known as the only rowing coach never to use, or need, a megaphone Joe Wright Sr. is one of the most decorated Argonauts of all time. Standing 6’2, 195 lbs., and sporting a renowned 45” chest Wright was a powerhouse across almost every sport conceivable. His fame went beyond Toronto and rowing and even beyond the national scene as his athletic prowess became the stuff of lore on both sides of our border. Here went some of the countless headlines:

    “Wright Tops Bobby Pearce in Poll”, “Canadian Oarsman of the Half Century”, “Argonauts Win all of their Events”, “130 Victories for ‘Grand Old Man”, "Joe Wright Sr. is Selected as Outstanding Oarsman", "The Greatest Living Coach in America"

    His career was defined as an oarsman and coach at the Argonaut Rowing Club but nary has there been as decorated a career as that belonging to our beloved Argonaut legend. His North American fame espoused stories of his accomplishments that at a glance seem too varied and too fantastical to be true. While many people are fortunate enough to dominate one sport, Joe Wright dominated many. While this article will focus on Mr. Wright’s rowing achievements and his history at the Argonaut Club although his accolades also include the following:

    • Canadian Champion and Record Holder – Shot Put and Hammer Throw
    • Canadian Amateur Heavyweight Boxing Champion
    • Canadian Track Champion, one of first Canadians to break 10 sec in 100 yd dash
    • Canadian Amateur Wrestling Champion
    • Canadian Billiards Champion
    • Argonaut Rugby Team – player for 18 years
    • Varsity Baseball champion – U of T toured US beating top five US college teams
    • City of Toronto Swim Champion – at 18 defeated the reigning Canadian Champion

    Rowing Career

    Joe Wright Sr.’s rowing career was one of over 30 years. His 137 victories/titles including 12 National Championships in rowing is a record unlikely to ever be broken at the Argonaut Rowing Club. This is partly because there are so few of such ability and fewer still that would entertain racing for so many years. Joe didn't start rowing until in his late teens or even 20 but success came quickly winning his first race on the Toronto Islands. By the age of 21 he had won his first US Nationals title in the Men’s Four. Four years later he was again a US Nationals champion winning in the Men’s Pair becoming the first international crew to do so. At the young age of 32 Wright started coaching at the Argonaut Club and the oarsman/coach trained, mentored, and raced with his crews. The victories, and fame, piled up as Wright and his Argos would show up at a regatta and medal in virtually every event, and most of them were gold. At 40 years old Wright competed in the Argonaut Men’s Eight at the St. Louis Olympics, which were just the third games of the modern Olympics, where his crew won the Silver Medal with Wright in stroke. Four years later, with Wright as coach and his son George Wright in the boat rowing two-seat, Argos sent another eight to the Olympics and this time captured the Bronze Medal in the same boat class at London, England. In 1912 Joe again attended the games as coach of an Argonaut eight at the Stockholm Olympics where they were denied an Olympic medal yet given a special medal for sportsmanship by the King of Sweden who was impressed with the Argos not contesting the race which saw them row a longer course than their competitors.

    It seems age was of little consequence to Wright’s career as he rowed deep into his 40’s winning two heats as stroke of the Argonaut Eight at English Henley vying to win the Grand Challenge Cup at age 42. He was playing football until age 46 for the Argonaut team alongside his son George. His last competitive rowing race was rowed as a 51-year-old in his signature boat, the Men’s Eight. Known primarily as a sweep oarsman, Joe excelled, as later Argonaut Marnie McBean would, in almost every boat class except for the double, in which he never rowed. He was the first Canadian to win a heat in the single at the Henley Royal Regatta in the Diamond Sculls event and he won the Bedford Cup becoming the first Canadian to win the British amateur singles title. Joseph Wright Sr. made a career of competitive rowing, his favourite sport, for over 30 years of his life.

    Coach Wright

    “The name Joe Wright breathes sport” (J.P. Fitzgerald, June 28, 1945 – Toronto sports editor)

    Wright was known as a “hard-driving” coach who knew how to create winning crews. Legend has it he took eight young Toronto men, seven of whom had never rowed before, winter-trained them and proceeded to destroy the competition during their first season together. This Novice crew led by Jeff Taylor won Gold in both the Jr. and Sr. Eights at the 1907 Canadian Henley Regatta and later won Gold at the US Nationals! Wright’s Sr. Eights won both Canadian Henley and the U.S. Nationals in 1905, 1907, and 1911. His Intermediate Eights accomplished the feat five times in 1905, 1906, 1909, 1910, and 1911. He took his Argonaut crews five times to England to compete at the Henley Royal Regatta.

    In 1916 the University of Pennsylvania recruited Joe to be the Head Coach of their varsity program. Penn became a powerhouse in US rowing during his tenure there. Wright was later honoured by the American Rowing Association (now US Rowing) with a perpetual trophy, the “Joseph Wright Cup”. This cup is presented to winning 150 lb college crews and Joseph Wright was the first professional coach to have this honour. A.R.A. secretary John Brown wrote “you alone are responsible for the development in this country of the special 150 lb race among the colleges … this is in recognition of your efforts”. Charles Borie Jr., the board member who proposed the cup, was even more appreciative stating: “No one has stood for higher principles than yourself, and the dawn of a new day in rowing in this country for the sport of amateur rowing”.

    While Old Joe left us in 1950, his legacy endures and there are still a few Argos around who remember him. Argonaut legend-in-his-own-right George McCauley of the famed ’52 Olympic crew remembers him well. Despite Joe being advanced in age, he remembers his larger-than-life persona and hulking presence. George says, “although I was never a personal friend of Mr. Wright’s, I felt it an honour to be in the great man’s presence until his death in 1950. Any crew I rowed in always rowed better when passing the club if we knew Mr. Wright was on the balcony, until at least we were out of his view." George also recalled how he and his high school friends were allowed upstairs at the club on Sundays when Mr. Wright would meet with a group of friends to hear the stories of the famous battles they waged in their rowing careers and to view all of the club’s history adorning the walls. Shortly after his passing, Mr. Wright was voted Canada's Outstanding Oarsman of the Half-Century and was second to Lionel Conacher as Canadian Athlete of the Half-Century.

    So the next time you see the club double “Joe Wright” row past you, or if you are lucky enough to row in it, imagine his booming voice encouraging you to push harder. The name and the legend, endures long after this man who, like no other, promoted our sport throughout North America with a vigor and passion that was largely responsible for defining the Argonaut Rowing Club as one of the continent’s great sporting clubs. Many since have built on this reputation and to this day, the Argonaut Club is still recognized as one of the great rowing clubs of the Americas.

    Medal Count - Rowing Events – Games of the III Olympiad – St. Louis, USA

       Gold  Silver  Bronze  Total
     Germany  5  4  4  13
     Canada  0  1  0  1

    BIO & Selected Notable Rowing Achievements

    • 1864 - Born in Villanova, ON
    • 1884 – Joined Bayside Rowing Club
    • 1885-95 Rowed with the Toronto Rowing Club
    • 1885 – GOLD Men’s Four US Nationals
    • 1895 – GOLD Men’s Pair US Nationals (1stCanadians to win)
    • 1895 – GOLD Men’s Single Bedford Cup (1stCanadian to win English Amat. 1X title)
    • 1896 – Joined Argonaut Rowing Club
    • 1896 – GOLD Men’s Eight Baltimore Regatta
    • 1904 – Silver Men’s Eight St. Louis Olympics
    • 1906 – Won two heats at British Henley stroking Men’s Eight at 43
    • 1906 – Coached at Argonaut Rowing Club
    • 1908 – Coach, Bronze Men’s Eight St. Louis Olympics
    • 1912 – Coach, Men’s Eight Stockholm Olympics
    • 1916 – 1926 Head Coach, University of Pennsylvania Rowing
    • 1928 – 1931 Elected Alderman City of Toronto
    • 1950 – Died, Toronto, ON.
    • 1950 – Voted Canada’s Outstanding Oarsman of the Half-Century beating Bobby Pearce 15-14 votes
    • 1950 – Voted second to Lionel Conaker for Canada’s Athlete of the Half-Century
    • 1955 – Inducted into Canada’s Sports Hall of Fame
    • Career – 137 rowing victories/titles.

  • 16-Jul-2023 1:54 PM | Ruth Robertson

    Argonaut Olympian Issue #2

    We are honouring our past and present Olympians by documenting their achievements and establishing a permanent archive. An Argonaut Olympian is an athlete who has been a competitive member of the club prior to competing at the Olympic games. Until 1972, athletes represented their club as well as their country at the Olympics. In 1976 a national team system was developed in Canada, thus ending club representation at the games. Other than footnoting this difference, there is no other discrepancy between the two systems for the purpose of this exercise.

    The Argonaut Rowing Club has fielded more Olympic crews than any other club in North America while that system existed fielding a total of thirteen entries. Many more members have competed in National Team programs and have been winning gold medals at the Olympics and World Championships with consistency for nearly three decades.

    This is the second of the series, compiled non-chronologically of our athletes that have donned the double blue and gone on to compete in the Olympic Games.

    Part 2 – Mara Jones – 2004 Athens Olympics - Games of the XXVIIIth Olympiad

    These days, the notion of rowing at the Olympics occupies little space in the consciousness of Argonaut Olympian Mara Jones. Her success in life not only lies in her ability to plan and execute but also in her ability to move on.

    This is clear as she now devotes her energy to her current passion as an orthopaedic surgeon. She has catalogued and tucked away her rowing experiences but draws on them, when needed, to fuel her career or find her way.

    Champions are not born; they are forged in human foundries with a special alloy of mettle, spirit and heart. This is her story.

    The hook, McGill recruits their own

    While many Olympians got their start rowing in high school programs, growing up in land-locked Aurora, Ontario, left rowing off the sports radar for Mara Jones. In fact, the sport she gravitated towards in high school was cross-country running. This would all change when she moved to Montreal to pursue an undergraduate degree. A chance encounter with members of the men's rowing squad on a recruitment drive convinced her to give it a try. Seemingly, it looked like fun so she joined but after the third practice quit for the season a little taken aback with the demands of the sport. But she did return the next season and the next two thereafter enjoying a successful run rowing crew for McGill.

    Mara returned to Toronto to pursue an MSc at U of T and since the University ran their rowing program out of the Argonaut club at that time, we became her home club. It was then she started showing glimpses of her potential as an elite athlete; driven and determined to reach higher in the sport. This included getting up at 4 AM every day and driving from Aurora to the Argonaut club to train.

    The wins came quickly. Her Argonaut crewmates comprising of Annie Hodkin, Jeany Ellis and Kristann Van Rooyen rowed the lightweight women's straight four, coxed four (coxed by Olympic gold medalist Brian Price) and quad together stacking up a win at the Head of the Charles in 1997 and three Henley gold medals in the next two years in these three boat classes.

    She rowed with fellow Argo Jeany Ellis for U of T in the lightweight women’s double and were Ontario University Champions in 2000 and just narrowly missed Henley gold that year. Many rowers have an intensity about them that could be described as ‘less than kind’ however Jeany recalls with fondness Mara's rather quirky, humourous side as being the perfect antidote to the rigours of training. After making weight she would indulge in a get-it-back meal of meatball sub, pie and ice cream – for breakfast! While racing with Jeany in gale force winds at the Ontario University Championships in St. Catharines, Mara in bow, was hit in the face by a huge wave and instead of panicking, she sputtered, laughed at the spectacle of it all and they went on to win the race by a huge margin.

    Before and after the gold medal win at Henley in the Ltwt Women's 4X, the third Henley gold for these women winning the 4+ and the 4- the prior season. From bow: Jeany Ellis, Kristann Van Rooyen, Annie Hodkin, Mara Jones.

    Mara was used to waves, at the 1999 Ontario championships she was pummeled by hail after launching her single and a subsequent storm surge hit her boat, capsizing and washing her in the torrent downstream. She thought she was ‘done’ until she managed to find her orange oar handle in the tempest. She was able to grab it and cling to her shell until she was rescued almost a kilometer downstream. Shaken but not broken she went right back at it, and kept winning. In fact within five years of her summer learning to scull with Annie Hodkin she was rowing for Canada on the National Rowing Team.

    “she is focused, driven and hardworking … she exemplifies the ordinary person who does extraordinary things and would likely never admit to how accomplished she is” says Ellis.

    Mara was carded for the National Team after her spectacular win in the single (2002) at Henley beating the field by seven seconds. She followed this up with Henley gold in the quad that summer in which she competed for Riverside BC having spent the prior year working in Boston.

    There are 14 Olympic boat classes and a total of 46 seats available if your country was to qualify every boat class (rare). Of the 46 seats only two are made available to lightweight women vs 21 for heavyweight men and 17 for heavyweight women so Mara, being seeded in the top 3 or 4, felt little assurance that she would make the Olympic crew of two; so she responded. That involved putting Med school on hold and moving to Victoria to train full time. As visualized, planned and executed she made the boat in 2003 and raced at her first world-level event finishing 5th with partner Shona McLaren at the Milan FISA World Rowing Championships. She went on to win gold at two FISA World Cup Regattas, compete at the 2004 Olympic games, was World Champion in 2005 in the lightweight women's 4X and for good measure was voted Ontario Female Athlete of the Year also in 2005.

    Mara Jones and Fiona Milne race at the 2004 Athens Olympics

    Interview with Mara Jones

    GS What was your motivation to take up a fringe sport such as rowing?

    MJ I did my undergrad at McGill, the men’s rowing team was hosting an open air pub and actively recruiting new prospects. It looked like fun so I joined. On the third day of practice it was raining hard and I didn’t want to risk the 9K trip to the Olympic Basin figuring it would be cancelled. Next day the coaches told me that rowing takes place rain or shine….as a first year undergrad student my priorities were elsewhere. The following year however I decided to try out again and this time stuck with it and continued for the next 3 years.

    GS You started as a sweep rower and switched to sculling, why?

    MJ I originally rowed crew at McGill and then in the Argos lightweight women’s program but later decided to take up sculling. I rowed the ’98 season with Annie (Hodkin). She sat in bow and taught me how to scull.

    GS In 2002 you won Henley (LW1X) by several boat lengths. The real story is how you got there. Only one boat from each semi made the final, what happened in your race?

    MJ The reason the semi was so tough for me was that with about 400 M to go I must have caught weeds on my fin or the stroke coach impeller as suddenly my boat speed slowed tremendously. My splits went up to 2:30 and boats started closing on me. I wasn’t going to lose a chance to race in the finals so I just started pulling harder. About 100 M left my hands and neck were tingling and I think I was close to blacking out. I stopped at the finish line docks for a good 20 minutes but I was still too dizzy to row the boat back so I had to get a volunteer to do it for me…

    GS At what point in your career did you feel like you had a real shot at making the National Team?

    MJ Making the National Team was a bit touch and go the first year I was carded (2002) as they were only boating a 2X for the worlds and I had a huge gap to make up in order to be on par with the other girls that had been on the team for a number of years. I just kept plugging away and gradually started to be more competitive. I don’t think there was any point that I knew for sure I would make the boat, but I knew I was going to keep persevering until I did!

    After my win at Henley (2002 1x) I started Med school. I found out that I was going to be a carded athlete and my plan was to finish a year of school while training independently in Toronto then head out to speed orders in May. By the fall of 2002 I knew that I would have to move out west and commit myself to training full time or I would never be able to break the ‘inner circle’. With some luck and a lot of hours in the single I managed to make the double in 2003 and race at the Worlds.

    GS Having beat Germany, the Olympic favourites, at the Lucerne World Cup regatta in 2004 you were vaulted from relative obscurity to becoming medal hopefuls. Tell me if this change in context and increase in media attention affected your focus on racing.

    MJ It didn’t really. We trained hard and were ready to race. We knew the other crews and we had beaten them in the past. We made some technical errors in the heat and then the repechage that we couldn’t seem to recover from. It was disappointing; we thought we had a real shot at a podium finish. The media attention wasn’t really distracting, it didn’t affect our ability to race.

    GS You retired from competition in 2006 at or near the top of your game. What was the process that led you to your decision?

    MJ It was a hard decision. In Olympic rowing there are only two seats in total – the double – for lightweight women. Your seat was never guaranteed and in order to make the boat you had to commit everything to training. I wanted to race at the Olympics again to have another shot at a medal but I wasn’t into the process. It was then I knew I was in it for the wrong reasons so I retired. I wavered for a bit as to whether it was the right decision or not but once I got busy with medical school I had to leave it behind once and for all.

    GS If you accept the notion that life is simply a series of defining moments, tell me about your finest rowing moment.

    MJ I have several moments all with a similar theme. It is the point in a race, an erg test, a hard training session where my body is telling me to stop, my legs are burning and I know that I either keep pace or embrace the pain and push harder. The moments I remember are those where I made the decision to stop thinking and lay everything out. The ones that are outstanding involve doing this in unison with my double’s partner.

    GS How, if so, has rowing helped you in medicine and in life?

    MJ It’s taught me that we have high limits mentally and physically. We can persevere and set higher thresholds of endurance. As humans, we can adapt and do things we didn’t think were possible. In rowing you can focus on a boat that seemed unbeatable in the past and if you work hard enough and challenge yourself you can win the race, if that is your goal…

    GS What advice can you offer our athletes, esp. our younger rowers on reaching their goals. In other words is there something in particular they MUST do advance to the upper levels in this sport?

    MJ Most importantly, know who you are competing against, it’s yourself. Push yourself to beat your standard from the day before and use that success to fuel yourself for the next day’s challenge.

    GS What was it like rowing with Annie Hodkin?

    MJ Annie and I made a great partnership because I think we have the same approach to training and racing. She is a fierce competitor and loves to race. She pushed me hard from the bow seat and was very patient to race with a novice sculler for an entire summer/fall season. We had a lot of laughs together, got into ‘trouble with the club’ crashed into quite a few buoys/bridges but had a great time throughout it all. Hopefully in the future we can get back into the double again and tear down the Argo course!

    The After (rowing) Life

    If ethos were currency, Mara Jones would be a wealthy woman. Currently, an orthopaedic surgeon, Dr. Jones has again found success on several fronts. She is married with children and living in Toronto and by all accounts has moved on from those heady days on the National Team. Though sometimes she can be spotted gliding her single along our watercourse, occasionally taking a detour up the Humber river, seldom refusing a challenge to race back…

    Mara Jones - Rowing Bio, Notable Achievements


    • 1974 - Born and raised in Aurora, ON.
    • 1994 - Started rowing crew at McGill University while completing a BSc. degree
    • 1997- Started rowing crew for U of T and Argonaut Club while completing an MSc. Degree
    • 2001- Moved to Boston to work, row for Riverside for one year
    • 2002- Carded for the National Rowing Team – moved to Victoria, B.C. to train
    • 2003 - Made the Lightweight women’s double, competed at World Championships
    • 2004 – Competed at the Athen’s Olympic Games
    • 2006 – Retired from National Team, returned to Med School at U of T
    • Coaches - ARGOS: Carolyn Klepak, Anne Hodkin, Peter Code,
    • NAT TEAM: Terry Paul, Pat Newman, Laryssa Biesenthal


    • 1997 – Head of the Charles Gold Ltwt Womens 4+ Argos
    • 1998 – Henley Gold Sr. Ltwt Womens 4+ Argos
    • 1998 – Henley Gold Sr. Ltwt Womens 4- Argos
    • 1999 – Henley Gold Int. Ltwt 4X Argos
    • 2000 – Head of the Charles 2ndLtwt Womens 1X ARC
    • 2001 – Head of the Charles 4th Ltwt Womens 1X ARC
    • 2002 – Henley Gold Sr. Ltwt 4X Riverside
    • 2002 – Henley Gold Sr. Ltwt1X Riverside 7:54.97
    • 2002 – Head of the Charles 5th Ltwt womens 1X ARC
    • 2003 – FISA World Rowing Championships Milan 5th Ltwt Womens 2X
    • 2004 – FISA World Cup Munich Silver Ltwt Women’s 2X
    • 2004 – FISA World Cup Lucerne Gold Ltwt Women’s 2X
    • 2004 – Olympic Games Athens 8th Ltwt Women’s 2X
    • 2004 – Head of the Charles Gold Ltwt Women’s 8+ Riverside
    • 2004 – Monster Erg Champs Gold 7:07.2 Rowing Canada
    • 2005 – FISA World Rowing Championships Gifu Gold Ltwt Womens 4X
    • 2005 – Head of the Charles Regatta Gold Ltwt Women’s 8+ Rowing Canada
    • 2005 – Ontario Female Athlete of the Year
    • 2006 – FISA World Rowing Championships Eton 4thLtwt Womens 2X
    • 2006 – FISA World Cup Lucerne Gold Ltwt Women’s 2X
    • (also multiple Argonaut Oarswoman/Sculler of the Year awards)

    Medal Count - Rowing Events – Games of the XXVIIIth Olympiad – Athens, GR

       Gold Silver  Bronze  Total
     Romania 3 0 0 3
     Germany 2 2 0 4
     Great Britain 1 2 1 9
     Canada 0 1 0 1


  • 16-Jul-2023 1:37 PM | Ruth Robertson

    Argonaut Olympian Issue #5

    "Marnie is definitely Canada's most outstanding rower ever…" Coming from National Team coach Al Morrow, and considering the company she keeps in this sport, that is saying a lot! We are pleased to bring you our fifth ARC Olympian Feature. Long a Canadian icon, Marnie McBean needs no introduction. Her story is well known in the rowing community and among Canadians in general. Read on to learn of her story and maybe a few things you didn't know about her including Nostradamus-like sketches of her future as well as some words of encouragement for our members.

    Argonaut Olympians

    We are in the midst of honouring our past and present Olympians by documenting their achievements and establishing a permanent archive. An Argonaut Olympian is an athlete who has been a competitive member of the club prior to competing at the Olympic games. Until 1972, athletes represented their club as well as their country at the Olympics. In 1976 a National Team system was developed in Canada, thus ending club representation at the games. Other than footnoting this difference, there is no other discrepancy between the two systems for the purpose of this exercise.

    The Argonaut Rowing Club has produced more Olympic crews than any other club in North America while that system existed fielding a total of thirteen crews. Many other members have competed in National Team programs and have been winning gold medals at the Olympics and World Championships with consistency for nearly three decades. This is the fifth of the series, compiled non-chronologically, of our athletes that have donned the double blue and gone on to compete in the Olympic Games.

    Part 5 – Marnie McBean – 1992 & 1996 Olympics

    Games of the XXV & XXVI Olympiads

    In 1992 Canadian Rowing hit a peak winning five medals in total including four gold and one bronze. Led by Marnie McBean and Kathleen Heddle Canada had become a force in world rowing. Many didn't think it would happen again but just four years later we were dominant at the Atlanta Olympics - this time for six medals including gold, four silver and one bronze medal. In 1992 we won more gold medals in rowing than in every other sport combined and tied Germany in total wins despite injuries to several of our best rowers including Silken Laumann (single sculls) and Jenny Walinga (women’s eight). In 1996 it was again Marnie and Kathleen that came up big for Canada winning gold in the women's double and bronze in the quadruple sculls bringing their two-games total to three gold and one bronze. This was good enough for Canada to be deemed the number one rowing nation in the world and good enough for the Guinness book of records to name Marnie and Kathleen as the winningest women in Olympic rowing history at the time.

    Despite her status, Marnie remains accessible and was happy to share the story of her Argo roots with us. Our most prolific LTR graduate has been a great ambassador for Canada, for the sport and for the Argonaut Rowing Club. We are proud to have her as part of our community, this is her story.

    The hook, an actor rowing a boat

    Growing up in Etobicoke, ON Marnie McBean started dreaming of the future greatness while still a high school student. Although engaged in collegiate sports such as swimming she was on the hunt for something she could really excel in. She became inspired to seek out rowing after viewing a Coffee Crisp commercial and later Rob Lowe rowing in the film Oxford Blues. Joining the Argonaut club in 1985 she was keen to start racing soon after completing her Learn to Row session. She wasn't particular about what boat she was in and rowed mostly crew in fours and eights at CORA regattas with various club members, some of whom remain. Jane Shepherd, a national team hopeful herself at the time remembers her Argo days with Marnie well: "Marnie wasn't born into privilege, she achieved greatness with her determined work ethic and is a great role model for all girls. When I rowed with Marnie she progressed quickly and the coach wanted to move her into the faster boat, but she remained loyal to our crew. In the end we ended up beating the 'fast boat'!" Shepherd goes on to say "Marnie was humble, even after her successes, and was also lots of fun socially and I have great memories of those times…"

    Marnie continued rowing at the University of Western Ontario which is where she teamed up with what would be an eleven year stint with coach Al Morrow. Commenting on her tenacity, Morrow says "After early success Marnie showed her internal strength by 'hanging in there' for a few years with moderate success but this was rewarded with outstanding results from the moment she first made the National Team in 1989." Beyond rowing, he goes on to say "On top of all her great success as an athlete Marnie has given back to her community and her sport in so many ways, she is truly an outstanding Canadian."

    After joining the National Team, victories came fast for Marnie winning the US Nationals four times in 1990/91 and winning twice (pair and eight) at the 1991 Vienna World Rowing Championships the stage was set for her two gold medal performances in Barcelona in 1992. While having sculled in earlier years she went back to this in the single after the Barcelona games with success racing to second at the 1993 World Rowing Championships and winning two FISA World Cup regattas in 1994. At this point she reconnected with Kathleen Heddle and they made the switch from sweep to sculling in the double setting up their gold medal performance in 1996 at the Atlanta Olympics and then the bronze in women's quad. Retiring (she thought) after Atlanta, Marnie found she couldn't stay away from the sport for too long and started her comeback in the single. In 1998 she won the Armada Cup in Bern, Switzerland. In 1999 she won bronze at the Vienna World Cup regatta followed up with gold at the Winnipeg Pan Am games before ultimately having to retire just a few weeks before the Sydney Olympics with a career-ending back injury. While this ended her competitive career, she has attended many Olympics since, winter and summer, as a broadcast journalist or mentor for our athletes.

    Nostradamus has nothing on Marnie McBean as she accurately doodles her predictions of becoming ARC Oarswoman of the Year, joining the National Team and representing Canada at the Olympics. She also draws a pretty mean galleon!

    Interview with Marnie McBean at ARC - Jan. 13, 2013

    GS As some may know, it was a Coffee Crisp commercial and the Rob Lowe movie “Oxford Blues” that drove you to phone the Argonaut Rowing Club and sign up for an LTR session. Please elaborate on that experience.

    MM Rowing featured in both of those things and it caught my eye. It looked pretty interesting to me so I asked my mom where I could take up the sport. She had no idea but we found the Argonaut Rowing Club in the phone book and I called them up. In hindsight – I find the fact that someone actually answered the phone pretty amazing. That was 1985; I was a 17 year old Etobicoke CI student and joined Learn to Row at Argos that summer.

    GS Who were your influences, athletes and coaches, at the Argonaut Club that you can remember?

    MM After LTR I was keen to row in any boat. I have lots of fond memories of rowing with and around Jane Shepherd, Liz and Chris Hartmann, Patty “Paddle” Young, Katherine “BigFun” and of course the ever-present coxie Barry Shaw. The top boat was the Intermediate 8+, which I tried out for – but while I had natural power- I still ranked low on the technique scale! I was relegated to the intermediate coxed four which a collection of similarly keen but fairly novice rowers. I’ll always remember, at one of the first CORA regattas of the season our crew lost in heat 1 which should have been it but Argos had an unused entry in heat 3. Despite Barry insisting we not, we rowed back up to the start, took the entry and won the race! We were disqualified for breaking the rules – but that was the kind of eagerness to race and to figure things out that we had. Terry Neil coached us from his single, but more than any one person, it was the club community at Argos that was the best influence for me.

    GS How long after you started rowing did you consider that the National Team might be something worth pursuing.

    MM It was a bit random, but the winter after my first season at Argos someone told me about the Jr. National team tryouts. I just needed to do was a Gjessing Erg test and I had no idea what that was. I had no sense of what was good or how things ranked but it turned out that the first erg score I submitted was off the charts. Technically though, I had a lot to learn. I made the ‘86 Junior National Team and went on to win a bronze medal in the pair. I was hooked – and wanted to make the Senior team. At the end of the year, the coach of the Jr. Team told me they had never seen anyone go so fast but row so bad! The comment inspired me to work on my technique. That wasn’t the type of rower I wanted to be and thankfully I did, as my technique was a big part of why I won so many races.

    GS I joined Argos in 97 and I remember how impressed I was seeing you help put the docks in at the club after winning all of your gold medals and your iconic status. You were simply there as part of the team, unassuming and willing to help. How has your team-building philosophy impacted your mentoring career?

    MM I have awesome memories of Argos and it is the community of Argos that I remember well – The women I rowed with and others like Tanica, Beth, Norma and Sheila, Steve Sandor and the Sr. Masters guys, the men’s four with Xavier, Larry, Tom and Bill—actually-- they were kind of scary!

    My first winter at the club we did a lot of group workouts in the Henley Room. They were body circuits consisting of 45 seconds of pulls, jumps, wall sits etc. with a 15 sec ‘run’ to the next station- we had a blast; it was like a family.

    There were some other great things I remember as well - like rowing up the Humber on Christmas day, with a group including Bob and Jennifer Blunt, in Santa hats and singing carols. I gathered many bits of advice from people around the club that stayed with me throughout my career.

    GS Weeks before the 2000 Sydney Olympics you were set to race and medal in the single when suffered disk ruptures in your back. Suddenly, for the first time, you couldn’t control your narrative. I still remember you crying on television having to make this announcement. How did this change you, did you somehow find peace with yourself in having to let go?

    MM My team mate, Jenny Walinga blew out her back in ’92 and I had seen how even years later she was physically limited by her back. In 2000, I was in a much different position than Jenny – I had won Olympic gold already and this allowed me a different perspective as I made my decisions. I didn’t want to take desperate measures and risk a healthy life. I went from being incredibly independent, training three times a day to being in bed for three weeks needing a lot of help from the people around me. Carolyn Caesar, who had been a friend and teammate of mine when I was at Western was our team therapist and she was an amazing resource to me in Australia. It was emotionally painful having to bow out, accepting that I would not be able to race at the Olympics but I was blown away by the kindness people showed me during my injury and recovery. It was an incredible life lesson – that people can be incredibly kind… if you let them.

    GS Racing at the Olympic games, did you ever let your mind wander beyond the focus of racing to embrace the spectacle and the incredible experience of all walks of humanity assembled? If so what was your best Olympic moment apart from winning gold medals?

    MM Rowers are kind of lucky. We can focus on the Rowing regatta for the first half of the Olympics and then we can enjoy the Olympic Games for the second half. The group of people that I was rowing with at my first Olympics were just so incredibly well balanced and focused on what we were doing, that somehow we managed to keep the focus simply on the small things – the rowing, and not the big crazy things that surround the ‘five ring circus’. That said – the schedule allowed us to go to the Opening Ceremonies and to walk in as part of Team Canada. To see the Olympic Torch arrive and to feel the fireworks open the Olympic Games – my Olympic Games – was incredible. My obvious non-racing highlights are Opening Ceremonies and carrying the flag at the ’96 Closing Ceremony but my favourite memory has to be simply walking around the Olympic Village in Barcelona, knowing that I had 2 gold medals back in my room and realizing that I was at the Olympics and not only did I belong there, I had what everyone wanted. It was an incredible ‘Holy S#!T’ moment!

    From the Power of More

    GS In the 1st chapter of your book ‘The Power of More’ titled ‘Comfortably Uncomfortable’ you discuss never being satisfied in achieving your goals but to stay hungry and use them as a base to take on the next level – keeping your ambitions a step beyond. Would you say this philosophy defined you as a rower?

    MM In the presence of ambition, it’s healthy to have a sense that there is always more. Coupled with that is a sense that possibly we haven’t done enough. For sure this perpetual drive defined much of what I did. I always had a sense that I could always do, be or try a little bit more. “You will pass out long before you die!” was a line that stuck with me. But always reaching like that feels ‘risky’ and that can be scary. When I mentor athletes, I talk a lot about the importance of normalizing those fears; to expect them and be ready to handle them. Every champion has doubts and how you deal with them can make a big difference in the outcome of training and racing.

    GS After winning 3 Olympic gold medals and then a bronze in ‘96 in the women’s quad you said you felt envious of the Ukranian crew winning silver to your bronze in the quad - ‘not of their medal but their joy’ That is surprising after winning 3 gold medals. Do you think your absolute focus on winning ultimately diminished any opportunity for spontaneous celebration on the podium or had you simply had enough?

    MM Leading into my second Olympics, rowing had become a bit of work. There was an incredible amount of pressure and expectations on us, and somewhere we had let go of the fun. For the quad particularly, we had focused almost completely on trying to beat the Germans and in that, we lost sight of the joy of rowing that boat really well (which equals really fast!). We got caught up focusing on goal instead of task – which is not what had made Kathleen and I so successful in the past. I was only 28 but I needed a change so I retired from the sport – at least I thought so at the time. Ultimately after some time as a snowboard instructor I reconnected to my focus – and my joy! - and went back to competitive rowing.

    GS At 5’10 you considered yourself disadvantaged being on the short end of the scale with many of the European women 6’0 – 6’3. You said you counted on many of them having a lazy work ethic because of their genetic advantage and that if you were efficient and tenacious you could beat them. Like Ned Hanlan overcame, you found a way to win despite the odds. But today, with the science of rowing advanced as it is, do you really think the same opportunities exist as they used to?

    MM Opportunities always exist and you need to find them. Find a way to throw off your opponent and unsettle them. Maximize your strengths and work doggedly on your weaknesses. I absolutely counted on young athletes being ‘lazy’, but its naïve to think that they won’t eventually mature and figure out how to work harder. I had to overcome physically much larger athletes who often took a lead from me off the start. To do this I knew I had to efficiently persist through the middle, reversing any lead that they had. Best case scenario this would ‘break’ them but I had to be ready to hold them off as we’d all push for the finish.

    GS Do you have any words of inspiration to motivate our athletes this season.

    MM You’ll regret more of the things that you don’t try for, than the things that you do. When the doubts start chirping in your head… treat them like an old friend that you were expecting and then … try anyways. You’ll never know until you do.

    The After (rowing) Life

    Despite retiring from competition, Marnie McBean has found many outlets for her enthusiasm and passion for competitive sport. She has be found commenting on Olympic rowing with CTV's Brian Williams when she is not climbing Mt. Kilimanjaro or participating in the Eco-Challenge. Currently she is mentoring Canadian athletes of all disciplines preparing them emotionally and psychologically for battle at the upcoming Sochi Winter Olympics. She also works with Because I am a Girl promoting girls' rights and education around the world. She has guest coached many promising athletes over the years. But in the brief moments out of the spotlight, maybe on a quiet Laurentian evening, you might find her dropping her single into the lake and going for solitary row perhaps reflecting on her remarkable life.

    Marnie McBean - Rowing Biography, Notable Achievements

    BIO & Selected Notable Achievements

    • 1968 - Born in Vancouver, BC.
    • 1982 - Attended Etobicoke Collegiate Institute
    • 1985 –Enrolled in Argonaut RC Learn to Row Program
    • 1985 - ARC Oarswoman of the Year
    • 1986 - Joined Junior National Team,
    • 1987 - Bronze Women's Pairs Racice Jr. World Championships
    • 1988 - Rowed for University of Western Ontario
    • 1989 - Joined National Team
    • 1990 - GOLD Women's Coxed Four Indianapolis US Nationals
    • 1990 - GOLD Womens Eights Indianapolis US Nationals
    • 1991 - GOLD Women's Pair Indianapolis US Nationals
    • 1991 - GOLD Women's Eight Indianapolis US Nationals
    • 1992 - GOLD Women's Pair Lucerne FISA World Cup
    • 1992 - GOLD Women's Pairs Barcelona Olympics
    • 1992 - GOLD Women's Eights Barcelona Olympics
    • 1993 - Silver Women's Single Racice World Rowing Championships
    • 1994 - GOLD Women's SIngle Duisburg World Cup Rowing
    • 1994 - SIlver Women's Double Indianapolis World Rowing Championships
    • 1995 - GOLD Women's Double Mar del Plata Pan American Games
    • 1995 - GOLD Women's Double Mar del Plata Pan American Games
    • 1996 - GOLD Women's Double Atlanta Olympics
    • 1996 - Bronze Women's Quadruple Sculls Atlanta Olympics
    • 1997 - Inductee - Canadian Sports Hall of Fame
    • 1998 - Silver Women's Coxed Four Cologne World Rowing Championships
    • 1998 - GOLD Women's single Bern Armada Cup
    • 1999 - GOLD Women's Single Winnipeg Pan American Games
    • 2000 - WD Women's Single Sydney Olympics

    Medal Count - Rowing Events – Games of the XXV Olympiad – Barcelona, SP

       Gold Silver   Bronze  Total
     Germany 4 3 3 10
     Canada 4 0 1 5
     Romania 2 4 1 7

    Medal Count - Rowing Events – Games of the XXVI Olympiad – Atlanta, US

       Gold Silver   Bronze  Total
     Australia 2 1 3 6
     Germany 2 1 1 4
     Switzerland 2 0 0 2
     Romania 2 0 0 2
     Canada 1 4 1 6

    Grant Sommers 2013

  • 16-Jul-2023 1:22 PM | Ruth Robertson

    Argonaut Olympian Issue #3

    We are honouring our past and present Olympians by documenting their achievements and establishing a permanent archive. An Argonaut Olympian is an athlete who has been a competitive member of the club prior to competing at the Olympic games. Until 1972, athletes represented their club as well as their country at the Olympics. In 1976 a national team system was developed in Canada, thus ending club representation at the games. Other than footnoting this difference, there is no other discrepancy between the two systems for the purpose of this exercise.

    The Argonaut Rowing Club has produced more Olympic crews than any other club in North America while that system existed fielding a total of thirteen entries. Many more members have competed in National Team programs and have been winning gold medals at the Olympics and World Championships with consistency for nearly three decades. This is the third of the series, compiled non-chronologically, of our athletes that have donned the double blue and gone on to compete in the Olympic Games.

    Part 3 – Shannon Crawford – 1992 Barcelona Olympics

    Games of the XXVth Olympiad

    On this, the 20th anniversary of the Barcelona Olympics, we celebrate that golden year, the year Canadian National Team programs pulled together and joined the world rowing order. In 1992 we won more gold medals in rowing than in every other sport combined and tied Germany in total wins despite injuries to several of our best rowers including Silken Laumann (single sculls) and Jenny Walinga (stroke of Women’s Eight).

    Two of these wins were the big races - the men’s and women’s eights. A total of three Argonauts rowed in these crews and Shannon Crawford was one of them. A bastion of calm and strength in the engine room, her unforeseen last-minute addition to the eight proved to be a winning choice as they stole the lead and didn’t look back.

    Little did she suspect in 1992 that 20 years later she would still be competing despite the challenges of a busy career and raising a family. With the Olympics mere weeks away, 2012 is a great time to look back and forward. The women’s eight is again threatening to win gold at the London Olympics. They have been second at the World Championships two years running and are now within a second of catching the powerful American crew.

    Shannon is an excellent example of one who leads by example. She rose from taking the Argonaut LTR program to accepting every challenge presented to her and within six years was representing Canada at the Olympic games. This is her story.

    The hook, seeds of Argos LTR program

    In its infancy, the Argonaut Learn to Row Program scored some major talent with Marnie McBean in 1984 and then future Olympic teammate Shannon Crawford in 1986. Having moved to Toronto from her hometown of Norval, Ontario, water sports were a possibility and sister Kelly convinced her of just that. Not having competed in high school Shannon was simply looking for a physical outlet and decided to give rowing a go.

    She took to the sport quickly in that first year under coach Manny Medeiros and teammates Jill and Clair Duff. Other coaches soon recognized her potential and she joined the women’s program coached by Michelle Boyes(Kerr) in 1987. In her first full year of competition she won Canadian Henley, North America’s largest crew regatta, in the Intermediate Women Coxed Four with teammates Jane Shepherd, Alison Turner, Anne Maenhaul and Barry Shaw coxswain. Some specs of memory from 25 years ago still linger. Shannon remembers wanting to ‘throttle’ Barry Shaw for yelling at her to ‘put in on those big legs’. She also remembers vowing never to row again after all that pain, a vow she would repeat and repeal each race thereafter. Others in that boat remember that day as well. Jane Shepherd explained the brief victory celebration in the cold and rain after the race was cut short as she had to prepare for her pairs race going off in less than an hour. She didn’t notice Shannon slip away and return minutes later with a steaming coffee to warm her up for that race. Shannon might not remember this 25 years later, but Jane (who won that race as well) still does.

    In 1988 she rowed in the double with Lise Klassen aka Queen of Denmark (something about wearing pearls while rowing) and was coached by Jim Ingram and Olympian Steve Sandor. “Jim said we didn’t row well; we should just get it going like a bicycle and pull hard” Shannon said. Shannon was coached the next two years by Peter Cookson - recent High Performance Director at RCA. She rowed in the coxed four in ’89 with Julia Tremain, Debbie Stiles and Kathryn Barr with Francine Raymond coxie and in 1990 with Julia, Debbie, Mario Fabbro and Francine. In these years she picked up two more Henley gold medals, in pairs and the coxed four.

    Peter Cookson describes her as a ‘superb athlete, very committed to the program’ and goes on to say:

    “she was tremendously strong, probably the strongest woman in the program at that time. She was pretty new to the sport at that time but what struck me was her level of dedication… what she lacked in skill in the beginning was made up for by her commitment to every stroke of every training session. She loved to race and was always game to see what she could do in a race”.

    From there, the opportunities kept coming for Shannon. She joined the National Team and won silver later that year at both the US Nationals and the Head of the Charles Regatta. In 1991 she saw Pan Am Games gold and silver in the coxed four and pair before heading to the Barcelona Olympics in 1992 – but as a spare…

    Zen and Now, Shannon Crawford celebrates with teammates after their gold medal win at the Barcelona Olympics and again 20 years later at the Row for Gold gala at the Palais Royale in Toronto. Bottom picture from left coach Al Morrow, Shannon Crawford, Kirsten Barnes, Kathleen Heddle, Brenda Taylor, Julie Jespersen, Jenny Walinga, Megan Delehanty, Kay Worthington and cox Lesley Thompson. Absent from the picture is Marnie McBean.

    Interview with Shannon Crawford

    GS Please explain the genesis of your athletic career and when rowing gained prominence in it.

    SC In my youth I never really considered myself to be an athlete. I didn’t excel at high school athletics so it wasn’t until I moved to Toronto and my sister Kelly suggested we do the Learn to Row at the Argonaut Club that I ever considered rowing.

    GS After winning Henley Gold three years running in the late ‘80’s in pairs and fours did you start National Team dreaming?

    SC No, I have never been that ambitious. I simply went with the flow of things. Often, after finishing a hard race, I remember thinking I’m not going to do this again but I took it one race and one year at a time. Opportunities were presented to me and I took them as they came.

    GS Who influenced and helped mentor your development at the Argonaut Club?

    SC Over the years I worked with several coaches at Argos including Jim Ingram, Brian Holland, Peter Cookson and Xavier Macia. There was however one person who knew a lot about how the club worked and provided me with lots of support in my early years rowing.

    After my first year, when I didn’t have anyone to row with after turning senior, some guy with a moustache approached me in the weight room in the winter and said he had a single he didn’t row much and I was welcome to use it. We would just have to coordinate the use of the boat. I had no idea who this guy was but thought people lucky enough to own a single were quite possessive of - and careful with them. He just said he thought it was a shame to have potential but have nothing to do and maybe with a bit of encouragement something might happen for me. That was Larry Marshall, and that is what I love about rowing. I owe a lot to Larry, and to Argos.

    GS After tasting success at Henley and US Nationals you went on to win silver and gold at the 1991 Pan Am games in Cuba; how did this affect or change you as an athlete?

    SC The Pan Am team was what might have been the B team. The National Team was in Vienna at the Worlds, and the women won. These were women I had seen at the camps, and I knew I didn't belong in that elite group, but thought I would try, just to see. It was intimidating to go to a camp and walk among these God-like beings. I was in awe. In the spring of 1992 all the boats had been selected but the spare pair. I had to seat race Kelly Mahon, who had stroked the eight in Vienna in 1991. That was tough racing.

    GS What parts of the gold medal race do you remember most vividly? Did you notice, were fazed or intimidated by the Germans or the Romanians?

    SC The four had just won gold two days earlier (Thursday) and although they were relieved and confident that that test was over, I think we were all quietly terrified before the eight race. The anxiety to get the race under way so we could do something about the pressure, but not wanting to race because we know just how much it will hurt. I do remember the start, the Romanians huffing and puffing for minutes before the start performing breathing exercises and the Americans, holding hands and praying. I listened to Lesley's voice, and thought, it's working, we're ahead, and I haven't messed up yet.

    GS How does the tension of racing at an Olympic games compare to a World Cup or World Championship race?

    SC We were protected from many of the pressures associated with the media at the Olympics as they were banned from the athletes village. Al Morrow put us through the same routine every day to give us a sense of consistency. Race day started like every other day. We were one of the first teams to arrive at the village and this gave us a sense of ownership and confidence as the other teams arrived. When it was time to speak with the media Marnie (McBean) and Silken (Laumann) were more than happy to assume the roles of spokespeople for the team. Silken's story continues to captivate people, and at the time the media couldn't get enough of her. After winning it was completely different. I remember (Cdn Astronaut) Roberta Bondar visiting us in the athlete’s village and her saying “I can’t believe I’m meeting your guys” which stunned us because that is exactly what we were thinking about getting to meet her. The World Championship is very different, much more freedom. There are the usual autograph hounds, but much less media attention.

    GS You followed your gold medal performance at the Olympics with a World Championship win in the 4- in 1993 and then retired. Any regrets about not sticking around for three more years?

    SC I don’t have regrets about not sticking around for the ’96 games but I regret not going to the Commonwealth Games in 1994. Since I had medalled in the Olympics, Pan Am Games and World Championships, a Commonwealth Games medal would have rounded this off quite nicely. I was still training at the London High Performance Centre late in ’93 but then I met Bruce and suddenly rowing became less important, we ended up moving to Toronto and I retired from that aspect of the sport.

    GS You held the rare position of being a spare but actually getting to row in the big race, what was that like?

    SC It’s tricky being a spare, you have to be physically and mentally prepared to race but also mentally prepared not to race knowing that you won't get that outlet of racing. I trained a lot in the pair preparing for, but not expecting to get that chance. The hazard of being a spare is that if you are used and the boat wins, you are the spare that got lucky in a boat that would win anyhow. If the boat didn't win, it would be all your fault. The function of the spare is to be ready to go. Never did I think I would get used. You would never wish an injury to a crewmate, and I had such guilt. Jenny Walinga was a highly respected member of the rowing community, not just in Canada. If anyone deserved the gold medal, it was Jenny. Jenny was in the stands doing the commentary, and came down on to the dock when we received our medals. Brenda Taylor, who had won in the 4-, gave Jenny her medal then and there. So even though I replaced Jenny for the race, Jenny was a huge part of the boat. In many ways it was surreal, I had no family at the event as I only found out I was racing a few days in advance. I wasn’t really emotional after our win until I finally saw a familiar face outside of the crew - that of Maria Fabbro - near the exit of the venue, she gave me a hug. Seeing her, after our years of training at Argo's together, I knew it was over and the pressure was off.

    GS In Europe, nearly half of Masters rowers previously competed on National Teams, not so much in North America. Is it any less rewarding winning the Head of the Charles in the Masters Category vs Club or Championship?

    SC Nothing is as rewarding as winning at the highest level of competition, having trained at that level and at that intensity. Having said that the effort it takes to win any event at the Head of the Charles Regatta is a huge accomplishment. As a Masters rower balancing a life with family, work and training presents many new challenges, not all of which are physical, that need to be considered.

    GS You have three sons approaching the age where they could potentially take up the sport. Doing some quick math there are probably no more than a hundred boys on the entire planet that have a Mom who has won rowing Gold at the Olympics, how cool is that? Has your love and dedication to the sport influenced their focus on their own dreams?

    SC I’d like to think so. At 15, 14 and 11 they are approaching the age where they could take up the sport. My oldest two, both of whom are taller than me, took Camp Argo last summer and may well do so again this year.

    The After (rowing) Life

    Shannon Crawford (now Corley) has walked the tightrope of life and has found that elusive balance -enjoying a good life with husband Bruce and their three boys in Toronto, working downtown dispatching her calm confidence as an OR Nurse relieving stress filled situations. Oh and yes of course rowing and winning races. I’m not sure who first said “I’m not done yet” but I do know who said “I’ll never race again” but that was 25 years ago and promises made to oneself -when lactic induced -don’t count…

    The big question

    How many medals will Canadian rowers win at the 2012 games?

    SC (after careful consideration) 4!

    Shannon Crawford - Rowing Biography, Notable Achievements


    • 1963 - Born and raised in Norval, ON.
    • 1986 –Enrolled in Argonaut RC Learn to Row Program
    • 1987 – Joined ARC Women’s program under Michelle Boyes (Kerr)
    • 1987- Won first of three consecutive Henley Golds for Argos
    • 1989- Attended Speed Orders, rowed pair with Maria Fabbro, Peter Cookson coach
    • 1990 – Carded for National Team, competed at US Nationals, Al Morrow Coach
    • 1991 – Competed at the Havana Pan Am Games
    • 1992 – Competed at the Barcelona Olympic Games
    • 1993 – Competed at Prague World Rowing Championships
    • 1993 – Retired from National Team, moved to Toronto, rejoined Argos
    • 2005 – Returned to racing, competed in HOCR regatta
    • Current – OR Nurse in Toronto, mother of three, rower

    Notable Achievements

    • 1987 – Henley Gold Sr. Womens 4+ Argos
    • 1988 – Henley Gold Sr. Womens 2x Argos
    • 1988 – ARC Oarswoman of the Year
    • 1989 – Henley Gold Sr. Womens 4+ Argos
    • 1989 – Head of the Charles 2nd Women’s 4+ Argos
    • 1990 – Head of the Charles 2nd Women’s 4+ Argos
    • 1990 – US National Rowing Championships Silver Women’s 4+ Canada
    • 1991 – Head of the Charles 2nd Women’s 4+ Argos
    • 1991 – Pan American Games Cuba Gold Women’s 4+ Canada
    • 1991 – Pan American Games Cuba Silver Women’s 2- Canada
    • 1992 – Inductee, Brampton Sports Hall of Fame
    • 1992 – Olympic Games Barcelona Gold Women’s 8+ Canada
    • 1993 – FISA World Rowing Championships Prague Bronze Women’s 4- Canada
    • 1993 – Henley Gold Sr. Womens 8+ Western Rowing Club
    • 2005 – Head of the Charles 2nd Women’s 4+ TSC
    • 2009 – Head of the Charles Gold Women’s 8+ TSC
    • 2010 – Head of the Charles 2nd Women’s 8+ TSC
    • 2011 – Head of the Charles Gold Women’s 8+ TSC

    Medal Count - Rowing Events – Games of the XXVth Olympiad – Barcelona, SP

       Gold Silver  Bronze   Total
     Germany  4  3  3  10
     Canada  4  0  1  5
     Romania  2  4  1  7

    Grant Sommers 2012

  • 16-Jul-2023 1:15 PM | Ruth Robertson

    If I had a dollar for every time Steve Sandor said “let it run”, I’d have a new Empacher single.

    For decades, Argo stalwart Steve Sandor mentored and inspired dozens if not hundreds of our members. His familiar call could be heard on the water as he stopped you rowing by to comment on your technique. The same was true up in the erg room. Steve took an interest in mentoring every rower at every level of skill. Born in 1921 in pre-war Budapest, Hungary, this is his story.

    When the sun rose to find Steve Sandor rowing on the Danube river for the first time, it was May 3rd, 1937. Every life has defining moments and for Mr. Sandor, it was his first moments rowing on those historic waters that he knew he had made his choice.

    As a boy, Steve first sat in a wooden row boat while on vacation. He liked it so much he asked his father, who had a cabinet-making business, to build him one. But the Great Depression had set in and circumstance wouldn’t permit. Years later a recruiter from the Hungarian Rowing Club visited his school looking for new talent – preferably 180 cm or taller boys who hadn't previously rowed. Steve remembered how he was told to wear thick-soled shoes to lash into the fixed foot-stretchers in the heavy-duty wooden rowing shell.

    So launched a remarkable career spanning over 60 years. To this day Steve is the only Hungarian to win National Championships in every boat category – 1X, 2X, 4-, 4+, and 8+. He won the European University Championships and a total of 18 National titles. His career culminated with a three-gold-medal performance at the World Masters Games in the 1X, 2X and mixed 4X in Portland, Oregon in 1998.

    Born on June 8th, 1921, in Budapest, Hungary, Steve endured the Great Depression, the collapse of the family business, Nazi, and later communist occupations. What kept Steve grounded in his life was his pure love of the sport of rowing. He rowed for the FTC Sports Club in the 9th district and served as President and Captain between the years 1949 - 1959. This club was an amalgamation of four clubs and operated much like what is now a national team system producing the best crews in the country. There were also competing clubs made up entirely of communists, which were favoured by party reps during the Olympic Team selection trials.

    To his chagrin, Steve fast became aware that the communist crews were to be favoured by the selection committee. Attending a selection meeting, Steve had been told not to speak as he wasn’t a communist party member. When it became apparent his crew would not be chosen he bravely stood up and said “Comrades!” to show respect for the party officials and continued saying, “Who will represent Hungary at the Helsinki Olympics – the fastest crew, or the communist crew?” Put that way, party officials paused and considered his request. Steve was successful in securing a two-boat race off against the fastest communist crew to determine who would represent the nation. It was a best two of three format and with Steve in bow, they easily won the first two races to secure a spot on the team bound for Helsinki.

    Steve’s Olympic experience differed greatly from those of other Argos who competed at the Helsinki Olympics. Coming from a communist country, Hungarian athletes were forced to live in a fenced-in compound and weren’t allowed to associate with athletes from other countries. 186 guards accompanied the 186 members of the team, each assigned to one individual.

    Still, Steve spoke fondly of having the opportunity to represent his country at such a prestigious event. His crew, racing in a communist-built boat 50 kg heavier than other countries used, didn’t advance beyond the repechage. As Steve put it “we were carrying two coxies”.

    Years later, after the fall of communism in Hungary, Steve ran into the same officials he addressed prior to the Olympic trials. They commended him for the stand he took with them and the courage he showed confronting the party on behalf of his crew despite the dangers involved in doing so.

    Steve moved to Toronto in 1981 after 12 years of braving the roads of Manhattan driving a taxicab. One day while driving on Lakeshore Blvd. West he happened to spot past the Argonaut Club so he pulled in and met Jim Ingram. They discussed rowing and membership and Steve promptly paid the $100. fee required for one year of rowing at Argos. Thus began a lasting legacy at Argos. When a local sports channel interviewed Steve at Argos in 1997 he reiterated how he felt he was home here "this is a club, go into the workshop, it is has the smell of a club, it feels like a club, it has a history".

    Days from turning 93, Steve still marvels at his many great experiences rowing at the club and the people he has known. He has great memories of times spent with people like Bob Blunt and still raves about the "incredible blade work" of Shannon Crawford when she took him out in a pair. Although he has slowed down a little, Steve is still able to make it to the ARC Double Blue Awards Gala every year where he can reminisce with friends.

    Our waters miss Steve but he watches over them. The view from the kitchen of his Swansea condominium catches the Western edge of our watercourse only steps from the lakeshore – where he needs to be.

    Let it run.

    Grant Sommers 2014

  • 04-May-2023 5:59 PM | Ruth Robertson

    Argonaut Olympian Issue #4

    As the 2012 Olympic Games in London were underway Canada had at least four solid chances at podium finishes. Since these games coincided with the 140th anniversary of the Argonaut Rowing Club, we are honouring our past and present Olympians by documenting their achievements and establishing a permanent archive. An Argonaut Olympian is an athlete who has been a competitive member of the club prior to competing at the Olympic games. Until 1972, athletes represented their club as well as their country at the Olympics. In 1976 a National Team system was developed in Canada, thus ending club representation at the games. Other than footnoting this difference, there is no other discrepancy between the two systems for the purpose of this exercise.

    The Argonaut Rowing Club has produced more Olympic crews than any other club in North America while that system existed fielding a total of thirteen crews and entries. Many more members have since competed in National Team programs and have been winning gold medals at the Olympics and World Championships with consistency for nearly three decades. This is the third of the series, compiled non-chronologically, of our athletes that have donned the double blue and gone on to compete in the Olympic Games.

    Brian Price – 2004, 2008, 2012 Olympics

    Games of the XXVIIIth, XXIXth, XXXth Olympiads

    Brian Price joined the Argonaut Rowing Club in 1997. Even with his limited success at that point, he exuded confidence, a 'take to prisoners' approach to racing at all of 21 years of age. Always friendly, eager to meet people, loves to talk game he met many of us in his short time representing the Double Blue before the National Team came calling. In his first Olympic games he was coxie of the men's eight in Athens, 2004. Undefeated in two years prior to these games, coach Spracklen, the crew, and Canada, expected nothing less than gold. Making the final, the crew experienced a few technical difficulties and maybe some nerves coming undone and partly due to inexperience, imploded from the pressure finishing a disappointing fifth. Many left the boat; the few that stayed though started training with new resolve, a nothing-to-lose approach that one feels after a tough loss. They also picked up a few new men, notably powerhouse Jake Wetzel, from the silver medal Athens four, the boat that came within .08 seconds of gold losing to Matthew Pinsent's British crew in one of the greatest dog fights in Olympic Rowing history. Brian Price was a constant, so was Mike Spracklen, the legendary British coach and one of the sports most decorated coaches. Canada was again the favourite in the 2008 Olympics however this time the crew was stronger, faster, and so dominant few questioned they would win. In the final they stole the lead 20 strokes into the race and kept open water most of the rest of the way easily winning despite some late charges by Brits and Americans. After 2008, seven of the eight rowing crewmembers left the boat and Brian Price retired to pursue a career in motivational speaking. The itch to compete never left though, and after two years he returned to the boat. Last year Malcolm Howard also rejoined the boat after limited success in the single sculls. The crew beefed up adding the likes of phenom Conlin McCabe to the engine room and suddenly our 5th place men's eight took bronze at last year's FISA World Championships and we were back.

    Brian Price Bio

    At the age of seven Brian was diagnosed with Leukemia ALL, and was given a new outlook on life at a very young age. It took five years to beat cancer, but the chemotherapy and other drugs that he took left his thyroid only half functioning during a critical growth period and he therefore did not reach his full growth potential. Standing at a mere 5'4” tall and 120lbs, he is the perfect size to be a coxswain. Although the battle to beat cancer was extremely difficult it allowed him to become one of the best coxswains in the world and Brian is adamant that “Without having had cancer I would never have become a 3-time World Champion and Olympic Champion.” Brian has gone from a small town kid to an internationally recognized coxswain. Growing up Brian always had an interest in sports, and started rowing on the Bay of Quinte with the Quinte Rowing Club in 1995. Almost instantly falling in love with the sport, he thrived on the fact that he had so much influence on how fast the boat would go and how hard he could push his athletes. He continued to row from 1997 until 1998 at the Argonaut Rowing Club in Toronto while completing an Honors diploma in Civil Engineering Technology. Upon graduation, Brian decided to follow his passion for rowing instead of pursuing a career in Civil Engineering. He first made the National Team in 1998, and has been the #1 coxswain in Canada since 2001. Brian and his crew began making waves on the international scene in 2002, winning Canada's first World Rowing Championship title in the Men's Eight. They repeated their winning performance in 2003 and were heavy favorites for gold at the 2004 Athens Olympics. For Brian, placing a disappointing 5th at his first Olympics would be one of the biggest learning experiences and challenges since facing cancer as a child. Discouraged and distraught, his plans to move on with life had to be put on hold in order to continue pursuing his dream of Olympic Gold. After two seasons with mixed results, Brian and his crew regained their World Championship title in 2007, and once again had the hopes of their country weighing heavily on them. The Canadian Men's Eight rose to the occasion in Beijing, and were ecstatic to bring home Olympic Gold. Brian and his crewmates had come full circle, rising from defeat four years earlier. The dreams of a young boy and childhood cancer survivor from a small town had come true. Brian now resides in Victoria, BC with his wife Robbi and daughter Brianna. He is currently training with the National Team part-time and pursuing a career in motivational speaking.

    Interview with Brian Price

    GS Do you remember at what point Brian Price decided to become a coxswain and do you remember the moment you decided to make a career of it?

    BP I fell in love with the Olympics when Calgary was the host in 1988. I loved everything about it, the rings, the Calgary logo and especially the fact that it was amateurs performing on an international stage. We didn't win very many medals but it didn't stop me from collecting the pins, hats, newspapers, mugs, glasses, anything I could get my hands on including a really cool ¾ length Official Sponsor Sunice ski jacket!

    I had no idea how I would ever become an Olympian but I knew that it would be one of the most amazing things ever! Originally, I wanted to be a downhill skier but growing up in Belleville, Ontario that dream died quickly as the local mountains were mere mole hills.

    I was always interested in sport but my size quickly caught up to me as my peers got bigger and I did not. That said, I did excel on the leadership side of things and was very good at making and keeping friends.

    When I watched the 1992 Olympic Games from Barcelona on my TV you may recall the Men’s Eight winning a gold medal and I remember seeing a little guy jump up into the arms of a really big guy and I thought “I can do that!”. It took me 16 years until I got my chance but I knew exactly what I was going to do when I crossed that line in first….a big bear hug for my stroke man Kyle Hamilton!

    GS When you decided to commit to the National Team, did you dare to dream on the scale of winning a World Championships or the big prize, an Olympic Gold Medal in the Men’s Eight.

    BP I kept setting small goals and kept achieving them. Be the best at the Quinte Rowing Club, best at Argo, Make a National Team, compete internationally, win medals etc.

    Early on in my rowing career it was always about being the best at whatever level I was at. Often I would come in as the low man on the totem pole and have to work my way up but learning from each outing and each different crew became very valuable for me. Treating rowing as an ongoing learning experience allowed me to continue to grow rather than develop a “know-it-all” attitude. I realized that the Olympic Dream was truly viable when I became part of the Olympic Training camp in 2000. I was ranked #2 in Canada and officially stopped collecting Olympic swag. I no longer wanted to be a fan of the Olympics, I wanted to be an Olympian. Within two years, right after I became a World Champion for the first of three times in 2002, I upped that goal to wanting to be an Olympic Champion.

    GS What advice can you give to our members with Olympic aspirations and to our coxies who strive to get their A race out of a crew?

    BP Belief in yourself is so important and being nervous for the right reasons is even bigger. I get nervous before most outings in the Eight. The reason is simple, I want so badly to do well and help the boat improve that I get nervous. This is a good reason to be nervous….it shows I care about my performance.

    The opposite can be true of nerves as well. Early in my club rowing career I learned that being unprepared is a bad reason to be nervous. Not knowing the workout, the course, where you are going to warmup and do the workout, the lineup for that session or possibly a lack of review of the technical points the crew is currently working on. All of this could have been avoided had I PREPARED properly. Being nervous because you are unprepared is a terrible reason to be nervous as it is totally avoidable. You have only yourself to blame for such feelings.

    When I sit at the start line I have to know without a doubt that I am nervous for the right reasons….that I care about my performance personally and also that of my crew. There was nothing more I could have done to better prepare myself or my crew.

    GS Describe that Olympic moment for me, the feeling that comes a millisecond after you see that the other 5 boats have been safely put away and the horns blows as you cross the finish line.

    BP Coming through 1500m I called the finishing sprint 4 strokes early as I recognized the surge starting to happen from both the British and USA, they could see the light at the end of the tunnel and we wanted to slam the door in their faces. We had a big push 400m out and the entire boat lifted stopping every other crew in their tracks for 5 or 6 strokes and I knew at that moment gold was within our grasp and it would take a monumental comeback in order to beat us.

    There was never a sense of panic in the boat even as the crews were slowly inching back on us. The key word there being inching, we were holding our ground. Just before the finish line I called “Five more strokes and you're fucking Olympic champs!”. One of the most enjoyable calls I've ever made. Crossing the finish line the first thing I did was cheer and jump into the arms of Kyle Hamilton just like I had seen Terry Paul do with Derek Porter in 1992. I had always envisioned that moment unfolding and here it was, instinct just took over.

    It isn't too often that you can look down a boat and see your buddies with grins and smiles knowing that you just helped achieve a dream of a lifetime.....unreal feeling.

    GS You mentioned to me that you had always been fascinated by the of the Argonaut Rowing Club. How does it feel to now be a big part of that history, our newest Olympic gold medalist and one of only a handful that have rowed for our club to possess that honour?

    BP When I rowed for the Argonaut club in 1997 I certainly never thought I would become a part of the history within the club.

    During my time there I coxed for almost every category at some point, including flyweight women!

    It was most certainly an honour to sign the Canadian Oar which hangs on the wall in the bar upstairs. I have never rowed for the awards and prestige…I have done it because it is something that I really feel I am truly good at. Sometimes my poor performance by my standard doesn’t even bother my rowers but I know it was sub par and it must be improved in order for us to achieve the ultimate goal again.

    GS Your peers have said what sets you apart is your ability to ‘solicit respect and trust’ from your crew. How has that bond affected your rowing performance as a team?

    BP Trust is something which must be earned.

    GS How do you feel about our chances for the Men’s Eight in 2012 given so many of your 2008 crew have retired from rowing or moved on to other boats?

    BP One of the reasons I decided to make a comeback after 2 years away from the team was the challenge of trying to defend the title and win again with a different and younger group of rowers. I'm 35 now and the average age of the 2012 Eight will likely be 26. When I speak to these guys everything I say must be based on experience, never a guess. Generally I can recall a story for most situations, with outcomes either good or bad.

    At the 2011 World Championships, our crew came to the start line with a massive amount of power, some of the best I have ever felt in the coxswain seat, something I definitely respect.

    The After (rowing) Life

    Brian is married and has two young children. It is widely believed he will retire (for the second time) from the National Team after these Olympics. He may however want to consult Canadian Women's coxie Lesley Thompson-Willie first. She is currently competing in her seventh Olympic games!

    Notable Achievements

    • 2000 – World Cup Lucerne - Silver - Men's Coxed Pair
    • 2002 – Henley Royal Regatta - Winner - Grand Challenge Cup
    • 2002 – World Cup Lucerne - Bronze - Men's Eight
    • 2002 – World Rowing Championships - Gold - Men's Eight
    • 2003 – Henley Royal Regatta - Winner - Grand Challenge Cup
    • 2003 – World Cup Lucerne - Gold - Men's Eight
    • 2003 – World Rowing Championships - Gold - Men's Eight
    • 2003 – World Rowing Championships - Bronze - Men's Coxed Pair
    • 2004 – World Cup Lucerne - Gold - Men's Eight
    • 2004 – Athens Olympics - Fifth - Men's Eight
    • 2006 - World Rowing Championships - Bronze - Men's Coxed Pair
    • 2007 – Henley Royal Regatta - Winner - Grand Challenge Cup
    • 2007 – World Cup Lucerne - Gold - Men's Eight
    • 2007 – World Rowing Championships - Gold - Men's Eight
    • 2007 – World Rowing Championships - Bronze - Men's Coxed Pair
    • 2007 – Rowing Canada International Achievement Award
    • 2008 – World Cup Lucerne - Gold - Men's Eight
    • 2008 – Beijing Olympics - Gold - Men's Eight
    • 2008 - Rowing Canada Award of Merit
    • 2008 - Belleville - Athlete of the Year
    • 2011 - World Rowing Championships - Bronze - Men's Eight
    • 2011 - World Rowing Championships - Bronze - Men's Coxed Pair
    • 2012 - World Cup Lucerne - Bronze - Men's Eight
    • 2012 - London Olympics – Silver - Men's Eight

    Medal Count - Rowing Events – Games of the XXIXth Olympiad – Beijing, CHN

      Gold   Silver  Bronze  Total
     Great Britain  2  2  2  6
     Australia  2  1  0  3
     Canada  1  1  2  4

    Spracklen’s Whisper

    We’ve done this a thousand times before

    Boat on gasoline slick, at the catch

    And Spracklen’s whisper begins to roar

    German’s listen – hear us at their door

    Mike smiles, all is well, then lights the match

    We’ve done this a thousand times before

    Price the barker, calls the burn – hardcore

    Canada will put this on their backs

    As Spracklen’s whisper becomes a roar

    We start fast, every man, every oar

    Icing the wake we make - true North track

    We’ve done this a thousand times before

    Then Crothers puts the hammer to the floor

    Byrnes, Howard, McCabe – push engine room pack

    When Spracklen’s whisper turns to roar

    Now they all know we’ve reached their door

    Now Brown, Gibson, Csima, Bergen catch

    We’ve done this a thousand times before

    Hear Spracklen whisper? We hear him roar.

    Grant Sommers 2012

  • 04-May-2023 5:08 PM | Ruth Robertson

    Argonaut Olympian Issue #10

    Welcome to our 10th Argonaut Olympian profile. I'm pleased to say it couldn't be about a greater champion of rowing than Greg Rokosh who paired up with fellow Argo phenom Don Curphey to become one of Canada's fastest crews in the lead up to the 1972 Munich Olympics. Their ninth-place Olympic finish, in a coxless four with UBC rowers Ian Gordon and Karel Jonker, was the best placement among Canadian crews at the regatta. Their compelling story is below.

    Part 10 – Don Curphey and Greg Rokosh 1972 Olympics

    Games of the XX Olympiad, Munich, West Germany

    Before the controversy of the 1980 Olympic boycott by the West and the retaliatory 1984 boycott by Eastern-bloc countries, there was the 1972 Munich Olympics - still etched in memory of everyone old enough to remember. All Olympic nations took part. For Greg Rokosh and Don Curphey this was the first Olympics and, as it turned out, the only one either of them would be able to participate in as athletes. Greg and Don, like so many Olympians, were always athletes. Greg, was from the West, excelled at football and wrestling as captain of these teams at the University of Saskatchewan, winning a Major Athletic Award there. Don was born and raised in Toronto and while in high school at Western Tech he competed in swimming, senior football, and rowing - his first introduction to the Argonaut Club. Greg's path to rowing and to the Argonaut Club was an unlikely one. When he had arrived in Toronto in 1967, having been recruited by Shell Canada upon graduation from the U of S, he was already determined to compete at the Olympics - in wrestling! Greg was in peak wrestling shape and felt ready to qualify a spot on the Canadian national team. However, while at the University of Saskatchewan, he had sustained knee injuries which returned with a vengeance on the wrestling mat at the University of Toronto wrestling room. Surgery was required and wrestling at the Mexico Olympic Games was out. Greg set his wrestling goal on Munich in 1972. A wrestling friend, who was also a rower, recommended rowing at Argos to recover leg strength and to generally keep in shape until the knee was ready for wrestling. His first outing at Argos was in a workboat single and he got caught in a sudden storm. Luckily for Greg, Argo Olympian Lief Godfredson came out in his single and shepherded Greg back to the dock. Greg took a shine to the sport almost immediately and started training with earnest. By 1968 he was already racing and winning sprints at Henley and started racing in the senior program.

    Don, on the other hand, was never far from the water. After winning the Schoolboy (CSSRA) regatta in the four in high school he went on to the University of Toronto to study chemical engineering. While at U of T he joined the varsity rowing team where he enjoyed many victories on the water. When asked what appealed to him about rowing and the Argonaut club he said,

    "Starting in high school I found great pleasure working as part of a team where all members were essential to success and I found that every practice or race was always an important competition. I found that the Argonaut rowers always competed whether it was in the shell, playing soccer by the club or playing touch football with members of the Argo football taxi players."

    Sometimes rowing legends such as Bobby Pearce would stop by the club to watch the talent row past the clubhouse. These moments were inspiring to determined rowers like Greg and Don. So the paths of these two oarsmen, an unlikely pairing even by the time they finished university, finally crossed at the Argonaut club in 1969.

    After a year of getting his 'rowing legs', Greg was ready for new challenges and things really changed for the better when the club, upon the insistence of George McCauley, and under Club Captain Ted Wilson, hired a high-performance coach. Argos scored big in hiring Tudor Bompa. Tudor is now recognized as the world authority on the periodization theory of training. Under his tutelage Greg and Don would train and push each other towards the upper echelons of high performance. Tudor's training consisted of am and pm rows, weights, running, and a focused attitude about training and winning. The pair and their coach soon began thinking about international racing and the upcoming Munich Olympic Games. Greg was still working at a very demanding job in Shell Canada's Information Services branch and raised the subject of his competitive goals with the President, who was fully supportive of his efforts. Shell provided Greg with time off for key training and competition requirements and used his efforts and goals in staff motivational material.

    1970 Henley Royal Regatta Crew, from left, Coach Al Gill, Tony Novotny, Don Curphey, Greg Rokosh, Ron Burgon, D'Arcy Burgon (Spare)

    In 1970, Greg and Don had some successful races in the coxed four with a young Joel Burgon as their coxie. With Don as his bow man, the stage was set for a shot at the Olympics! The pair started entering, and winning, big races such as Philly's Independence Day Regatta and the Canadian Henley, and doing remarkably well with so little rowing experience.

    By 1971 the Argos had roughly a half-dozen guys with the potential to make the Olympic Team. The club raised money and sent the fellows to race in Europe that summer where they proved to be as fast as the Europeans and ultimately at English Henley. This international exposure was vital to the development of Greg and Don. Later in 1971 at the ARC Double Blue Awards night, Greg was awarded the Argonaut Oarsman of the Year trophy, which he says is one of the most valuable mementos of his brief rowing career.

    Finally it was 1972 and Olympic fever was burning at the ARC. As part of their final preparation (there was no national team program supporting this preparation - it was all Argos) Greg and Don travelled to Europe for more international experience. This was part of Tudor Bompa"s periodization preparation. Rowing borrowed equipment in Amsterdam, Lucerne, and at the Henley Royal Regatta in England, the experience was priceless. Despite being there without a coach, using borrowed boats and oars, and low rent accommodations, the pair gained valuable experience.

    1972 Henley Royal Regatta, Greg Rokosh and Don Curphey prepare to take on the Russians, among others.

    Returning to Canada, Greg and Don entered as the ARC pair in the Olympic selection trials in St. Catharines. To guarantee a spot they had to race a best of three series against the more experienced crew of Roger Jackson and Jim Walker. They lost twice by a few seconds each. It was then that coach Tudor Bompa decided to put the two pairs together to contest the coxless four event. This was the closest thing to a National Team at the time as the concept was still in its infancy in Canada although different European countries already had a national selection process in place for a few decades. The four won easily and so followed an invitation to the National Team training camp in London, Ontario. At the London camp, the coaches switched oarsmen from crew to crew trying to maximize potential. The coxless four from the selection trials was broken up with Greg and Don joining two UBC rowers Ian Gordon and Karel Jonker. Roger Jackson and Jim Walker joined two other UBC rowers in the coxed four. That was the boating order for Munich. The Canadian team was made up of 16 men. Women would not row at the Olympic Games until 1976 in Montreal.

    Greg Rokosh and Don Curphey tear up the Argonaut watercourse in the summer of 1972 making final preparations for the Munich Olympic regatta.

    The Olympic regatta arrived and the newly formed crew of Gordon, Jonker, Rokosh, and Curphey was filled with excitement as they took to the water. In their first Olympic race the nervous crew pushed hard and placed third in their heat behind Romania and Norway. The four knew that a quick start would be vital to race the best in the world, and they worked on that in training and used it in every start. In their repechage, Switzerland went with the Canadians out of the blocks and got caught for a false start. Both crews knew it was Canada that went first but the big yellow ball indicating the infraction was placed behind the Swiss crew at the start line. Just before the restart, Tommy Keller, President of FISA and a Swiss himself, roared up to the start line in his Mercedes, hopped out and read the riot act to the Swiss crew. This put everyone on edge. In the repechage the Canadian four beat France and the USA to earn a spot in the semi-final. New Zealand was considered the team to beat and they won the race with East Germany in second and Germany third taking the last birth into the finals. Those were the gold, silver and bronze medallists in the finals two days later. Canada's fourth place was a solid effort but ended a boat length short of getting a shot at gold. They ended up racing in the small final and came third behind Great Britain and Bulgaria after leading for almost the entire distance.

    By the morning of Sept. 5th the rowing competition was over but Greg Rokosh, habitually an early riser, awoke and quietly left the Olympic residence for a workout. He was confronted by a heavily armed German speaking individual outside the apartment with a gun pointed at the next building where the Israeli team was housed.

    "Hostages!" said the trooper.

    Greg woke the others and relayed this surreal incident. It didn't take long before an English speaking officer arrived and informed the athletes of their options: stay where you are until further notice or leave now under armed escort to a safer location in the village. We chose the latter and scurried single file past the hooded Palestinians who watched us from the balcony of the building they had invaded. Eventually the Palestinians and the remaining living Israeli team members left the Olympic village by bus escorted by armed troops. What happened at the airport where the victims were taken is unclear. What is clear is that all the captives were murdered there when someone opened fire before the bound Israelis were out of the helicopters en route to a waiting jet.

    The backstory is this: Early in the morning on Sept. 5th, terrorists known as Black September, dressed up as athletes and joined a group of Canadian Olympians, Greg Rokosh among them, returning to their apartments after watching an exciting hockey game as part of the 1972 Canada-Russia summit series. Since it was late and the main entrance was far, everyone scaled the exterior fence closest to their building. The terrorists, dressed as athletes, unassumingly went along with the group and gained access to the compound. They went directly to the Israeli building #31, shot two athletes following an altercation, and took the remaining nine athletes and officials hostage. An intense standoff occurred which later that night led to a shootout at a Munich airport leaving the remaining nine Israeli athletes, one German police officer, and five Palestinian terrorists dead. There were 208 Canadian athletes at the '72 Games; among them were 16 Canadian rowers and among them were two Argonaut rowers - Don Curphey and Greg Rokosh who experienced this poignant moment in sports history first hand.

    The IOC then took an extraordinary measure in determining if the games should go on. They let only the athletes decide by a simple vote and they overwhelmingly said yes, we will prevail and all events were completed. For Canada, we didn't win a single medal, in rowing or any other sport. But like no Games ever, before or since, the Munich Olympics wasn't so much about winning as about being - being present, being human, and being respectful to those that weren't able to leave those Games.

    Five days later, most of the crews from Munich were transported to Heidelberg for the classic Martini Achter Regatta. Don Curphey had already left Germany for Canada and was replaced in the four by Mike Neary of UBC. The Canadians won against West Germany, Romania, New Zealand, Poland, and Hungary.

    To this day, Greg and Don remember Munich well, even though it was nearly a half-century ago. After the Olympics Don retired from rowing and moved to London, ON where he taught high school and raised a family. Reflecting on Olympic racing and team competition in general, Curphey says,

    "I think that every oarsman tries to be the best no matter the race and it is always nice to win or at least to see what the team needs to improve. Rowing teaches endurance and the importance of team (not the individual). Commitment to the sport is what is necessary from any potential oarsman."

    Greg continued to row although training for another Olympics was not considered. He again asked Shell for another sabbatical to go to work for the Canadian Association of Amateur Oarsmen (C.A.A.O), now Rowing Canada Aviron. Without salary or office and a little government funding he became our first National Coaching Coordinator. Carling O’Keefe provided some salary funds. This meant wearing their logoed shirts at all times. Greg's first major assignment in this position was to organize the FISA International Coaches Conference in Toronto. It was the first time this event was being hosted outside of Europe and Thomi Keller, FISA President, was Greg's main contact in putting it together. Thomi was happy with the result. A little later, Greg took on the responsibilities of the CAAO Technical Director when the incumbent left suddenly to organize the regatta at the 1976 Montreal Olympic Games.

    Greg Rokosh proudly displays his C.A.A.O. Championship plaque won in 1972 with Pairs partner Don Curphey. Photo taken in Ottawa, ON Feb. 2017.

    In 1975, Greg started the popular 'Catch' magazine, which was distributed mainly to rowing clubs with Gord Layton as editor. Before the internet this was the only way to communicate and when electronic media took hold the magazine went out of print. Faced with returning to a career at Shell, Greg instead accepted an offer from his Olympic team mate Roger Jackson, Director General of Sport Canada, to join his team building Sport Canada. Reflecting on his rowing days with Greg, Don playfully suggests,

    "My greatest achievement in training for the Olympic tryouts was beating Greg in a running test since he was a better athlete. Tudor Bompa was the most influential coach in teaching us how to prepare to race and developing our physical conditioning."

    When asked what advice he could offer to aspiring young rowers at the Argonaut club Greg says,

    "There are two rules to follow. One: work hard, very, very hard. Two: Find the right coach, listen to this coach and put your absolute trust in this coach. In terms of power application at higher rates, increase through the upper body as the stroke progresses. An extra pull, opposed to easing off, at the finish will create a pocket to get your blade cleanly out of the water and will give you a centimetre of advantage over another boat” ~ GS 2017

    Copyright © 2017 Argonaut Rowing Club

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Argonaut Rowing Club is a not-for-profit corporation registered with the Province of Ontario. 

1225 Lakeshore Blvd W, Toronto, ON M6K 3C1


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