That Time an Olympic Rower Stopped to Let Some Ducks Swim By and Still Won the Gold Medal

That Time an Olympic Rower Stopped to Let Some Ducks Swim By and Still Won the Gold Medal


Born in Sydney Australia in 1905, Henry Robert
Pearce, better known as Bobby Pearce, dominated the world of competitive rowing throughout
the 1920s and 1930s and was extremely popular with fans of the sport due to a combination
of the ease with which he seemed to best opponents and his affable personality. Perhaps the greatest example of both of these
things in action was the time Pearce stopped mid-race to allow a duck and her ducklings
to pass in front of him and still won. This particular anecdote from Pearce’s life
occurred at the 1928 Summer Olympics in Amsterdam during the quarter final of the single sculls
event in the Sloten canal. For anyone unfamiliar, the single sculls is
essentially a race between individual opponents along a body of water and it has been a staple
of the Olympic program since 1896. Prior to taking part in the quarter final
event at the 1928 Olympics, Pearce had already made quite a splash with locals by beating
his previous two opponents by nearly 30 seconds each, winning his first event with such a
comfortable lead that, according to a contemporary report from the Sydney Morning Herald, he
pulled up before the finish line to wait for his opponent to catch up a little. Pearce’s opponent on the fateful duck match
quarter final was a Frenchman called Vincent Saurin, a powerful rower who during his career
would win nine national titles and medal at three European championships. Despite his opponent’s pedigree, Pearce
was able to effortlessly pull away and secure himself a near half-minute lead before the
half way mark of the 2000 metre race. In an interview with historian Henry Roxborough
in 1976, Pearce recounted what happened next. I heard wild roars from the crowd along the
bank of the canal. I could see some spectators vigorously pointing
to something behind me, in my path. I peeked over one shoulder and saw something
I didn’t like, for a family of ducks in single file was swimming slowly from shore
to shore. It’s funny now, but it wasn’t at the time
for I had to lean on my oars and wait for a clear course… “Had to lean on my oars…” isn’t quite
accurate. He could have simply plowed through them,
but chose to pull up. While all this was happening, Saurin made
up the lead Pearce had secured and, showing far less concern for the welfare of the ducks
than Pearce had, capitalised on his opponents’ unlikely stint as a duck crossing guard and
blew past him, stealing himself a five length lead before Pearce started rowing again. Remarkably, in the final 1,000 metres of the
race, not only did Pearce catch up to the Frenchman, but he was able to once again get
far enough ahead to secure an almost 30 second lead by the finish line. In the end, Pearce finished the race with
a time of 7:42.8 vs. Saurin’s 8:11.8. This, in of itself would be impressive, but
it should also be noted that not only was Pearce able to beat Saurin by nearly half
a minute after coming to a complete stop in the middle of the race, but in that race he
also finished with the fastest time of any of the eight competitors that round. We should also probably mention that this
was during the elimination portion of the competition meaning Pearce had risked his
chance of winning an Olympic medal for his country in his first Olympics to let the ducks
pass. Unsurprisingly, Pearce ultimately won the
gold medal for that event, beating out the previously undefeated American Kenneth Myers
with a new world record for the 2,000 metre event with a time of 7:11.0. This record stood for an astounding 44 years,
finally beaten in 1972 by Yuri Malishev of the Soviet Union. As for the formerly undefeated Myers, his
time in that face-off was a nearly equally remarkable 7:20.8, which would have been a
new world record, beating the old by almost 15 seconds, if not for Pearce’s time. (For reference, today the world record is
currently held by Mahé Drysdale of New Zealand with a time of 6:33.35, which he set in Poland
in 2009. As for the Olympic record, it was recently
set in 2012 in London by Tim Maeyens of Belgium with a time of 6:42.52 in the first heat. However, the gold medal in that Olympics went
to Drysdale with a time of 6:57.82 seconds in the final.) Despite his incredible talent, as Pearce was
barred from competing for money if he wished to continue competing in the Olympics, he
struggled to make ends meet for much of his early life, even being unemployed during the
early 1930s, scraping a living by collecting scrap paper at the Sydney Showgrounds. His fortunes turned around, however, when
he met Scottish whisky magnate Lord Dewar, who happily offered Pearce a job selling his
whisky as his official Canadian representative, prompting Pearce to move to Canada, where
he lived the rest of his life. Despite the move, Pearce continued to compete
for Australia in the 1932 Olympics, in which he defended his title, winning the gold by
narrowly beating out American William Miller by a mere 1.1 seconds in the final. While that was a close finish, it should be
noted that the nearest competitors behind those two finished a whopping 30 seconds back. Shortly after the 1932 Olympics concluded,
Pearce decided to turn pro, barring him from future Olympics, but at least allowing him
to earn some money at his greatest skill while his body was still up to it. Pearce’s professional career was decidedly
uneventful… by which we mean he won every event he took part in and none of his races
involved ducks. He eventually retired undefeated as an adult
in 1938. That same year, he even managed to win a title
defense race in Toronto just a few days after his wife unexpectedly died. In fact, while we know he must have lost several
matches before his first competitive victory at 14 years old, the only definitive record
we could find of Pearce ever losing a sculling match was his first one when he was six years
old, which was a 16 year old and under youth competition. He finished second in that race. After retiring from the sport, Pearce tried
his hand at being a professional wrestler before joining the Canadian war effort during
WW2 as part of the Naval reserves. He served in the navy until 1956, retiring
as a lieutenant commander. He subsequently spent the rest of his life
selling whisky on behalf of Lord Dewar in Canada, later dying of a heart attack at the
age of 70 in 1976. Before his sculling career, Pearce served
in the Australian army where he was the Army heavyweight boxing champion. Australians have historically always done
well at rowing events and rowers, such as Pearce, had long attributed this to the fact
Australians train in the seas rather than rivers and lakes, which are rougher and harder
to control oneself in. For Pearce, he was also aided by the fact
that he had a rather unique training regime (for the time, though very common today for
virtually anyone wanting to get in great shape, let alone pro-athletes), using interval training. In his case, he would sprint for a quarter
mile in his craft, then rest for a time, then sprint again, etc. Pearce would alternate
this with long distance rowing as his primary methods of training.

100 Replies to “That Time an Olympic Rower Stopped to Let Some Ducks Swim By and Still Won the Gold Medal”

  1. This scenario could only have happened in rowing, it is the only sport where the leader can see all the opposition trailing behind and gauge their ability.

  2. It's kind of amazing how much the sport has evolved over the years. Back in the day you could easily win gold rowing a 7:10 minute 2000 metre race. These days you would be laughed you of any competitive club if you cannot get under a 7 minute 2000 metre row.

  3. Yeah, my old high school was part of the GPS rowing club thing (I'm Australian).
    I never cared for it; in fact, all throughout my high school life, it was extremely annoying, since from about a week prior to each year's event, no-one would shut up about it, and there was war cry practice, and I could not give two poop emojis for any sport whatsoever.
    And the actual event was supposed to be mandatory for a large proportion of the student body – wasting a weekend day standing on the bank of a river, in blazing sunlight.

    Again, I despise sport, and I liked (still do like) reading during my breaks. War cries generated noise that disturbed my reading, and hearing nothing but rowing-related talk was aggravating.

    Needless to say, the Melbourne Cup wasn't much better, aside from not having to go anywhere (a massive plus).

  4. @Simon Whistler Reminds me of the time Australian runner John Landy stopped mid Olympic race to help another runner, wrongly believing he had tripped him. He helped the guy up, and then resumed…..to win the race. Another story worthy of a video is the time a Japanese Rowing crew decided to try and win by starting with a ridiculously high stroke rate….and never slowing down. They won, but one guy died in the boat, one one the dock, and the rest within a few days. I googled this for you and there are claims this is myth, but my best friend was in the Australian National team and insisted that it was true.

  5. Anyone else notice how Simons voice changed once he grew the beard? Noticed it since I binged a bunch of older vids yesterday.

  6. This Is one example, of the disorder I Regrettably have. It Makes us seem unbeatable, yet makes our lives very short compared to others & certainly more painful. It has to do with the flexibility of tissue, not just pure strength.

  7. I remember when I join crew in high school, our high school is poorer than our neighbors or the schools who even competed. Mostly I blame that on my school district, I mean it was a new sport but treating it like a club instead of a sport, cut the budget some. This is a school district that praises football over the newer contemporaries like crew and lacrosse, yet both these sports outperform our football team, hell when i was a freshmen the football team was really good but now it sucks.

    Our coach train Olympian crew teams and was someone who fixed our old boats with duck tape and screws, our boats where what this guy used most likely similar age. Every other school had fiberglass boats that weigh nothing, our girl teams couldn’t even lift the boats because they were so heavy, wooden boats. But since we suck so much except for single or doubles(because the boats where brand new, fiberglass, personally owned) we would just have a beach party for most of the event, one race each and then we just sat around and ate hamburgers and what not. Crew is a very fun sport for fans and sportsman alike because you’re mostly on a beach and you can do stuff besides sit for 4 hours and still watch the event.

  8. Faith in humanity restored until USA decides to bomb the next country or Saudi Arabia decides to behead someone sigh why can't we have good things….

  9. Training on the sea sounds like a bit of bullshit, Australia’s success at rowing might have something to do with private schools doing it as a sport & our mild winters.

  10. Beautiful. We all need to have love and respect for all of God's creatures. A bit off topic, but I hope you find this helpful or eye opening. Dear Christian and other friends. Please consider this: does God need a son? Cannot God forgive you if God had willed all on His own. And why must God send a supposed son to be crucified, can't God just directly forgive you? And why was Jesus fighting to get away from being crucified if Jesus supposedly died for your sins? What about the sinners before Jesus' time, are they just condemned to hell, so in that case according to your beliefs God is impractical, God is weak because He needs the help of a "son," God has a rebellious son who wanted to escape crucifixion, and God's plan did not work because you all continue to sin and obviously are not forgiven for any sins, because otherwise you'd just already be living in heaven. In other words if you were already forgiven for your sins, why would you be still living this earthly life suffering and accumulating more sins? Besides if you claim to love Jesus, then why do you follow the false teachings of others in the Bible. Why don't you read only what Jesus said in the Bible (forget mark or Luke or Isaiah or who knows who of some who never even met Jesus). Jesus clearly says in the Bible that he is the son of man. He uses these exact same words. Jesus denies being the son of God each time he was accused of proclaiming such. This is in your own Bible. If you seek God then you will find God. There is no God but God, and God the everlasting has no children and is nobody's offspring, He has no shape, form, or material. God is beyond comprehension because He is God. It is unjust to try to lower God into some imaginable form. God is divine and eternal, He is beyond human comprehension. Only those granted the eyes to be able to see God will be able to do so in the afterlife. There is a reason the Torah, the Bible (new testament), and the Quran which is the final revelation of God are all very similar. It's because all these three revelations are from the same God. The only difference is that the Torah and Bible (new testament) have many additions and deletions without any reliable original records. The Quran was sent as the last and final revelation, and God Himself said He's protecting the Quran from ever being changed, and there has only been one Quran well preserved since it was revealed 1,400 years ago. Millions upon millions know the Quran by heart in its entirety, and throughout the ages the original copy was always backed up through memorization, and each person's individual memorization was backed up by other individuals and the original copies of the Quran leaving no room for any alteration. Well, I hope to do some good and hope God forgives me for my sins through this effort as well as guide everyone who seeks God. I'm not asking for any money, I'm only doing my job, and many of us will be coming of age, and regardless of age everyone must realize that there is life after death, and hell is not worth the rebellious arrogant nature of wanting to follow man's tradition. Follow God, not man made tradition. The Quran is openly available for all to read in its entirety and with full context. You owe it to your own soul. And go back to the beginning of this message and notice that you cannot answer any single question I posed. Now I've done my job. You need to do your own due diligence. It is true if you seek God, then God will make it easier for you. In the Quran God says, and I translate, that if you take one step toward Him, then He will take two steps toward you. You will all be questioned during the day of judgment, we will all be questioned, and many signs have come to you. All you need to do is contemplate. Read the Quran. Don't listen to what people say, go to the source, read the Quran in full context and it's entirety and simply decide for yourselves.

  11. I did crew in highschool and our practices, not counting land workouts, were incredibly similar to his! Its cool to see where that style of training probably developed from :^)

  12. 2:27 My favorite part of the story when Pearce takes Saurin's Olympic ring and casts it into the fires of Mount Doom…

  13. Wow 30 seconds, I'm in 8th grade going into my 4th year of doing rowing. The most I have beaten someone in a race was 14 seconds in a qualifiying race.

  14. That 2nd rower. His pride had to have taken a pretty harsh beating. He effectively lost twice in the same race. Three times actually, if you consider the 'gentleman's courtesy' portion. He was 30 seconds behind, only caught up and got ahead because his opponent was too considerate of ducks and ducklings, only to lose anyway, and to really salt the wound it wasn't even a remotely close finish. It would be like thinking you're hot shit as a runner, only to find out your a asthmatic obese octogenarian and your opponent is Hermes himself.

  15. Not only is it sweet that he stopped for the ducks but it shows his heart that he felt he had no choice. Going through the ducks was not an option that crossed his mind meaning that he had to have had a good heart

  16. His son Robert Pearce Died June 1st 2018 he was my High School teacher @ C,W Jeffries Collegiate Institute

  17. how bad was Saurin?
    Shame ther's no footage
    Dies of a heart Attack at 70 – I wonder if he wore it out?

  18. Want to learn some more wet and wild facts? Then check out this video which reveals The Beach Boys Couldn't Surf… and 6 other Sports Facts:
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8I15Bzx_Ml8

  19. I can't help but be suspicious of athletes of old as I doubt there was any anti doping laws back then.

  20. The Australians are not that good at rowing. The New Zealanders, the British and the Germans win more events. The Australians have only won 10 Olympic gold medals. The British have won a gold olympic medal in rowing every games since 1984 and have won 31 gold Olympic medals in rowing

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