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1956 UBC Four Oared Rowing Crew
1956 UBC Four Oared Rowing Crew

Induction Year
1993

Sport
Rowing

Category
Team




This Inductee is also in the
BC Sports Hall of Fame.

Highlights:
These four UBC students won the Canadian championship in '56. Representing Canada at the '56 Olympics they won gold, defeating the US in the final by five lengths setting an Olympic record. This was the first Olympic gold medal for a UBC team or athlete. This foursome as part of the UBC eights won the Canadian championship again in '58 along with a Commonwealth gold.
Archie McKinnon, Walter d'Hondt, Lorne Loomer, Don Arnold, Frank Read (coach).

Archie McKinnon, Walter d'Hondt, Lorne Loomer and Don Arnold were four eager newcomers to UBC's Varsity rowing program in February 1956. With coach Frank Read "cracking the whip" over their heads, they absorbed the tradition and driving spirit that had carried the Varsity crews to a British Empire gold and Henley grand challenge silver during the previous two years.

In spite of the success and tradition that now characterized UBC rowing, the four and eight oared crews found they still had to convince Canadian Olympic officials they were worthy of representing Canada at the upcoming 1956 Olympics at Melbourne. Canada's eastern officials strongly doubted whether UBC would be good enough to win the Canadian Olympic trials.

This pessimism was all the oarsmen needed to motivate them as both the fours and the eights proved to be the best in Canada by winning in convincing fashion the Olympic trials of July 1956. McKinnon, d'Hondt, Loomer and Arnold stroked to an incredible ten length victory over the heavily favoured Brockville crew of Ontario, followed by a three length victory in the final over crews from Ottawa and Winnipeg.

With the Olympics scheduled for November, coach Read had both the fours and the eights living a spartan lifestyle - giving up all other interests while labouring eight hours per day. Literally thousands of miles were rowed on Vancouver's Coal Harbour. Meanwhile with donations arriving from city companies, rowing enthusiasts and small towns throughout British Columbia, coach Read's dream of the 1956 Olympics was now being realized.

On November 27, 1956 the Ubyssey exclaimed, "Fours cop first Gold Medal, Eights settle for Silver." The four oared crew, while not as publicized as the eights, rowed to an impressive five length victory over the US crew in the Olympic final. In addition, it set a new Olympic record for this race, breaking the old record by thirty seconds. Upon returning home, Loomer, d'Hondt, Arnold and McKinnon were honoured when UBC president Norman MacKenzie stated that this "small group has achieved distinction for this university which it has never before had." This crew's victory at Melbourne represented the first time ever a UBC athlete or team had achieved an Olympic gold medal.

With John Warren taking over coaching duties from the retired Frank Read, the Olympic champions set their sight on the British Empire Games to be held in Cardiff, Wales in 1958. Apparently McKinnon, d'Hondt, Arnold and Loomer had lost none of their desire after their victorious trip to Melbourne. At the British Empire Games trials in Ontario these four incorporated into the UBC eights defeated the best competition the rest of Canada could offer, including the inspired Ontario crews who had not been able to defeat UBC since 1954. Later that summer at Cardiff, the UBC eights with McKinnon, d'Hondt, Arnold and Loomer stroked its way to a first place finish and a gold medal at the Empire and Commonwealth games final.

These four oarsmen were not finished as far as Olympic medals were concerned. Once again under the tutelage of Frank Read, Arnold, d'Hondt, Loomer and McKinnon were part of the UBC eight-oared crew that were silver medal winners at the 1960 Olympics in Rome. These four were now Olympic gold and silver medal winners as well as gold medallists at the Commonwealth games - a significant factor in the reason Canadian rowing was now synonymous with UBC.

One need only look to Don Arnold as an example of the magnitude of the contribution made by this UBC foursome. Upon graduation from UBC in 1962, Arnold was presented the Bobby Gaul Award, the highest honour a UBC graduating athlete can achieve. In 1970, after attaining his Ph.D. at Indiana University, he was named that University's outstanding graduating athlete. He later received Contribution to Sport citations from both BC and Ontario, as well as a Coast Amateur Rowing Association (CARA) medal of honour for outstanding contribution to rowing from 1880 to 1980.

Researched and written by Fred Hume, UBC Athletics Historian



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