Henry 'Bobby' Pearce
1905 - 1976
The place of Henry 'Bobby' Pearce in sporting legend owes much to his feat in becoming the first singles sculler ever to win back-to-back Olympic gold medals; but he was also widely celebrated as the man who yielded passage to a family of ducks. In the Amsterdam Olympics of 1928, Pearce was leading in his quarter-final when he spied over his shoulder a duck, followed by a small flotilla of ducklings, crossing the Stoten Canal directly in his path. He leaned on his oars and waited until the ducks were clear; meantime his French opponent caught up with him, then pulled away to a five-length lead. Pearce went on to win that race and ultimately the final, setting a Games record. The gesture made him an instant favourite with the schoolchildren of Holland.
Pearce dominated world sculling, winning the Olympic title again in Los Angeles in 1932, then reigning for 12 years from 1933 as world professional champion. In England in 1928 on his way to the Amsterdam Games, he was deemed ineligible to compete in the Diamond Sculls at Henley, under archaic rules which barred tradesmen - he was a carpenter then. In 1930, after winning the Empire Games single sculls at Hamilton, Ontario, Pearce accepted an offer from Lord Dewar, the Scotch whisky tycoon, to become his Canadian sales representative. When Dewar nominated Pearce for Henley again, it was under the stated occupation of whisky salesman. The regatta committee accepted him, and he went on to win the Diamond Sculls easily.
Harry Gordon, AOC historian