Mervyn Wood

Athlete Biography

1917 - 2006

Mervyn Wood, the only athlete ever to carry the Australian flag at two Olympic opening ceremonies (1952 and 1956), rowed at four Olympic Games to win gold, silver and bronze. He also won four Commonwealth gold medals, two Diamond Sculls, a Philadelphia Cup and 12 national championships. This remarkable catalogue of achievement is made more so by the fact that World War II robbed Wood of what should have been his most rewarding years of competition, two Olympic cycles, during which he would have been in his twenties. He was handicapped by a painful arm injury throughout much of his career, the legacy of a childhood tree fall. A career policeman who rose to become NSW Commissioner of Police, he had his first taste of the Olympics at 19, as a member of the police rowing eight in Berlin in 1936. He turned to sculling in 1939, but did not sit in a boat from 1940 to 1945.

In 1948 before the London Olympic Games, he won the Henley Diamond Sculls, then went on to win the Olympic gold medal. Four years later he won the Diamond Sculls again, on his way to the Helsinki Games, where he was nagged by the arm injury, and showed great courage to win silver. In the lead-up to the Melbourne Games of 1956, Wood was beaten by the brash young Stuart Mackenzie for the right to row in the single sculls. Instead he teamed with Murray Riley in the double sculls, and the pair won bronze. Wood's international career lasted 22 years.   

Harry Gordon, AOC historian