Peter Antonie, one of Australia’s greatest rowers, was dogged throughout his career by the tyranny of size. Even in his prime, after he had won gold, silver and bronze medals at world championships, he dwelt in a kind of no-man’s land between lightweight and open rowing. He was too short for a heavyweight (at 182 cm) and too heavy for a lightweight (at 76 kg, a few kilograms over the 72.5 kg limit). None of this deterred him. He wound up representing Australia 18 times between 1977 and 1996 in events ranging from lightweight single sculls to heavyweight eights. He won gold in 1986 at the Edinburgh Commonwealth Games and the world championships.
For the 1992 Olympic Games in Barcelona, Antonie was teamed in the open double sculls with an even smaller oarsman, the Tasmanian Stephen Hawkins, who was 177 cm tall and weighed under 75 kilograms. They were by far the lightest pair in the field, conceding an average 15 kg body-weight to other crews. The comparatively puny Australians were quickly dubbed the Pocket Rockets. Anthonie, 34, and Hawkins, 21, were virtually untried as a combination, having sculled together for the first time only months before the Games. At Lake Banyoles on the final day of the Barcelona regatta, it didn’t matter: the Australians took the lead early, weren’t headed, and won gold. Antonie competed in the double sculls at the 1996 Olympics (finishing eighth with Jason Day) and was a reserve for the Australian eight in 2000. He was awarded the international federation FISA’s Thomas Keller Medal in 2003, in recognition of an exceptional career.
Harry Gordon, AOC Historian