Gold medal rowers back together

Three members of the Oamaru Rowing Club coxed four which represented New Zealand and won the gold...
Three members of the Oamaru Rowing Club coxed four which represented New Zealand and won the gold medal at the Perth British Empire and Commonwealth Games in 1962, (from left) George Paterson, Bill Smedley and Win Stephens, attended the club's weekend reunion. Photo by David Bruce.
Three out of five isn't bad. Three of the gold medal winning coxed four at the Perth British Empire and Commonwealth Games in 1962 were back together for the Oamaru Rowing Club's 125th reunion at the weekend.

Win Stephens (Kaikohe), Bill Smedley (Oamaru) and George Paterson (Christchurch) were reunited but Keith Heselwood (Oamaru) and their cox, Doug Pulman (Waikato), were unable to join them.

The three recalled how they were the last club team to be selected to row for New Zealand at an international event, and earned the right by winning the coxed four national title two years in a row before the 1962 Games.

After that, composite teams were selected.

Even then, Mr Stephens and Mr Smedley recalled, it was a close call getting to Perth.

They had to survive a time trial at Karapiro first.

Then New Zealand Rowing, claiming it was short of money, decided it would be best to take the four top rowers from the eight to compete in the four, reducing the team by cutting out one team.

The Oamaru four and cox had to race against the top four from the eight at Kerr's Reach in Christchurch, and won soundly, by five lengths.

That was the end of it, and the Oamaru squad went on to win the gold medal in Perth.

That was the last win for the team.

At the national championships the following year, they "went out like a bullet" in the final, then "ran out of petrol", Mr Stephens said. They still finished second, but it was their last row together.

The Oamaru club has an outstanding national record, especially under the late Rusty Robertson who coached some top squads.

Among about 110 people at the 125th reunion at the record was an impressive line-up of national representatives including Messrs Stephens (1962), Smedley (1962), Paterson (1962, 1964 and 1969), Lex Clark (1964 to 1966), Jock Johnston (1970 to 1972), Steve Byrne (1970), Peter Lindsay (1970 to 1972), Len Patterson (1971), his daughter Annemarie Patterson (1995), Murray Milmine (1980) and Colin Thornley (1981 and 1982).

They were also joined by the younger generation, from St Kevin's College and Waitaki Boys' and Waitaki Girls' High Schools, who are making their mark at Maadi Cup and national level.

- david.bruce@odt.co.nz

 

 

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