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Peter Mallory's Blog

By pmallory - Posted on 24 August 2012

23 July 2012

A recent email from my good friend, Gennadii Ochkalenko:

Hi Peter,

How are you, where you now?

I have read some material about Italian shot putter Assunta Lenyante. She was 2008 Olympian and has occupied 8th place. Then she had her visual problems and now she will participate in 2012 Paralympic Games as Paralympian, 4 years later after her Olympic start. This fact is placed as the unique sports case in the Olympic history.

But we have more deserved member in the Ukrainian Paralympic Rowing Team now! Elena Pukhaieva, USSR Honored Sports Master. Dnepropetrovsk City , Ukraine .

1985-1986 World Champion, USSR W8+.
1988 Olympian, 4th place, USSR W8+.

Then because of her visual problem she was qualified as the Adaptive Rower.

2007 – 2012 Ukrainian Paralympic Rowing Team Member, repeatedly World Cup Medalist in LTAMi4+.

She will participate in the 2012 Paralympic Games in Ukranian LTAMi4+ 24 years after her 1988 Olympic Games race!

I hope it is adequately of attention?! What is your opinion?

Thank you.

What makes the Olympics so very special is individual stories like this one.

Live Extra

I'm all signed up through to watch "all 32 sports, all 302 events, all LIVE from London." My goodness!!! How the Olympics have changed over my lifetime! I followed the 1956 Winter Games in Cortina d'Ampezzo a day late in the New York Herald Tribune, a newspaper that no longer even exists. I watched the 1960, 1964 and 1968 Games on grainy black-and-white television. I was actually in Munich in 1972, rowing as a lightweight single sculler in Oberschliessheim three weeks before the Olympic regatta, and I have since spectated in Montreal, Los Angeles and Atlanta (Oh, the stories I could tell!), but it has never been so easy as it will be this coming week.

Now Susan and I are poised to travel to Eton Dorney and watch the rowing the old fashioned way, in person, but before we leave, will email us here at home at 2:10 Saturday morning to remind us to catch the live streaming of the heats of the men's eights. It appears that we can also view full replays of all Olympic events later in each day. I say Hooray!

Make the Boat Sing

I was very pleased to watch Going for Gold - The '48 Games on BBC America last night. (It will be called Bert and Dickie in Britain.) Oh my, it was no Chariots of Fire, but I was heartened to see so much effort being made to faithfully recreate and preserve our rowing history. And what giants appear on screen! The unforgettable winning British Men's Double of Bert Bushnell and Dickie Burnell, their finishing coach Jack Beresford, Olympic medalist at five consecutive Games, Dickie's dad C.D. Burnell, Gold Medalist from 1908 in the British Eight affectionately know as the "Old Crocks," and even a brief appearance by U.S. single sculler Jack Kelly, Jr., (sadly without his sister, Grace. How could the screenwriters have resisted?)

And that double was only half the British story in 1948. The British Coxless-Pair of Ran Laurie and Jack Wilson also won, and they represent another terrific tale, but the BBC pic doesn't mention them at all. Too bad. (Chris Dodd is hoping for a sequel. Sounds like a terrific idea to me!)

Now about the current film. There's an extraneous subplot concerning high-level government discussions of whether to go forward at all with the Olympics so soon after the war. There are nice references to the spirit of post-war Britain, to food rationing and home-made racing shorts. There is location footage from the real Henley, but some other other stately building substitutes for Leander Club and the Henley boat sheds, and there's a bridge that makes no geographic sense . . . but lots of old wooden boats and oars, lots of shots of dim boathouse interiors that work just fine. There is heavy father/son melodrama (C.D. would have been played by C. Aubrey Smith in a previous era, and Bert's dad leaves a note that reads "Make the boat sing" in their boat on the day of the final.) and some nice references to the truly interesting tradesman vs. toff dynamic between Bushnell and Burnell, but I was totally prepared to buy into the whole thing just because it was about our beloved sport of rowing. The bits about the two strangers from vastly different backgrounds getting together in the last five weeks before the Olympics, gradually earning each other's grudging trust, the rerigging of their boat, their intentional path through the repechages, it's all believable and historically accurate. And yes, I knew it was coming but I still cried when they won.

But the sculling on screen? SIGH!!!!

I suppose we should take some comfort in the fact that if they could actually teach actors enough so they looked even half-way decent in a boat, then what we do wouldn't be so special. But try as I might, it was truly painful to watch the scenes of sculling in Going for Gold. And the tragedy is that the real Burnell/Bushnell double was a thing of beauty, an improbable combination of Bert at 5'10" 152 lb. and Dickie at 6'2" 189 lb. that moved the boat so well they beat the best in the world at the 1948 Olympics.

Before I began my research for The Sport of Rowing, I assumed that while boats in the historic past might have rowed reasonably well for their time, boats nowadays surely must row at a much higher level of technique. Well, I soon discovered I had been completely wrong. Newsreel footage of the 1948 Olympics shows that the best boats, including the British Men's Double, rowed to the very highest level of technical rowing competence, and they did it without the advantage of modern oarlocks and hatchet blades, which make things so much easier for us in the 21st Century. I only hope that today's generation doesn't watch Going for Gold and conclude that the dreadful body mechanics and bladework they see on screen is an accurate representation of all that the best rowers and scullers could manage back in 1948.

Nice touch ending the film as the two new Olympic Champions find themselves completely knackered and reluctant to leave the changing room, knowing the world outside had changed for them forever. Thank you, BBC. Thank you, Bert and Dickie.