Greg Denieffe: Jack Beresford – In His Own Words, Part 3

Here is the third, and last, of Greg Denieffe’s installments about Jack Beresford:

In September 1964, World Sports, the official magazine of the British Olympic Association, published an article ‘How I Won Gold’. In the article, four Olympic gold medallists from the past: Anita Lonsbrough, Harold Abrahams, Jack Beresford and Harry Mallin, recall their greatest triumph.

Jack Beresford had no hesitation in picking his victory in Berlin in 1936. Here is a transcript of the article for HTBS readers who might not have seen it before.

With Blades Almost Clashing

It was in 1920 that I had my first lesson of race technique – beaten by John B. Kelly of the United States by one second for the gold medal in the sculls. That final made me decide to prepare for 1924 and I got my first gold medal in Paris. Four years later I was captain of the British eight in Amsterdam and we won a silver medal behind the Americans. Then four of us in Thames Rowing Club got together for Henley, went to California for the 1932 Games and won gold in the coxwainless fours.

In 1935 Dick Southwood teamed up with me in a double-sculler – object Berlin, 1936. By that time we were both pretty tough and mature, with the confidence and will-to-win well ingrained in us. In those days there were no open double-sculling races in England, but with 10 months’ practice behind us and 2,000 miles in the boat plus daily early-morning running and exercises, we were strong and fit.

In our first race in Berlin we met five other countries, including the Germans, European record-holders. They were very fast off the mark and their tactics were to get ahead and then edge over and “line” us up, i.e. scull dead in front of us, giving us their wash. They succeeded in doing that the first time and the other four countries were so much behind that the single umpire in the launch wasn’t able to control the course of the two leaders. At the finish we had to ease up or we would have bumped them and damaged our boat. So we just smiled and made no comment after the race.

Next came the repêchage heat, which we won very easily and so got back into the final. By then we had the “Indian sign” well and truly on those Germans, at least so we reckoned, and it worked out that way. In that final, beside Britain, were Germany, Poland, France, USA and Australia. We were determined to stay with those Germans but even at halfway (1,000m) they led by 1½ lengths, with the other countries out of the hunt.

At that point we challenged for the lead and went on doing so until they “blew up”. We literally gained foot-by-foot for the next 800m until at the 1,800m mark we were dead level. And so we raced to the 1,900m mark with blades almost clashing, for they had tried the old game of trying to line us (up) but not again! Right in front of Hitler’s box the Germans cracked and we went on to win by 2½ lengths.

The air was electric, for until we broke the spell Germany had won five finals off the reel. Yes, the last win in the doubles was the greatest and the sweetest, for we had come out to Berlin without a race and beaten the world.

JACK BERESFORD

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