“Checchin” – The Last of the 1936 Rowing Olympians, Just Turned 100 Years Old

This photograph shows “Checchin”, who last month turned 100 years old. He is the last of the 1936 rowing Olympians who is still alive (“Checchin” is the handsome-looking fellow on the right).

The other day, I received a kind e-mail from Cesare Sorio of Connecticut. He wrote that he had enjoyed reading my review of Daniel James Brown’s book The Boys in the Boat, an article which I had published in the Mystic Seaport Magazine. Cesare then continues to write: ‘Last month I was back to my native Italy, visiting family and friends and, together with my brother, Pino, had the good luck and pleasure of attending the 100th birthday party for our old rowing coach that was being held at the indoor training facilities of the Rowing Club Argus in Santa Margherita Ligure, near Genoa.’

Who then is this 100-year-old rowing coach, you might wonder? Cesare writes: ‘The name of our old coach and friend is Francesco Pittaluga (nickname “Checchin”) and he is the only rowing Olympian still alive from the 1936 Berlin Games where he rowed in the Four without Coxswain.’

The always reliable Greg Denieffe found some information about Checchin’s party on Tuttolevante’s website. Under the headline “The Argus Rowing Club celebrated the centenary of Checchin“ the article states there was a big party at the Argus Rowing Club of Santa Margherita, in Costa Domitius, for the centenary of Checchin, the dean of Italian rowing, who is now an honorary member of the rowing club. One hundred fifty people attended the party, including the mayor of the town, Roberto De Marchi, who gave Checchin a beautiful plaque. The ‘birthday boy’ was only supposed to have stayed for a short while, but enjoyed himself so much, he stayed for a couple of hours. Read the whole article here (in Italian).

Francesco Pittaluga, Checchin, sitting in the center, with a plaque which was given to him by the mayor of Santa Margherita.

Taking a look at Checchin’s rowing career, his four took a fourth place in the Berlin Games after Germany (gold), Great Britain (silver) and Switzerland (bronze). Checcin rowed in the four with his uncle, Antonio Ghiardello, and his cousin, Louis Luxardo, and Aldo Pellizzoni. Two years later, at the 1938 European Championships in Milan, Checcin rowed in the Italian crew who took a silver in the four without/coxless four. Other members in the crew were, Luigi Luscardo, Gaetano Petrucci and Agostino Massa. (Some sources say that Checchin also took a bronze medal at the 1937 European Championships at Bosbaan in Amsterdam, but then it must have been in the coxed four as Italy did not have a crew in the coxless four at these championships. I am afraid I have not been able to track down the names of the medallists in the Italian bronze four.) After the Second World War, Checchin returned to Argus to pass on his passion for rowing to the younger generation as the club’s coach.

You will find more information about Checchin here (in Italian).

HTBS would like to send Mr. Francesco Pittaluga, “Checchin”, our warmest belated congratulations on his 100th birthday and at the same time thank Cesare for sharing the information about the last surviving rowing Olympian from the Berlin Games. Thank you also to Greg!


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