The First Englishman….

A rare photograph of Hermann Barrelet, France, the first Olympic champion in the single sculls.*

On 25-26 August, 1900, was the first Olympic rowing regatta. Saint George Ashe of Thames RC wrote history when he, as the first Englishman, represented his country in the first ever Olympic rowing regatta, held on the river Seine in Paris. (There was supposed to have been a rowing regatta at the Olympic Games in Athens four years earlier, but it was cancelled due to bad weather.) Saint George Ashe, who was the only English oarsman competing in Paris, easily won his first heat in the single sculls. In the third heat, Louis Prével, who had rowed in the Diamond Challenge Sculls at Henley earlier that summer, just like Saint George Ashe who was the runner up that year, won his heat. Both scullers advanced to the semifinals. In his semifinal heat, Ashe came in third, which technically meant that he was kicked out of further advancement. However, he protested – no records are telling us why – whereupon the French organisers allowed him to advance to the final. Prével also won his semifinal heat and proceeded to the final, where he was interfered and capsized before crossing the finish line. The Frenchmen Hermann Barrelet and André Gaudin took the Olympic gold and silver, respectively, while Ashe took the bronze medal – Great Britain’s first rowing medal in the Olympic Games. Although, it is probably more correct to say that the Englishman took the third place as no bronze medal was handed out at the Olympics at that time.

Saint George Ashe competed several times in the Diamonds, but never took the cup. He did, however, take the Wingfield Sculls in 1904. Read more about him here (correction, he was 51 when he died, not 49 as the Wikipedia text says).

*There seems to be no photographs of Saint George Ashe, therefore a picture of the first Olympic champion in the single sculls will have to do!

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