New Zealand Rowing Legend Don Rowlands Dies

Don Rowlands at the 2010 World Rowing Championships at Lake Karapiro. Photo: Chris Dodd.

New Zealand rowing legend Don Rowlands passes away yesterday, on 18 March. Rowlands, who was born in 1926, rowed for the West End Rowing Club in Auckland and won nine New Zealand national championship titles between 1948 and 1957. He took a silver medal in the eights at the 1950 British Empire Games and at the next British Empire and Commonwealth Games, in 1954, Rowlands won a gold medal in the single sculls. He was a member of the New Zealand’s rowing team at the 1956 Olympic Games, where the rowing events where held at Ballarat, but he did not compete.

Don Rowlands managed New Zealand’s national rowing team at the 1962 British Empire and Commonwealth Games and the 1997 World Rowing Championships. He was chairman of the organising committee for the 1978 World Rowing Championships at Lake Karapiro, New Zealand, and patron of the 2010 World Rowing Championships, also at Lake Karapiro. Rowlands was likewise involved in the International Rowing Federation, FISA, as a representative for his country and Australia between 1974 and 1992.

Don Rowlands was also the recipient of several honours: in 1973, Rowlands was appointed a Member of the Order of the British Empire for services to the sport of rowing, in 1979, he was made Commander of the Order of the British Empire, in 2015, he was appointed Knight Companion of the New Zealand Order of Merit, and the same year, he was given the rare honorary Member of the Order of Australia. Rowlands was made a member of the New Zealand Olympic Order in 1991.

In an article The New Zealand Herald writes:

Sir Don began what would be a lifelong passion for rowing in the 1940s while working for Mason Brothers Engineering. He competed in the Business House competition for the John Thompson memorial cup, an annual event, and continued his rowing career from there.

His success and natural talent have been recognised with numerous awards over the years, and having won medals at the Commonwealth Games in the 1950s among other rowing achievements, Rowlands went on to play a leadership role in the sport.

This included helping to organise local events such as the Maadi Cup, as well as international events such as the Olympics, for which he received a bronze medal of the Olympic Order in 1981.

Read also what writes about Sir Don’s passing here.

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