What will Compare to this? – Nothing!

1952 Olympic U.S. coxed pair – James Beggs, Duvall Hecht and Jimmy Fifer. Photo: Wikipedia.

6 July 2020

By Göran R Buckhorn

Göran R Buckhorn points you in another direction.

While you will find some of the leading rowing historians and writers pen articles for HTBS – either as regular or irregular contributors – other digital newspapers, magazines and websites do have great journalists and writers publishing pieces on rowing and rowers. Just take a look at the list ‘Good Rowing Links’ on the right.

David Owen. Photo: InSideTheGames.biz

As we know that you readers enjoy rowing as much as we do, we now and then point you to articles on other websites. On 1 July, the Inside The Games magazine/website published a not-to-be-missed interview with American Olympian oarsman Duvall Hecht. The article was written by David Owen, who has worked for the Financial Times, including being the newspaper’s sports editor. HTBS readers should remember Owen for his eminent biography of FISA President Thomi Keller, Thomi Keller: A Life in Sport (2018), which was reviewed by HTBS’s Chris Dodd.

In Owen’s article, 90-year-old Duvall Hecht talks about the Olympic rowing at the 1952 games in Helsinki where he rowed in the coxed pair with coxswain James Beggs and oarsman Jimmy Fifer. They ended up dead last in the semi-final and then lost the repechage – ‘a great relief’, Hecht says in the article. For the next Olympic Games in Melbourne, with rowing on Lake Wendouree at Ballarat, Hecht and Fifer won an Olympic gold medal in the coxless pairs.

Duvall and Fifer after winning the gold in the coxless pairs at the 1956 Olympic Games.

A film showing the U.S. pair rowing at the 1956 Olympics is here.

Read David Owen’s 1 July article here. Owen’s latest article, which was also an article on rowing, was published yesterday and can be read here.

I hope HTBS readers forgive me for adding a story about Hecht that has been told previously on this website. After Hecht had become Olympic champion, he retired from the sport, though he continued to row. In the mid-1960s, he asked boat builder George Pocock to build him a single scull. In 1966, Pocock delivered a beautiful wooden boat to Hecht, which the Olympian named By George. Hecht rowed it a couple of times, but he was so impressed by the beauty of the boat that he decided not to use it. Instead, he hung it up in the ceiling of his house and bought a second-hand boat to scull in.

Hecht later donated By George to the National Rowing Foundation, NRF. From March 2008 to September 2014, By George hung from the ceiling in the lobby of Mystic Seaport Museum’s G. W. Blunt White Building, which acted as the NRF National Rowing Hall of Fame during that time.

3 comments

  1. Dear Goran,

    Re: “What Will Compare to This? — Nothing!”

    Thanks for this posting. Duvall Hecht was a true gentleman, still straight as an arrow in 2006 at the 50th anniversary celebration. At that event we watched a video with sound, and as the straight-pair final neared the finish with Hecht-Fifer lengths up on the field, the announcer said something like, “Ladies and gentlemen. Pay attention. You will never see finer rowing than this.” That last sentence I recall verbatim.

    I had not known the Hecht-Fifer team wanted the coxed pair, and I wonder what would have happened had Beggs been available: Conn Findlay, Arthur Arrault, and Kurt Sieffert won gold at Ballarat that same day.

    Many thanks for your wonderful blog, and best wishes for its continued success.

    Regards,

    Kerry Ahearn

    • Dear Kerry,

      Thank you for your nice words about HTBS. It’s always nice to get feed-back on articles and the website.

      You might like to know that the coxed pair that Edward Ferry, Conn Findlay and Kent Mitchell (as the cox) rowed in at the 1964 Olympic Games, when they won the gold, was recently moved from the National Rowing Foundation’s storage in Mystic to Nathan Benderson’s Park in Sarasota, Florida. On the top floor of the finishing tower is going to be rowing artefacts on display. I not sure when it will be open, especially not in these uncertain times.

      • Dear Goran,

        How nice to heear that Conn Findlay’s 1964 Olympics Pocock 2+ still exists! After the Games, it hung for several years in the Stanford boathouse, available to team members. We used to row it on Sundays, with a bag of chains in place of Kent Mitchell.

        Kerry

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