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 Rowing Hall of Fame Honours BC Athletes

Left: Ilse Loomer accepting on behalf of the 1956 Men’s 4- pictured in the middle  |  Right: Alan Roaf presenting to Tricia Smith

BC athletes were well represented in the 2018 incoming class of inductees for the Canadian Rowing Hall of Fame.

1956 Men’s Straight Four
Donald Arnold, Archibald MacKinnon, Walter D’Hondt, Lorne Loomer

The men’s straight four was one of Canada’s fortunate late additions to the team at the 1956 Olympic Games in Melbourne, Australia. The crew, one of several high-ranking teams of Coach Frank Read, achieved an impressive victory with a winning margin of 5 lengths of open water over their nearest rivals.

Lorne Loomer’s granddaughter accepted on behalf of her grandfather’s crew and spoke to the great role models and supporters her grandfather and his rowing friends have been.

Watch their race here!

This crew was inducted into the UBC Sports Hall of Fame in 1993. The following was shared at that time by UBC Athletics Historian, Fred Hume:

These four UBC students won the Canadian championship in ’56. Representing Canada at the ’56 Olympics they won gold, defeating the US in the final by five lengths setting an Olympic record. This was the first Olympic gold medal for a UBC team or athlete. This foursome as part of the UBC eights won the Canadian championship again in ’58 along with a Commonwealth gold.

Archie McKinnon, Walter d’Hondt, Lorne Loomer and Don Arnold were four eager newcomers to UBC’s Varsity rowing program in February 1956. With coach Frank Read “cracking the whip” over their heads, they absorbed the tradition and driving spirit that had carried the Varsity crews to a British Empire gold and Henley grand challenge silver during the previous two years.

In spite of the success and tradition that now characterized UBC rowing, the four and eight oared crews found they still had to convince Canadian Olympic officials they were worthy of representing Canada at the upcoming 1956 Olympics at Melbourne. Canada’s eastern officials strongly doubted whether UBC would be good enough to win the Canadian Olympic trials.

This pessimism was all the oarsmen needed to motivate them as both the fours and the eights proved to be the best in Canada by winning in convincing fashion the Olympic trials of July 1956. McKinnon, d’Hondt, Loomer and Arnold stroked to an incredible ten length victory over the heavily favoured Brockville crew of Ontario, followed by a three length victory in the final over crews from Ottawa and Winnipeg.

With the Olympics scheduled for November, coach Read had both the fours and the eights living a spartan lifestyle – giving up all other interests while labouring eight hours per day. Literally thousands of miles were rowed on Vancouver’s Coal Harbour. Meanwhile with donations arriving from city companies, rowing enthusiasts and small towns throughout British Columbia, coach Read’s dream of the 1956 Olympics was now being realized.

On November 27, 1956 the Ubyssey exclaimed, “Fours cop first Gold Medal, Eights settle for Silver.” The four oared crew, while not as publicized as the eights, rowed to an impressive five length victory over the US crew in the Olympic final. In addition, it set a new Olympic record for this race, breaking the old record by thirty seconds. Upon returning home, Loomer, d’Hondt, Arnold and McKinnon were honoured when UBC president Norman MacKenzie stated that this “small group has achieved distinction for this university which it has never before had.” This crew’s victory at Melbourne represented the first time ever a UBC athlete or team had achieved an Olympic gold medal.

With John Warren taking over coaching duties from the retired Frank Read, the Olympic champions set their sight on the British Empire Games to be held in Cardiff, Wales in 1958. Apparently McKinnon, d’Hondt, Arnold and Loomer had lost none of their desire after their victorious trip to Melbourne. At the British Empire Games trials in Ontario these four incorporated into the UBC eights defeated the best competition the rest of Canada could offer, including the inspired Ontario crews who had not been able to defeat UBC since 1954. Later that summer at Cardiff, the UBC eights with McKinnon, d’Hondt, Arnold and Loomer stroked its way to a first place finish and a gold medal at the Empire and Commonwealth games final.

These four oarsmen were not finished as far as Olympic medals were concerned. Once again under the tutelage of Frank Read, Arnold, d’Hondt, Loomer and McKinnon were part of the UBC eight-oared crew that were silver medal winners at the 1960 Olympics in Rome. These four were now Olympic gold and silver medal winners as well as gold medallists at the Commonwealth games – a significant factor in the reason Canadian rowing was now synonymous with UBC.

One need only look to Don Arnold as an example of the magnitude of the contribution made by this UBC foursome. Upon graduation from UBC in 1962, Arnold was presented the Bobby Gaul Award, the highest honour a UBC graduating athlete can achieve. In 1970, after attaining his Ph.D. at Indiana University, he was named that University’s outstanding graduating athlete. He later received Contribution to Sport citations from both BC and Ontario, as well as a Coast Amateur Rowing Association (CARA) medal of honour for outstanding contribution to rowing from 1880 to 1980.

Women’s Pair
Marion Elizabeth “Betty” Craig and Tricia Smith

Betty Craig and Tricia Smith made their debut at the 1976 Summer Olympics, placing fifth in the coxless pairs. They returned to the coxless pairs in 1980 and were selected for Summer Olympics however stayed home after Canada joined the boycott of those Games. Undeterred, the duo earned silver, bronze, and bronze at the next three editions of the World Championships and then took their talents to the 1984 Summer Olympics, where they won silver behind the Romanians.

Tricia Smith was present with coach Alan Roaf to accept the recognition on behalf of the crew.

Tricia Smith was inducted into the BC Sports Hall of Fame in 1992, and UBC Sports Hall of Fame in 1994. UBC Athletics Historian Fred Hume wrote the following about Tricia Smith:

UBC rower in late ’70s went on to win medals at seven world championships, a gold at the Commonwealth games and a silver at the ’84 Olympics. Selected to represent Canada at four Olympics – a UBC record.

Tricia Smith graduated from UBC in 1981 with a Bachelor of Arts degree and in 1985 with a degree in Law. The UBC campus however was blessed with having, in Tricia Smith, Canada’s most internationally medalled athlete. In her 13 years as a member of Canada’s rowing team, Tricia won a medal at seven world championships, a 1986 Commonwealth Games gold medal and a 1984 Olympic silver. In addition to these nine world- class event medals, she was first place finisher in seven other prestigious international rowing events. Also noteworthy is the fact that she is the only athlete in UBC history to have been selected to represent Canada at four Olympics – 1976, 1980, 1984 and 1988. She was a UBC student for her ’80 and ’84 selections.

Smith, daughter of former UBC rugby star Marshall Smith and UBC basketball player Pat McIntosh Smith, rowed for UBC from 1978 until 1981. She actually started her rowing at UBC in 1973, on UBC’s first, albeit unofficial, women’s team. Her long-time coach Alan Roaf, referred to her as an “unbelievable athlete” and admires her “tenacity, perseverance and competitive instinct”. “She personifies excellence” according to Roaf. UBC’s former Coordinator of Athletics, Kim Gordon, spoke of her loyalty, thoughtfulness and leadership. Former UBC athlete and Alumni president Charlotte Warren, expressed great admiration for Tricia – her courage and athletic ability.

A practising lawyer in Vancouver, Tricia also served as a member of UBC’s Athletic Committee and as President of the UBC Alumni Association. Tricia also received the honour of being appointed to the Women’s Commission of Fédération Internationale des Sociétés d’Aviron (FlSA), the international rowing federation based in Switzerland. She is the first Canadian to be selected to this position.

In 2005 Tricia was elected to the Canadian Olympic Executive Committee and was appointed the Chef de Mission of Canada’s team for the 2007 Pan American Games. Her selection was due to her background as a competitive athlete and Olympian and her volunteer roles with many international sport organizations plus (in the words of the COC president), her enthusiasm, leadership ability and dedication and the fact she has devoted much of her time and energy supporting and advancing amateur sport in Canada.

In 2015 Tricia was elected President of the Canadian Olympic Committee (COC), yet still retains ties with UBC as an inductee in both UBC and BC’s Sports Halls and winner of the UBC Alumni Association Young Alumna award. In May 2001 she was the recipient of an Honourary Doctor of Laws Degree from UBC and in December 2010 was honoured with the Order of Canada.

We are so proud of these athletes and the legacy they have left behind.

Do  you know someone who has been instrumental in the sport of rowing as an athlete and leader, or as a coach and builder? Nominate them to the Canadian Rowing Hall of Fame!

In Rowing BC’s 2018-2021 Strategic Plan, one of the strategic directions is to support a healthy athlete-centered rowing system. Part of this requires enhancing the recognition of participants within the system by facilitating recognition opportunities through awards and online avenues as deemed meaningful by the participants.

Rowing BC has assembled an Awards and Recognition Task Force that will begin to take action in this area in 2018. If you would like to be involved in the process of creating meaningful recognition opportunities for our members and stakeholders, please connect with us.

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