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You can watch the 1936 University of Washington’s crew’s amazing story in George Clooney’s recent film, “The Boys in the Boat”. But did you know that Canada had it’s own story of a working class crew of young men overcoming the odds?

Seventy years ago this summer, the British Empire Games (now called the Commonwealth Games) were held in Vancouver. Rowing took place on the Vedder Canal in Chilliwack. A University of British Columbia/Vancouver Rowing Club crew earned the right to represent Canada by beating out all other Canadian crews earlier in the season, including the 1952 Olympians from the Argonaut Rowing Club. The Vancouver rowers, some of whom were sleeping in bunks at the Vancouver Rowing Club, were coached by the ledgenary Frank Read.

1954 M8+ (Photo: BC Sports Hall of Fame)

The crew was stroked by Glen Smith, now 92. His daughter, Joanne Woehrie, who rows at Delta Deas Rowing Club, recently spoke to CBC Radio. She shared some of her father’s stories about UBC’s recruitment, sleeping at the Vancouver Rowing Club, racing against the Russions at the Royal Henley Regatta, and the famous race against the British crew in 1954. You can listen to that interview HERE.

Canada’s Men’s 8+ were Douglas McDonald, Glen Smith, H.J. Zloklikovits, K.J. Drummond, Lawrence West, Ray Sierpina, Robert Wilson, Thomas Toynbee and Thomas Harris. Many of these rowers went on to represent Canada at the 1956 Olympics.

Historic video clip of the end of the 1954 British Empire Games M8+ race can be seen HERE

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