The Lou Marsh Legacy - Honouring Canada's Top Athletes

Roger Jackson

Rowing

1964


Photograph of Roger Jackson and George Hungerford at the Olympics

Photograph of Roger Jackson and George Hungerford at the Olympics

Date
1963
Collection
Canada's Sports Hall of Fame

Now that’s teamwork!

George Hungerford’s Olympic dream was seemingly shattered in an instant when he was flattened by mononucleosis in the summer of 1964 and forced to abandon his seat in the University of British Columbia’s ‘eight,’ regarded as Canada’s best hope for an Olympic rowing medal in Tokyo. Roger Jackson, selected to row in the ‘pair’ was suddenly orphaned when his partner was called to fill Hungerford’s seat.

With the Olympics just weeks away, Hungerford was showing improvement. The mono had staked its claim on his endurance and fitness, but it hadn’t weakened his heart and desire. The Canadian coach gave him an opportunity to start rowing with Jackson in the pairs, but nobody paid any attention to them.

Neither had been in a boat together and George had never rowed in a pair. Their boat was a dilapidated scull that should have been decommissioned. It had lost its rudder so they learned to steer by balancing the power of their strokes and by reading each other’s body language. It forced them to become a team. They drove their training intensity and pain thresholds to the limit. They could barely get out of the boat after a workout. George, nowhere near one hundred percent, would go straight to bed between sessions.

It was off to Tokyo with a borrowed boat. It had a rudder but by this time they had achieved unison. Believing its drag would be a handicap they continued without it.
They had done absolutely everything possible to prepare, yet, had still never been in a race together!

They took the first heat by a boat length and a half and posted the fastest time of the day in a field of fourteen boats. It gave them a buy straight to the final and a few extra bonus days to prepare. Their second - ever - race together would be an Olympic final as one of only six boats. Their odds had greatly improved.

In the biggest race of their lives they were up by half a boat at the halfway mark at 1000 metres over the favoured Dutch and German teams. Roger who was stroking called “up” to increase the intensity for about twenty strokes to break the other boats. By the 1500 metre mark there was a lot of open water to the number two boat – the Dutch. Then, with 200 metres to go, George began to weaken causing the boat to veer. If Roger took the stroke up to put the race away, he risked pulling them right into the next lane creating the possibility of a disqualification. Focused on keeping the boat straight he was shocked to find the Dutch right on top of them with precious distance left. Roger yelled “up.” They stumbled but managed to regroup for the final few strokes to the finish line. The horn beeped twice in one second…beep, beep. A photo finish and neither knew if they had won. It seemed like an eternity before the board lit up…Canada, Holland, Germany...

Roger Jackson and George Hungerford won Canada’s only gold medal at the 1964 Olympics. As it turned out, a computer could not have created a better match. At 6’ 4” they were equal in height, weight and reach, balancing beautifully in the tender shell. With the hearts of champions, the same limitless tolerance for hard work and pain, they clicked, and found the magic other teams take years to find.

Year of hell pays ... for Hungerford, Jackson Adobe PDF Transcript


Highlights

1964
Tokyo Olympic Games - Gold medal in coxless pairs
1964
Lou Marsh Memorial Award
1976 - 1978
Director, Sport Canada
1982 - 1990
President, Canadian Olympic Association
1983
Named to the Order of Canada