The Lou Marsh Legacy - Honouring Canada's Top Athletes

Bob Pearce



Photograph of rower Bob Pearce

Photograph of rower Bob Pearce

Canada's Sports Hall of Fame

Diamond Sculls at Henley

“I have won the Diamond Sculls at Henley and two Olympic titles, but my dearest wish was to some day be considered good enough to have my name carved on the Lou Marsh Memorial trophy. Lou was a good friend of mine and I miss him so along the waterfront. To have my name in Lou’s column—that indeed is an honour.” Gibb, Alexandrine. (1938, December 30). Bobby Pearce is Awarded Lou Marsh Memorial Trophy. Toronto Star, p.8.

On September 25th, 1936, distinguished guests from every field of sport gathered in the Toronto Star library to announce the creation of the Lou Marsh Memorial Award. Bobby Pearce was there in tribute to his late friend. It’s really no surprise that Lou Marsh and Bobby Pearce were once kindred spirits. Both were considered ‘madmen’ of the water and of course Lou admired great sportsmen the likes of Pearce.

Indeed, from the time the powerful sculler immigrated to Canada after competing with his native Australian team at the British Empire Games in Hamilton in 1930, he was a gift to the Dominion and a windfall to every sportswriter of the day.

In 1931 he claimed the Diamond Sculls title, the oldest continually held athletic event in the world, contested since 1832 at the town of Henley-on-Thames in England. Pearce easily defended his 1928 Olympic title in the singles sculls at the 1932 Olympic Games in Los Angeles, and then turned professional. In 1933 he claimed the World Sculling Championship in Toronto on a three mile course over Ted Phelps of Great Britain. The Sculling Control Board of England cried fowl and deemed it an un-sanctioned race. Undaunted, Bobby took on all comers in 1934 trouncing American Bill Miller, the silver medalist in Los Angeles in 1932. Pearce, the undisputed World Champion would have to wait four more years to contest the title again in front of a home crowd at the C.N.E. on the Toronto shoreline.

In 1938, at the age of 32, Pearce was still one unbelievably tough man. Having been seen on occasion, breaking ice to get his scull into open water, he gave a shivering reporter and rowing insiders their first chance to size up the burly Aussie that spring. At the Leander Rowing club on a rainy wind-whipped Hamilton Bay in April, Pearce entered the chilly waters in only a pair of swimming trunks and battled whitecaps in a solo three mile time-trial – nearly impossible conditions that would have scuttled an attempt by any other mortal.

And that’s just about how he finished his undefeated professional career. This time, 15,000 shivering but delighted C.N.E. fans watched Bobby Pearce take home his third World Sculling Championship. It was on a cool September evening, in stiff winds and choppy waters along the Lake Ontario waterfront, that Pearce decidedly defeated young Evans Paddon of Australia by eight lengths – even after visibly relaxing his stroke for the last quarter-mile of the three-mile race.

Pearce received that most cherished honour and the trophy bearing his friend’s name. In 1938 many claimed Bobby Pearce to be the best oarsman of all time, and certainly the greatest of the last decade.



Amsterdam Olympic Games - Gold medal, single sculls, (competing for Australia)
Gold medal, single sculls, British Empire Games (competing for Australia)
Diamond Sculls Title, Henley-on-Thames
Los Angeles Olympic Games - Gold medal, single sculls, (competing for Australia)
1933 - 1948
World Champion, single sculls
Lou Marsh Trophy Memorial Award