Rowing’s First Olympic Ripples | Montreal 1976

It was actually a visit from Hugh O’Callaghan, son of double Olympic hammer champion Dr Pat, that convinced Carlow sculler Sean Drea to take up a US college scholarship (in Philadelphia), which raised his rowing to another level. He was seventh in the 1972 Olympics, a regular winner at prestigious Henley Regatta from 1973-’75 and a silver medallist at the 1975 World Championships. As the 1976 Olympics loomed Drea based himself in Lucerne, working with revered Swiss coach Malk Bergen, and he clocked a world record (6:52.46) in his Olympic semi-final in Montreal which, unfortunately, did not earn any lane advantage for the final back then. He finished fourth after an epic battle with East German Joachim Dreifke and accepted it with a Corinthian spirit that inspired the next generation of Irish rowing. “I hadn’t an ounce left, I’ve no regrets,” Drea reflected. “That was my absolute best performance, all I could do on that day. My competition for a medal was right there, in the lane beside me, and he beat me fair and square.”

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