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Bobby Pearce in a single scull | by Australian National Maritime Museum on The Commons
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Bobby Pearce in a single scull

This black and white photograph of Henry Robert 'Bobby' Pearce (1905-1976) was taken by Milton Kent in Sydney.

 

Pearce was the first Australian to win a gold medal in the single sculls. Later in 1928 he entered the prestigious Henley Diamond Sculls but was ruled ineligible because he was a carpenter by trade. The Henley race rules deemed anyone ineligible to compete who was 'by trade or employment for wages a mechanic, artisan or labourer'. He went on to win the single sculls at the British Empire Games in 1930 held in Hamilton Ontario.

 

During the Depression, Pearce had difficulty finding employment despite his sporting reputation. After the Empire Games he worked picking up scraps of paper at the Sydney Show Ground to earn enough money to eat. Eventually he was offered a job in Canada by the Scottish whisky tycoon Lord Dewar who appointed Pearce as his Canadian sales representative. In 1931 with his new job and status as 'distinguished gentleman' Pearce was permitted to compete at Henley where he won the Diamond Sculls.

 

Despite his Canadian residency, Pearce competed for Australia at the Los Angeles Olympics in 1932. Again he won the gold medal in the single sculls event. He then turned professional and went on the win the world title in 1933.

 

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Object number ANMS1288[021]

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Taken on April 22, 2009