Moments of Melbourne, Part 5 - Tuesday, November 27th, 1956

Long before Pertti Karppinen and Mahe Drysdale, there was another dominator of the single sculls rowing scene. He came from Moscow and started his unprecedented career on November 27th, 1956, on the picturesque Lake Wendouree in Ballarat, 100 kilometers to the west of Melbourne. On this day, Vyacheslav Ivanov (picture: Wikipedia) won the first of his three consecutive Olympic gold medals.

In the summer before the Games, at the age of merely 18 years, Ivanov had one the Soviet trials and edged 1952 Olympic champion Yuri Tjukalov for the berth at the Olympic regatta. As Karppinen in the 1970s and 1980s, Ivanovs best weapon was his devastating finishing sprint.

So the final in Melbourne developed in the same way as many Ivanov races later: He trailed by the 1500 meters mark as dead last of the four finalusts, but then he catched one after the other: first Poland's Teodor Kocerka, then Grace Kelly's brother and American Olympic rowing legend John B. Kelly jr, whose father had won the event in 1920. And finally Australian Stuart Mackenzie, who went on to win the Diamond Sculls at Henley six times (picture: 3ba). With only 100 meters to go, Mackenzie suddenly stopped in the wrong assumption the race was over - and Ivanov powered by him.

Ivanov made this tactics his trademark strategy, and it paid off two more times, in the Olympic finals at the 1960 Rome and the 1964 Tokyo games. At both occasions, East German Achim Hill fell victim to Ivanov's sprint - like West Germany's Peter-Michael Kolbe later fell to Karppinen twice, in 1976 and 1984.

Ivanov, who later worked as a navy officer, was so overcome with joy and excitement, that he threw his freshly gained medal into the air and it flipped into Lake Wendouree. The IOC gave him a replacement.

The three time Olympic single sculls champion was a sports multi-talent: Ivanov also excelled in nordic skiing, wrestling, boxing, football, and volleyball. He was a heavy smoker his whole life and had a simple explanation for it: His grandfather had done so and died at age 106. Ivanov is now 78 years old, so he has still a long way to go in this race.

News of the day: The USA dominate the rest of the rowing finals, winning three gold medals, including the coxed eight. The USSR, Canada, and Italy win the other races. +++ In track and field, Bobby Morrow (USA) earns his second gold in the 200 meters. +++ While Brazil's Adhemar da Silva defends his triple jump title, Al Oerter from the USA starts his incredible Olympic career with the first of his four consecutive wins in the discus throw. +++ Poland's Elizabete Krzesinka wins the women's long jump.

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