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Monday, November 2, 2020

The Boys in the Boat: Nine Americans and Their Epic Quest for Gold at the 1936 Berlin Olympics (History)


by Daniel James Brown

Publisher : Penguin Books (January 1, 2014)

Softcover, 404 pages

Amazon Listing  

“By and large, every rower in the eight-oared shell does the same thing - pull an oar through the water as smoothly as possible, as hard and as frequently as the coxswain. But there are subtle differences in what is expected of individual rowers depending on which seat they occupy. Because the rest of the boat goes necessarily where the bow goes, any deflection or irregularity in the stroke of the oarsman in the bow seat has the greatest potential to disrupt the course, speed, and stability of the boat. So while the bow oarsman must be strong, like all the others, it’s most important that he or she be technically proficient: capable of pulling a perfect oar, stroke after stroke without fail.”

This novel is about the University of Washington crew team which represented the United States in the 1936 Olympics in Berlin, and by a hair's breadth, won the gold medal. Two stories are included. One illustrates how all of the Washington team came from depressed families and struggled to make their way through college during the height of the Great Depression.

Author Daniel James Brown

The second backstory deals with Hitler decreeing construction of the spectacular German venues at which the Games would take place. Along the way, the book also claims that the Nazis successfully covered up their treatment of the Jews so as to win widespread acclaim for the 1936 Olympic Games, deceiving the United States Olympic Committee among others.

All comes together with a description of the final race. During the 1930s, rowing was a popular sport with millions following the action on the radio. The winning Americans became national heroes for a brief time, then sank into obscurity like most amateur athletes. After their win, they would come together every few years to row again. The book gives an amazing amount of detail on the history of sport crew, its rise in popularity in the University set, and a structural analysis on the construction of their crew shells. A great resource for those interested.

For more readings, try books by Rex Hurst.

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