Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Dinner with a 1964 Olympic Gold Medalist on a Beautiful College Campus

I have met my share of Olympians, primarily, figure skaters, since that was one of my daughter's passions before college and she even skated in a performance with Johnny Weir at Lake Placid and we met Sarah Hughes and Todd Eldredge at the Mullins Center at UMass and Paul Wylie at a skating performance at Harvard when I was a Radcliffe Fellow.

Last weekend, I had a new experience - having dinner with an Olympic gold medalist, courtesy of my daughter, who has switched from figure skating to crew. Coincidentally, my Brown University room-mate for two years, Teresa Davila, had switched from being a ballerina in Chile to being  a member of the Brown University women's crew team when she matriculated there. I guess it is all about the muscle and the discipline!

The Olympian is Emory Clark, the author of  Olympic Odyssey.

The event was the Lafayette College crew banquet, which took place last Saturday. My daughter, as President of the Crew Club, got to officiate the lovely evening and we sat at the head table with the Olympian.

The beautiful campus was resplendent with blooming flowers (something not yet happening much in Massachusetts).

Now, how did an Olympian get to give the main speech? It's all because of those great school ties. The father of one of the rowers is Mr. Robert Hanke and he sent us the following explanatory message:

"Emory and I were fraternity brothers and classmates at Yale in 1960.  Emory was Captain of Yale’s Varsity Crew that year.  Following Yale, both Emory and I went on to serve as officers in the Marine Corps.  Emory then began rowing for Vesper Boat Club in Philadelphia, where he went on to win the 1964 National Championship in the coxed pair.  After that, rowing in the Vesper Eight, he went on to win the U.S. Olympic trials, beating heavily favored Harvard, Yale and a number of other top collage crews.  That marked the first time a non-collegiate eight-oar, or club boat, ever represented the United States in the Olympics.  In 1964, Emory and the Vesper Boat Club went on to the Tokyo Olympics, winning the Gold Medal and becoming Olympic Champions.  Emory continued competitive rowing most of his life, winning many more races, right up to his early 70s.  He book, Olympic Odyssey, has just been published."

See you at the races,

Robert Hanke
Col. USMC (Ret.)

The evening was magical and below are a few photos from the great event.  The Olympic gold medal is also featured below. I especially enjoyed hearing Mr. Emory Clark speak about his Olympic gold medal team-mates, who ranged in ages from 20 to 34, and the cox was a 46 year old Hungarian who had become a US citizen. He also spoke about Mr. John Kelly, the brother of the Princess of Monaco, Grace Kelly, who was affiliated with the Vesper Club. He emphasized how the team to beat at these Olympics (and many other races in that era) was the German team.
And, yes, both my daughter and Mr. Hanke's son were recognized for their leadership on the crew team. My daughter is the cox for two men's boats and if you can get a group of men to row fast as a team together, you are a born leader! The medals and trophies that they have been garnering this crew season plus the fun that they have been having, even with pre 6AM rowing practices, say it all.