Host City: Berlin, Germany
Venue(s): Regatta Course, Grünau, Berlin
Date Started: August 12, 1936
Date Finished: August 14, 1936
For decades Great Britain had been the dominant force in the coxless fours and had taken gold in the event at the last four editions of the Olympic Games. In Berlin the nation was represented by the London Rowing Club – Alan Barrett, Martin Bristow, Peter Jackson, and Jan Sturrock – which had been the runner-up in the Stewards’ Challenge Cup (then the equivalent of a World Championship in the event) in 1933, 1934, and 1935. Yet in 1935 Switzerland, represented by the Zurich Rowing Club, had won the Cup, which was only the second time since 1873 that Great Britain had been defeated in the tournament. By repeating their victory in 1936, the Swiss delegation – Hermann Betschart, Alex and Hans Homberger, and Karl Schmid – made themselves the first non-British favorites at the Olympics. They had also been the winners at the 1935 European Championships.
In the opening round Switzerland defeated Great Britain in their heat by over three seconds, but the fastest time went to the Germans, represented by Rudolf Eckstein, Martin Karl, Willi Menne, and Toni Rom of Würzburger RV Bayern, who had won the 1934 European Championships. With the two victors advancing directly to the finals, the semi-finals essentially served as a repêchage, with Austria, Denmark (who had won the 1933 European Championships with a different crew), Great Britain, and Italy qualifying. The Swiss rowers were hampered by exhaustion, its quartet having competed earlier in the coxed fours event (they were also members of the coxed eights crew), which led to the final evolving into a contest between Germany and Great Britain. The latter put out a strong effort, but the host nation won by a comfortable margin of nearly five seconds and took the gold medal. Great Britain settled for silver while Switzerland managed to outperform the remaining nations and capture bronze.