Host City: Berlin, Germany
Venue(s): Regatta Course, Grünau, Berlin
Date Started: August 12, 1936
Date Finished: August 14, 1936
The United States was undefeated in the Olympic double sculls and their entry, Bill Dugan and John Houser, was considered a favorite in the event. Canada, one of their traditional rivals, did not compete, leaving the German duo of Willi Kaidel and Joachim Pirsch (coached by Briton Eric Phelps) as America’s strongest challengers. Yet Great Britain could not be overlooked, as its crew consisted of Dick Southwood and the legendary Jack Beresford, Jr., the latter of whom had medaled at the last four editions of the Olympics (albeit never in the double sculls). In the opening round Germany and Great Britain were in the same heat, with the former coming out on top by a comfortable margin of nearly four seconds. The other heat was won by France, in a time slower than Germany and Great Britain, but over nine seconds faster than the United States, who finished fifth.
In the semi-finals, which essentially served as a repêchage, as round one’s winners did not compete, Great Britain qualified over 10 seconds ahead of its nearest competitor, Australia, with Poland (the 1935 European champions) and the United States surviving to the final as well. In the final, Great Britain surprised the crowd by keeping pace with the Germans and then, after the race was approximately two-thirds over, pulling ahead to win the gold medal by over a length. This followed from the advice of the German coach Phelps, who had revealed the strengths and strategies of the opposing crew to Beresford and Southwood. Germany had to be content with silver, making the double sculls one of only two rowing events that the nation did not win in 1936, while Poland came in for an easy bronze medal 10 seconds later.