Host City: Melbourne, Australia
Venue(s): Lake Wendouree, Ballarat, Victoria
Date Started: November 23, 1956
Date Finished: November 27, 1956
The rowing tournament at the Melbourne Olympics signed off in its signature fashion with the coxed eights event, in which the United States was, as always, the overwhelming favorite: since it had first been contested in 1900, the United States had never lost (Great Britain won in 1908 and 1912 when the Americans did not submit a crew). The Soviet Union, however, had won every edition of the European Championships since the last Olympics, while the Canadian crew included two members, Robert Wilson and Laurie West, who had helped their nation win the event at the 1954 British Empire and Commonwealth Games.
Perhaps conserving their strength, the United States was not as dominant as it had been in the past: its time in the opening round was bested by several nations and it survived to the semifinals only by winning the repêchage. They were stronger in the semi-finals, however, and captured the fastest time in that round, eliminating the Soviet Union in the process. It seemed to most that the final would result in another easy win for the Americans, but this was not to be the case. The race began with a battle for the lead between the Australians and the Canadians, the latter of whom emerged victorious shortly by the halfway point, only to be passed by the Americans. Unlike in previous editions, the United States did not pull away to win by a large margin, but held off the Canadians only long enough to win the gold by less than two seconds. Australia tired near the end, assuring Canada a silver medal, but finished far ahead of Sweden to capture bronze.