Host City: Melbourne, Australia
Venue(s): Lake Wendouree, Ballarat, Victoria
Date Started: November 23, 1956
Date Finished: November 27, 1956
The Italians once again entered the Olympic coxless fours tournament as favorites, having won two of the last four European Championships, but not as strongly as they had in 1952, even though Giuseppe Moioli was a returning champion from 1948. The Soviet Union had staked its claim to the Stewards' Challenge Cup at the Henley Royal Regatta (then considered the equivalent of a World Championship) by winning in 1954 and 1955 and was represented in Melbourne by Leonid Zakharov, Aleksandr Sheff, [Nikolay Karasyov], and [Igor Ivanov]. Csaba Kovács, Rezső Riheczky, Zoltán Kávay, and Géza Ütő of Hungary were the most recent European silver medalists, while Germany’s Wilhelm Montag, Horst Stobbe, Gunther Kaschlun, and Manfred Fitze had taken bronze.
As always, however, the coxless fours was nothing if not unpredictable. The fastest time in the opening round came from the Canadians, Archie MacKinnon, Lorne Loomer, Walter D'Hondt, and Don Arnold, while Hungary was eliminated in the repêchage. The Canadians dominated by an even greater margin in the semi-finals, with their closest competitor, twelve seconds behind, being the American quartet of John Welchli, Art and John McKinlay, and Jim McIntosh. The Soviet Union and Germany were eliminated in the semi-final repêchage, leaving the two North American nations to face France and Italy in the final. The race for gold was no contest: the Canadians took the lead at the half-way point and won by almost a ten second margin, while the United States, France, and Italy finished second, third, and fourth, with less than three seconds between them. It was Canada’s first Olympic gold medal in rowing and remains, as of 2012, its only title in the men’s coxless fours.