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John Harrison

Full name: John Young Harrison
Gender: Male
Born: October 23, 1924 in Sydney, New South Wales, Australia
Died: February 1, 2012
Affiliations: Leichhardt Rowing Club, Leichhardt (AUS)
Country: AUS Australia
Sport: Rowing


John Harrison’s sporting background originally lay in surf lifesaving and he was twice the Australian beach sprint champion in the mid-1940s. Whilst studying engineering at Sydney University he met professor of physiology Frank Cotton who had designed a primitive rowing machine. Although he had never rowed on flat water before, the ergometer revealed Harrison’s power output matched that of Olympic champion [Mervyn Wood]. With little training he only narrowly missed selection for the 1950 British Empire Games and then had his hopes of a place at the 1952 Olympics scuppered by appendicitis. After a brief retirement he returned for a tilt at the 1956 Games but he again suffered illness and missed selection in the pairs. He finally found a place at his home Olympics as part of a hastily put together four which eventually reached the semi-finals at Melbourne.

After the Games Harrison became a lecturer in mechanical engineering at the University of NSW and set to work perfectly the rowing machine whilst still an active competitor in the sport.

He built and marketed the new machines and also created innovations in the worlds of sailing, skiing and automotive technology during his tenure as a professor of engineering.


Games Age City Sport Event Team NOC Rank Medal
1956 Summer 32 Melbourne Rowing Men's Coxless Fours Australia AUS 4 h2 r3/4

Men's Coxless Fours

Games Age City Sport Team NOC Phase Unit T
1956 Summer 32 Melbourne Rowing Australia AUS Semi-Finals Heat Two 8:22.4
1956 Summer 32 Melbourne Rowing Australia AUS Round One Repêchage Heat Three 8:10.4
1956 Summer 32 Melbourne Rowing Australia AUS Round One Heat One 6:52.7
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