St. Catharines Rowing Club Monthly Newsletter - February 2021
About 100 years ago – wait… it was last summer…
Time feels very fluid these days. Last summer, before Lauren started her series of athlete interviews – all of which have been exceptional – I said I wanted to profile a few club members that are, in my estimation, overdue for recognition.
This update is about one such member. As we begin our 118th year we have had a legion of outstanding members. Stan Lipinski’s 100-year biography of the Club lists them up through 2003 and we have had many more since then.
Brian Thorne has not won the most Henley medals of all time or competed in the most Head races ever (actually, he may have). What he has done though is demonstrate a lifelong passion and commitment to our club and our sport and I wanted to single him out for reasons that will become obvious.
In the summer of 1968 having completed grade 9, Brian came down to the Island and coach Bill Dick told him he could get in the bow of the “B” 135lb 8+ or get in the coxswain’s seat. He opted for the bow.
In the summer of 1970, he won his first Henley (Jr. 135lb 8+) and he picked up another in 1971 (Sr. 145lb 8+). He discovered sculling in the summer of 1972 and then headed off to Western where he competed in the Head of the Trent for the first of 48 consecutive times! He won the Open 1X there 6 years in a row from 1974 to 1979.
In 1974 he represented Canada at the 1st World Lightweight Rowing Championships, and then he did it 8 more times. 1974 was also his first year at the Head of the Rideau in his single. He won this event 6 years in a row from 1974 to 1979. 1975 marked his first of 46 consecutive appearances at the Head of the Charles. He picked up 14 medals in his first 15 years.
Things get busy from here on. Marriage, a daughter, Teacher’s College at Brock, Silver at the World’s in Bled in 1979, Bronze at the World’s in 1981, Gold at the Pan American Games in 1987, and many more Henley and Head Race wins.
It was not all glory though. There were a couple of knee operations, a hernia, a torn ACL and having his double with Dave Mossop sink after 30 km at the Head of the Montebello in 1978.
Then (of course!) there is posing for Ken Danby’s “The Sculler” and his movie career playing opposite Nicholas Cage in “The Boy in Blue” - the story of Ned Hanlan.
Danby was selected to design a set of Canadian Olympic coins for the 1976 Montreal Olympics at the same time he was named the first recipient of the “R. Tait McKenzie Chair for Sport” by the National Centre of Sports and Recreation in Ottawa. The result was his creation of six major watercolour studies of Olympic athletes, with each defining a specific Olympic discipline. Two years later they were published as a set of prints together with a book entitled “Danby: Images of Sport”. Appropriately, Danby once said that: “[Art] provides us with a clearer understanding of who we are, where we are, and where we have been, as human beings”*. In a 1978 article called “Athletes as Art” Hubert De Janlana described Danby's perspective: “Danby is fascinated with the parallels between the athlete and the artists, both of whom, he considers, require exceptional mental and physical discipline and unwavering dedication in order to excel.” The Olympic prints capture climactic moments of the sports they represent, which emphasizes the relation between sports and culture in Canadian society.
*Paul Duval, “Ken Danby: The New Decade”, Toronto/New York, 1984, page 154
Brian was awarded SCRC Male Athlete of the Year twice. He has been an RCA umpire since 2008, a volunteer at Henley and other regattas for decades and he takes the Club official photo every year. He has been on the Board of SCRC since 1995.
So why profile Brian?
There may be other members that have competed as well and for as long – although there are not THAT many – but since I moved back to St. Catharines and joined the Board in 2016, I have been consistently impressed with his drive to make the club better. He told me his passion for the sport has not dimmed a bit since he was given the choice of the bow seat or the coxswain seat in 1968.
I have come to respect him even more over this last year as the club has had to adapt to the pandemic. While he has missed competition as a master’s rower, his larger concern is looking for ways to introduce the sport to younger rowers.
Like many that have spent decades rowing, Brian is convinced that if we can just get some new high school athletes down to the course and get them in a shell, they will – like him - be hooked for life!
As we push through February with fingers crossed that there will be a Spring rowing season, I am asking our Board (and you…) to adopt a new mantra – WWBTD.
If the pandemic is not fully lifted by April – WWBTD?
If regattas are cancelled again this year – WWBTD?
What Would Brian Thorne Do? He would find a way!
With the support of our current rowers, coaches, and volunteers we will continue to introduce SCRC to new young athletes. And I am fully confident that some of them will build a rowing career as full and rich as Brian has…
Reflections from our President, Rick Crooker