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A trip down memory lane with Roger Wilson OAM

Victorian commentator, Roger Wilson, was part of the commentary team that was on hand at the 1990 World Rowing Championships held at Lake Barrington, Tasmania. Thirty years on from the event, the former ABC Grandstand commentator shares with us his memories of the first World Rowing Championships to be held down under.

Being the main on course rowing broadcaster it was great thrill for me to commentate the final of the Men’s Coxless Four at the 1990 World Championships. The event, which was the start of a great era for the ‘Oarsome Foursome’, featuring Nick Green, Mike McKay, Sam Patten and James Tomkins, and coached by Noel Donaldson, the crew were crowned World Champions in front of an ecstatic home crowd.

The crowds on the banks of Lake Barrington in 1990

 I felt the whole 12,000 in the crowd rise as one to cheer on the Australian Four to victory – it was an exhilarating feeling.

 There were scenes of great excitement and the crowd went mad all over the hill vantage point behind the Finishing Tower where we were broadcasting from on the third floor. One of the highlights of the fantastic win was Sophie Patten, Sam Patten’s sister, swimming out to the crew with an Aussie flag, which is etched in my memory 30 years later! Sam and Sophie’s mother Patsy took the same flag to the Olympics at Barcelona ’92, Atlanta’96 and Sydney 2000 as a good luck charm!

 The Men’s Four’s gold medal started a magnificent few years for the crew which, in slightly different iterations, went on to win the Olympic gold medal  at the 1992 Barcelona Olympic Games and then the 1996 Atlanta Olympic Games, where I was privileged on both occasions  to be commentating for ABC Radio Grandstand!

 Andrew Cooper took the place of Sam Patten in the gold medal Four at the Olympics in 1992, while Drew Ginn, of course, joined the crew for 1996.

 Apart from the magnificent gold medal-win, the Lightweight Women’s Four won a silver medal with a crew of Amanda Cross, Pam Westendorf, Sally Ninham and Rebecca Joyce, with coach Brian Dalton, an all Victorian set-up apart from South Australian, Cross.

 Australia also won a bronze in the Men’s Double Scull, with great mates Peter Antonie and Paul Reedy from Melbourne University Boat Club.

 A big local favourite was the Lightweight Quadruple Scull who won a bronze medal. The crew featured Tasmanians Simon Burgess and Stephen Hawkins, with the duo joined by Queensland’s Gary Lynagh and the ACT’s Bruce Hick – with the crew jointly coached by Tim McLaren and John Driessen.

 I personally had a big thrill calling on course the last event at the 1990 World Rowing Championships at Lake Barrington when my co-commentator, RA Life Member Doug Donoghue said to me,  ‘As you are the main commentator, you call the Men’s Eight final.’.

  It was a very historic event as it was the last time East and West Germany competed as such at any International sporting event. And it was a thriller, with West Germany (FRG) winning gold in 5 minutes 26.62 seconds from Canada who took silver in 5 minutes 27.57 seconds and third-placed East Germany (GDR) in a time of 5 minutes 29.88 seconds. It really was, as they say, ‘a blanket finish’ to conclude a magnificent World Championship regatta!

 I must also acknowledge a magnificent organising committee, headed by David Schier, in conducting a very memorable and successful World Rowing Championships, the only one to date held in Australia.