In four short years, coach Frank Read shaped a group of green UBC students into first class international oarsmen. The 1954 UBC/VRC team was the first in a dynasty dubbed the “Cinderella Crews,” so-called because they seemed to come from nowhere to capture their medals in international competition.
At the 1954 British Empire and Commonwealth Games trials in St. Catherines, Ontario, the UBC/VRC eight won by a lead of five-and-a-half lengths over all other entries.
On August 5th, 1954, competing in the 2000m eights event on the Fraser Valley’s Vedder Canal during the 1954 British Empire and Commonwealth Games, the UBC/VRC crew upset England’s heavily favoured Thames Rowing Club to capture the first Canadian rowing gold medal ever at the Commonwealth Games. The result was also Canada’s first rowing gold medal in any major international competition.
The Duke of Edinburgh, Prince Philip, who was in attendance watching the race on the Vedder, was so impressed with Read’s crew that he extended an invitation for the UBC/VRC eights to come row at the annual Henley Regatta on the Thames. Largely the same crew that competed at the 1954 BECG attended the 1955 Henley and became the talk of the regatta knocking off the defending champion Soviet Russian crew in the semifinals before bowing out to a strong American eight from Pennsylvannia in the final.
Ken Drummond (2), Mike Harris (7), Phil Kueber (spare), Don Laishley (manager), Doug McDonald (5), Frank Read (coach), Ray Sierpina (cox), Glen Smith (stroke), Tom Toynbee (6), Laurie West (4), Bob Wilson (bow), Herman (Zloklokovits) Kovits (3).
This team is also inducted in the UBC Sports Hall of Fame. For their UBC biography, please visit www.ubcsportshalloffame.com