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Do the Best Athletes Ever Get Distracted?

Australian athlete Bobby Pearce dominated competitive rowing in the 1920s and 1930s, including wins in the men's single sculls event at the 1928 Summer Olympics in Amsterdam and the 1932 Summer Olympics in Los Angeles. He is also notable for something that happened during the quarterfinal race at the 1928 Games. Pearce had built up a sizable lead in the 2,000-meter race against French competitor Vincent Saurin, but then a family of ducks swam single file into his lane. Pearce briefly stopped rowing to let the ducks pass, and Saurin streaked past. In the final 1,000 meters, though, Pearce caught up and won by almost 30 seconds.

Dodging ducks, all in a row:

  • In the finals of the 1928 single sculls competition, Pearce took gold with a blistering time of 7 minutes and 11 seconds, an Olympic record that was not bested until 1972.

  • Born Henry Robert Pearce in 1905, the Olympian came from a family of winning rowers. Both his father and grandfather were Australian sculling champions.

  • After rowing professionally for six years, Pearce relocated to Canada and tried his hand at professional wrestling.

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