Keith Heselwood, Bill Smedley, George Paterson and Win Stephens, also known as “The Perth Four” after winning gold at the 1962 Empire and Commonwealth Games will reunite at Portside Restaurant on Sunday.
The men’s coxed four, all from Oamaru, were trained by the great Russell `Rusty’ Robertson and pipped the Australians at the finish to mark their place in history.
Smedley remembers the crew’s final push to victory vividly and the elation that followed.
“It was very close, we had it worked out that with twelve strokes to go we’d give it hell and we gave it hell, they were ahead and we pipped them, it was magic,” he said.
Smedley said Robertson’s influence was instrumental in the success of the former Waitaki Boys’ High School pupils.
“We had a terrific club here, I joined in the late ’50s with Rusty Robertson, the coach,” Smedley said.
“He was what got us there, we had a lot of fun, it was hard work, though,” he said.
“We liked doing what we were doing and we were good at it, we didn’t like coming second.” Smedley reflected on the support shown by locals in raising funds for a new boat before the Games in Perth.
“The town here bought a boat for us, there was raffles and all sorts, they raised a lot of money, the town was very supportive” he said.
The gold medallist returned to the adulation of the town as proud Oamaruvians lined Thames St to welcome the returning heroes home.
“We arrived in Auckland and then we flew down here, the plane flew around the town,” he said.
” When we landed there was not many cars. Our mums were there and we thought ‘oh that’s nice’ but we thought there might be a few more.
“Then we drove into town and there was a big welcome back, a big parade.
“There were people waving and cheering on the main street all the way down and the Opera House was chocka, there was a guard of honour in there.”
The reunion will also serve as a send-off for Oamaru Rowing Club rowing stalwarts Stew Mitchell and Les McCullough, who are both bound for Nelson.
By James Ford