August 19th, 2012

British rowing's forgotten silver medallist

Sometime fifty years ago this summer (quite likely fifty years ago sometime last week), a young British woman of 19 or 20 with some rather odd luggage stood arguing with American border guards at Checkpoint Charlie. Yes, she knew what she was doing, she was expected in East Berlin, she had a formal invitation. After several hours of arguing, they let her (and her luggage) through. The people waiting for her on the other side of the border had given up on her coming and gone. She had to take a taxi to where she was going, and got there with only an hour to spare before her first race.

The young woman's name was Penny Chuter and, by all available accounts, she was the best British woman rower of her generation. On 19 August 1962, she won the silver medal in single sculls at the Women's European Rowing Championships, which were being held that year at Grünau, in the suburbs of East Berlin. The "odd luggage" was her sculls, though she borrowed an East German boat. Collapse )
And by now, very few seem aware that she was perhaps the most talented British rower in an admittedly weak period for British rowing.