An Epic Quest For Rowing Gold At The 1936 Berlin Olympics

Jul 18, 2014

This interview for Reader's Corner was originally broadcast in December of 2013:

In the summer of 1936, in the midst of the Great Depression, the world was transfixed by the grandeur of the Olympic Games in Berlin, and by a determined group of young Americans who were giving their all to bring home the gold.

In front of high-ranking Nazi officials, including Adolf Hitler, they overcame impossible odds to snatch victory from both the German and Italian crews in the Games’ signature rowing event.

The team was from the University of Washington in Seattle. What shocked Hitler, and rowing enthusiasts around the world, was the humble origin of this nine-man crew.  They weren’t elite athletes born to wealth and privilege, but the poor sons of mill workers and loggers who trained by wielding axes and baling hay. Their modest circumstances reaffirmed the American ideal that hard work and passion trump affluence on the road to success.

Author Daniel James Brown, recalls the team’s three-year odyssey in his New York Times bestseller, "The Boys in the Boat: Nine Americans and their Epic Quest for Gold at the 1936 Berlin Olympics." 

In the book, he recounts the team’s challenges and triumphs as they took on, and defeated, the nation’s top rowing teams, from the University of California, Berkeley, on the West Coast to Harvard, Princeton and Navy in the East. With each victory, they moved one step closer to their Olympic goal.

Daniel James Brown grew up in the San Francisco Bay Area and taught writing at San Jose State University and Stanford before becoming a technical writer and editor. He also is the author of “The Indifferent Stars Above” and “Under a Flaming Sky.”

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