An Epic Quest For Rowing Gold At The 1936 Berlin Olympics

Oct 2, 2015

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

In the summer of 1936 the world was transfixed by the grandeur of the Olympic Games in Berlin, and by a determined group of young Americans. 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.

Today’s guest, Daniel James Brown, recalls the team’s three-year odyssey in his bestseller, The Boys in the Boat: Nine Americans and their Epic Quest for Gold at the 1936 Berlin Olympics. A Young Reader’s edition of The Boys in the Boat was released last month.

Today we’re featuring an encore edition of our interview with Daniel James Brown. He will be speaking in Boise on November 17th as part of The Cabin’s annual Readings and Conversations Series. The series kicks off with Boise’s own Anthony Doerr, winner of the 2015 Pulitzer Prize for “All the Light We Cannot See,” in conversation with Jess Walter, author of the bestselling novel, “Beautiful Ruins.” You can find out more about both these events, including how to purchase tickets, at the Cabin’s website at

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