Bobby Pearce: A Different Kind of Hero

The content below is from Episode 78 of the Who’d a Thunk It? Podcast.


  • Episode 76 “Explosives” I said that you shouldn’t throw bullets in to a fire because they will explode.
    • One of my listeners Ronnie reached out to me by driving 11 hours from Savannah Georgia just to tell me I was being a tad misleading.
      • LOL JK, Ronnie drove 11 hours and we met at a wedding of a mutual friend.
    • But he said that I should be more clear. Bullet casings do go off when thrown in fire, but it is very rare that the bullet itself is propelled out as if it were fired out of a gun barrel.
      • Of course, it is still dangerous and YOU SHOULD NOT TRHOW BULLETS IN TO A CAMPFIRE lol.
      • But I agree with him. He and I both have been sitting around a controlled couch fire that unknowingly had a few live rounds in between the cushions.
      • I remember pops of explosions, but no bullets wizzing out of the flames.
  • Another announcement: I’ve kept this show clean for all this time, but looking at my stats the other day I realized NONE of my listeners are under the age of 18 lol.
    • So while I still plan on keeping the cursing to a minimum, there are some instances that are just better with a mild swear.
    • And I don’t have any specific topic in mind just yet, but this means I will also be opening the podcast to more mature content.
      • Well I guess I already made that switch a few weeks back when I did an episode with the word Cocaine in the title LMAO


  • Sword Art Online
    • It is one of the most popular animes out there and for good reason.
    • I remember watching the entire series with my little brother Jake. He and I loved it for different reasons and it showed me the kind of variety this show has.
    • It is about a emmersive VR game that connects to the players nervous system to allew them to experience a game in all 5 senses as if they are really in the game.
      • but things go wrong when the game master makes the game TOO realistic. If you die in the game you die in real life… and you can’t just quit. You have to beat it!


  • Last week’s episode was about a hero Shavarsh Karapetyan.
    • If you haven’t already, give that one a listen. But Shavarsh’s acts of heroism were spectacular. The man literally risked life and limb to save dozens of people on multiple occasions. After I read Shavarsh’s story there was no doubt in my mind that he was a hero.
    • And while this episode’s story doesn’t have any of those dangerous or spectacular feats, I would argue this episode is about a hero too. A different kind of hero, but a hero none the less.
  • September 30th, 1905 Henry Robert Pearce was born in Sydney Australia.
    • And get a load of his family. Give you an idea as to what caliber of athletic genes Bobby was blessed with:
      • Bobby’s grandfather Henry John “Harry” Pearce, Sr. was an Australian champion in sculling. 
      • Bobby’s father, Henry J “Harry, Jr” Pearce Jr., was an Australian sculling champion and challenged for the world championship twice (in 1911 and 1913).
      • His uncle Sandy Pearce, was a national rugby league representative inducted into that sport’s Australian Hall of Fame.
      • Bobby’s cousins were Cecil a sculler, who represented for Australia at the 1936 Summer Olympics and Sid Pearce who also played rugby league for Australia.
      • Cecil’s son (Bobby’s first cousin once removed) Gary Pearce would row in three Olympic games from 1964 to 1972.
      • …. yeah, I’ll bet there was quite a lot of pressure on little bobby to become a world class athlete. He practically hit the genetic lottery.
  • Bobby started rowing early.
    • He entered a U-16 handicap race at the age of just six years old, managing to finish in second place.
    • Then he left school early to become a carpenter, and then worked in the fishing industry with his father.
    • When he turned 18 he joined the Australian Army in 1923, and attained the rank of master sergeant. In 1926, after winning the Army heavyweight boxing championship, he left the army to become a full-time rower. He was a competitor for the Sydney Rowing Club.
      • I love how “Australian Army Heavyweight Boxing Champion” is but a mere footnote in his life.
    • Bobby Pearce was a whopping 6 feet, 2 inches and weighed about 210 pounds (for you metric system users across the world, that’s 188 cm and 95 kg).
      • In 1927 at the age of 22 Bobby entered in the amateur national sculling championships. … he won that… and then proceeded to win the 1928 and 1929 championships.
      • His domination of the water got the attention of the right people. He was selected for the 1928 Olympics and even carried the Australian Flag at the opening ceremonies that year.
  • It was at the 1928 Olympics in Amsterdam where Bobby became a legend. This was where he became a hero in my opinion.
    • His first race was against a German named Walter Flinsch. Bobby beat his ass by 12 lengths.
    • Next race was against a Danish guy named Schwartz… Bobby smoked him by 8 lengths.
    • Then the quarter finals rolled around. Up against 8 competitors, Bobby was easily beating the French guy Saurin who was in 2nd.
  • Leading by a large margin in the quarter finals on the Stoten Canal, Bobby heard shouting from the Dutch spectators on the bank. He looked up and saw the spectators with worried looks on their face. When you row a boat you have your back to the front of the boat. So Bobby had to turn around to see what was ahead of him. He saw a duck about to cross his path and a string of fuzzy little ducklings trailing behind their mother.
    • There is no rule against rowing right over the ducks and most competitors in the Olympics would probably do just that without a moment’s hesitation. Olympic athletes train for years just to get a chance to compete. Most sacrifice so much to be there and aren’t willing to lose just because of some ducks.
      • If I were in the same situation as Bobby Pearce I would plow those little ducks right over and as I sped away I would stare back to see if they all made it back up safe.
    • But Bobby slowed down, leaned on his oars for a bit and let those adorable little ducklings pass.
      • As he did this, Victor Saurin, the French guy in 2nd place and a powerful 3 time European champion rower took advantage of the situation. Because of those ducks, Saurin was able to get a 5 length lead on Bobby.
    • Once the ducks passed, Bobby gritted his teeth and rowed like mad. He had 1,000 meters left in the race and Saurin far ahead… By the time the race ended Bobby Pearce had done the unthinkable. He beat Saurin by almost 30 seconds as he glided across the finish line. His finishing time of 7:11 was a record over the 2000m distance. This time stood for 45 years.
      • In the final, Bobby defeated Kenneth Myers of the United States by the unusually large margin of 9.8 seconds.
      • Pearce had hoped that his Olympic win would allow him to row in the Diamond Sculls at Henley, but he was refused admission because he was a carpenter. Back in Sydney he was unable to find work due to the Depression.
        • Back then the Olympics apparently would not let you compete depending on your profession.
      • When Lord Dewar, the Canadian whisky manufacturer, learned of Pearce’s plight, he offered him a job as a salesman. This new position made Pearce eligible for Henley, since he was no longer a laborer.
      • In 1931 he went to London and won the Diamond Sculls by six lengths. Although he moved to Hamilton, Ontario, in Canada, Pearce represented Australia again in 1932 at the Los Angeles Olympics… where he won again.
      • Bobby Pearce went on to dominate the rowing scene for 12 years from 1933 as world professional champion.

‘The most important thing in the Olympic games is not winning but taking part; the essential thing in life is not conquering but fighting well.’ 

Pierre de Frédy, Baron de Coubertin, founder of the Olympic committee
  • When Bobby stopped for those ducks he didn’t just make instant fans out of the spectators on the bank. He captivated the world with his compassion.
    • I’m convinced Bobby Pearce was a real man, and true hero.
    • I can’t think of a better example of true masculinity than a 6 foot 2, 210 pound natural athlete risking the most important competition of his career just to save a family of ducks, THEN go on to reclaim victory by the sweat of his brow.
    • And I’m hard-pressed to think of a better display of heroism than a man sticking to his moral code, his Maxim of “Life is Precious” when most minds at that time would only be thinking about winning.
      • IDK what Bobby was thinking at the time. Maybe he stopped because he was tired and needed a rest. Maybe one of those Dutch spectators on the bank was a pretty lady and he only stopped to impress her. … I very much doubt those were his motivations,
      • But it in the end it isn’t his motivations that are important. It is the message he sent to the world. Some things aren’t worth sacrificing. Even if it means attaining your dream, you shouldn’t go against who you are.
    • I think Henry Robert Pearce valued life. I think when he turned around and saw those ducks there was no question in his mind, no debate. He just simply was not the person to intentionally kill an innocent creature for no other reason than to win a race. Those ducklings lives meant more to him than that.
      • It was quite the display of ethics.
  • Damn I hope just about every woman living in the Netherlands in 1928 threw their panties at Bobby Pearce!
    • I mean can you imagine how much he pulled at the pub after that?! Chicks eat that shit up.
    • I love this podcast and if you ever see me in the flesh all you have to do it casually mention this podcast and I will proceed to talk you ear off about it.
      • I’ll take suggestions for episode topics, recommendations segment topics, and even suggestions about the podcast’s overall structure.
      • I love your feedback!
      • If you go to you can leave me an audio message and I’ll include it on the next episode!


The meme that inspired this episode.

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