Read, Frank

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Read, Frank

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Frank Read was born on March 1, 1911. In the early 1930s, he became an accomplished oarsman with the Vancouver Rowing Club. He went into the hotel industry after a back injury suffered while playing football ended his rowing career. In late 1949, Read agreed to coach the University of British Columbia rowing team, which, at the same time, began a formal cooperation with the Vancouver Rowing Club. In recognition of both institutions, it was decided to call these new members "VRC/UBC" oarsmen. Despite minimal resources for the UBC's fledging rowing program, Read focussed on the importance of training and conditioning and instilling in his athlete's dedication to the sport.
Competing against other top Canadian teams to represent the country at the 1952 Helsinki Olympics, the Toronto Argonauts club beat the UBC team. Read's intensive training program soon produced results. His eight-oared crew represented Canada two years later at Vancouver's 1954 British Empire Games. There the team won Canada's first-ever gold medal for the eights. The Duke of Edinburgh invited the group to compete against the world's best at the Henley Regatta in England; the students scored an upset victory over the world champion Russians in the semi-finals. They finished second to the U.S. team in the finals. In 1956 Read led his rowing teams to the Melbourne Olympics, where the coxless four won a gold medal, and the eights came a very close second to capture a silver medal. These were the first Olympic medals won by Canada in rowing.
After a brief retirement (1957-60), Read returned to coach the rowing team at the 1960 Rome Olympics. That year, his eights finished second, earning Canada's only medal at the games. Following the Olympics, Read once again retired, bringing to a close an essential era in this country's rowing history.
Read was also a mentor to those who followed him as rowing coaches. During his first retirement, John Warren coached the UBC team, representing Canada at the 1958 Empire Games in Cardiff, Wales, winning a gold and two silver medals (in the eights, fours, and coxless fours, respectively). Wayne Pretty and Glen Mervyn were on the coaching staff for Canada's rowing teams at the 1964 Olympics in Tokyo (resulting in one gold medal in pairs) and the 1967 Pan American Games in Winnipeg.
John Carver, in The Vancouver Rowing Club: A History, 1886-1980, offered the following assessment of Frank Read's accomplishments:
"It was starting with almost nothing, operating on the most meagre budgets. He took his crews to the top international competition and, incidentally, put himself among the top rowing coaches in the world. He had the drive and the patience to stand the rugged twice daily grind in all kinds of weather; he demanded discipline and condition and got them, and he had the knowledge and knew how to impart it to his crews. He will say to himself that the horses in the boats win races, and of course, he is right. However, no sport demands more coaching than crew rowing, and Read supplied it beyond measure." Frank Read died in Vancouver in 1994.


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