Rowing at the 1920 Summer Olympics – Men's single sculls

The men's single sculls event was part of the rowing programme at the 1920 Summer Olympics. The competition, the fifth appearance of the event, was held from 27 to 29 August 1920. Ten rowers, each from a different nation, competed.[1] The event was won by John B. Kelly Sr. of the United States, the nation's second victory in the event (tying Great Britain for most among nations at the time). It was the first of Kelly's three Olympic gold medals; he would also win in the double sculls about an hour later (a double that has never been repeated) as well as in the 1924 double sculls. In the final, Kelly defeated Great Britain's Jack Beresford in "of the greatest sculling races ever contested."[2] Beresford led most of the way, with Kelly passing him late and winning by one second—a very close race in single sculls. The final held particular significance to Kelly, who had only decided to participate in the Olympics after being excluded from the 1920 Diamond Challenge Sculls; Kelly had wanted "to get a crack at the man who wins the diamond sculls"—which had turned out to be Beresford.[3]

Men's single sculls
at the Games of the VII Olympiad
Gold medalist Jack Kelly
VenueBrussels–Scheldt Maritime Canal
Dates27–29 August
Competitors10 from 10 nations
Winning time7:35.0
1st place, gold medalist(s) John B. Kelly Sr.
 United States
2nd place, silver medalist(s) Jack Beresford
 Great Britain
3rd place, bronze medalist(s) Darcy Hadfield
 New Zealand
← 1912
1924 →

Darcy Hadfield took bronze, the first Olympic medal for New Zealand as a separate nation (New Zealand had previously competed with Australia as "Australasia" in 1908 and 1912).


This was the fifth appearance of the event. Rowing had been on the programme in 1896 but was cancelled due to bad weather. The single sculls has been held every time that rowing has been contested, beginning in 1900.[2]

The competition featured a historically great field. John B. Kelly Sr. and Jack Beresford are cited as the best scullers to have ever come from the United States and Great Britain, respectively.[2] Kelly had won six national championships and put together a 126-race winning streak in 1919 and 1920. Beresford had won the 1920 Diamond Challenge Sculls in 1920 and would win the Wingfield Sculls seven consecutive times, as well as winning five Olympic medals at five different Games (and in four different rowing events). Kelly had been excluded from the Diamond Challenge Sculls in 1920, primarily due to a ban on the Vesper Boat Club to which he belonged, though his work as a bricklayer was also cited as a violation of amateurism rules. Other prominent scullers competing in Antwerp included 1920 European champion Max Schmid of Switzerland and 1919 Inter-Allied champion Darcy Hadfield of New Zealand.[2]

Czechoslovakia, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Sweden, and Switzerland each made their debut in the event. Great Britain made its fourth appearance, most among nations, having missed only the 1904 Games in St. Louis.

Competition formatEdit

The competition featured three rounds (quarterfinals, semifinals, and a final), with more than two boats to a race for the first time since 1904. The quarterfinals consisted of four heats of either two or three boats each, with the top sculler in each heat advancing. The four quarterfinal winners were separated into two semifinals of two boats each; the winner of each advanced to the final. There was no bronze medal race, but only one of the semifinal losers received bronze. The course used the 2000 metres distance that became the Olympic standard in 1912.[4]


Date Time Round
Friday, 27 August 1920 14:00 Quarterfinals
Saturday, 28 August 1920 15:15 Semifinals
Sunday, 29 August 1920 15:30 Final



Quarterfinal 1Edit

Rank Rower Nation Time Notes
1 Jack Beresford   Great Britain 7:45.0 Q
2 Max Schmid   Switzerland 7:49.0
3 Gustav Zinke   Czechoslovakia Unknown

Quarterfinal 2Edit

Rank Rower Nation Time Notes
1 Frits Eijken   Netherlands 7:50.0 Q
2 Nino Castelli   Italy 7:59.0
3 Jacques Haller   Belgium Unknown

Quarterfinal 3Edit

Rank Rower Nation Time Notes
1 John B. Kelly Sr.   United States 7:44.2 Q
2 Nils Ljunglöf   Sweden 7:49.6

Quarterfinal 4Edit

Rank Rower Nation Time Notes
1 Darcy Hadfield   New Zealand 8:05.0 Q
2 Theodor Eyrich   Denmark 8:11.0


Semifinal 1Edit

Rank Rower Nation Time Notes
1 Jack Beresford   Great Britain 7:45.0 Q
2 Frits Eijken   Netherlands 7:50.4

Semifinal 2Edit

Rank Rower Nation Time Notes
1 John B. Kelly Sr.   United States 7:46.2 Q
  Darcy Hadfield   New Zealand 7:49.2


Rank Rower Nation Time
  John B. Kelly Sr.   United States 7:35.0
  Jack Beresford   Great Britain 7:36.0

Results summaryEdit

Rank Rower Nation Quarterfinals Semifinals Final
  John B. Kelly Sr.   United States 7:44.2 7:46.2 7:35.0
  Jack Beresford   Great Britain 7:45.0 7:45.0 7:36.0
  Darcy Hadfield   New Zealand 8:05.0 7:49.2 Did not advance
4 Frits Eijken   Netherlands 7:50.0 7:50.4
5 Max Schmid   Switzerland 7:49.0 Did not advance
6 Nils Ljunglöf   Sweden 7:49.6
7 Nino Castelli   Italy 7:59.0
8 Theodor Eyrich   Denmark 8:11.0
9 Gustav Zinke   Czechoslovakia Unknown
Jacques Haller   Belgium Unknown


  1. ^ "Rowing at the 1920 Antwerp Summer Games: Men's Single Sculls". Sports Reference. Archived from the original on 18 April 2020. Retrieved 25 July 2018.
  2. ^ a b c d "Single Sculls, Men". Olympedia. Retrieved 21 April 2021.
  3. ^ NYTimes, June 5, 1920
  4. ^ "Why Do We Race 2000m? The History Behind the Distance". World Rowing. 1 May 2017. Retrieved 19 April 2021.


  • Belgium Olympic Committee (1957). Olympic Games Antwerp 1920: Official Report (in French).
  • Wudarski, Pawel (1999). "Wyniki Igrzysk Olimpijskich" (in Polish). Retrieved 25 April 2008.