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Date
19 Oct 1968
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Mexico 1968

West Germans resist Aussie charge in the rowing eights

Coxed by 14-year-old Günther Tiersch, West Germany’s rowers scored their first Olympic men’s eights win at Mexico City 1968. Relive their thrilling victory in our video.

Held on an idyllic, willow-lined stretch of water situated some 2,200 metres above sea level and known as Lake Xochimilco, the rowing events at Mexico City 1968 reached a climax with the eights final, the most eagerly awaited race of all.

Represented by a team from the University of Harvard, the USA went into the race as the reigning Olympic champions and boasted an incredible record of having won 12 out of 15 gold medals in the event since it was first held in Paris in 1900. However, the Americans struggled with the altitude and only qualified for the final through the repechage. As their cox Paul Hoffman later acknowledged, they went into the final with no energy left and finished last of the six teams.

The 2,000m race began with New Zealand and West Germany fighting it out for the lead, with the Kiwi boat nosing in front at the halfway mark.

Coxed by the 14-year-old Günther Tiersch and boasting an average age of 26, the German eight (Horst Meyer, Dirk Schreyer, Rüdiger Henning, Lutz Ulbricht, Wolfgang Hottenrott, Egbert Hirschfelder, Jörg Siebert and Nikolas Ott) then picked up the pace, bursting past the fading Kiwis with 500 metres remaining. Behind them, the Australians put in a spurt of their own, surging past the Czech, New Zealand and Soviet boats and into second place.

Yet there would be no catching the Germans, who crossed the line 0.98 seconds clear. It was their first ever victory in the men’s eights the event, while Australia collected their maiden silver in the event, and the Soviet Union came in third over two seconds adrift. New Zealand finished out of the medals in fourth.

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