Over the next term, HSC will be attempting to discover the identity of Hampton’s Greatest Sporting Moment, with your help. This article tells the story of Mike Hart’s Olympic Silver medal in 1976. This will compete against three other moments in Group Three. Vote in our Twitter poll on Friday to decide your favourite moments – the winner will progress to the quarter-final stage!
Fans of British rowing are so used to seeing success on the water at every level of competition – but the Olympics above all – that there’s a clear and present danger of taking it all for granted. But it wasn’t always like this, and one of the rowers chiefly responsible for the sequence of events that drove British rowing back to the top of the tree was an Old Hamptonian named Mike Hart.
By 1973, when Mike won his second successive Blue stroking Cambridge University to victory in the Boat Race, British rowing hadn’t won an Olympic medal for a quarter of a century. Put it down to their brilliantly efficient training methods – or maybe to their extensive use of chemicals – but the Eastern Europeans seemed almost unbeatable on the water.
But by the mid 1970s, this was beginning to change, and Mike was a catalyst for the new order. These were years spent building up a rowing c.v. that compares with the best. Along with the two Cambridge blues, there was Mike’s selection for the 1972 Munich Olympics where he finished eighth in the coxed pairs, followed by his four victories alongside the redoubtable Chris Baillieu in the Henley Regatta Double Sculls Challenge Cup in 1973, 1975, 1977 and 1978.
But the real triumphs emerged on the biggest stages: first at the Olympics in 1976, then at the World Championships the following year. In the former, Baillieu and Hart “soundly thrashed” the Eastern Europeans (as The Guardian described it) – though they had eventually to settle for Silver behind the outstanding Norwegian brothers Alf and Frank Hansen.
Then in the World Championships the following year, Baillieu and Hart finally took Gold in the double sculls to usher in an era of British rowing that featured – among other famous Hampton names – Martin Cross’s gold medal in the coxed four event in 1984 and the triumph of the Searle Brothers in the coxed pairs in 1992. Hart’s achievement was recognised in the Queen’s 1977 Jubilee and Birthday Honours with an MBE.