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Inspiring Canadians - In Sport and Life

Honoured Member

JOE, SR. WRIGHT

Inducted in 1955

Member Details

Date of Birth: January 14, 1864
Place of Birth: Villanova, Ontario
Date of Passing: October 18, 1950
Sport: Rowing
Member Category: Athlete

Career Highlights

1885

US National fours title

1895

US National pairs title, with Pat Mulqueen (first Canadians to claim)

Bedford Cup (first Canadian to claim English Amateur Singles title)

1896

First place, eights, Baltimore Regatta

1904

Silver medal, Olympic Games

1950

Voted Canada's Outstanding Oarsman of the half-century

Honoured Member JOE, SR. WRIGHT
Inspire

Story

Canada owes much of its rowing success at the turn of the century to Joe Wright Sr., who, as both oarsman and coach, stroked everything from single sculls to eights and collected more than 130 titles. Though he is best known for his skills on the water, Wright was a rare breed of athlete who approached every sport with equal zest and excelled at whatever challenge he undertook. In track and field, Wright set national shot put and hammer throw records, and he was one of the first Canadians to run the 100yd. dash in ten seconds flat. A Canadian billiards champion and a national amateur wrestling titlist, Wright also claimed the Canadian amateur heavyweight boxing title at the age of 35. At 44, he was still a regular with the Argonauts alongside his son, George. Rowing, however, was Wright's first and most-loved sport. He first stepped into a scull as a teenager and began his lifetime association with the Toronto's Argonaut Rowing Club in the early 1880s. He enjoyed numerous victories, including the 1885 U.S. national fours title at Albany, New York, before turning his talents to coaching in 1889. In assuming this position, however, Wright was by no means retiring from competition. On the contrary. He didn't just direct his young rowers; he rowed with them. In 1896, after watching his intermediate eights win their title at a Baltimore regatta, the 32-year-old coach stroked his senior eights to victory. He took his rowers to England five times to compete in the prestigious Henley Royal Regatta, and in 1906, at the age of 43, he stroked his crew to victory in two heats of the British Henley's Grand Challenge. His senior eights won both the Canadian Henley and the U.S. nationals in 1905, 1907, and 1911, while his intermediate eights did the same in 1905, 1906, 1909, 1910, and 1911. Wright's Argonaut teams were selected to represent Canada at the Olympics three times, bringing back a silver medal in 1904 and a special medal of honour from the King of Sweden in 1912. An active competitor well into his fifties, Wright's numerous triumphs also include the first U.S national title to be won by a Canadian pair of rowers, which he claimed in 1895 with partner Pat Mulqueen, as well as the 1895 Bedford Cup, the first English Amateur Singles title to be taken by a Canadian. Wright was also the first Canadian to win a heat of the British Henley's prestigious Diamond Sculls race, and though he never claimed the title himself, two of his protégées, Jack Guest Sr. and his own son, Joe Wright Jr., went on to win this coveted event. A fiery and passionate sportsman, Wright was the only rowing coach who didn't need a megaphone to instruct his crew. While he may have been a hard-driver, Wright knew the finer details of his craft and certainly knew how to mold a championship crew. He once took eight boys from the Argonaut club, seven of whom had never rowed before, and worked them through a rigorous winter training program on rowing machines. The following summer, this newly formed crew won titles at both the Royal Canadian Hanley and the U.S. national championships. Wright's brilliant coaching record earned him a position at the University of Pennsylvania in 1916 where he led this powerhouse of the American college rowing scene for ten years. In 1950, just two months after his death, Wright was selected by the Canadian Press as Canada's greatest oarsman of the half-century.


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