MacDonald, Thom inducted posthumously
Two individuals who made significant contributions to the rowing community were inducted posthumously into the St. Catharines Sports Hall of Fame Thursday.
Daryl MacDonald and Don Thom joined Doug Geddie, David Cullen and Barbara Armbrust as this year’s inductees.
MacDonald, who was born in St. Catharines in 1934, attended Merritton High School and graduated in 1953. While in high school he excelled in many sports including track and field (running), basketball, lacrosse, floor hockey, swimming and rugby.
He began rowing in 1953 and continued to compete and win at the highest levels until 1968. MacDonald also competed internationally for Canada four times, including the 1968 Olympics in Mexico City; won 13 Royal Canadian Henley gold medals; three U.S. National gold medals; two American Henley gold medals; and five International Trial gold medals, as well as countless victories in both singles, fours and eights at the local level throughout Ontario and in the United States.
MacDonald continued to make a major contribution to rowing after his racing days were over. He was a member of the Canadian Association of Amateur Oarsman Technical Committee and the driving force behind the changes in selection and training methods of oarsmen in order to make them more competitive on an international level. His plan included inclusion of sports medicine, psychological training as well as improved equipment to test athletes’ abilities.
MacDonald was transferred by General Motors to Oshawa in 1973 where he lived the rest of his life with his wife Lois and children Darren and Mary-Ellen.
“Daryl was a world class athlete and an even better human being,” said John Nash, who aided in MacDonald’s nomination. “Daryl is not here but his competitive spirit certainly is.”
Nash recounted the story how MacDonald began his journey as a rower.
“In April 1953, Daryl was playing basketball in high school and some guy said to him after the basketball game, ‘Why don’t you try a real man’s sport?’ So he shows up at the St. Catharines Rowing Club and the rest is history,” Nash said. “His rowing career from 1953 to 1958 was Hall of Fame worthy.”
Thom had been a coxie of the St. Catharines Rowing Club’s 1929 junior eight which won at the Royal Canadian Henley Regatta that year.
He later became president of the St. Catharines Rowing Club in 1945 and was the person most responsible for the rejuvenation of the club after the Depression and the Second World War. However, he was quick to acknowledge that he did not accomplish this alone, describing his directors as being “composed of men who knew rowing, men who knew business, and men who knew both.”
Thom was a strong booster of the St. Catharines Rowing Club and believed supporting great athletes with top-of-the-line equipment was an important part of building successful rowing crews and successful clubs. He was also successful in developing a women’s rowing program in 1947 which continued for three years before being disbanded due to lack of competition.
He went on to hold executive positions on the Henley Aquatics Association from 1950 to 1971, and regularly dealt with the Canadian Association of Amateur Oarsmen in the promotion and development of the Henley rowing course, as well as the St. Catharines Rowing Club. He continued to be a strong supporter of rowing in St. Catharines until his death, and his legacy lives on at the Henley each year when the Donald F. Thom Memorial Trophy is awarded to the winner of the Men’s Eight Dash.
Don Thom, Jr. accepted the honour for his late father and thanked Stan Lopinski for his help putting together the nomination as well as the late Jim Minards.
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