John Nunn: 64′ Cornell University Hall Of Fame Inductee, 68′ Olympic Bronze Medalist , 76′ Olympic Rowing Coach, 7-Time Marathon Runner, Father Of Five Children, And My Hero!

Since Wikipedia is not giving my father much love in the description of highlighting his rowing career among many other accomplishments he has achieved throughout his life I would like to take this opportunity to write a bit more on his behalf and add to his lifetime achievements.   

Wikipedia’s Search For John Nunn (rower):

John Nunn (Rower)Olympic medal record
Men’s Rowing
Bronze 1968 Mexico City double sculls

From Wikipedia: John Hamann Nunn (born October 12, 1942) is an American rower who competed in the 1968 Summer Olympics. He was born in Terre Haute, Indiana. In 1968 he won the bronze medal with his partner Bill Maher in the double sculls event.

My Story: Of my father and the rowing resume sums up John Nunn’s involvement in rowing over more than 50 years.

My father, John Nunn was approached at Freshman Registration at Cornell University by Bill Stowe, who asked him to try out for the Rowing Team. He lead John over to the Crew Table to meet Coach Walt Schlaepfer.

Coach asked “How tall are you and what do you weigh?”

He replied “6’6” and 197 Lbs.”

He said “Perfect! Have you had any rowing experience?”

My father replied “No.”

He said “ That’s the way we like ’em!”

John Nunn started the next day and never looked back. He had a very fast Freshman Team, winning most of our Races and finishing 2nd at the National Championships just ahead of Steve Gladstone’s Syracuse Team. John Nunn was undefeated in his Sophomore year winning the Varsity Eight National Championship at the IRA on Lake Onondaga. John Nunn’s crew was stroked by Bill Stowe, who had grabbed him at Freshman Registration. Bill Stowe went on to stroke the Gold Medal US Eight at the Tokyo Olympic Games in 1964. That sophomore year, 1962, my father’s crew made the cover of Sports Illustrated Magazine. My father’s boat was undefeated in Collegiate competition in 1963 winning the National Championship again. He beat the German Ratzeburg Club team in an exhibition race heat that same year. John Nunn also raced in the Grand Challenge Finals at the Henley Royal Regatta in England finishing 2nd to the University of London. John Nunn then  finished 3rd at the IRA in his Senior Year 1964, which was a disappointment because we had Olympic ambitions.

John’s coach at Cornell was the famous “Stork” Sanford who had won 6 National Championships in a 10 year span. Still wanting to go for the Tokyo Olympics, John Nunn was selected to the 1st National Team Camp in Laconia, New Hampshire. John Nunn was entered in the Cornell Eight in the Trials at Long Island, New York, but they were eliminated by Yale, who ended up 4th in the Finals. John Nunn then tried a 4+ out of Buffalo West Side Rowing Club with some of my Cornell teammates. Bob Fallon the bow man was injured a week before the trails so they had to scratch.

My father decided that he would take up sculling and try for the Mexico Olympics in 1968. He went to Grad School at the University of Michigan to work on an MBA. His first year John Nunn had no shell so he worked out with Olympic Kayakers and Canoers to keep in shape. The summer of 1965, John Nunn worked at Ford Motor Company and rowed a single out of Ecorse Boat Club on the Detroit River coached by Nick Pappas. After graduation he accepted a job in California at Dart Industries in Beverly Hills. There was a better job offer at Pillsbury in Minneapolis as Brand Manager for their new product “The Pillsbury Dough Boy”. However my father knew Minneapolis was frozen for 6 months a year and that wouldn’t help his sculling progress. Also in retrospect, he would have ended up looking just like the “Dough Boy.”

John Nunn arrived in California in 1966 and started rowing out of the 1932 Olympic Boathouse at the far end of the Long Beach Marine Stadium. He just trained in 1966 and set his sites on trying for the team in 1967. Long Beach reconstructed The Marine Stadium in 1967, so John had to move to the USC Boathouse in the LA Harbor in order to get out on the water. While at USC, Stan Pocock, the boat builder, came by and gave him some coaching help.

John Nunn started racing his single in 1967, but he kept getting beat by a teenager, John Van Blom. Both of them went to the Pan American Trials at the New York Athletic Club on Long Island, New York. Don Spero, 1966 World Single Sculls Champion and my former Cornell Teammate, arraigned for both of them to have Stampfli singles to race. John Van Blom got the 1966 World Championship boat and my father got a bigger NYAC boat. In the Finals of the Trials my father was able to beat John for the first time by 1 foot and became the US Pan American Single Sculler. In Winnipeg, my father had to race the up and coming Argentinean Star, Alberto Dimiddi, who would win 2 Olympic Medals and 3 world Championships in the Single 1968-1972. John Nunn won a Silver Medal in the Single at the 1967 Pan American Games. Joe Burk, the famous Single Sculler and coach of the University of Pennsylvania, invited John Van Blom and my father to Philadelphia that summer. He coached my father and John Van Blom in the Double for over  one month. They won the Trials and went to Vichy, France to the European Championships. After eliminating the East Germans in the Repechage, they made the finals and finished 6th.

 In 1968 John Nunn moved back to Long Beach and was coached by Croatian Mario Katunarich. He had rowed the pair for Yugoslavia in the World Championships and was a wealth of rowing knowledge. My father entered the Olympic Single Trials in Long Beach, but he was suffering with the stomach flu and didn’t race well. My father was able to team up with Bill Maher from Detroit Boat Club for the Doubles Trials which were 6 weeks later. During that time between trials they trained with Coach Ted Nash and his University of Pennsylvania Four . They won the Doubles Trials and made the Mexico Olympic Team and so did the Penn 4+. They went to High Altitude Training in Gunnison, Colorado to get acclimated to the altitude of Mexico City with 30% less oxygen. Bill developed Bronchitis at high altitude that further inhibited his breathing.

In Mexico my father and Bill won thier Heat and the Semi-Final to qualify for the finals, but Bill had passed out twice along with about 30 other rowers, so they were unsure of how fast they should start the first 500 meters. At 500 everyone was even and then the Dutch sprinted out. At the 1000 they were 6th . My father and Bill passed the West Germans then the East Germans. With 250 to go they surged past the Bulgarians. They were moving on the Dutch and the Soviets, but they ran out of race course. Soviets 1st, Dutch 2nd & USA 3rd. Bill passed out cold after the race so John Van Blom had to get in the boat with my father to pick up the Medal.

Bill didn’t show up for dinner that night with his parents and my parents. The next day my father saw Bill in the Olympic Village and asked him what happened. Bill said he was depressed they didn’t win the Gold so he went out to a local Bar and had about 6 Tequilas. My father asked him how he felt and he said “I feel great and you know my cough is gone!” If only he had tried the 6 Tequilas 6 weeks earlier!

John Nunn retired to concentrate on work and raising a family, but in 1971 World Champion Tom McKibbon asked my father to row with him in the Double in the Pan American Games, Cali, Columbia. They made the Finals, but the conditions on Lago Colima were horrific. They survived the Games with a Bronze Medal and a World’s Record number of Crabs for one race.  (‘Catching a crab’ : Placing the oar in the water and not being able to get it out smoothly because of the rough conditions)


John Nunn (I Linked Everything For Fun.. Check It Out:)

*Long Beach Rowing Association –President, 1999-2003; Vice-President, 2003- Present; Director, 1994- Present.

*Long Beach Junior Crew- Chairman of Board of Directors-2008- Present

*Cornell University Athletic Hall of Fame- Inducted 2008

*Pete Archer Rowing Center Expansion Program- Executive Director, 1996- 2007

*California State University Long Beach Men’s Rowing- Coaching Consultant 2005-2006.

*Southern California Rowing Foundation- President 1998- 2002; Vice-President 2002- present.

*USRowing Board Member – Master’s Committee, 2002- 2009

*Cornell University Rowing Association – Executive Committee Member. 2002- 2009

*USRowing Master’s National Championships-1997 Long Beach, Executive Director.

*Southern California Olympians- member, 1983 to present.

*USRowing Master’s National Championship- competitor 1991- 2008 & 2011

*FISA Veteran’s Regatta- competitor 1992- present.

*Head of  The Charles- Veteran Eight Champion 2011

*Olympic Festival, Los Angeles- 1991, Rowing Dock Master.

*Olympic Games, Los Angeles-1984, Public Relations- Spirit Team.

*Olympic Games, Montreal- 1976, U.S. Men’s Sculling Coach.

*University of Southern California-1972-1975, Men’s Rowing Coach.

*Pan-American Games, Cali, Columbia-1971, Double Sculls- Bronze Medal.

*Olympic Games, Mexico-1968, Double Sculls- Bronze Medal.

*Pan American Games, Winnipeg-1967, Single Scull-Silver Medal.

*European Championships, Vichy France-1967, Double Sculls-Sixth Place.

*National Collegiate Champion Varsity Eight- IRA Regatta-1962 and 1963, Cornell University.

Listen In And Watch My Father As He Talks About His Experience While Rowing And Racing In High Altitude At The 1968 Mexico City Summer Olympic Games

Listen In And Watch My Father Talk About His First Win Ever At The Prestigious 2011 Head Of The Charles Regatta At Age 69!!! He Was Racing With His Former 1964 Cornell Collegiate Teammates. Living The Dream And A Testament To The Sport Of Rowing… A Sport You Can Participate In For Your Whole Life 🙂

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Jack Nunn

Jack Nunn is the head trainer and owner of Roworx. Jack is a former national team rower who has competed in more than 100 triathlons, including 9 full Ironmans. He has created a system of rowing that prepares the whole body for both competition and fitness longevity.

Ready to Start Training for Your First Triathlon?

Download the Top 10 Essential Tips for Your First Triathlon for Free.