John Nunn Named To The 2nd Annual Aquatic Capital 2017 Hall Of Fame

Last week, the Aquatic Capital of America committee held its second Hall of Fame ceremony. The ACOA has run an annual awards banquet since its inception seven years ago, and added a Hall of Fame last year as a way to create permanent, separate recognition for the great water athletes from throughout the city’s history. Read More Here
“I have a list of probably 40 athletes that deserve to be inducted,” said ACOA president Rich Foster. “This city is so steeped with aquatic athletes that we just can’t do all of them at once.”

John Nunn was one of the 15 inductees selected in it’s 2nd year awarding some of the best athletes in Long Beach and the world in aquatic sports. John Nunn began rowing during his freshman year at Cornell University 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.

John 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 John Nunn 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. John Nunn 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 John Nunn 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 . John Nunn 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.

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