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Mervyn Wood

Mervyn Wood

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Mervyn Thomas (Merv) Wood, LVO, MBE, QPM
Queen's Police Medal
The Queen's Police Medal is awarded to police officers in the United Kingdom and Commonwealth for gallantry or distinguished service. Recipients may use the post-nominal letters "QPM", although the right to use these was only granted officially on 20 July 1969...

 (30 April 191719 August 2006) was an Australia
Australia
Australia , officially the Commonwealth of Australia, is a country in the Southern Hemisphere comprising the mainland of the Australian continent, the island of Tasmania, and numerous smaller islands in the Indian and Pacific Oceans. It is the world's sixth-largest country by total area...

n rower
Sport rowing
Rowing is a sport in which athletes race against each other on rivers, on lakes or on the ocean, depending upon the type of race and the discipline. The boats are propelled by the reaction forces on the oar blades as they are pushed against the water...

 of the 1930s, 1940s and 1950s. He was a four-time Olympian and three-time Olympic medalist. He later rose to become the Police Commissioner of the New South Wales Police Force.

Biography


Wood was the youngest of four children born in Kensington, New South Wales
Kensington, New South Wales
Kensington is a suburb in south-eastern Sydney, in the state of New South Wales, Australia. Kensington is located 6 kilometres south-east of the Sydney central business district, in the local government area of the City of Randwick, in the Eastern Suburbs region...

. His father Thomas Wood had emigrated to Australia and entered the Police Force in 1905. Wood grew up in Randwick
Randwick, New South Wales
Randwick is a suburb in south-eastern Sydney, in the state of New South Wales, Australia. Randwick is located 6 kilometres south-east of the Sydney central business district and is the administrative centre for the local government area of the City of Randwick...

 and attended Sydney Boys High School
Sydney Boys High School
Sydney Boys High School is an academically selective public secondary school for boys, located in the City of Sydney, Sydney, New South Wales, Australia, with 1,180 students, from years 7 to 12...

, where he represented his school in Rugby Union
Rugby union
Rugby union, often simply referred to as rugby, is a full contact team sport which originated in England in the early 19th century. One of the two codes of rugby football, it is based on running with the ball in hand...

, swimming and most successfully, rowing.

Following High School graduation, Wood became a Police Cadet and rowed for the New South Wales Police Rowing Club. The police team was selected to represent Australia at the 1936 Summer Olympics
1936 Summer Olympics
The 1936 Summer Olympics, officially known as the Games of the XI Olympiad, was an international multi-sport event which was held in 1936 in Berlin, Germany. Berlin won the bid to host the Games over Barcelona, Spain on April 26, 1931, at the 29th IOC Session in Barcelona...

 in Berlin. At the age of 19 years old, Wood appeared in his first Olympics. His boat was eliminated in the repechage
Repechage
Repechage is a practice amongst ladder competitions that allows participants that failed to meet qualifying standards by a small margin to continue to the next round.- Types of repechage :...

 and did not make the final.

Upon his return, Wood made police constable. After the majority of his crew retired, Wood took up sculling
Sculling
Sculling generally refers to a method of using oars to propel watercraft in which the oar or oars touch the water on both the port and starboard sides of the craft, or over the stern...

. He worked in the police force in the Criminal Investigation Branch, and in 1944 joined the Royal Australian Air Force
Royal Australian Air Force
The Royal Australian Air Force is the air force branch of the Australian Defence Force. The RAAF was formed in March 1921. It continues the traditions of the Australian Flying Corps , which was formed on 22 October 1912. The RAAF has taken part in many of the 20th century's major conflicts...

 as a navigator.

After the end of World War II
World War II
World War II, or the Second World War , was a global conflict lasting from 1939 to 1945, involving most of the world's nations—including all of the great powers—eventually forming two opposing military alliances: the Allies and the Axis...

, Wood won State and National Championships in 1946, 1947 and 1948 and was selected to represent Australia in the single scull
Single scull
A single scull is a rowing boat used in the sport of competitive rowing. It is designed for a single person who propels the boat with two oars, one in each hand....

 at the 1948 Summer Olympics
1948 Summer Olympics
The 1948 Summer Olympics, officially known as the Games of the XIV Olympiad, were an international multi-sport event which was held in London, England, United Kingdom. After a 12-year hiatus because of World War II, these were the first Summer Olympics since the 1936 Games in Berlin...

 in London. Wood traveled to London ahead of the rest of the team and won the Diamond Challenge Sculls
Diamond Challenge Sculls
The Diamond Challenge Sculls is a rowing event for men's single sculls at the annual Henley Royal Regatta on the River Thames at Henley-on-Thames in England...

 event at the Henley Royal Regatta
Henley Royal Regatta
Henley Royal Regatta is a rowing event held every year on the River Thames by the town of Henley-on-Thames, England. The Royal Regatta is sometimes referred to as Henley Regatta, its original name pre-dating Royal patronage...

, beating Bert Bushnell
Bert Bushnell
Bertram "Bert" Harold Thomas Bushnell was a British rower who competed in the 1948 Summer Olympics....

 in the final. At the Olympics, Wood won all of his races handily including the final, which he won by 14 seconds. Wood celebrated by smoking his pipe - he was a lifelong smoker who only put aside the habit for the Olympics.

Wood went on to win the national single scull championship a record seven straight times, winning in 1949, 1950, 1951 and 1952 . At the 1950 British Empire Games
1950 British Empire Games
The 1950 British Empire Games was the fourth edition of what is now called the Commonwealth Games. It was held in Auckland, New Zealand between the 4th and 11th of February 1950, after a 12-year gap from the 3rd edition of the games...

 he won the single scull and with compatriot Murray Riley
Murray Riley
Murray Stewart Riley is an Australian rower who competed in the 1952 Summer Olympics and in the 1956 Summer Olympics.In 1952 he and his partner John Rogers were eliminated in the semi-final repechage of the double sculls event....

 the double scull. As the 1948 Olympic Champion, Wood was awarded the Philadelphia Challenge Cup as the best amateur sculler in the world, which Wood defended in 1950 defeating John B. Kelly, Jr.
John B. Kelly, Jr.
John Brendan Kelly, Jr. , also known as Kell Kelly or Jack Kelly, was an accomplished oarsman, a four-time Olympian, and an Olympic medal winner. He was also the son of triple Olympic gold medal winner John B. Kelly, Sr. In 1947, Kelly was awarded the James E...

 and Anthony Rowe
Anthony Rowe
Antony Duncan Rowe was an English rower who competed for Great Britain at the 1948 Summer Olympics and won the Diamond Challenge Sculls at Henley Royal Regatta in 1950...

 in a match race in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.

Wood represented Australia in the single scull event at the 1952 Summer Olympics
1952 Summer Olympics
The 1952 Summer Olympics, officially known as the Games of the XV Olympiad, were an international multi-sport event held in Helsinki, Finland in 1952. Helsinki had been earlier given the 1940 Summer Olympics, which were cancelled due to World War II...

 in Helsinki
Helsinki
Helsinki is the capital and largest city in Finland. It is in the region of Uusimaa, located in southern Finland, on the shore of the Gulf of Finland, an arm of the Baltic Sea. The population of the city of Helsinki is , making it by far the most populous municipality in Finland. Helsinki is...

, where he was honored by being selected to carry the Australian flag at the opening ceremony. On the journey to Finland, Wood stopped in England and repeated his victory at the Henley Royal Regatta in the Diamond Challenge Sculls, beating Tony Fox
Tony Fox
Thomas Anthony Fox was a doctor and rower who competed for Great Britain at the 1952 Summer Olympics and at the 1956 Summer Olympics. He won the Diamond Challenge Sculls and the Wingfield Sculls....

 in the final. Wood was a favorite to win the single scull at the Olympics, but lost the final by 1.7 seconds to the USSR's Yuri Tyukalov
Yuri Tyukalov
Yuri Sergeevich Tyukalov was an Olympic Champion Rower who competed for the USSR. He was born in Leningrad.Tyukalov trained at VSS Trud in Leningrad...

 with Poland’s Teodor Kocerka
Teodor Kocerka
Teodor Kocerka was a Polish rower who competed in the 1952 Summer Olympics, in the 1956 Summer Olympics, and in the 1960 Summer Olympics.He was born in Bydgoszcz and died in Warsaw....

 finishing third. Although he never offered it as an excuse, as a child, Wood had injured his arm which occasionally caused him distress while rowing including during the summer of 1952. This may have affected his performance at the games, but Wood also faced far stiffer competition than in the 1948 games, which were held shortly after World War II, and his main rival Tyukalov would prove to be one of the best oarsmen of his generation.

At the 1954 British Empire and Commonwealth Games
1954 British Empire and Commonwealth Games
The 1954 British Empire and Commonwealth Games were held in Vancouver, in the province of British Columbia in Canada, from 30 July-7 August 1954. These were the first games since the name change from British Empire Games took effect in 1952....

 in Vancouver, Wood rowed in both the coxless four and the double scull events. The finals were separated by only 45 minutes, and Wood won gold medals in both events.

In 1956 Wood lost the national sculling title to teenager Stuart Mackenzie
Stuart MacKenzie
Stuart MacKenzie is an Australian competition rower and Olympic medalist, who also competed for Great Britain at the 1962 World Championships....

, who was selected ahead of Wood to represent Australia in the single scull at the 1956 Summer Olympics
1956 Summer Olympics
The 1956 Melbourne Summer Olympics, officially known as the Games of the XVI Olympiad, were an international multi-sport event which was held in Melbourne, Australia, in 1956, with the exception of the equestrian events, which could not be held in Australia due to quarantine regulations...

 in Melbourne
Melbourne
Melbourne is the capital and most populous city in the state of Victoria, and the second most populous city in Australia. The Melbourne City Centre is the hub of the greater metropolitan area and the Census statistical division—of which "Melbourne" is the common name. As of June 2009, the greater...

. But Wood and his partner Riley were selected for the double scull. Among others in the final, Wood and Riley faced the Soviet team that included Yuri Tyukalov, who had beaten Wood at the 1952 Games. Tyukalov’s boat again triumphed, an American boat finished second, and Wood’s boat third, giving him a Bronze medal at age 39. Wood was again named the flag-bearer, the only Australian to have twice achieved the honor.

Wood’s final competition was the 1958 British Empire and Commonwealth Games
1958 British Empire and Commonwealth Games
The 1958 British Empire and Commonwealth Games were held in Cardiff, capital of Wales from 18–26 July 1958.Thirty-five nations sent a total of 1,130 athletes and 228 officials to the Cardiff Games and 23 countries and dependencies won medals, including, for the first time, Singapore, Ghana, Kenya...

 in Cardiff
Cardiff
Cardiff is the capital, largest city and most populous county of Wales and the 10th largest city in the United Kingdom. The city is Wales' chief commercial centre, the base for most national cultural and sporting institutions, the Welsh national media, and the seat of the National Assembly for...

, where teaming with Stuart Mackenzie
Stuart MacKenzie
Stuart MacKenzie is an Australian competition rower and Olympic medalist, who also competed for Great Britain at the 1962 World Championships....

 he won silver in the double scull at age 41.

Following his retirement from rowing, Wood returned full-time to his post in the New South Wales Police Force, eventually becoming the Commissioner in 1977. His double scull partner at the 1956 Olympics, Murray Riley
Murray Riley
Murray Stewart Riley is an Australian rower who competed in the 1952 Summer Olympics and in the 1956 Summer Olympics.In 1952 he and his partner John Rogers were eliminated in the semi-final repechage of the double sculls event....

, was also a police officer. After leaving the force, Riley became an international drug smuggler. Wood’s link with Riley and the controversy it generated was a factor in causing him to quit as Commissioner in 1979.

Television crime series, "Underbelly - The Tale of Two Cities", screened in Australia in 2009, portrayed Wood as an extremely corrupt police commissioner who personally knew and protected known crime figures, including George Freeman
George Freeman (bookmaker)
George David Freeman was a Sydney organised crime figure and illegal casino operator. He was linked to the Sydney drug trade during the 1970s and '80s, was named in several Royal Commissions into organised crime and had links with American crime figures...

, Robert Trimbole
Robert Trimbole
Robert Trimbole was an Australian businessman, drug baron and organised crime boss whose alleged involvement in the disappearance of anti-marijuana campaigner Donald Mackay and involvement in drug trafficking in the Griffith, New South Wales area, led to a royal commission, a Coroner's inquest and...

 and Terry Clark.

Wood died in Sydney at age 89.

Olympics

  • 1936
    1936 Summer Olympics
    The 1936 Summer Olympics, officially known as the Games of the XI Olympiad, was an international multi-sport event which was held in 1936 in Berlin, Germany. Berlin won the bid to host the Games over Barcelona, Spain on April 26, 1931, at the 29th IOC Session in Barcelona...

    , eight (8+), did not qualify for finals
  • 1948
    1948 Summer Olympics
    The 1948 Summer Olympics, officially known as the Games of the XIV Olympiad, were an international multi-sport event which was held in London, England, United Kingdom. After a 12-year hiatus because of World War II, these were the first Summer Olympics since the 1936 Games in Berlin...

    , single (1x), Gold
  • 1952
    1952 Summer Olympics
    The 1952 Summer Olympics, officially known as the Games of the XV Olympiad, were an international multi-sport event held in Helsinki, Finland in 1952. Helsinki had been earlier given the 1940 Summer Olympics, which were cancelled due to World War II...

    , single (1x), Silver
  • 1956
    1956 Summer Olympics
    The 1956 Melbourne Summer Olympics, officially known as the Games of the XVI Olympiad, were an international multi-sport event which was held in Melbourne, Australia, in 1956, with the exception of the equestrian events, which could not be held in Australia due to quarantine regulations...

    , double (2x), Bronze

Empire/Commonwealth Games

  • 1950, Single (1x), Gold
  • 1950, Double (2x), Gold
  • 1954, Four w/out (4-), Gold
  • 1954, Double (2x), Gold
  • 1958, Double (2x), Silver

Henley Royal Regatta

  • 1948, Diamond Challenge Sculls, First Place
  • 1952, Diamond Challenge Sculls, First Place

External links


Obituary