“The Man Who Stopped For Ducks”


Henry Pearce – “Bobby” to his friends – was destined to be a champion rower.

Bobby had the family background for rowing. His father and grandfather were both Australian champion rowers, with Bobby’s dad even representing Australia in the world championships in 1911 and 1913.

So it was no surprise when Bobby Pearce entered a rowing race at the age of six and finished second. What was a surprise was that the race was for fifteen and sixteen year olds!

Bobby earned selection for the Australian team in the 1928 Amsterdam Olympic Games – and even carried the Australian flag the opening ceremony. At well over six feet tall and close to 100kgs of muscle – Bobby was one of the favourites for the gold medal in the single sculls race.

The Australian rower won his opening two races with ease. It was in his third race, the quarter final against the French rower – that something happened that became front page news around the world. Bobby Pearce was comfortably leading the race, and here’s what happened next… in Bobby’s own words: “I had beaten a German and a Dane in earlier heats and I was racing a Frenchman when I heard wild roars from the crowd along the bank of the canal. I could see some spectators vigorously pointing to something behind me, in my path. I peeked over one shoulder and saw something I didn’t like, for a family of ducks in single file was swimming slowly from (one side of the) shore to the other, and they were in my lane.

It’s funny now, but it wasn’t at the time for I had to lean on my oars (and stop my boat) and wait for a clear course, and all the while my opponent was pulling away to a five length lead.”

Bobby let the ducks with their little ducklings pass safely and then he started to row again, trying to chase down his competitor. In an amazing effort that would have been considered impossible for anyone else, Bobby caught and then passed the Frenchman. Bobby won the race in a time faster than the three other quarter finals.

Bobby’s kindness towards a family of ducks made front page news around the world.

Bobby Pearce would win his next two races and the Gold Medal for Australia in those  1928 Olympics – and he won in a record time that wouldn’t be beaten for another 34 years.

This story from Olympic sporting annals is a wonderful illustration of the simple act of kindness.

Success in any field doesn’t have to be at the expense of care and concern for others in God’s creation. The world may say a soft heart always finishes second, but it’s not true. There is a way to win without wounding.

The story of Bobby Pearce stopping for ducks proves it.

“When God our Saviour revealed his kindness and love to us he saved us, not because of the righteous things we had done, but because of his mercy. The Lord has washed away our sins, giving us a new birth and new life through the Holy Spirit. He generously poured out the Spirit upon us through Jesus Christ our Saviour.” (Titus 3:4-6)


About this blog: Pastor David Riley is a minister of the Seventh-day Adventist Church and lives on the Gold Coast in Australia. This article is from his “Reverential Ramblings” series – which you can subscribe to by clicking “follow” on this website.

Want to read more inspirational stories of faith from this series? Click here to read what the Duke of Wellington can teach us about taking Communion.David speaking 2

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