Rower John B. Kelly gets unique double in Antwerp

Sculpture of John B. Kelly, on Kelly Drive in Philadelphia. Sculpture 1965 by Harry Rosin (1897-1973). John B. Kelly was a 3-time Olympic gold medalist in rowing, successful Philadelphia brick layer and brick yard owner, and father of Grace Kelly, movie actress, aka Princess Grace of Monaco.

By Phil Minshull, Special to Universal Sports

John B. Kelly’s place in Olympic and rowing history was assured after he won both the single sculls and double sculls at the 1920 Olympic Games in Antwerp.

It’s a unique feat that had never been achieved before and never been equaled since.

Even more remarkably, the Philadelphia bricklayer got both gold medals within an hour.

In the single sculls, with Kelly looking for revenge after famously being refused an entry to the Henley Regatta partly because he was a manual laborer, he had to battle with the Great Britain’s Jack Beresford all the way to the line

Only a second separated them after 2km of rowing and accounts of the race tell of the pair being so exhausted at the end that they were unable to shake hands.

Nevertheless, it was an encounter that lead to a lifelong friendship despite Kelly having been previously snubbed by the English rowing fraternity.

Barely 30 minutes later, Kelly had recovered enough to team up with Paul Costello in the double sculls, a victory that proved slightly more comfortable as they won by 10 seconds from their Italian rivals.

Four years later, Kelly concentrated his energies on the double sculls and again triumphed in tandem with Costello to become the first rower to win three Olympic gold medals.

Two of Kelly’s four children were also to gain worldwide fame.

His son John B. Kelly, Jr. competed as a rower in four Olympics and later became President of the United States Olympic Committee while his daughter Grace Kelly was a renowned actress before marrying into royalty and becoming the Princess of Monaco.

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