Imagine, a guy mortgaging his home to live a dream. That’s what rower Brian Peaker did in 1996 and the result was an Olympic medal and a boatload of honour for the city of London.
Funding from Sport Canada at the time was barely enough to buy Kraft Dinner for Canada’s Olympians. Our athletes had to leave their places of employment to attend training camps or take part in pre-Olympic tournaments which were usually held in far-off countries.
Brian needed $20,000 to pay the mound of bills that were accumulating before embarking on a trip to the Summer Games in Atlanta. In addition to training expenses, he had a wife and family to support. So mortaging his home was one way to ease the strain.
He received a hero’s welcome upon his return to London with a silver medal hanging from his neck. Supporters in London responded by holding a fundraiser spearheaded by the London Rowing Club. Stories of sacrifices by our athletes are commonplace but Brian’s experience was one of exceptional determination by a young man with an abundance of talent and a dream.
Brian Ronald Peaker was born in London on May 28, 1959, the youngest of three brothers and a younger sister. He played football and basketball at Beck Collegiate as did his older brother Ken.
It was as 16-year-old at Beck that Mike Murphy of the London Rowing Club introduced him to the sport of rowing. Indoor training led to workouts on the Thames River including what was called “the barge” – four oarsmen on each side and the coach walking down the middle of the boat between the rowers.
Brian was hooked. It was the start of a brilliant career on the water that included an early gold medal while a member of the London Rowing Club 4’s at the famed Henley Regatta in St. Catharines.
Brian continued to row for the London Rowing Club for the next few years. When he became aware of the Canadian National team he bought a single scull: One of the first made by the Hudson Boat Works and started to train diligently always with one goal in mind. That was in 1982. Three years later Brian made the National team in the 4-man and represented Canada for the first time, placing 5th in the World championships held in Belgium.
Brian’s training and education turned around in 1992 when future Olympic coach Volker Nolte became involved in the national program and put together a good 8-man crew for the 1992 World championship. They finished fourth that year, but then won gold in 1993 in the Czech Republic. This would prove to be the foundation for the formation of the 1996 Olympic lightweight crew that won silver in Atlanta.
The other members on the Canadian boat were Jeff Lay, Dave Boyes and Gavin Hasett.
Brian has remained active in the London community coaching high school rowers at Lucas Secondary School where the team included daughter Laura. And he was also president of the London Rowing Club for four years where he coached Olympic gold medalist Adam Kreek who was inducted into the London Sports Hall of Fame in 2014.
Brian has also been an accomplished runner having completed two trips to the Boston Marathon and winning gold in the 45-49 category at the 2008 World Ironman triathlon in Lake Placid, New York. Other triathlon competitions included the famed Ironman event in Hawaii.
Oarsman, coach, ironman superb … that’s Brian Peaker. The London Sports Hall of Fame is honoured to welcome him in the Athlete Modern category.