Henry Robert “Bobby” Pearce (1905-1976) made his name as a world-class athlete. He won the gold medal in the single sculls in the Summer Olympics in 1928 and 1932, as well as being a three-time winner of the World Sculling Championship. He also had a well-earned reputation for being a genuinely nice guy — a reputation attested to by human and animal, alike.
In the midst of the quarter-final in sculling during the 1928 Olympics, Pearce was enjoying an almost-thirty-second lead over the next-closest opponent. At this point, as Pearce described, it:
“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 shore to shore. It’s funny now, but it wasn’t at the time for I had to lean on my oars and wait for a clear course…”
Pearce could, in fact, have simply plowed through the ducks, but he chose to stop and let his little, feathered friends pass safely by.
The fellow in second place, Frenchman Vincent Saurin, was less concerned about the ducks and used the opportunity to catch up and surpass Pearce. He was five lengths in the lead by the time Pearce began rowing again.
With 1,000 meters to go in the race, Pearce caught up to Saurin, passed him, and managed to cross the finish line in first place, almost thirty seconds ahead of Saurin. Pearce won the applause and admiration of all in attendance, including that of the ducks.