Hubbard's Cupboard: Today's double scullers a better marriage than Britain's 1948 chalk-and-cheese duo

The man with incredible tales from past Games
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The Independent Online

Double scullers Bill Lucas and Sam Townsend will be skimming across the lake at Eton Dorney this morning hoping to do what the Brits seem to do best in the Olympics – win medals sitting on their backsides.

They seem a well-balanced pair in their first season together, unlike their predecessors in London's 1948 Games.

It was indeed an odd couple who sought to win Britain's first post-war gold. Richard "Dickie" Desborough Burnell and Bertram "Bertie" Bushnell were a chalk-and-cheese choice one month before the Games, an unlikely combination, thrown together after the Henley Regatta, where Bushnell had lost the final of the Diamond Sculls and was offered a place as partner to Burnell, whose original partner had dropped out.

They were strikingly different in physique: Burnell, 31, 6ft 4in and 14st; Bushnell, 26, 5ft 9in and 11st. There was also a wide gulf in social class. Burnell, Eton-educated, was the rowing correspondent for The Times whose father, C D Burnell, had been an Olympic rowing champion in 1908, while builder's son Bushnell had left school at 14 to become a marine engineering apprentice.

This caused some animosity and Bushnell later admitted "I had a chip on my shoulder. There was tension between us and it came from me being awkward."

However, Bushnell nearly missed the final, held at the Leander Club in Henley, as stewards would not allow him to enter as "I wasn't posh enough". After their win Burnell was to report nonchalantly in The Times: "In the double sculls Bushnell and myself, of Great Britain, won safely from Parsner and Larsen (Denmark) with Uruguay third."

They stood together on the landing stage in their socks for the presentation. There was no podium, no flowers and no ribbon on the medals they were given to save costs.

The Burnells remain the only father and son in Olympic history to have won gold medals in rowing.