Gold didn’t come easy for Olympic rower Duncan Free.
His road to sport’s most prestigious recognition took courage, determination and a patience unwilling to bow to time, frustration or failure. As a result, Duncan is widely regarded as the most talented and well-rounded rower in the large Australian squad’s recent history.
Duncan launched his international rowing career in 1991 as a junior rower. That year, he took home a silver medal in single scull at the Junior World Rowing Championships. Three years later 1994, he made the big jump from junior rowing to senior rowing. After two years of hard work and determination, Duncan stood in the bronze spot on the medal podium in the 1996 Atlanta Summer Olympics.
The bronze medal was evidence that, even at an early point in his career, Duncan demonstrated phenomenal athleticism, impressive power, technical precision and tactical savvy.
Over the course of the next five years, Duncan took home a pair of international medals. He won bronze in double sculls at the 1997 World Championships in Aiguebelette and then another bronze in quadruple sculls at the 1999 world Championships in St. Catharines. He finished a respectable fourth in the single scull at the 2001 World Championships.
After spending more than 10 years competing in sculls, Duncan decided to switch disciplines and compete in sweep events with former scull partner Drew Ginn. The duo quickly became the premier coxless pairs team in the world, winning gold at the 2006 World Championships in Eton and another gold in the 2007 World Championships in Munich.
Duncan and Drew’s efforts also won them the International Crew of the Year award.
The stage was set for Duncan to win the ultimate prize: the gold medal at the 2008 Beijing Summer Olympics. However, time seemed to be against him. Winning gold after 17 years of competition was no small feat.
However, Duncan and Drew continued their domination by beating the field at the Olympics and taking gold in the coxless pair.
Duncan’s prestigious career earned him the Medal of the Order of Australia.