Better known to his friends as ‘Wally’, William Kinnear was an outstanding Olympic champion rower and the world’s best single sculler before his sporting career was cut short by war.
Born in 1880 in Marykirk, Aberdeenshire, the young Wally left home to begin a career as a draper in London. He was introduced to sculling by colleagues at the age of 22 – and a star was born.
Just one year after taking up the sport, he won the 1903 West End Amateur Rowing Association’s sculling championship, going on to repeat his success in 1904 and 1905. Over the next few years he joined Kensington Rowing Club and won multiple championships on the River Thames, including the Diamond Challenge Sculls at Henley Royal Regatta.
In 1911 he beat Eric Powell to win the Diamond, regained his Wingfield Sculls title, and won the London Cup at the Metropolitan Regatta – scooping the equivalent of sculling's Triple Crown. His only Olympic appearance came in Stockholm in 1912, where he comfortably took the gold medal in the single sculls. Later that year he won his third successive Wingfield Sculls.
When World War I broke out, Wally gave up his sporting career to serve with the Royal Naval Air Service. Afterwards, he served as a successful coach, helping other enthusiasts realise and develop their talent. He died in Leicester in 1974 aged 93.
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