Log In

Reset Password

Butterfield full of admiration for Pearson

Jim Butterfield felt “like a lamb to the slaughter” before his Olympic debut — but believes Shelley Pearson is ready for her Rio test after a far more varied rowing eduction.

Butterfield is a close friend of Shelley's father Kevin Pearson, a former Bermuda Half-Marathon Derby winner, and has taken a keen interest in her sporting exploits since she first took up the oars at the age of 15.

Shortly after winning her qualification competition in Curauma, Chile, in March, Pearson sought advice from Butterfield — the only other Bermudian Olympic rower.

By his own admission, Butterfield, was a “rank amateur” and admits he is unsure whether he was able to offer Pearson too many pearls of wisdom.

“When Shelley started college and did some rowing I started to take a bit of interest in it,” Butterfield said.

“I'm sure she thought: ‘My dad's friend Jim did this and went to the Olympics'.

“She has taken what I did and done four times better, and I really admire what she's done.

“I don't know if I can give Shelley too many words of advice. It was so long ago and she's on a much better platform.”

Butterfield was still at Northeastern University when he qualified for the 1972 Munich Games, having to win an event in Philadelphia on Independence Day, and had the good fortune of being classmates with Jim Dietz, one of the top rowers in the United States at the time.

Dietz was a far more accomplished rower than Butterfield and yet was not considered a medal contender, leaving the Bermudian under no illusions of the gulf in qualifying that awaited him in Bavaria.

“I've always admitted if I was American, Canadian or British I wouldn't have gone to Munich,” Butterfield said.

“The only thing I had in my favour was that Jim Dietz was the best in the United States and I got to train with him everyday.

“Jim had told me the year before that he was racing to get into the final and knowing how much better he was than me, I knew I was a lamb to the slaughter.

“I think I was eighteenth out of 21 countries, so it wasn't like, ‘Look out, Jim is coming'.

“It's very different for Shelley as she's raced in world-class events. She's so much more professional than I was.”

Butterfield's memories of Munich evoke very different emotions.

Only the second Olympics to be held in Germany after the 1936 Games, which took place under the Nazi regime, there was an eagerness to promote a new, democratic and optimistic Germany.

Butterfield vividly recalls the warmth and friendliness of the German people, as well as the camaraderie of the Bermudian team that included boxer Roy Johnson and top sailors Penny Simmons and Jordy Walker.

However, the Games were overshadowed by the “Munich massacre” when a group of eight Palestinian terrorists broke into the Olympic Village and killed 11 Israeli athletes and coaches.

Butterfield had already left the village and watched the tragedy unfold from a television screen in Bonn, where he had travelled with a friend after the completion of his event.

“I have fond memories of the Bermuda team and the Germans were so accommodating, and that's what was so disastrous about it all,” Butterfield said.

“The security was very lax as they were trying to accommodate and be friendly and nice to everyone.

“We used to come and go through the security in the car and just wave to the guys, but then it all changed in a hurry.

“The Israelis were very close to the Bermuda team [in the village] and by the time it all fell apart I'd left the village.”

Butterfield flirted with the idea of trying to qualify for the Montreal Games in 1976 in cycling, eventually taking up triathlon and becoming one of the founding fathers of the sport in Bermuda.

His son Tyler followed him into triathlon, competing at the Athens Olympics in 2004 and London Games in 2012, before making the Hawaii Ironman World Championships, a longer-distance event, his top priority.

“I'm sorry Tyler is not in it, but he's done two of them,” said Butterfield, who finished seventh at the world championships in 1981 when the sport was still in its infancy.

“It's a case of breaking his training and it's how he makes a living. He has to do what the sponsors want to him do.”

Bermuda will be represented in triathlon in Rio by medal hopeful Flora Duffy, another athlete Butterfield will be following closely.

“Flora deserves it, she learnt a lesson in Beijing [when she failed to finish] and had a mishap on the bike in London,” he said.

“Hopefully with all the experience behind her something special can happen for her.”

Founding father: Butterfield will be closely monitoring Pearson's performances in Rio

You must be Registered or to post comment or to vote.

Published August 06, 2016 at 9:00 am (Updated August 06, 2016 at 12:31 am)

Butterfield full of admiration for Pearson

What you
Need to
1. For a smooth experience with our commenting system we recommend that you use Internet Explorer 10 or higher, Firefox or Chrome Browsers. Additionally please clear both your browser's cache and cookies - How do I clear my cache and cookies?
2. Please respect the use of this community forum and its users.
3. Any poster that insults, threatens or verbally abuses another member, uses defamatory language, or deliberately disrupts discussions will be banned.
4. Users who violate the Terms of Service or any commenting rules will be banned.
5. Please stay on topic. "Trolling" to incite emotional responses and disrupt conversations will be deleted.
6. To understand further what is and isn't allowed and the actions we may take, please read our Terms of Service
7. To report breaches of the Terms of Service use the flag icon