Bruce Ibbetson

May 12, 2003

Richard Dunn

The void created by the U.S. Olympic boycott of the 1980 Moscow Games

still lives for the men's eight-man sweeps of the U.S. rowing team

that year.

The same crew, which includes stroke Bruce Ibbetson, gets together

every autumn for the Head of the Charles regatta in Boston as an

annual reunion.


"It truly is [a bond with the other crew members]," said Ibbetson,

a Newport Heights resident. "It's a great group of guys. And no one

can cut you. You're already in the history books. You've got your

seat for life."

While Ibbetson was able to continue his rowing career after

missing out on the '80 Games, it was the end of the road for many


"No matter what country it is, politics should play a distant

second to the athletes [during the Olympic Games]," Ibbetson said.

"The politics side of the boycott meant nothing and, in fact, proved

to be meaningless ... it ended some careers and changed the sporting

world to a large degree."

With the understanding that all are vulnerable, Ibbetson and the

U.S. eight, just like in '80, squared off against Eastern Bloc giants

Russia and East Germany prior to the 1984 Los Angeles Games. The

Americans beat both countries in a pre-Olympic regatta in Grunau,

Germany, then captured the silver medal in the Olympics, becoming the

first U.S. eight to earn an Olympic medal in 20 years.

As it turned out, Ibbetson was the only member of the 1980

eight-man sweeps to make the team in '84.

"[Winning the '84 silver medal] was definitely a significant

moment, but there were others that were also noteworthy, like beating

Russia and East Germany in East Germany in 1984," Ibbetson said, when

asked about highlights of his rowing career, which included competing

on the national team from 1977 through '84 and a four-year career at

UC Irvine, where he began rowing. Ibbetson was the first former

Anteater rower to be inducted into the UCI Hall of Fame and was part

of only the school's second Hall of Fame class (1984).

A 1975 UCI graduate, Ibbetson played water polo and basketball,

and competed in swimming in the spring, at Tustin High. Then, he was

introduced as a freshman to UCI head rowing coach Bob Ernst and

freshman coach Stu Gibson.

"It was a fun challenge for me at the time," Ibbetson said. "I had

gotten bored with swimming and I was only 6-foot-2, so I was not very

big for basketball. Rowing was there and I gave it a try and the rest

is in the history books now."

Ibbetson, who continued to train in Newport Harbor and the Back

Bay while attending graduate school at UCI, spent most of his career

rowing in the eights, the fastest boat in a regatta. "It's kind of

like a big machine," Ibbetson once said. "It's the flagship of the

whole Olympic rowing program and it's a fun boat when you make it go


Ibbetson later served on the board of directors for Newport

Aquatic Center and served as the board's president for three years in

the early stages of the Back Bay facility, which opened to the public

in 1987. "I think it has been a huge success for the community,"

Ibbetson said of NAC.

Ibbetson, the latest honoree in the Daily Pilot Sports Hall of

Fame, is part owner of a commercial real estate investment company.

He and his wife of 20 years, Joyce, have two daughters: Casey, 16,

and Robin, 14.

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