The first round of the single sculls and eights and the semi-finals of the double sculls were held on Friday, 27 August. The only minor surprise in round one was that Max Schmid (SUI) did not advance. He was 1920 European Champion. But the favorites were Jack Beresford, Jr., who had won the Diamond Sculls in 1920, Hadfield d’Arcy, who had won the singles at the 1919 Inter-Allied Games, and Jack Kelly, who had won the U.S. National Championship in the single sculls in 1919 and 1920.
Kelly had been denied entry to the 1920 Diamond Sculls, and the usual description of this denial is that the stewards at Henley denied his entry on the grounds that his profession, bricklaying, made him a laborer and not a true amateur. Actually, the denial was because Henley would not accept an entry from his club, the Vesper Boat Club of Philadelphia, because of alleged professionalism among the club when they last competed in 1905. Jack Kelly is considered the greatest sculler ever produced in the United States, and his children also became quite well known. His son, Jack, Jr., also competed in the Olympics, from 1948-60, winning a bronze medal in the 1956 single sculls. His daughter, Grace Kelly, became a model and a famous movie star in the 1950s, before leaving her career to marry Prince Grimaldi of Monaco, becoming Princess Grace.
Awaiting Kelly in the final was the man usually considered the greatest sculler ever produced in Britain, Jack Beresford. Antwerp was Beresford’s first Olympic appearance, but he competed through 1936, winning five medals in all: singles silver in 1920, singles gold in 1924, eights silver in 1928, coxless fours gold in 1932, and double sculls gold in 1936. At Henley, Beresford won the Diamond Sculls four times (1920, 1924-26), the Nickalls Challenge Cup in coxless pairs in 1928-29, and the Double Sculls Challenge Cup in 1939. He also won the Wingfield Sculls for seven consecutive years, beginning in 1920.
Kelly defeated d’Arcy in the semi-finals in a close race, not pulling away until 50 metres from the finish, while Beresford had an easier time of it with Holland’s Frits Eyken. The much-awaited final did not disappoint. Beresford took the early lead and held it until a few hundred metres from the finish when Kelly caught him and held on to win by one second. The Field noted that the final was one of the greatest sculling races ever contested.