There were no particularly obvious favorites in the double sculls event at the 1956 Summer Olympics. The reigning European Champions from the Soviet Union, Aleksandr Berkutov and Yury Tyukalov, were definitely in contention, but so were British brothers Sidney and Bill Rand, winners of the 1956 Double Sculls Challenge Cup at the Henley Royal Regatta (then the equivalent of a World Championship), and Murray Riley and Merv Wood of Australia, the reigning British Empire and Commonwealth champions. Finally, the United States, represented in Melbourne by Detroit Boat Club members Pat Costello and Jim Gardiner, could never be ignored in the double sculls.
The Soviet Union dominated the opening round, while the United States won its heat handily. Australia and the German duo of Thomas Schneider and Kurt Hipper, who had been runners-up at the most recent European Championships, came out on top in the repêchage and joined the two world superpowers in the final. There, the Germans took an early lead, but were quickly passed by the Americans, who were in turn overtaken by the Soviet Union before the halfway mark. The duo from the USSR never relinquished from that point on and captured gold over eight seconds ahead of the United States, who settled for silver. The Australians, meanwhile, gradually overtook the tiring Germans and secured a bronze medal. Riley and Wood were both police officers at the time, but their futures would take decidedly different paths: Wood went on to become the New South Wales Police Commissioner, but eventually had to step down due to his association with Riley, who served many years in jail for major drug-related offenses.