Claude Saunders

Claude Saunders

2016 Inductee

  • CategoryBuilder
  • Place of BirthHamilton, ON

Born in 1912 in Hamilton, Ontario, Claude Saunders (affectionately called Sandy), was instrumental in cultivating and championing the sport of rowing in Canada.

Saunders played many roles within the Canadian rowing community throughout his long and storied life.

His involvement with the sport began as a member of his local Leander Boat Club, where he stroked the men’s eight crews to national titles in both 1934 and 1935.

Saunders later went on to represent Canada at the 1936 and 1948 Olympic Games while winning a number of Royal Canadian Henley titles in the interim.

Following his retirement as an athlete, he was elected president of the Leander Boat Club and helped to rebuild and expand the club’s reach following the difficult years after the Second World War. 

Saunders also encouraged the development of local rowing programs throughout the country, within both club and school settings. This was facilitated by his involvement and close association with the Canadian Secondary School Rowing Association, as well as through his presidency of the Canadian Amateur Rowing Association, formerly known as the Canadian Association of Amateur Oarsmen.

Remaining involved with elite rowing, Saunders managed the 1960 Olympic rowing team, in addition to managing the 1978 and 1979 World Championship rowing teams.

Closer to home, the Hamilton native chaired the Royal Canadian Henley Regatta for over 40 years, helping to turn the local event into a multi-day international regatta. He also advocated for the inclusion of women in sport, incorporating their events directly into the rowing festival instead of relegating them to a separate regatta.

The rowing pioneer can also lay claim to being Canada’s first umpire licensed by FISA, the International Rowing Federation. Saunders is also one of only three honorary officers of Rowing Canada Aviron, as well as being a past president of the organization. 

Rowing was an integral part of Saunders’ life and he was relentless in his pursuit of building and promoting the sport in this country.

Canada’s Sports Hall of Fame | Panthéon des sports canadiens
Object ID: 983.34.1.1

Career Highlights

  • Competed for Canada at the 1936 and 1948 Olympics
  • Managed the 1960 Canadian Olympic team and the 1978 and 1979 Canadian World Championship teams
  • Chaired the Royal Canadian Henley Regatta for 40 years
  • Became Canada’s first FISA licensed referee