Rangi (or Fred, as he is sometimes known in the record books) Thompson was one of New Zealand’s leading sportsmen of the early 1930s.
He began rowing as a teenager in 1926 and it wasn’t long before he attracted the eye of the national selectors. At the 1930 Hamilton Empire Games (the inaugural Empire Games), Thompson was a member of the New Zealand eight that won a silver medal behind Britain.
Two years later Thompson and his Avon clubmate Bob Stiles, who were to win three national pairs titles together, rowed outstandingly to win the silver medal at the 1932 Los Angeles Olympics.
They finished second in their heat of the pairs and in the final could well have won the gold.
With 600m remaining, they had pulled away from the Polish and Dutch teams and were putting pressure on leaders Great Britain. Then a stay on the stroke rigger broke. The New Zealand boat swung around immediately off its course and the stay dragged in the water.
Under the circumstances, the New Zealanders did well to get within half a length of the winners.
The silver medal won by Stiles and Thompson was New Zealand’s first at an Olympics. The New Zealand coxless four won the next, 40 years later.
Thompson continued rowing throughout the 1930s and helped the New Zealand eight take the bronze medal at the 1938 Sydney Empire Games.
Before the World War II, Thompson worked in the Wilson tanneries in Christchurch. But he had an industrial accident and lost an arm. Afterwards he became a greengrocer in High Street, Christchurch.
Thompson, always extremely popular, maintained strong links with the Avon Rowing Club, as a coach and supporter. He coached the Gould brothers who won a silver medal in the pairs at the 1950 Auckland Empire Games.
Thompson came from a sports-minded family – his brother Robert was a long-time Canterbury rugby representative. Rangi played senior rugby for Linwood for many seasons.
He died in 1971, leaving his rowing medals to the Avon club.