Though Peter Dignan had only a short international rowing career, he left his mark on the New Zealand scene.
In 1975, aged only 20, he was part of the New Zealand eight that won a bronze medal at the world championships in Nottingham, and the following year he was a member of the eight that won an Olympic bronze medal at Montreal.
The New Zealand eight that went to Montreal – Ivan Sutherland, Trevor Coker, Dignan, Lindsay Wilson, Athol Earl, Dave Rodger, Alec McLean, Tony Hurt and cox Simon Dickie – had a lot on their shoulders because they were defending the crown won so magnificently in Munich four years earlier.
The 1976 eight was well-regarded, even if they hadn’t been as dominant as the gold-medal winning team of 1972. Five of the 1976 edition – Coker, Wilson, Earl, Hurt and Dickie – had won gold medals in Munich.
At Montreal, the New Zealanders didn’t get the start they were after when they were beaten by Australia in their heat. However, they rowed well in their repecharge, beating Germany and the Soviet Union, and recorded the third-fastest time of the finalists.
As coach Robertson wanted, they were away quickly in the final and by the 500m mark had opened a one-second lead. After that things got tougher and they were pulled in first by Britain and then by eventual winners East Germany, and had to settle for the bronze medal.
Dignan was born in Gibraltar in 1955 to a former Berlin airlift pilot. His father later entered the diplomatic corps, and as a result, Dignan spent a lot of time outside of his parents' native New Zealand. He subsequently relocated to Auckland, New Zealand, where he attended and boarded at King's College, becoming a house prefect.
He subsequently participated in surf boat tests internationally, racing for New Zealand, including a “rebel” tour to South Africa. He retired undefeated. Dignan also played rugby.
He worked on a freight forwarding company at Auckland airport, then moved to Sydney in the mid-1990s and took up a position as a history teacher at Sydney Grammar School. Once in Sydney, he became involved in coaching rowing.
Dignan's son Matthew is also a representative rower, and was chosen for the Australian under-19 coxed four.
Peter's Games History
Olympic Summer Games Montreal 1976