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Conn Findlay, who rowed and sailed his way to four Olympic medals, dies at 90

American rowers Conn Findlay, left, and Edward Ferry compete in the 1964 Tokyo Olympics, where they won gold in the coxed pair. The crew was rounded out by coxswain Kent Mitchell.
American rowers Conn Findlay, left, and Edward Ferry compete in the 1964 Tokyo Olympics, where they won gold in the coxed pair. The crew was rounded out by coxswain Kent Mitchell. (Takeo Tanuma/Sports Illustrated/Getty Images)

Conn Findlay, a four-time Olympic medalist in the sports of rowing and sailing and a member of two winning America’s Cup crews, died April 8 at a care center in San Mateo, Calif. He was 90.

His longtime friend Mike Sullivan, who coaches club rowing at the University of California at Irvine, confirmed the death but did not give a cause.

Mr. Findlay won gold medals in the coxed pair rowing events at the 1956 Melbourne and 1964 Tokyo Olympics and a bronze at the 1960 Rome Games. “It’s said of the event that you need two horses to row a coxed pair. Findlay . . . can pick up a 150-pound outboard in each hand and lug them to the dockside like milk pails,” Sports Illustrated journalist Mort Lund once wrote of the 6-foot-6, 200-pound athlete.

At Montreal in 1976, he competed in sailing and earned a bronze medal in the Tempest two-man keelboat class, crewing for Dennis Conner.

“Conn always raced from behind, tracking the leaders and rowing them down by the finish line,” Kent Mitchell, who teamed with Mr. Findlay at the 1960 and ’64 Games, wrote in an online tribute. “Though competitors knew this and dreaded his finishing assaults, Conn once told me, ‘I never reached the halfway point in a race without serious doubts that I could finish.’ ”

Mr. Findlay was part of the winning America’s Cup crews in 1974 and 1977. The second victory in sailing’s marquee regatta included Ted Turner as the skipper of the yacht Courageous.

In rowing, Mr. Findlay won gold in coxed pair at the 1963 Pan American Games and placed fifth in the event at the 1962 world championships. He was named U.S. Rowing’s Man of the Year in 2007.

Conrad Francis Findlay was born in Stockton, Calif., on April 24, 1930. He rowed at the University of Southern California as a senior in 1953-1954 and earned an MBA from the University of California at Berkeley.

He also served as freshman rowing coach at Stanford and became varsity coach in 1959, holding that position for several years. He was responsible for building the original boathouse on the Palo Alto campus and was later inducted into the National Rowing Hall of Fame.

After coaching, he ran a boat-leasing business and officiated rowing regattas.

Mr. Findlay married Luella Anderson when they were both in their 60s. They traveled widely and bought and restored a boat that they sailed on before her death two years ago. His brother, Bill, who was two years younger, died April 11.

“It was like a race,” said his nephew Will Markle. “They would joke about who was going to finish first.”

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