Date Born/Est
24 May 1927
Date Died/Ceased
02 Mar 1985
Biographical Display
John Brendan Kelly, Jr. (born May 24, 1927, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania – died March 2, 1985, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania), also known as Kell Kelly or Jack Kelly, was an accomplished oarsman, a four-time Olympian, and an Olympic medal winner. He was also the son of triple Olympic gold medal winner John B. Kelly, Sr. In 1947, Kelly was awarded the James E. Sullivan Award as the top amateur athlete in the United States.

Kelly's sister was the movie star Grace Kelly, who became Princess Grace of Monaco, which made him the maternal uncle of Monaco's current monarch Prince Albert II. Kelly's uncle George Kelly was a Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright.
Kelly represented the United States at the 1948 Summer Olympics at London, United Kingdom, the 1952 Summer Olympics in Helsinki, Finland and the 1956 Summer Olympics in Melbourne, Australia in rowing in the single scull (1x). He represented the United States in the double scull (2x) at the 1960 Summer Olympics in Rome. Kelly won a bronze medal at the 1956 Games. He also won the gold medal at the 1955 Pan American Games in Mexico City.

Kelly at Henley

Kelly was the son of John B. Kelly, Sr. who won 2 gold medals at the 1920 Summer Olympics, capturing both the single scull (1x) and the double scull (2x). The senior Kelly repeated his victory in the double scull at the 1924 Summer Olympics. In 1920, despite his accomplishments as an oarsman, the senior Kelly's entry was rejected at the then most prestigious rowing event in the world, the Henley Royal Regatta. According to the minutes of the regatta’s Committee of Management, Kelly was excluded for two reasons: first, because having worked as a bricklayer he was not eligible under the regatta's then rules on amateurism (which excluded anyone "...who is or ever has been ... by trade or employment for wages a mechanic, artisan or labourer") and second because he was a member of Vesper Boat Club which was banned in 1906 after members of their 1905 crew raised money through a public subscription to pay for their travel expenses.[1] Kelly's exclusion was widely reported in newspapers in both the UK and US, with many seeing it as an attempt to prevent an American from winning the prestigious Diamond Challenge Sculls event [2] although an American, Edward Ten Eyck, had previously won the event in 1897.

In 1947 Kelly, Jr. won the Diamond Challenge Sculls (single scull) at the Henley, the event from which his father had been excluded. In recognition of his accomplishment, Kelly was awarded the 1947 James E. Sullivan Award as the top amateur athlete in the United States. In 1949 Kelly repeated his feat and again won the Diamond Challenge Sculls at Henley.

In 1981 Kelly's sister Princess Grace of Monaco was invited to present the trophies at the Regatta. In 2003 the Princess Grace Challenge Cup named in her honour was first presented. In 2004 Grace's son (and Kelly's nephew) Prince Albert of Monaco presented the trophies at the Regatta.

Kelly at the Olympics

At the 1948 Summer Olympics in London, Kelly competed on the same Henley course where he had won the Diamond Challenge Sculls the year before. Kelly won his opening heat, but did not make the finals after finishing second to eventual Silver Medalist Eduardo Risso in the semi-finals. (Due to course width constrictions, the Henley course could only handle a 3 boat final).

At the 1952 Summer Olympics in Helsinki, Kelly again won his opening heat. In the semi-final, which was one to qualify, Kelly finished second to eventual champion Yuri Tyukalov, and Kelly was relegated to the repechage, or second-chance race, which was also one to qualify for the final. In the repechage, Kelly's main competitor was Teodor Kocerka of Poland. They fought all the way down the course with Kocerka, who would go on to win the Bronze medal, prevailing in a close finish.

At the 1956 Summer Olympics in Melbourne, Kelly won his Olympic medal, a bronze. He was beaten by two teenage prodigies, Vyacheslav Ivanov of Russia and Stuart Mackenzie of Australia, but Kelly beat Teodor Kocerka, who had beaten Kelly four years earlier. Kelly gave the medal to his sister Grace, who married Prince Rainier earlier that year, as a wedding present. He would later quip that he had hoped it would have been a different color.

In 1960, Kelly competed in the double scull at his final Olympics in Rome. His boat would be eliminated in the repechage.
Place Of Birth
Philadelphia/Pennsylvania/United States of America
Place Of Death
Philadelphia/Pennsylvania/United States of America


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