For the past couple of weeks, I have been immersed in the rowing scene of the 1950s and 1960s - a minority pursuit, no doubt, but the reasons should become plain to insidethegames readers very shortly.
In the course of this, I was put in touch with Duvall Hecht, now a nonagenarian, who rowed on the United States Olympic team in 1952 at Helsinki and 1956 at Melbourne.
In 1952, he, Jim Fifer and coxswain Jim Beggs were unsuccessful, losing out in a second repechage of the coxed pairs event to Germany, the eventual silver medallists.
But four years later, he and Fifer made the long journey to Australia and took gold, this time in the coxless pairs.
The recollections Hecht has been good enough to share left a big impression on me, for two reasons.
First, the events he describes took place a long, long time ago – not far off seventy years in the case of the Helsinki Games.
They paint a first-hand picture of a vanished world, a world just emerging from war, yet in the process of becoming polarised in new ways.
Second, there was something hugely inspiring about what he had to say about Melbourne in particular – and I speak as one who is not all that susceptible to rose-tinted nostalgia.
It struck me that if anyone out there is wondering whether it is worth pressing on with a career as an athlete, or in sport generally, in these deeply unsettling, even frightening, times, Hecht’s words might help you to reach a conclusion.
His is a voice of experience into which I have tried to interject as little as possible, mainly for clarity’s sake.
Hecht tells me that he, Fifer and Beggs "had just won the American Championship in a forgotten race with the Naval Academy pair on Lake Quinsigamond [in Massachusetts]."
The temperature there, he says, was "104 degrees".
A contemporary newspaper clipping describes how Hecht’s boat won by a foot in a photo finish, in spite of catching a "crab" in the closing stages.
According to reporter Curley Grieve, "Grizzled, salt bitten old timers in this rowing centre insist that never in the long history of competition among pairs with coxswain has there been a more spectacular finish."
The winners left for Finland within days.
Helsinki, Hecht says, was "bitterly cold and windy."
He goes on: "Finland was a poor country.
"The beds were too small, and the rooms cold.
"Meals were very well prepared with many varieties of food for athletes from different countries.
"What I remember vividly is that buildings in downtown Helsinki were pockmarked with gunfire.
"And I think their locomotives burned wood, not coal."
The race on Lake Quinsigamond, he says, "took everything we had to win, because of what happened in the last twenty strokes.
"It may be we had rowed our best race of the year, and another effort like that was beyond our capacity.
"I speak for myself, because Fifer was a different animal.
"I had pulled a muscle in my right quad in that first race [a first-round heat of the Olympic competition, which Hecht and crew-mates won ahead of Hungary, Sweden and Egypt].
"The trainer gave it only superficial attention.
"We - or I - paid the price in the next two races.
"Looking back, I cannot honestly say it was the injury itself that hurt our performance, or if it provided an excuse for me not to give it everything I had.
"Also lurking in the background is that we had set our sights on winning the American Championship, which we had accomplished.
"I think we did not compete in Helsinki with the same single-mindedness - a great lesson, and one that we put to good use in 1956."
The US boat finished last in its semi-final, nonetheless qualifying for that second repechage, where they lost out to Germany.
Hecht, surprisingly, describes that loss as "a great relief - at least for me, and I think for Fifer as well.
"We had rowed our best race in the American Championships, and we - at least I - didn't have another one left in me.
"My recollection is we left the next day, at least I did."
In the run-up to Melbourne, in June 1955, Fifer and Hecht were engaged in military service.
"Fifer [was] a Naval pilot at Quonset Point, Rhode Island; I [was] a Marine pilot at Cherry Point, North Carolina.
"The Navy Department circulated a notice that any service members who felt they were qualified to represent the US Olympic Team would, upon approval, be separated from their duty stations and given orders to an appropriate training site.
"Fifer and I applied, and were approved by Tip Goes, chairman of the US Olympic Rowing Committee in both 1952 and 1956.
"He must have felt we had the potential.
"Of course, we were thinking of the pair-with-cox.
"First thing we did was ask Jim Beggs if he would cox us.
"In those days, if you were a professional, you couldn't compete in the Olympics.
"Jim was coaching freshmen at Penn with Joe Burke, and therefore was a professional.
"We asked our Stanford eight cox, David Herdman, if he would take it on, but David was well started on a career, had a family, and declined.
"What to do?
"With no coxswain, the pair-without was the obvious choice.
"But where could we find a shell?
"Straight pairs were few and far between.
"Somehow we learned there was one at the Naval Academy, where Rusty Callow was coach.
"Rusty had been coach of the 1952 Navy Admirals who won gold at Helsinki.
"He knew us, we were members of the Naval service, and on his own - not asking permission from anyone - he let us take the Naval Academy pair-without for training in Florida.
"Two reasons: first, it was December 1955, and the north-east was wet and freezing.
"Fifer and I had not had an oar in our hands for four years, so we needed a friendly climate to train in.
"We selected Winter Park, Florida, and Rollins College as the place.
"We were given detached duty from the Navy and Marine Corps, drove south to Florida with the pair-without strapped to a rack Fifer had built for his Pontiac convertible, and were in business."
The second reason for the choice of location was that Fifer’s girlfriend was "in the freshman class there."
Hecht continues: "We rented a cottage close by the lake and set up housekeeping.
"Our goal was to gain conditioning.
"We rowed twice a day.
"Between water workouts we lifted weights and ran.
"Fifer had been a long-distance runner in high school, and led me on road runs that about killed me.
"Nevertheless, the conditioning returned rapidly - we were both 26, and fresh for the challenge.
"I have often thought the year-round training that is required of today's oarsmen is self defeating.
"I mean, inspiration is a huge part of athletic success.
"How many times can you pull your heart out on an ergometer without going stale?
"George Pocock [a famous boatbuilder/philosopher/teacher] said it made men animals.
"But that was later - ergs didn't exist in 1956.
"Even though we got in great shape, we couldn't make the boat go straight.
"We asked Jimmy Beggs if he would take us on.
"It was March or April…he agreed, and we moved to Philadelphia.
"We rowed out of the Penn boathouse.
"Jimmy was not only coaching the freshmen, he was in a PhD programme which he put on hold to coach us twice a day.
"It took him about one session on the Schuykill to unlock our problems.
"I owe a great debt to Beggsie: he always took a special interest in me, even when I was in the third boat at Stanford."
This was the prelude to a gold medal at Melbourne.
The Official Report describes how Fifer and Hecht took the lead early and, in spite of a "big effort" by the Soviet pair at 750 metres, won comfortably.
One of the Soviet oarsmen, Victor Ivanov, had the misfortune to drop his silver medal into Lake Wendouree, though reports said it would be replaced.
As Hecht recalls, the Games "took place during the Hungarian Uprising against the Soviets.
"I remember visiting their quarters," he says.
"We were given pins to swap with athletes from other countries.
"On entering their compound, we found the Hungarian oarsmen busily cutting the Soviet stars out of their uniform emblems.
"We were clueless as to the violence going on in their homeland.
"Imagine trying to compete with that hanging over your head.
"Fifer and I did not march in the Opening Ceremony, nor the Closing either.
"Having lost in 1952, we were focused only on one thing: winning that gold medal.
"We knew there wasn't going to be a third chance.
"Rowing back to the boathouse I said to him, ‘What will we ever do that compares to this?’
"Jimmy died aged 56 after a three-year battle with intestinal cancer.
"Of course, I was with him.
"Best friend I ever had.
"Wept like a baby.
"On the wall to my right is a photo of Fifer and Jimmy Beggs and me in Helsinki.
"We had just won the opening heat; we look very young and confident.
"Under the picture is a quote from Churchill: ‘In sport, in courage, and in the sight of heaven, all men meet on equal terms.'
"That partnership with Jim Fifer was one of the most important things in my life.
"So much followed from it."
And the moral of this story?
If you are thinking of giving up on sport with all the garbage life is currently throwing our way – Don’t.
Thank you, Mr Hecht.