Robert Mills' greatest asset as a competitive rower was probably his obstinacy. And for a few weeks in the 1984, it carried him a long way.
The Dartmouth native overcame immense odds that summer to become the first Nova Scotia to win an Olympic medal in rowing; a bronze in single sculls in Los Angeles.
Mills proved a lot of people wrong leading up to the Los Angeles games. Qualifying for the four-oared sculling team headed to the Olympics, Mills seemingly did the unthinkable when he suddenly gave up his seat in the boat. By beating out Bruce Ford, a long time member of the men's quad team, Mills faced open revolt from the other rowers, who wanted their friend back. After weeks of bickering Mills finally stepped aside for a long-shot attempt at qualifying in single sculls. He had only six weeks to prepare.
Training seven hours a day leading up to the trials, Mills stunned five-time Canadian champion Pat Walter - a man he had never beaten - and was off to L.A. His goal in Los Angeles was to make the final, which he did. Once there he decided to go for broke. Conceding the race to world champion Peter Kolbe of Germany and Pertti Karppinen of Finland, Mills decided to go out fast and hope he had enough left at the end for a bronze. He finished 10 seconds behind Karppinen but two seconds ahead of an American rower for third and the bronze medal.
But Mills wasn't finished.
The next year, he returned to the four-oared crew and was a member of the first Canadian boat to win a gold medal at the world championships. Competing at Willebroek, Belgium, the Canadians trailed East Germany at the halfway mark, and then surged ahead for the win.