Duvall Hecht won an Olympic gold medal at Melbourne 1956 ©UCI Rowing

Duvall Hecht, an Olympic gold medal-winning rower, has died in California aged 91.

Hecht represented the United States at both the Helsinki 1952 and Melbourne 1956 Games, winning gold in Australia in the coxless pairs with partner Jim Fifer.

A Stanford University graduate, Hecht saw military service as a Marine pilot and eventually became President of Books on Tape Inc.

Contacted by insidethegames less than two years ago, Hecht provided a vivid and detailed account of his Olympic experiences in the Cold War era.

Among other memories, he recalled how buildings in Helsinki at the time were "pockmarked with gunfire" and how he watched Hungarian rowers in Australia in 1956 "busily cutting the Soviet stars out of their uniform emblems" in what was the year of the Hungarian Uprising.

He described his rowing partnership with Fifer, who died of cancer in 1986, as "one of the most important things in my life".

Hecht was also founder of the University of California, Irvine (UCI) rowing programme, serving as a director and coach for many decades after establishing the programme in 1965.

UCI Rowing said Hecht's "absence is felt like a chasm" and paid tribute to a "mentor and an inspirational leader whose words and wit propelled many of us into becoming who we are today".