History of Rowing

History of Rowing
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What is Rowing?

Rowing involves propelling a boat using oars fixed to the vessel. It differs from other disciplines in that rowers sit with their backs to the direction of movement, therefore crossing the finish line backwards.

In the Olympics, rowers race against each other as individuals or in crews of two, four or eight.

By whom, where and when was Rowing invented?

Rowing was first used as a means of transport in ancient Egypt, Greece and Rome. As a sport, it probably began in England in the 17th and early 18th centuries, with the Oxford-Cambridge university boat race in the United Kingdom, which was inaugurated in 1828.

By the 19th century, rowing was popular in Europe and had been exported to America.

What are the rules of Rowing?

Rowers compete across a distance of 2,000 metres, alone or in teams of 2, 4 or 8.

Double sculls athletes hold one oar in each hand while sweep rowing athletes hold a single oar with both hands.

Eight-person crews have a coxswain, who steers the boat and directs the crew. The boat is steered using a small rudder that is attached to the foot of one of the rowers by a cable.

Lanes are clearly marked by buoys every 10 to 12.5 metres, and the course must have a depth of at least three metres.

Crews committing a false start are first given a warning, and two false starts in the same race leads to a disqualification for that individual or team.

A boat’s final time is determined by when its bow crosses the finish line. In the case of a close finish, a photo finish will be consulted to determine the order that the bow of each boat crossed the line.

What are the two types of Rowing?

The races are divided into sculling and sweep oar. Sculling events use two oars, whilst in sweep, the rower holds one. The eight-person crews have a coxswain, who steers the boat and directs the crew, but in all other boats, one rower steers by controlling a small rudder with a foot pedal.

Rowing and the Olympics

Rowing has been staged at every edition of the Olympic Games, except in 1896 in Athens. It was on the programme for those Games, but a stormy sea compelled the organisers to cancel the events.

Women made their debut at Montreal 1976, while and the Olympic Games Atlanta 1996 marked the introduction of lightweight events.

The USA initially dominated Olympic rowing, before the Soviet Union and Germany came to the forefront. However, Great Britain's Sir Steve Redgrave is considered by many to be the greatest rower of all time, winning gold medals at five Olympic Games, and six world titles.

His female counterpart on the gold medal count is Elisabeta Lipa of Romania, who also won five Olympic gold medals between 1984 and 2004.

Best rowers to watch

Double sculls Olympic champions from Tokyo 2020 Matthieu Androdias and Hugo Boucheron of France took part in one race in 2022: the World Championships. Winning that race reminded their rivals that they are still the team to beat in that weight class.

On the women’s side, Romanian crews have been performing well recently, highlighted by Simona Radis and Ancuta Bodnar, who went on a formidable win streak over the past two years that included double sculls Olympic gold in Tokyo, World and European titles.

Radis was also part of the Romanian team that won the eight-woman race at the 2022 World Championships, while Great Britain picked up the men’s trophy.

Also keep an eye out for multiple world champion and Tokyo 2020 gold medallist Paul O’Donovan from Ireland, alongside his fellow world champion teammate Fintan McCarthy in the lightweight double sculls.

In the singles sculls, New Zealand Olympic champion from Tokyo 2020 Emma Twigg is a standout performer.

Photo: Getty Images
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