Rowing at the Summer Olympics

Rowing at the Summer Olympics

Rowing at the Summer Olympics has been part of the competition since the 1900 Summer Olympics. Rowing was on the program at the 1896 Summer Olympics but was cancelled due to bad weather. Only men were allowed to compete until the women's events were introduced at the 1976 Summer Olympics in Montreal. Lightweight rowing events were introduced to the games in 1996. (These events have weight limits on their crews.)

Qualifying for the rowing events is under the jurisdiction of the International Rowing Federation (or FISA, its French acronym). FISA predates the modern Olympics and was the first international sport federation to join the modern Olympic movement.


At the current Olympics the following 14 events are offered:
*Men: quad sculls, double sculls, single sculls, eight, coxless four, coxless pair
*Lightweight Men: coxless four, double sculls
*Women: quad sculls, double sculls, single sculls, eight, coxless pair
*Lightweight Women: double sculls

The lightweight events came under a hazard in 2002 when the Programme Commission of the IOC recommended that, outside of combat sports (boxing & wrestling, but not fencing, shooting, and archery) and weightlifting, there should not be weight-category events. The Executive Board overturned this recommendation and the lightweight rowing has been continued.

In the early games (1900 and 1904) there were several other categories of events (Junior, Novice, Association, and Intermediate). A number of other boat classes have made an appearance at several games (sometimes for a long time) but have been subsequently dropped - sometimes quite recently. The primary loss has been in boats with coxwains, except for the eights, which have always been coxed. These were:
*Men's Coxed Pair (1900-1992)
*Men's Coxed Four (1900-1992)
*Women's Coxed Four (1976-1988)
*Women's Coxed Quad Sculls (1976-1984)
*Women's Coxless Four (1992 only)
*Men's Coxed Four with Inriggers [An "inrigger" is a boat with oarlocks attached directly on the gunwale.] (1912 only)
*Six-Man Naval Rowing Boats (1906 only)
*17-Man Naval Rowing Boats (1906 only)

Race distances

Men's races have been raced over the standard 2,000 meters except in 1900 (over 1,750 m), 1904 (1.5 miles/2,414 m), 1906 (various lengths), 1908 (2,414 m) and 1948 (1,880 m). The 1908 and 1948 were held over the Henley Royal Regatta course.

Women's races were raced over 1,000 meters until 1988 when they were changed to 2,000 meters.

Early games featured match races between two or three boats (in 1952, between four or five boats).

The modern six boat side-by-side format was first adopted at the 1936 Olympic Games, and has been the standard since the 1956 Olympic Games.


There is a limited number of crews permitted to race, so the International Rowing Federation holds qualification events in order to determine who competes at the Olympic Games. At the Olympic Games, each National Olympic Committee can only have one boat per event.

The main qualification comes from the previous year's World Rowing Championships. Other qualifying events are called "Continental Qualification Regattas", of which four are held during the year preceding the games - Asia, Africa, Latin America, and Final (open to everyone else). Each year FISA issues details of how many crews qualify at each regatta.

At the World Championships, the top finishing boats guarantee a place for that country - the rowers in the crew can be changed before the games. At the qualification regattas, it is the crew that wins that qualifies for the Olympics, and no changes can be made (except in the cases of illness or injuries).

Medal table


Participating nations

External links

* [ Olympic Rowing Medalists] at

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