Olympic Preview: Rowing

Updated February 21, 2017 | Factmonster Staff

First Olympic Appearance: 1900 (men); 1976 (women)

by Gerry Brown and Mark Zurlo

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Did You Know?
The coxswain must weigh at least 55 kilos (about 121 pounds) in men's events and 50 kilos in women's events (about 110 pounds). If the cox is lighter, a weight can be used to make up the difference. Also, a crew can continue racing if a rower falls out of the boat, but not if the cox goes overboard.


Rowing was supposed to begin its Olympic history in 1896 but the weather was too rough to hold any races and it wasn't until four years later in Paris that the first Olympic rowing medals were awarded.

There are two classes in the modern sport of rowing—sculling and sweep rowing. In sculling, the crew members each row with two oars, one on either side of the boat. In sweep the rowers have both hands on a single oar and row on one side of the boat only.

Men’s Olympic Rowing events are: single sculls, double sculls, lightweight double sculls, quadruple sculls, pair, four, lightweight four, and eight with coxswain. Women’s Olympic events are: single sculls, double sculls, lightweight double sculls, quadruple sculls, pair, and eight with coxswain. Only the eights have coxswains, a small person, who steers the boat, motivates the rowers, and gives orders to the crew.

The weight cut-off for the women's lightweight events is 59 kilos or 130 pounds and 72.5 kilos or 160 pounds, for the men's lightweight races. However the average weight of a women's lightweight crew cannot exceed 57 kilos (about 126 pounds) and the average men's lightweight crew cannot weigh more than 70 kilos (about 154 pounds).

Each race is 2000 meters long. The narrow, light boats need calm water and traditionally the races are held on wide rivers and lakes. The rowing competition in Beijing will be held August 9 to 17 at the Shunyi Olympic Rowing-Canoeing Park, an extremely versatile venue that will seat 37,000 and also host both the flat-water and slalom kayak events.

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