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The moment people started putting oars in the water to propel their boats, Olympic rowing was born. Archaeological artifacts suggest that rowing competitions were common in ancient Egypt, and rowers were revered and honored.

The more modern, organized version of rowing as a sport developed along the Thames in the 18th century. The oldest public rowing club still in operation is England's Leander Club, founded in 1818. Rowing became very popular among British university teams in the mid-1800s. Schools like Cambridge and Oxford built fierce rivalries that are still alive today.

Rowing made its debut as an Olympic sport at the 1900 Olympic Games in Paris and has been part of every Summer Olympics ever since.

Olympic rowing basics

There are many different types of rowing competitions around the world, but official Olympic rowing is conducted in the standard side-by-side racing format. The winner of a race is the athlete or the team (usually a crew called) whose boat crosses the finish line first.

Here's what to expect:

  1. Rowing competitions can be held in almost any body of water (ocean, river, lake, or man-made reservoir) that has sufficient space for the type of breed. There are two basic types of Olympic rowing competitions:

    • Skulling: Sculling races are usually between individual athletes or a crew of two or four scullers. At crew events, the scullers are lined up one behind the other in the long, narrow boat. Each rower has an oar in each hand that extends from each side of the boat.

    • Sweeping: Sweeping races are usually played with pairs of two, four or eight teams, with the pairs sitting side by side in rows. Each rower uses both hands on the same oar and only rows on one side of the boat.

  2. In both types, the rowers sit at the back of the boat; they move the oars in an elliptical motion so that the tips are in the water near the back ( Rear ) enter the boat and pull it forward ( Bug ).

    This movement literally pushes the boat across the surface of the water.

  3. Another team member named coxs wain ( cox ) at the stern and helps to steer and guide the crew as the rowers cannot see the way in front of them.

    In fact, rowing is the only sport where competitors cross the finish line backwards - on purpose, anyway!

Regardless of the format, a crew must work in precise, coordinated motion to deliver a strong, powerful, caressing pattern that propels the boat forward at astonishing speed. Successful rowers have significant upper body strength and exceptional cardiovascular endurance. Greater height and extended arm reach also offer a competitive advantage.

Lightweight Olympic Rowing Events

A special type of rowing race is a easy Event. Light races limit the weight of both individual athletes and the team. The boats used in lightweight events are also not as heavy as in other races. This makes for some blazing speeds and some very exciting thrills for the spectators.

In light rowing by Olympic men, each rower must not weigh more than 72.5 kilograms and the average weight of the full team must not exceed 70 kilograms. For women, the maximum weight of a single oar is 59 kilograms and the average weight of the team cannot exceed 57 kilograms.

Olympic rowing competition

London 2012 Summer Olympics rowing events will be held from July 28th to August 4th at Eton Dorney, Buckinghamshire, about 25 miles northwest of London, near the River Thames, where it all began. Olympic rowing races at Dorney Lake are 2,000 feet long, and the course has eight racetracks.

There are 14 medals at the Summer Olympics:

  • Men's single skulls

  • Men couple

  • Men's double skulls

  • Men's lightweight double skulls

  • Men four

  • Men's quadruple skulls < herren="" leichte="">

  • Gentlemen eight

  • Women's single skulls

  • Ladies couple

  • Ladies double skulls

  • Ladies light double skulls

  • Women's Quadruple Skulls

  • Ladies eight

  • Each medal event includes a series of qualifying races (called

Reunion ), a semi-final and ultimately the final race for gold. Each country is allowed a total of 28 male and 20 female athletes. A total of 550 athletes will compete in London (353 men and 197 women).

Find out more about Olympic rowing on the website of the International Rowing Federation (FISA), the international governing body of sport.