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Rowing at the Olympics – What you Need to Know


At FloatRower™ we couldn't wait for the action to start – but we’ve all had a lot of questions. What are the events? Who should we watch out for from Team GB, and who are the top contenders from other countries? When will competition take place, and where will it be held? Here is our guide to the top things to know about Olympic Rowing.



What are the Olympic rowing events?


Rowing is one of the longest-standing Olympic classes, and was first introduced at the Paris Games of 1900. It’s been a feature of every Games since, and the venues and events themselves are always a great attraction for rowing enthusiasts and Olympic followers alike.


At Olympic events, rowers compete as individuals, in pairs, and in teams of four or eight – and the team rowing is all about being in sync to maximise speed and power. Rowers have their backs to their direction of travel, so some events include a cox in the boat as well as the rowers, who’s responsible for keeping the direction right, and helping to co-ordinate the rowers.

There are two types of rowing event: sculling, which is done with two oars, one in each hand, and sweep rowing, which is one oar powered by both arms. These are the planned rowing events at Tokyo 2020, with all events for both the men’s and women’s teams:


  • Single Sculls

  • Pairs

  • Double Sculls

  • Fours

  • Quadruple Sculls

  • Eights

  • Lightweight Double Sculls



Who’s rowing for Team GB?

British Rowing have announced that there will be a squad of 45 competitors, and 37 are coming to the squad for the first time. The squad comprises 10 boats, with 24 women and 21 men. Eight of them are returning Olympians, including Helen Glover, who’s won gold twice – and she’ll be competing in the women’s pairs with Polly Swann, who won silver in 2016. She's also making history as the first ever woman to compete as part of Team GB's rowing team after having children.

Emily Craig and Imogen Grant won silver medals in the European championships and are in the squad in the lightweight women's double; the women’s quadruple sculls team is made up of Mathilda Hodgkins-Byrne, Hannah Scott, Charlotte Hodgkins-Byrne and Lucy Glover; and the women’s four boat will hold Rowan McKellar, Harriet Taylor, Karen Bennett and Rebecca Shorten.

European bronze medallists John Collins and Graeme Thomas are competing in the men’s double, and the quadruple sculls team is made up of Harry Leask, Angus Groom, Thomas Barras and Jack Beaumont. Experienced rower and world title winner Mat Tarrant is also joining the squad in reserve capacity.



Ones to watch out for:


Team GB have won the gold for the men’s coxless four at the last five editions of the Games.

  • This year the team - Ollie Cook, Matt Rossiter, Rory Gibbs and Sholto Carnegie - are all Olympic debutants, and bring with them a bronze medal from the World Championships in 2019 - so this is definitely one to watch.

  • There are more debutants in the women's eight, which saw a silver medal for Team GB in 2016. Fiona Gammond, Sara Parfett, Rebecca Edwards, Chloe Brew, Katherine Douglas, Caragh McMurtry, Beccy Muzerie, Emily Ford and cox Matilda Horn will all have their sights on the gold this time.


Who else should we be watching?

Current world champion pair Kerri Gowler and Grace Prendergast from New Zealand are favourites for gold in 2021, along with Australia’s Jessica Morrison and Annabelle McIntyre. Both of these formidable teams from Down Under medalled twice in the pair and eight at the 2019 Rowing World Championships, so these will be hotly contested in Tokyo.

Sanita Puspure of Ireland is the single sculls world champion, and she’ll be going for gold alongside New Zealand’s Emma Twigg, and Kara Kohler from the US, who won bronze in London 2012.

For the men, double gold medallist sculler Mahe Drysdale was a favourite to compete for his third, but his recent retirement announcement opens up an opportunity to double silver medallist Damir Martin from Croatia, Germany’s Oliver Zeidler, and bronze winner Kjetil Borch from Norway. Another Norwegian talent is Olaf Tufte, who will be competing in his seventh Olympic Games and boasts gold medals from the single and double sculls.

Also from Croatia, brothers Martin and Valent Sinkovic were gold medallists in the double sculls in 2016, and will be competing this year in the men’s pair.



Where and when do the events take place?

The rowing competition at the Games in 2021 takes place by the waterfront, near central Tokyo, at the Sea Forest Waterway down a straight 2000m course. The canoeing events will be held here too, and after the Games it will continue to host domestic and international rowing events. Rowing began on the same day as the Games themselves – 23 July 2021.

With Henley Regatta scheduled to take place hot on the heels of the Games, from 11 – 15 August, you’ll be fully up to speed with every stroke.