The Australian Women's fours cross the line to take home gold in the qualifiers. Photo: Rowing Australia - Facebook.

In the only sport where competitors cross the finish line backwards, which athletes will put themselves forward for Olympic rowing glory?

In the only sport where competitors cross the finish line backward, the Aussies will be vying for gold in one of their most successful sports – Rowing.  For all your Olympic coverage, stay tuned to The Inner Sanctum’s Olympic hub and the Olympics Central.

Rowing became a competitive sport in the last 200 years but has appeared on the Olympics program since Paris 1900, however, Australia did not enter until Stockholm 1912. It was supposed to appear in Athens in 1896, however, bad weather pulled the plug on the event. Women’s rowing first appeared in the 1976 Games in Montreal.

Rowers rely on strength, teamwork, perfect timing, and stamina to propel a boat 2000m in a straight line with their backs facing the direction they’re heading.

With their feet secured to the boat, their seats slide backward and forwards as they rely on oars to move them along the water.

Rowing has two distinct types of events – sculling, where the athlete has one oar per hand and sweeping, where a single oar is held in both hands.

Sculling events include single, double, and quadruple events, while sweeping includes pairs, fours, and eights. Only the eights have a coxswain who steers the boat, while the other two are coxless.

There are two lightweight events, one for men and one for women. The men are required to have an average weight of 70kg and may not exceed 72.5kg, while women may not have an average weight above 57kg and cannot weigh over 59kg.

In 2017, the World Rowing Federation encouraged the IOC’s decision to adjust the rowing program to align with the Tokyo Olympics’ gender equality movement. The women’s coxless four has replaced the men’s lightweight coxless four – making it the most significant change to the program in 24 years.

In Tokyo 2020, there are seven men’s and seven women’s events which will take place at Sea Forest Waterway from July 23. The medal events commence on July 27 and wrapping up on the 30th.

Revision of Rio’s rowing

In Rio 2016, Australia placed in three events, with one gold and two silver.

Kim Brennan took home gold in the women’s single sculls, while the Australian men locked in silver for the men’s four and quadruple Sculls, edged out only by Great Britain and Germany respectively.


Great Britain was the most successful rowing team in 2016, winning three gold medals, and two silver medals across all 13 events.

They dominated the team events, in particular, winning gold in the men’s four, and men’s eight, and silver in women’s Eight.

Additionally, Helen Glover and Heather Stanning were gold medalists in the women’s pair, while Victoria Thornley and Katherine Grainger earned silver in women’s double sculls.

Another country that performed in the team events was Germany, which won two gold medals in both the men’s and women’s quadruple sculls, and silver in the men’s eight.

New Zealand also performed strongly, who also, like Germany took home two gold medals and one silver in Rio. These were courtesy of MahĂ© Drysdale in the men’s single scull, and Eric Murray and Hamish Bond in the men’s Pair. In the Women’s pair, Genevieve Behrent and Rebecca Scown received silver.

The Netherlands also had a presence in the Rio rowing program, winning a bronze, silver, and gold medal across three different events. Their gold medal came from Ilse Paulis and Maaike Head‘s win in the women’s lightweight double sculls, while their silver medal was won in the women’s quadruple sculls.

More Tokyo 2020 news

Tokyo 2020 Preview: 3Ă—3 Basketball shooting its shot in first Olympics

Kathryn Ross reaches fourth Paralympics in eight-member para-rowing team

Tokyo 2020 Preview: Let’s dive into beach volleyball

Must sees and medal favourites

It would be unwise to rule out nations such as New Zealand, Germany, Great Britain, and The Netherlands, all of which have a strong history in Olympic rowing, as shown in 2016.

After four Olympics, and four consecutive medals, New Zealander MahĂ© Drysdale has retired after a decorated and highly successful run in the Olympics. His retirement has opened up an opportunity for dual silver medalist Damir Martin of Croatia who is hoping to finally secure his first gold medal in the men’s single sculls. After coming first in the 2019 World Rowing Championships, German Oliver Zeidler also looks like a chance for gold.

Four-time Olympic medalist Olaf Tufte will be representing Norway in his seventh Games this year. This time around, he will not be competing in the men’s single or double sculls but will be part of the quadruple sculls team.

For the women’s single sculls, none of Rio’s medalists will compete in Tokyo, leaving the door open for a new-looking podium.

After finishing fourth in London and Rio, New Zealand’s Emma Twigg will have an opportunity to place for the first time in her career. However, Ireland’s Sanita Pušpere is stiff competition for the Kiwi after placing first in the 2019 World Rowing Championship, as is USA’s Kara Kohler.

After winning silver in women’s single sculls, Genevra Stone switched to women’s double sculls and could bolster Team USA’s chances of a podium finish. However, the Brooke Donoghue and Lauren Osbourne (the latter not competing in the qualifier) duo looks like gold-medal favourites for Tokyo.

Croatian brothers Martin and Valent SinkoviÄŤ have switched to the men’s pair event despite a gold medal finish in men’s double sculls in Rio 2016. In the 2019 World Championships, they finished first in their new event, so with their track record, it would be surprising if they didn’t make the podium.

Phillip Doyle and Ronan Bryne of Ireland are looking like likely replacements for the SinkoviÄŤ duo on the podium after finishing first in the World Rowing Championships.

Two-time Olympian and Rio gold medalist will compete without her other half in the women’s coxless pair after Heather Stanning announced her retirement, meaning current world champions Kerri Gowler and Grace Prendergast are top contenders for gold in Tokyo.

However, Australians Jessica Morrison and Annabelle McIntyre aren’t too far off and are set to challenge the Kiwis after also medaling twice (in pairs and eights) in the World Rowing Championships.

The Aussies

Australia has a rich history in Olympic Rowing, especially in sculling events – winning 11 gold medals, 15 silver, and 14 bronze since they first appeared in Stockholm 1912.

In 2020, Australia has entered 38 athletes across nine different events, second only to Great Britain who has 41 athletes over 10 events. Australia will compete in the women’s double scull, men’s and women’s quadruple scull, pairs, fours, and eights events.

In the qualifying tournament – the 2019 World Rowing Championships, Australia had the second-highest number of medals, after Italy and the Netherlands, but were sixth overall, with two gold, three silver, and three bronze.

In two-thirds of the qualifying events, Australia finished in the top four.

The women performed better in sweeping events rather than sculling – finishing first in the four-event, and second in the pairs and eights. They have a better chance of a podium finish in these events as opposed to the double and quadruple scull events where they finished 9th and 10th in the qualifiers respectively.

In the men’s events, the Aussies made the podium once – third in the pairs. However, they were on the brink of a top-three finish in the quadruple sculls and the eight, finishing fourth. The Australian men will rely on these events to secure an Olympic medal, rather than the four, where they placed sixth.

Amanda BatemanWomen’s Double ScullDebut
Tara RigneyWomen’s Double ScullDebut
Ria ThompsonWomen’s Quad ScullDebut
Rowena MeredithWomen’s Quad ScullDebut
Harriet HudsonWomen’s Quad ScullDebut
Caitlin CroninWomen’s Quad ScullDebut
Jessica MorrisonWomen’s Pair, Women’s Four2nd (Rio 2016)
Annabelle McIntyreWomen’s Pair, Women’s FourDebut
Rosemary PopaWomen’s FourDebut
Lucy StephanWomen’s Four2nd (Rio 2016)
Olympia AlderseyWomen’s Eight2nd (Rio 2016)
Molly GoodmanWomen’s Eight2nd (Rio 2016)
Sarah HaweWomen’s EightDebut
Genevieve HortonWomen’s Eight2nd (Rio 2016)
Bronwyn CoxWomen’s EightDebut
Giorgia PattenWomen’s EightDebut
Georgina RoweWomen’s EightDebut
Katrina WerryWomen’s EightDebut
James RookWomen’s Eight (Cox)Debut
Jack ClearyMen’s Quad ScullDebut
Caleb AntillMen’s Quad ScullDebut
Cameron GirdlestoneMen’s Quad Scull2nd (Rio 2016)
Silver Medal
Luke LetcherMen’s Quad ScullDebut
Sam HardyMen’s PairDebut
Joshua HicksMen’s PairDebut
Alexander PurcellMen’s FourDebut
Spencer TurrinMen’s Four2nd (2016)
Jack HargreavesMen’s FourDebut
Alexander HillMen’s Four2nd (2016)
Silver Medal
Nicholas LaveryMen’s EightDebut
Angus WiddicombeMen’s EightDebut
Angus DawsonMen’s EightDebut
Simon KeenanMen’s EightDebut
Nicholas PurcellMen’s EightDebut
Timothy MastersMen’s EightDebut
Joshua BoothMen’s Eight3rd (2012, 2016)
Silver Medal – 2016
Jack O’BrienMen’s EightDebut
Stuart SimMen’s Eight (Cox)Debut

Subscribe to our newsletter!

About Author

Leave a Reply