When did Olympic rowing start?

Rowing made its Olympic debut at the 1900 Paris Games. The sport was actually on the program at the 1896 Olympics in Athens but was canceled due to bad weather. Until 1976, there was only a men's event, but women's events were introduced for the 1976 Montreal Games.

How many Olympics has Team USA won in rowing?

U.S. rowers have earned 89 rowing medals since the 1900 Olympic Games, the most of any nation. Americans have won 33 gold medals while securing 32 silver and 24 bronze medals.

Who is the most successful rower in Olympic history?

Romania's Elisabeta Lipa is considered by many to be the greatest Olympic rower of all-time. Lipa has collected eight Olympic medals across a 20-year Olympic rowing career, the most of any rower (five gold, two silver, one bronze). Impressively, Lipa's first medal came at the 1984 Olympic Games and her last in 2004, a mind-boggling 20-year span of greatness.

Olympic rowing results by year

Tokyo, 2020

For the first time in Olympic rowing history, the United States failed to earn a single medal. New Zealand and The Netherlands led the group with five medals each, followed by Australia with four and Romania, China and Italy each with three. Two nations also picked up their first-ever Olympic rowing medals: Ireland and Greece. For the Irish, the medal came in the men’s lightweight double sculls with Fintan McCarthy and Paul O’Donovan winning gold. For Greece, Stefanos Ntouskos won gold in the men's single sculls, the first-ever rowing gold for the Greek.

Rio, 2016

For the third time in a row, Great Britain topped the medal chart, winning five (three gold, two silver). Germany, New Zealand, Australia, and the Netherlands all won three medals. Martin and Valent Sinkovic returned to the Olympic stage in Rio, but this time in the men's double sculls. After a hard-fought battle against the Lithuanians, the brothers won gold in the event, and were the first men's doubles crew to go under six minutes in a race. The double sculls event also featured Kjetil Borch and three-time Olympic medalist Olaf Tufte of Norway, who earned the bronze. Kiwi Mahe Drysdale reclaimed his single sculls title ahead of silver medalist Damir Martin of Croatia. Following a photo finish, the judges gave the win to Drysdale, although both athletes earned the same time. Great Britain edged out Germany by just over a second in the men's eight to take gold for the first time since 2000. Kim Brennan, the most recent female rower to win two gold medals in the same Games (2012), won gold in the single sculls event, followed by Gevvie Stone of the United States. The United States' women's eight once again dominated their field, winning gold for a third straight time since 2008 by over two seconds.

London, 2012

The men's four team of Charlie Cole, Scott Gault, Glenn Ochal and Henrik Rummel proudly took home a bronze medal for the United States. Great Britain and Australia both matched their 2008 Beijing Olympic performances in the men's four. Australia took home silver and the British men's four team repeated their victory and won gold. Anna Goodale, Anne Cummins and Lindsay Shoop were the only three women missing from the original gold medal winning 2008 Beijing lineup. The U.S. women's eight team won gold in London, defending their title. Meghan Musnicki, Taylor Ritzel and Esther Lofgren joined the U.S. women's eight team after the departure of Goodale, Cummins and Shoop. After a silver medal performance in Beijing, the Netherland's women's eight team claimed the bronze medal and Canada's women's eight team took home silver.

Beijing, 2008

The men's coxless four boat of Tom James, Steve Williams, Peter Reed and Andrew Triggs-Hodge won Great Britain's third consecutive Olympic gold medal in the event.  New Zealand's women's double sculls team defended its 2004 gold medal by finishing .01 of a second ahead of Germany. Romania's Georgeta Andrunache won her third consecutive gold medal in the women's coxless pair and fifth career gold.  China's women's quadruple sculls boat of Bin Tang, Xi Aihua, Jin Ziwei and Zhang Yangyang brought the host nation its first Olympic rowing gold medal.  On the final day of the nine-day Olympic program, the U.S. women's eight team brought home the country's first women's eight gold medal since 1984.

Athens, 2004

The United States' 40-year gold-medal drought in men's eight came to a halt when the crew rowed to over a boat-length lead en route to one-second victory over the Netherlands in 5:42.48. Major changes to the crew propelled the Americans to gold. Prior to the Games, Jason Read, Wyatt Allen, Chris Ahrens, Joey Hansen, Matt Deakin, Dan Beery, Beau Hoopman, Bryan Volpenhein and coxswain Peter Cipollone never raced together at a major international regatta. Although he finished far behind the medal contenders in single sculls, one of the biggest stories of the Games was Kenyan Ibrahim Githaiga, who became the first black African ever to row at the Olympics. Githaiga began rowing in 1997, at the suggestion of a friend. In 2002 he and coach Juvenalis Gitau earned an Olympic Solidarity scholarship and went to Australia to train at the Australian Institute of Sport. Githaiga continued his rowing education with the South African team in Cape Town. Eventually he found himself training with the Dutch national team in Germany and Holland. It all paid off with a fourth-place finish at the 2004 African Olympic Qualifying Regatta, good enough to get him to Athens.

Sydney, 2000

Seconds after winning his fourth gold in 1996, Great Britain's Steve Redgrave said, "If anyone sees me in a boat again, you have my permission to shoot me. I've had enough." A few months later, he announced that he would, in fact, pursue a fifth gold in Sydney. There, as a member of Britain's four, Redgrave capped one of the most remarkable careers in Olympic history with a fifth triumph. The men's single sculls final in Sydney was essentially a two-man race, with New Zealand's Rob Waddell defeating the reigning champion, Xeno Muller of Switzerland. Muller tried to surge in the third quarter of the race, but Waddell responded. Fifteen strokes later, Waddell found open water and the double world champion sealed the Olympic title in 6 minutes, 48.90 seconds. Riding a 36-year gold-medal drought in the prestigious men's eight, the United States seemed poised for a return to prominence in the event it once dominated. But in Sydney, the three-time reigning world champions finished a distant fifth, while Great Britain won the event for the first time since 1912. 24 years after women's rowing was added to the Olympic program, the single sculls title was successfully defended when Ekaterina Karsten of Belarus achieved the feat in a photo finish. At the 600-meter mark of the final, she trailed Bulgaria's Rumyana Neykova. In the third quarter, Germany's Katrin Rutschow-Stomporowski joined the hunt. Karsten mounted a sprint in the final 150 meters and crossed the line with Neykova. A photo finish determined that Karsten won by .01 of a second.

Atlanta, 1996

Though his partners changed, Steve Redgrave's results in the pair remained the same from 1988 through 1996. He won with Andrew Holmes in 1988, then with Oxford graduate Matthew Pinsent in 1992 and 1996. With his victory in the four with coxswain in 1984, Redgrave increased his gold-medal tally to four, the most in rowing history. In the men's single sculls event, Switzerland's Xeno Muller rowed the last 500 meters in an impressive 1 minute, 36.56 seconds to pass Canadian Derek Porter and German Thomas Lange, the two-time defending champion. Mueller grew up in Switzerland, Germany, Spain and France before attending Brown University and moving to the United States in 1992. He became a U.S. citizen in 2004.

Barcelona, 1992

Australia's famed powerhouse in the four made its Olympic debut with a lineup of Andrew Cooper, Michael McKay, Nicholas Green and James Tomkins. The so-called "Oarsome Foursome" followed up its 1990 world title with an Olympic title, finishing comfortably ahead of the runner-up U.S. quad. At the 1996 Atlanta Games, with Cooper replaced by Drew Ginn, the boat was just as awesome, winning a second straight gold. Two months before the Games, Canada's Silken Laumann was the favorite to win the women's single sculls. But at a pre-Olympic race, a German boat crashed into her right leg, severing muscles, tendons and ligaments. She was told she would need at least six months to recover, but five weeks later, she announced that not only would she recover, but she also would compete in Barcelona. She did and took bronze, one of five Canadian rowing medals at the Games. Norway placed second in the men's quadruple sculls and earned the Barcelona crowd's approval by using a wooden boat and wooden oars. Other crews' equipment was made of lightweight carbon fiber, including that of the victorious Germans, who won the race by nearly two seconds.

Seoul 1988

Pertti Karppinen's quest for his fourth consecutive single sculls gold ended in the semifinals, where the 35-year-old Finn placed last. In the final, East German Thomas Lange beat five-time world champion Peter-Michael Kolbe of West Germany. In 1990, Lange's father, a high-ranking member of the Communist Party, committed suicide in the aftermath of communism's collapse in Eastern Europe. Two years later, Lange defended his Olympic title in Barcelona.

Los Angeles, 1984

The Games marked the Olympic debut of Steve Redgrave, who helped Great Britain triumph in the men's four with coxswain, an event later discontinued. Redgrave, turning his talents to other boats, won gold at every ensuing Games through 2000, after which he was bestowed with knighthood. Capitalizing on the absence of most boycotting Eastern Bloc nations, the U.S. men and women rowed to a combined eight medals. Romania claimed five of the six women's gold medals, their only loss coming in the eight, which the Americans won. Bradley Lewis and Paul Enquist turned in the other U.S. victory in L.A. in men's double sculls. Lewis later penned a memoir, "Assault on Lake Casitas," in which he wrote, "Rowing is such a fine sport. Everyone goes backward, and the leader can see his opponents as they struggle in vain." Shortly after the start of the repechage in the men's eight, a French rower lost his oar when an oarlock broke. It is later determined that the equipment was tampered with, so the crew automatically advanced to the final. The Canadians won the race in a shocker, leading the entire way and holding off the favored Americans by .42 of a second.

Moscow, 1980

Seven of the eight men's rowing events were won by East German boats, including the men's pair, where twin brothers Bernd and Jorg Landvoigt finished ahead of Soviet twins Yuri and Nikolai Pimenov. Disrupting the East German reign was 6-foot-7 Pertti Karppinen of Finland, who used his trademark powerful finish to win the second of his eventual three consecutive gold medals in the single sculls.

Munich, 1972

The New Zealand eight in Munich is perhaps the most under-financed gold-medal crew in history, winning with a boat purchased after a series of bingo games and a raffle in which participants paid a dollar for a chance to win a "dream kitchen." Facing crews with bankrolls 10 times as large, the motley group of engineers, carpenters and mechanics was the first crew not from the U.S., Great Britain or Germany to win the event.

Rome, 1960

At each Olympics from 1920 to 1956, the U.S. (represented by crews from various colleges) won the prestigious men's eight event. But that run ended in Rome, where the American boat finished fifth, more than 10 seconds behind victorious Germany.

Melbourne, 1956

American John Kelly Jr., the brother of Grace Kelly and son of three-time Olympic rowing champion Jack Kelly, won bronze in the Melbourne single sculls event. Although he never matched his father's Olympic success, Junior was an accomplished rower in his own right, twice winning the prestigious Henley Royal Regatta in England.

London, 1948

Labeled "The Cary Grant of Scullers" by journalists for his good looks, Australian Mervyn Wood took the single sculls title in London. He later added silver in the event in 1952 and a double sculls bronze in 1956. In the late 1970s, while serving as police commissioner in the Australian state of New South Wales, he was charged with perverting the course of justice. Although the charges were dropped, he was denied the opportunity to partake in the torch relay prior to the 2000 Sydney Olympics.

Berlin, 1936

The U.S. men's eight team won gold, defeating Germany at their home venue. Jack Beresford, a 37-year-old from Great Britain, teamed with Leslie Southwood to win the double sculls and extend his medal-winning streak to five Olympics. Beresford previously won single sculls medals in 1920 (silver) and 1924 (gold), a silver in the eight in 1928, and a gold in the four in 1932. The only other rowers to win medals at three or more Games are Paul Costello, Vyacheslav Ivanov, Siegfried Brietzke and Steve Redgrave.

Amsterdam, 1928

American Paul Costello teamed with Charles McIlvaine and won his third consecutive gold medal in double sculls. Costello was one of five rowers in Olympic history to win gold medals at three Games. The others are Jack Beresford, Vyacheslav Ivanov, Siegfried Brietzke and Steve Redgrave.


Paris, 1924

The U.S. men's eight won gold in Paris by nearly 16 seconds ahead of the Canadians. In the American boat was Benjamin Spock, who became a pediatrician and in 1945 authored "The Common Sense Book of Baby and Child Care," which sold more than 45 million copies.

Antwerp, 1920

In a 30-minute span, American Jack Kelly rowed to victories in the single and double sculls. Kelly added a third gold in 1924. Five years later, he had a daughter, Grace, who starred in such Hitchcock classics as "Dial M for Murder," "Rear Window" and "To Catch a Thief" before becoming the Princess of Monaco. Jack's son, John Kelly Jr., also took to the water, rowing at four Olympics.

Paris, 1900

Prior to competing in the pair with coxswain event at the 1900 Games, Dutchmen Roelof Klein and Francois Brandt were unhappy with the weight of their coxswain and replaced him with a 73-pound boy they plucked from the streets of Paris. The boat wins the gold medal, but the boy disappeared before any information about him was gathered. Olympic lore put the boy's age between 7 and 10 years; but Dutch historian Tony Bijkerk, who discovered the story and investigated it at length, estimated a range of 12 to 14.