"New Zealand Rowing is embarking on an exciting chapter of sporting history. We are delighted with the performances of our athletes leading into the Olympic Games. The level will step up significantly for the Rio 2016 Olympic Games but we're thrilled to have medalled in seven Olympic events at the 2015 World Championships." - Alan Cotter, Rowing New Zealand High Performance Director

"It's an exciting time for Rowing New Zealand, having qualified our largest ever team for the Olympic Games. I look forward to trying to win my second Olympic title in Rio. It's also very exciting to be a part of a highly talented squad of kiwi rowers that will attempt to be the world's top rowing nation in Rio." - Mahe Drysdale, Men's Single Sculls 2012 Olympic Champion

How are the races run?

All boats race in heats with the top finishers advancing directly into the semi-finals or a six-boat final. The other boats get a second chance in a repechage (a second chance race), with the top boats qualifying for a semi-final or final. Semi-finals are only required for events with more than 13 boats competing. If there are more than 25 boats competing then a quarter-final progression is required.

The top boats compete in the A final for the gold, silver and bronze medals. Boats that have not made the A final compete in the B final, for which there are no medals.

Regardless of the category or type of boat, the distance is always the same – 2000m. Each heat has up to six boats, with one boat per lane and each lane marked by buoys. In Paralympic rowing events the race is run over 1000m. 

The Stars of Rowing

Sir Steve Redgrave of Great Britain was a six-time world champion, and the most successful male rower in Olympic history, winning gold medals at five consecutive Olympic Games from 1984-2000. Elisabeta Lipa of Romania is the most successful female Olympic rower, having also won five Olympic gold medals between 1984-2004.

Our kiwi rowing stars have included:
The men’s eight who won gold at the Munich Olympics in 1972
Georgina and Caroline Evers-Swindell with two Olympic golds in the double scull (2004, 2008)
Rob Waddell (2000) and Mahe Drysdale (2012) who both won Olympic gold in the single scull
The gold medal winners at the London Olympics – Joseph Sullivan and Nathan Cohen in the double scull, and Eric Murray and Hamish Bond in the coxless pair.

Ones to watch

Men’s pair – Eric Murray and Hamish Bond:
- Defending Olympic champions
- Hold the current world best time in the men’s pair (2012) of 6:08.50
- Remain unbeaten in this combination since 2009
- Six-time world champions (2009, 2010, 2011, 2013, 2014, 2015)
- Eric has attended three Olympic Games (2004, 2008, 2012)
- Hamish has attended two Olympic Games (2008, 2012)

Men’s single scull – Mahe Drysdale:
- Defending Olympic Champion and 2008 bronze medallist
- Holds the current world best time, men’s single scull (2009) of 6:33.35
- Five-time world champion, men’s single scull (2005, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2011) and has attended three Olympic Games (2004, 2008 and 2012) 

Did you know?

Rowing and Athletics have been the most successful Olympic sports for New Zealand, with each winning 21 of New Zealand’s 103 Olympic medals.

The eight-person crews have a coxswain who steers the boat and directs the crew, but in all other boats one rower steers by controlling a small rudder with a foot pedal.

New Zealand hosted the rowing World Championships in 1978 and 2010 at Lake Karapiro. Significant kiwi ingenuity was used in the 1978 championships – the start and finish towers and a temporary scaffolding grandstand were built by volunteers, the army did the catering, and Sir Don Rowlands, chair of the organising committee, offered to buy the boats from competitor countries after the event for resale to local clubs, to ease the burden of transport costs.

Today there are more than 60 rowing clubs throughout this country and there are over 5,000 New Zealanders who take part in the sport.

In the late 19th century, rowing was one of many sports split between amateurs and professionals. Challenges for the world professional sculling title were among the most hyped (and gambled on) contests in the English-speaking world.

Rowing terminology

Lightweight - A lower weight division in some events for men weighing 72.5kg or less and for women weighing 59kg or less. Introduced to the Olympic Games in 1996 in Atlanta.

Sculling vs Sweep - Rowing races are divided into sculling and sweep oar. In sculling events rowers use two oars, one in each hand, while in sweep the rower holds one with both hands.

Pair - A sweep-oar boat for two rowers, with or without a coxswain.

Double - A sculling boat for two rowers.

Four - A sweep-oar boat for four rowers, with or without a coxswain.

Quad - A sculling boat for four rowers.

Eight - A sweep-oar boat with eight rowers and a coxswain.

Rating - The number of strokes a crew rows per minute.

Blade - The flattened, or spoon-shaped, part of an oar that touches the water during rowing.

Boot  - A device that holds the bow of a boat before a race, then drops below the water on the 
starting signal.

Coxbox - An electronic device used by the coxswain to amplify their voice and broadcast it through speakers located throughout the shell.

Catch - The part of the stroke at which the blade enters the water and the drive begins.

Drive - The propulsive portion of the stroke from the time the blade enters the water (catch) until it is removed (finish).

Finish -The portion of the pull through just as the blade is taken from the water.

Set -The balance of a boat.

Crab - To make a faulty stroke, when the rower is unable to release the oar from the water and the blade acts as a brake on the boat until it is removed from the water. This results in slowing the boat down. A severe crab can eject a rower or make the boat capsize (unlikely except in small boats).

Full pressure - The top level of exertion an oarsman can produce.

Power 10 - A series of 10 strokes where a crew supplies additional power to advance on another crew.

Puddle - Disturbances made by an oar pulled through the water. The farther the puddles are pushed past the stern of the boat before each catch, the more ‘run’ the boat is getting. 


Early 1800s - First modern rowing races were held between professional watermen on the River Thames in London.

1828 - First Oxford-Cambridge university boat race.

1861 - First rowing club established in New Zealand by British immigrants.

1896 - Rowing included in the first Olympic Games in Athens 1896, but cancelled due to high seas. Rowing has been included in every summer Olympic Games since.

1920 - New Zealand’s first Olympic rowing medal won by Darcy Hadfield – a bronze in the single scull at the Antwerp Games.

1968 - Men’s coxed four win New Zealand’s first Olympic gold medal in rowing at the Mexico Games.

1976 - Women’s rowing debuted at the Montreal 1976 Games.

1978 - World Championships held at Lake Karapiro.

1996 - Lightweight events introduced to the Olympic programme at the Atlanta Games.

2010 - World Championships held for the second time in New Zealand at Lake Karapiro. 

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Rowing Games History