Get Involved: ROWING

Thanks to the success of one of the greatest ever Olympians, Sir Steve Redgrave, and the world famous University Boat Race, rowing has a proud history within British sport.

The days when Redgrave and fellow knight Sir Matthew Pinsent ruled the waves may have passed but the sport in Great Britain has never been in better shape and the hosts will be looking for a record return of medals at Eton Dorney.

The rowing regatta has produced at least one gold for Team GB in each of the last seven Olympics and the nation's overall medal haul has been increasing in recent times - two medals in Atlanta, three in Sydney, four in Athens and six in Beijing.

Redgrave's exploits are now the stuff of legend and there are several other Britons hoping to make their mark in the history books at the London Games.

Why is it good for you?

Rowing is a sport that requires huge strength and lung-busting stamina. For those competing at an elite level, the immense mental fortitude needed to cope with the punishing training regimes - pre-dawn starts, even on cold and dark winter days, are just part of the routine.

A large number of muscles are used for an extended period of time while rowing. The high volume of strokes performed will increase muscular endurance in your legs, back and arms.

Rowing also boosts coordination as it involves a complex series of movements from every limb, repeated in a controlled manner.

All of these components mean rowing is one of the most physically demanding sports on the Olympic programme, with approximately 651 calories burned per hour. This makes Redgrave's achievement of winning gold at five consecutive Games all the more amazing.

As rowing is often carried out in groups, it is an excellent way to develop communication skills and learn to work effectively with other people. Clubs also offer a variety of social events beyond simply playing the sport.

Get involved

Rowing is a diverse and all-embracing sport. You don't need to be an Olympic-standard athlete to get out and enjoy the United Kingdom's waterways.external-link

More than 55,000 people from 520 clubs in Britain now row at least once a week and there are around 300 rowing events a year across Britain.

For an annual membership fee which may vary between £35-£450 per annum, clubs will provide training programmes and the use of facilities and boats.

Most clubs will offer subsidised rates for juniors, students and social members. Free taster sessions at some clubs are also available.

They are a variety of ways to get into the sport, including fixed and sliding seat rowing for beginners of all ages - on rivers, lakes, canals and the coast. You can even row indoorsexternal-link in gyms, schools, and sports clubs, or across oceans.

Similarly, there is a wide range of ways for people of all abilities to compete,external-link including personal challenges, ocean crossings, fundraisers, regattas and international competitions.

Anyone interested in taking part can contact their local club by using the British Rowing,external-linkRowing Ireland,external-linkScottish Rowingexternal-link and Welsh Rowingexternal-link club finders.

More on the British Rowing websiteexternal-link

The competition format at London 2012

  • From Saturday 28 July to Saturday 4 August, 550 athletes (353 men, 197 women) will compete at Eton Dorney.
  • There are 14 medal events, with eight for men and six for women.
  • All events begin with heats and there is a repechage round for boats that do not qualify automatically.
  • Depending on the number of entrants, there can be heats, quarter-finals, semi-finals and finals.
  • The "A" final determines the first six places, including the medals.

More on the London 2012 websiteexternal-link

The rules at London 2012

All of the rowing events take place over a straight 2,000m course but vary from those featuring solo rowers through to those between crews of eights. Each race is run on a head-to-head basis with six boats in each heat.

There are two categories of athletes: Open (to all athletes, regardless of their weight) and Lightweight (men cannot weigh more than 72.5kg and women cannot exceed 59kg).

There are also two categories of boats: Sculling (rowing with an oar in each hand) and Sweep (using just one oar).

Athletes can be penalised for a variety of offences. False starts are punished with a warning (yellow card) and expulsion on the second occasion (red card), while a crew can be removed if they leave their lane and are found to have disadvantaged another competitor.

More on the Team GB websiteexternal-link

Ones to watch

Rowing should be one of Britain's most successful sports. The flagship men's four crew will be looking to land a fourth consecutive gold.

After three silvers, double sculler Katherine Grainger will surely win gold with Anna Watkins, and 40-year-old Greg Searle - an Olympic champion in 1992 - is aiming to roll back the years in the men's eight.

New Zealand's men's pair Eric Murray and Hamish Bond are unbeaten internationally for three years.

Their team-mate Mahe Drysdale will be a main contender in the men's single scull, while Drew Ginn, a member of Australia's "Oarsome Foursome" gold medal-winning crew in 1996, is aiming for a fourth Olympic title.


A form of transport since ancient times in Egypt, Greece and Rome, the sport of rowing probably began in England in the 17th and early 18th centuries, before the Oxford-Cambridge university boat race began in 1828.

The International Rowing Federation first organised a European Rowing Championship in 1893. An annual World Rowing Championship was introduced in 1962.

Rowing has been staged at every Olympic Games except Athens in 1896, when stormy seas caused it to be cancelled.

Dr Benjamin Spock, the famous child development expert, won Olympic gold in the men's eight at the 1924 Games.

Women made their debut at the Games in 1976 in Montreal, while Atlanta 1996 marked the introduction of the lightweight events.

More on the IOC websiteexternal-link

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