125 years of staggering rowing statistics
The longest winning streak. The biggest lungs. The best partnership. Rowing is full of statistics. As the World Rowing Federation, FISA, celebrates its 125th anniversary, we look at 12 of those statistics that help define our sport.
12. The United States Women’s Eight is the most dominant crew (allowing for changing line-ups) that the sport of rowing has ever known. If they win at the World Rowing Championships in Sarasota-Bradenton, the chain of World Rowing Championship and Olympic victories will stretch to 12 consecutive years.
Since 2006 the Americans have set new World Best Times on three occasions. With a third consecutive Olympic victory in Rio 2016, the US total for wins in the event moved up to four, advancing ahead of the legendary Romanian eight as the top ranked nation in women’s eights.
11. Three-time Olympic gold medallist and five-time World Champion rower Pete Reed of Great Britain is reported to have a lung capacity of 11.68 litres. Although US swimmer Michael Phelps may have him beaten with a rumoured 12 litres of lung capacity, Reed’s measure puts him at the top of the list of largest human lung capacity ever officially recorded. Lung capacity is the total volume of air that lungs can bring into the body, making it an important element of elite athletes in endurance sports like rowing. The average human male in comparison has a lung capacity of 6 litres. More on lung capacity and VO2MAX in rowing here
10. With a string of ten undefeated victories at major international competition since her first World Rowing Championships in 2011 as part of Great Britain’s para PR3 mixed coxed four, Pamela Relph holds the record for longest undefeated streak in para-rowing. Relph was a key component and the only continuous member of what has become the most successful para crew in rowing’s history. With two Paralympic Gold medals and four World Rowing Championship wins, Relph is also the most successful para-rower to date.
9. A ratio of 9 to 10 has been observed to hold fairly consistently across endurance sports including rowing where women’s top performances are around 90 per cent of men’s in the same boat class. This seems to hold true in all of the Olympic and Paralympic rowing boat classes (for para-rowing this only means the singles as the other events are mixed crews). Of these boat classes, the eights are currently the closest to the exact ratio with the women’s World Best Time at 89.98 per cent of the men’s, while the largest gap to the ratio is in the singles where the women’s World Best Time is 91.36 per cent of the men’s. While it might be supposed that this is a naturally occurring barrier forever defining the limits of women’s speeds, it may be just another construct waiting to be broken down. More on World Best Times here.
8. With Rio 2016 marking eight Olympic appearances, Canada’s Leslie Thompson-Willie holds the distinction of competing at more Olympic Games than anyone else in the sport of rowing. During a career spanning over three decades, Thompson-Willie has coxed Canadian crews to the Olympic podium at five separate Games, taking gold in the women’s eight in Barcelona 1992 and nine World Rowing Championships. She is one of only two female Olympians in any sport to have appeared at eight Olympics. Belarusian sculler Ekaterina Karsten has the next most appearances for rowing, having competed at seven Games. More on the average age of elite rowers getting older here.
7. At the supposed age of seven years old, an unknown French boy is possibly the youngest ever Olympic competitor in rowing. The small child was plucked from the crowd by the Dutch pair of Francois Brandt and Roelof Klein at the 1900 Olympic Games in Paris, before the final in a bid to compete on more equal terms with their French rivals, whose coxswains were far lighter than their original coxswain, Hermanus Brockmann. The strategy seems to have worked and the Dutch crew took Olympic gold with a margin of just 0.2 seconds ahead of the French crew that had beaten them by 9 seconds in the semi-final.
6. Romania’s Elisabeta Lipa earned full rights to be called the most successful Olympic rower of all time with a staggering total of eight medals (5 gold, 2 silver, 1 bronze) over the course of six consecutive Olympic Games. More impressive than the total number is the fact that she moved effortlessly between big and small boats, sweep and sculling to claim victories in multiple boat classes. During her Olympic career she also mounted the podium twice in Seoul 1988 and twice again in Barcelona 1992.
5. With an unmatched five gold medals at five consecutive Olympic Games between 1984 and 2000 (plus a double podium appearance for a bronze in Seoul 1988) Sir Steven Redgrave of Great Britain ranks as the most successful male rower of all time. Redgrave also ranks as one of the most beloved sporting figures in Great Britain and was honoured as one of the final bearers of the Olympic flame into the stadium at the opening of the London 2012 Games.
4. Since para-rowing’s first appearance as a sport at the Paralympics in Beijing 2008, only four nations have ever won Paralympic gold: Great Britain (6 golds), China (3 golds), Ukraine (2 golds) and Italy (1 gold). These four nations also account for half of all medals ever handed out at the Paralympic Games for para-rowing (18 of a total possible 36). With the change in race distance to 2000m, the 2020 Paralympics will see the distance for the first time at a Paralympic Games. More on the change to 2000m for para-rowing here.
3. There were only three events at FISA’s first annual international event, the 1893 European Rowing Championships held on Lake Orta, Italy. All events were for men with the singles racing 2000m while coxed fours and eights competed over 3000m. Contrast this with the total of 26 events at this year’s 2017 World Rowing Championships where para, women’s, men’s events will be contested over the same 2000m distance for the first time at a World Championship. More on why rowers race over 2000m here.
2. The 2017 World Rowing Championships will be only the second time the United States has hosted the championships. The last World Rowing Championships on US waters took place in Indianapolis, Indiana in 1994. Canada, Slovenia/Bled, Germany, Great Britain and Switzerland top the venue table, having hosted four World Rowing Championships each since the event’s inception in 1962.
When it comes to the Olympic Games Regatta, on the other hand, the US has hosted that event four times (1904, 1932, 1984, 1996) – more times than any other nation.
1. The number one partnership is the sport of rowing is the “Kiwi Pair” of Hamish Bond and Eric Murray. Although their time together may not have been as long as other famous combinations like Great Britain’s Mathew Pinsent and Steven Redgrave, Murray and Bond collected a string of 69 back to back international victories in the men’s pair including two Olympic Gold medals in London 2012 and Rio 2016. The Kiwi Pair in their own words here.