It takes one boat, two men, and four oars to form the men’s double sculls. However it takes those ingredients plus a lot of power, great coordination, and some serious mental strength to make an Olympic standard double.

The event first featured in the 1904 Olympic Games in St. Louis, United States of America. The host nation took all three ‘podium places’, with John Mulcahy and William Varley winning the gold. These three Olympic medals were the first of the eleven the United States would win in the men’s double, making them the most successful nation in this event. However, the United States of America have not featured on the medals podium at the Olympic Games since the Los Angeles edition in 1984.

In more recent memory, the men’s double sculls has been marked by two men in particular, Slovenia’s Luka Spik and Iztok Cop. These two names have become synonymous with the event. Slovenia only began competing as an independent nation at the Olympic Games in 1992, and is in ninth place on the all-time Olympic medals table in this event. At the Barcelona Games in 1992, Cop won Slovenia’s first ever Olympic medal – bronze in the men’s pair.

What was to become one of the greatest partnerships the sport of rowing has seen to date began in 1999. Cop and Spik took their first opportunity to become World Champions seriously, winning gold at St. Catherine’s, Canada. This was just a taste of many more World Championship medals to come. At the 2000 Olympic Games in Sydney, Australia, the reigning World Champions Spik and Cop held off Norwegian challengers Fredrik Bekken and Olaf Tufte to become Olympic Champions. During the following Olympic cycle the duo temporarily parted ways but re-joined forces during the 2004 season to stand on the podium at the Olympic Games in Athens yet again, finishing second to the impressive French crew of Adrian Hardy (later to become World Best Time holder in the double) and Sebastien Vielledent.
 

Iztok Cop (b) and Luka Spik (s) of Slovenia compeate in the Men's Double Sculls heat at the 2011 World Rowing Championships in Bled, Slovenia.
During the years between the 2004 Sydney Olympics and the 2008 Beijing Olympics, Spik and Cop remained medal winners; World Champions in 2005 and 2007 and silver medallists in 2006. However, other nations continued to push the boundaries and develop speed in their crews. This resulted in a gold medal for Australia at the 2008 Olympic Games. The duo of David Crawshay and Scott Brennan made a move from a seventh place finish at the worlds in 2007 to become Olympic Champions in 2008, with Cop and Spik finishing back in sixth place.

The Australian victory in Beijing marked the beginning of a battle between the Northern and Southern Hemispheres to be champions in this intense event. Although they haven’t medalled since Beijing, the Australians have been creeping back up, finishing just outside the medals at the 2011 World Rowing Championships.

CopSpik

David Crawshay (b) and Scott Brennan (s) of Australia celebrate their victory in the Men's Double Sculls Final at the Shunyi Olympic Rowing-Canoeing Park on Day 8 of the Beijing 2008 Olympic Games on August 16, 2008 in Beijing, China. (Photo by Vladimir Rys/Bongarts/Getty Images)
Alongside Crawshay and Brennan in the Olympic final in Beijing were New Zealanders Rob Waddell and Nathan Cohen. Their fourth-place finish in 2008 was a stepping stone to bigger and better results for New Zealand. Since the Games, Cohen has remained a constant force in the double. He partnered with Matthew Trott in 2009 to acheive a fourth place in Poznan and then linked with Joseph Sullivan for the 2010 season - a combination that is clealy a winning formula. They have climbed the rankings, becoming world gold medallists in both 2010 and 2011.

As the reigning World Champions in this Olympic year New Zealand are in a strong position when it comes to racing for gold in Eton, but the Northern Hemisphere nations will certainly attempt to topple the champions: Germany, France and Great Britain will all mount a challenge for the highest podium placing. France’s Julien Bahain and Cedric Berrest have been on the World Championship podium each year in this Olympic cycle and will certainly be a crew to look out for. Great Britain’s double of Marcus Bateman and Matthew Wells will hope to medal at their home Olympics after an Olympic cycle of mixed results. And, after the disappointment of Beijing, Slovenia’s favourite duo will surely aim to prove that, twelve years after their first Olympic medal, they are still a force to be reckoned with.

CrawshayBrennan

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The ‘tug of war’ for Olympic glory begins in the men’s double at the first 2012 Samsung World Rowing Cup in Belgrade, from May 4 to 6.

Did you know?

  • France holds the record for the World Best Time in the men’s double sculls. At the second World Rowing Cup regatta in 2006, Jean-Baptiste Macquet and Adrien Hardy completed the Poznan course in 6:03.25.
  • A total of 66 medals have been won in the men’s double at Olympic level; 22 of each gold, silver and bronze.
  • At the last Olympic Games in London (1948), the host nation Great Britain won gold in the men’s double sculls on the 1,850 metre course at Henley-on-Thames.
     

Olympic Medal Table

 

 
Rank Country Gold Silver Bronze Total First medal Last medal
1 United States 6 3 2 11 1904 1984
2 Soviet Union 4 2 1 7 1952 1988
3 Great Britain 2 1 1 4 1936 2004
4 Australia 2 0 1 3 1956 2008
5 Norway 1 3 0 4 1972 2000
6 France 1 1 2 4 1920 2004
6 Italy 1 1 2 4 1920 2004
8 Netherlands 1 1 1 3 1968 1992
9 Slovenia 1 1 0 2 2000 2004
10 Czechoslovakia 1 0 2 3 1960 1980
10 East Germany 1 0 2 3 1972 1980
12 Argentina 1 0 0 1 1952 1952
13 Germany 0 2 0 2 1932 1936
14 Switzerland 0 1 2 3 1924 1988
15 Austria 0 1 1 2 1928 1992
15 Canada 0 1 1 2 1928 1932
15 Yugoslavia 0 1 1 2 1980 1984
18 Belgium 0 1 0 1 1984 1984
18 Denmark 0 1 0 1 1948 1948
18 Estonia 0 1 0 1 2008 2008
21 Uruguay 0 0 2 2 1948 1952
22 Poland 0 0 1 1 1936 1936
  TOTAL 22 22 22 66