Parting with the lightweight men’s eight
The World Rowing Federation (FISA) has announced that the lightweight men’s eight will be removed from the World Championship programme.
According to Rule 36 of the FISA Rule Book, an event that registers fewer than seven entries at three consecutive World Rowing Championship regattas is automatically removed from the World Championship programme. This has been the case for the lightweight men’s eight, which saw three boats competing at the 2013 World Rowing Championships, five in 2014 and five again in 2015.
The lightweight men’s eight event had already once before faced a similar situation ten years ago, when it registered fewer than seven entries at the World Rowing Championships in 2002, 2003 and 2004. However, a vote at the 2005 Extraordinary Congress protected the event from removal and later that year two boats competed in the event at the World Rowing Championships in Gifu, Japan.
While it would be possible for the event to once again be re-introduced by vote at the FISA Congress, it is doubtful that such a proposal, if it were to be made, would receive the required two-thirds vote.
The lightweight men’s eight was first introduced into the World Championship in 1974, at the first Lightweight World Rowing Championships. Throughout the years, Italy became the nation that knew the most success in this event, winning a total of 26 medals, including 13 gold. It notably experienced a “golden age” of seven years, recording a winning streak between 1985 and 1991. One Italian athlete in particular, Fabrizio Ravasi, competed in this event at 11 World Championships, gathering a total of ten medals between 1984 and 1995.
The World Best Time is owned by Germany who set it in their heat at the 1992 World Rowing Championships in Montreal, Canada. It still stands 23 years later at 5:30.24. Germany won a total of seven gold medals historically in this event, of the 12 medals that they won. Combined with the historical results of West Germany, the number of gold medals reaches a total of nine, while the overall medal count would reach 18.
The United States also entered this event on a regular basis and won a total of 16 medals, four of them gold.
Another event to have previously experienced a similar situation as the lightweight men’s eight was the women’s four. It was removed from the 2012 World Rowing Championships programme after registering low numbers of participation in 2009, 2010 and 2011. At the 2013 Extraordinary Congress, it was voted back into the programme with a vote of 125, representing 92.6 per cent of the votes – far above the required 90 (2/3 majority).
The re-introduction of the women’s four took place within the context of the 'Women’s Project,' linked to the proposal to adjust the ratio of women to men at the 2016 Olympic Games and to move towards gender equity in 2020. “Bringing back the women’s four after it had been excluded under the natural death rule was seen as an important commitment to the Women’s Project and to extend the opportunities for women to compete rather than to reduce them,” says Mike Tanner, chair of FISA’s Events Commission.
At the time, FISA had stated that the women’s four “provides both a good competition opportunity and a valuable experience for the development of women’s eight and pair crews in an overall sweep programme.” FISA went on to strongly encourage national federations to enter a women’s four at the World Rowing Championships as part of the overall strategy for the strengthening of rowing worldwide.
In the past three years, the women’s four saw six boats competing at the 2013 World Rowing Championships, ten in 2014 and five at the most recent World Rowing Championships.