At the Rio 2016 Olympic Games it came down to a breath-taking photo finish to confirm that New Zealander Mahe Drysdale had repeated his London 2012 win by a fraction of a bow ball over Croatian single sculling newcomer and London 2012 silver medallist in the men’s quadruple sculls, Damir Martin. World Best Time holder Drysdale also set a new Olympic Best Time and joined the exclusive group of scullers who have become Olympic Champions more than once.  

The year will also be remembered for great sportsmanship, respect and friendship among the fastest scullers in the world. Martin was the epitome of grace and applauded Drysdale when the Olympic result was announced. Reigning World Champion and London silver medallist Ondrej Synek of the Czech Republic, who claimed all World titles in the last Olympic cycle, had reason to be disappointed with finishing third, but was content with his result and happy for his fellow competitors and friends.

Highlight of the Year: The Rio 2016 final. The finish was so close that the TV graphics showed Drysdale and Martin with the same time, 6:41.34, which was also a new Olympic Best Time.

The pair suffered an agonizing wait for the confirmed result as officials examined the photo finish. Drysdale won by less than the width of a bow ball, i.e. three centimetres, over Martin and the finish photo made sporting headlines around the world. The result reduced the previous closest Olympic margin of 0.01s, set by Kiwi double scullers Caroline and Georgina Evers-Swindell over Germany at Beijing in 2008.

Disappointment: The Rio Olympiad was not great for Great Britain’s number one sculler and London 2012 bronze medallist Alan Campbell, who has been Great Britain’s representative in the single scull for the past ten years. After missing out on the World Rowing Championships Final in 2015, Campbell showed a gradual return to form in 2016 with ninth at the European Rowing Championships, followed by a fifth place in Lucerne and a bronze medal at the final World Rowing Cup in Poznan. In Rio 2016, Campbell only managed fourth place in his semifinal thus missing out on the final. Vertigo brought on by a head cold meant he was unable to race in the B-final, meaning he finished 12th overall.

Damir Martin, Croatia, Silver, Men's Single Sculls, 2016 Rio Olympic Games, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil © FISA Detlev Seyb


“I knew I'd had a good race, so you had to be happy with the result. But, it was an agonizing wait. Full credit to Damir, that was a hell of a race. I had no idea (where he was), I got the feeling he passed me, I threw in a few short ones to try to finish it.”- Mahe Drysdale  (NZL) – Olympic gold

“I am feeling not so comfortable. Today wasn’t my day, but I am really happy with the third place, it is my 12th medal in a row in my rowing career.”  - Ondrej Synek (CZE) – Olympic bronze

Olympic final:

The year in review: Former standings do not always guarantee success in 2016. Synek claimed all of the World Rowing Championship titles since his Olympic silver medal in London with second places for Drysdale in both 2014 and 2015. It looked like 2016 might be Synek’s turn to have an upper hand at the Olympics.  

But after winning gold at both the second and third 2016 World Rowing Cup, Drysdale made it clear that he would be the one to beat. Plus ‘new-kid on the single sculling block’ Martin had shown his huge talent already early in the season by winning the first World Rowing Cup and the European Rowing Championships. At the final World Rowing Cup in Poznan, everyone got a taste of what was to come in Rio after Drysdale and Martin had two epic battles in the semifinal and final finishing within a second of each other. Synek followed in fourth with Campbell in third.

Relative newcomer Hannes Obreno of Belgium also showed a lot of promise in the lead up to Rio with a third place at the first World Rowing Cup, a fourth place at the European Rowing Championships and winning the final European Qualification Regatta in Lucerne. He made waves by beating Drysdale in an epic Diamond Challenge Sculls final at the Henley Royal Regatta and went on to confirm his strong form with a fourth place at his first Olympic Games.

In the Olympic final, four-time Belarusian Olympian Stanislau Shcharbachenia, was fifth, while Cuba’s two-time world medallist Angel Fournier Rodriguez bettered his seventh place from London by one spot.

In the Olympic B-final, former Junior Champion, Natan Wegryzcki-Szymczyk of Poland crossed the line first in a time just five seconds outside of the Olympic Best Time. Mexico’s new talent, Juan Carlos Cabrera followed in second with Australia’s late qualifier Rhys Grant, Egypt’s Abdekjgalek Elbanna and Norway’s Nils Jakob Hoff completing the field. It was a five-boat final after Olympic bronze medallist Alan Campbell of Great Britain had to pull out due to illness.

The men’s single also saw ten new countries competing for the first time in rowing at Olympic Games. Luigi Teilemb from Vanuatu was the first rower for his country, while Memo Memo was the first Indonesian rower ever to qualify for the Olympics. Mohammed Al-Khafaji became the first Iraqi to qualify for the men’s single at the Olympics.