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Sport Overview

Rowing events are 2,000-metre battles of speed, power, endurance and synchronization that leave the athletes completely spent as they cross the finish line. All rowers face backwards in their boats, using every major muscle group in their bodies to pull the blades of one or two oars through the water as their seats slide to allow for the longest and most powerful strokes possible.

Four countries, including Canada, finished with eight or more medals in rowing at the 2011 Pan Am Games in Guadalajara. Argentina took home the most gold, with five medals, while Cuba, with nine medals, had the highest total number.


Rowing’s history dates back to ancient Egypt, Greece and Rome as a means of transport. As a competitive sport, it began in England in the 17th century, with interest in the sport increasing thanks to the Oxford University versus Cambridge University rivalry boat race on the Thames River.

How it works

Rowers use all their muscle groups, particularly their legs, trunk and arms, to propel their boat down a straight, 2,000-metre course. They face backwards, sitting on a sliding seat to take longer strokes. There are one-, two- and four-person sculling boats, and two-, four- and eight-person sweeping boats, with the eights steered by a coxswain. There are events for lightweight competitors. Men must weigh no more than 72.5 kg, with a crew average of 70 kg. Women must weigh no more than 59 kg, with a crew average of 57 kg.


Coxswain (or cox)
Sits facing the crew, steers and makes technical and tactical calls.

Rowing with two oars, one in each hand.

Rowing with one oar.

Additional Information

Additional Information