15 August 2022
By Tim Koch
The 2022 European Rowing Championships finished yesterday, Sunday. They were held as part of the nine-sport European Championships in Munich, Germany. First held in 2018, this was the second European Championships, a multi-sport tournament that brings together the existing European championships of sports such as athletics, beach volleyball, canoe sprint, cycling, gymnastics, table tennis, triathlon, rowing and sport climbing every four years. Some of the participant sports, including rowing, continue to hold their own single-sport European championships outside of the quadrennial cycle.
Many sports joined the European Championships to increase their audience and the media attention that they would not have if they chose to stage their championships on their own. Annamarie Phelps, Chair of European Rowing, said: “It makes a big difference to the sort of audiences we get. We will get people crossing over from other sports to watch rowing and it really does give our athletes a unique stage to shine on.”
This year was the 79th European Rowing Championship and the event is one of the longest running sporting championships on the international calendar. The first (with just three events, single sculls, coxed fours and eights) was held on Lake Orta, Italy, in 1893, the year after FISA, rowing’s international governing body, now World Rowing, was founded. In his Story of World Rowing (1992), Chris Dodd calls the Championships “the main reason for the establishment of (FISA).” Dodd also notes that the Belgians claimed to have organised the first European championships when two Belgians and a Frenchman raced over 2,800 metres on the Terneuzen Canal in 1890. It was a bold claim particularly as the second edition in 1891 was not much bigger.
The European Rowing Championship has had a checkered history.
From its founding, the competition grew in status and popularity over time and, as it was not restricted just to European countries, it became regarded as the quasi-world championships. The first time Americans rowed at the European Championships was in 1930, when a Vesper Boat Club crew became champions in the eights. The British regarded Henley as the far more important event. It was after the Second World War, in 1947, that a British crew with Alan Burrough and “Sparrow” Morris, of Thames Rowing Club, first appeared on the European scene and took a fifth place in the coxless pairs. In the War, Burrough had lost the lower part of his right leg and rowed with a prosthetic leg.
When the World Rowing Championships (which had started in 1962) became annual in 1974, the European Rowing Championships went into hiatus until 2007 when FISA decided to reintroduce it but as a strictly European event (though Israel is included).
According to the European Rowing Championships Wikipedia page:
Historically, the leading European nations, notably Great Britain and Germany, had taken a haphazard approach to attending the championships. Following the 2012 Summer Olympics, however, both fully committed to the event going forward, and from that date, the championships have progressed rapidly to represent one of the key events in world rowing; given the historic and modern strength of European rowing, they rank behind only the Olympic Games, World Championships and World Cup Series. In Olympic years, when World Rowing Championships are not held, they provide a key test ahead of the Olympic regatta, in addition to a significant competitive opportunity in their own right.
It was a good championship for Britain. Saturday’s Guardian reported, “British rowing bounces back…”