The 2022 European Rowing Championships: In the Wake of History

The 20th European Rowing Championship was held in Geneva, Switzerland, in 1912.

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 Championshipsa 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.”

In 1924, Zürich was the host of the 26th Championships.
The Swiss sculler Édouard Candeveau pictured after winning the single sculls at the 1930 European Rowing Championships in Liège, Belgium. Between 1920 and 1931, Candeveau won four gold, one silver and one bronze medal at the Championships.

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 1935 Championships were held in Berlin in National Socialist Germany. Rico Fioroni, then President of FISA, is pictured here at the German “Memorial for the Fallen of the War.” Fioroni, an Italian-Swiss, was President of FISA from 1928 to 1949 and was Honorary President until his death in 1981. Picture: National Digital Archive of Poland.
After three years of trial regattas, women’s events were introduced in the 1954 Amsterdam Championships, pictured here. While these were the first international races for women, men’s and women’s events were held on different days and, in 1955 and 1963, at different locations. Picture: Dutch National Archives (CC0 1.0).

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).

In 1961, Prague, in what was then Czechoslovakia, hosted the 12-event 51st European Rowing Championships.
Amsterdam 1964: Thomi Keller, President of FISA, presents the great Soviet sculler, Vyacheslav Ivanov with his medal for winning the single sculls. The three-time Olympic Gold medalist won four European Golds between 1956 and 1964. Picture: Dutch National Archive (CC BY-SA 3.0 NL).
The 1973 Championships were held in the apparently European City of Moscow. FISA succeeded where Napoleon failed.

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.

The GB Men’s Eight, gold medalists at the 2022 European Rowing Championships. Picture: @WorldRowing
Rachel Quarrell’s annotated copy of the final results of the 2022 European Rowing Championships that she posted on @RowingVoice.

World Rowing’s official race reports for Saturday’s finals are here and for Sunday’s finals are here. Row360’s reports and pictures are here.

The medal table. Graphic from the event’s detailed results page on Wikipedia

It was a good championship for Britain. Saturday’s Guardian reported, “British rowing bounces back…”

An interesting comment from Rachel Quarrell @RowingVoice. On the British Rowing website, Louise Kingsley was quoted as saying, “This is very much a stepping stone to the World Championships. We’ve got another month to build on what we have done here and we need to keep our feet firmly on the ground. There is still a long way to go and I’m sure the rest of the world will go away and step on too. Overall we are in a good place…”
Still making history. In 1972, Hans-Johann Färber, won Olympic rowing gold on the Munich course. Fifty years on, his grandson, Oliver Zeidler, raced over the same course, but missed the medal podium taking a fourth place. Graphic: @WorldRowing.

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