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The Origin of Rowing as a Sport

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The Origins of Rowing as a Sport

For hundreds of years, waterways have been a main form of transportation. Floating wooden structures, of all shapes and sizes would hold any number of people and travel across bodies of water. Then, in the late 18 century, man's competitive nature set in. The River Thames in London held the first amateur boat races. Competitors were boatmen of ferry and taxi services. These men would hold friendly races, and on-lookers would gamble on the man they thought would win (Weil, 1996). Over time, this friendly competition evolved into a well-known, well-liked, and well-followed sport

In modern days, there are two types of rowing that are prominent in the sport, and those are sculling and sweeping. The differences are simple: in sweeping, each athlete pulls one oar through the water, while in sculling the athletes pull two oars. In sweeping races, boats carry a group or "crew" of two, four, or eight rowers, while sculling races host singles, double and quads. The course that is rowed measures 2000 meters (about a mile and a quarter or about 6,560 feet) and rowing is the only Olympic sport in which you cross the finish line backward (Gansen, 2010) .

Back in the days of B.C., people would propel boats using a primitive form of oars. This was a big part of life. The reasons for this type of transportation ranged from fishing, commerce, early business, and simply transportation. Also, during times of war, rowing was a great way of invading, or moving from place to place. This originated mostly in Greece, Egypt, and Rome. (Weil, 2004). The mere competitive nature of the activity, coupled with men's competitive nature, made this primitive activity into a budding sport in the early 18th century (Weil, 1996). Organized competition began around 1715, when Thomas Doggett put together the first ever annual regatta (a boat race or a series of boat races). Not much popularity came of that until 1820, when students from Eton College were allowed to rent boats and row on the Thames at Windsor. They used this time for recreation, exercise, and of course some friendly competition (Weil, 1996).

Stemming straight from the popularity of rowing at Eton College, this newly discovered competitive sport began to grow outwards. The first boat race between college teams took place in 1829 between Cambridge and Oxford (Weil, 1996). This annual boat race between the two schools not only helped the sport grow immensely in popularity, but is a great rivalry which is still played out today. The first race took place at Henley on the Thames. There were somewhere near 20,000 spectators on the day Oxford prevailed in what is now simply called, "The Boat Race." (Weil, 2004).

While the sport grew in Europe and the United States, plenty of other countries around the world started to catch on and began developing their own rowing prowess. Australia, Burma, Canada, Hong Kong, India, Ireland, New Zealand and South Africa are just a few of the countries that sat up and noticed the news rowing made in Europe and the U.S.(Weil, 2000). In England, more and more people continued to take notice. The first regattas formed after Thomas Doggett's were in England in the 1830's, when many rowing committees and clubs



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