Olympics: History of Rowing - Erie News Now | WICU & WSEE in Erie, PA

Olympics: History of Rowing

Olympic Rowing has been around since the very end of the 19th century. It was scheduled for the 1896 Olympics, but the water conditions and the windy weather prevented the event from taking place. The Paris Summer Olympics of 1900 were much more accommodating, and rowing has been part of every Summer Olympic schedule ever since. Women's rowing was presented for the first time at the Montreal Summer Games in 1976.  

One of the oldest competitive sports has spotlighted some of the youngest athletes to compete in the Olympics. The winning Dutch crew in the coxed pair event lost their heat and decided that their coxswain weighed too much. They asked a 7-year- old French boy to take his place, steer the boat and win the medal. The name of the boy has escaped the history books, but he is believed to be the youngest Olympic medalist ever. 92 years later, Spain's coxswain, Carlos Front, was only 11 when he became the second youngest Olympic athlete.

Perhaps one of the most famous rowers of all time was JB Kelly, an Olympic gold medalist. He was the father of Princess Grace of Monaco, and grandfather of the reigning Prince Albert II. Kelly was banned from the competitions at the Henley Royal Regatta. He was turned away because of his profession as a bricklayer. The rules of the Amateur Rowing Association were strict regarding the rowing competitors. Manual workers were banned from competition, so Kelly's application to compete was rejected.

He had his heart set on skipping the Olympics and representing England at the Henley competitions that year. After his application to compete at Henley was rejected, Kelly went on to represent the US at the 1920 Summer Games at Antwerp, Belgium. Revenge tasted very sweet for Kelly as he won the gold by narrowly beating out his British competitor. He supposedly mailed his racing cap to England's King George V and included a note that read, "Greetings from a bricklayer." 

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