Host City: Montréal, Canada
Venue(s): Olympic Basin, Notre Dame Island, Montréal, Québec
Date Started: July 19, 1976
Date Finished: July 24, 1976
Women’s rowing events were new to the Olympic Games, but the coxless pairs had been contested at the World Championships for the past two years. In that short time, no duo had become clearly dominant, but East Germany’s Angelika Noack and Sabine Dähne were the reigning World Champions and both had seen international success in other disciplines. The only other World medalist was Marlena Predescu of Romania, who was paired with Marinela Maxim in Montreal and who had won bronze in 1975.
Edith Eckbauer and Thea Einöder of West Germany, both experienced international rowers, had the fastest time in the opening round but the field remained open enough that the gold medal was anyone’s for the taking. In fact, it was Bulgarians Siyka Kelbecheva and Stoyanka Gruycheva, who had been fourth in the event at the 1975 World Championships, that drew the most attention during the final. The unheralded duo came in for a surprise victory less than half a second ahead of the East Germans, who were forced to settle for silver, while West Germany snatched the bronze medal from the Soviets. Kelbecheva and Gruycheva’s achievement earned Bulgaria one of its first three Olympic rowing medals, as the nation’s women also won the double sculls and earned silver in the coxed fours.