Host City: Moskva, Soviet Union
Venue(s): Canoeing and Rowing Basin, Krylatskoye Sports Complex, Moskva
Date Started: July 21, 1980
Date Finished: July 26, 1980
At the 1976 Summer Olympics, the coxless pairs was one of only two events not won by East Germans (the double sculls was the other), and reigning champions Siyka Kelbecheva-Barbulova and Stoyanka Gruycheva-Kurbatova of Bulgaria entered the 1980 edition in a bid to defend their crown. The duo had never medaled at the World Championships, however, and thus the overwhelming favorites were the East Germans, who had won the last four editions, two of which with Ute Steindorf and Cornelia Klier, their crew in Moscow. Canada’s absence, due to the American-led boycott, was felt in this event, and it left the remaining podium spots much more open.
The surprising result in the opening round was the domination of the Soviet duo, Larisa Zavarzina and Galina Stepanova, since the USSR had only ever won one major international medal, silver at the 1975 World Championships, in this discipline. Nonetheless, Zavarzina and Stepanova finished over five seconds ahead of Steindorf and Klier, while the Polish pair of Małgorzata Dłużewska and Czesława Kościańska, bronze medalists at the most recent World Championships, won their easier heat. The final evolved into a tightly-contested race to the finish between Poland and East Germany, the latter of whom managed to win gold and set an Olympic record with less half a second to spare. Poland settled for silver and Bulgaria, who had been on East Germany’s heels during the opening round, were dethroned as Olympic champions and made due with bronze.