Host City: Atlanta, United States
Date Finished: July 28, 1996
Participants: 608 (403 men and 205 women) from 45 countries
Youngest Participant: Dolores Amaya (16 years, 97 days)
Oldest Participant: Hryhoriy Dmytrenko (51 years, 22 days)
Most Medals (Athlete): Kathleen Heddle and Marnie McBean (2 medals)
Most Medals (Country): Australia and Canada (6 medals)
Rowing at the 1996 Summer Olympics was held at the man-made reservoir known as Lake Sidney Lanier in northern Georgia. With the breakup of the Soviet Union now complete, and its constituent nations now competing independently, Atlanta was able to tie the record rowing participation of the 1992 Games with 45 countries taking part. Ukraine and Belarus were among the former Soviet states that made an independent début, while crews representing “Russia” competed for the first time since Mart Kuusik took bronze at the 1912 single sculls (and, even then, he was ethnically Estonian). The Czech Republic and Slovakia, meanwhile, emerged from the dissolution of Czechoslovakia. One completely new entrant was Algeria, who sent Samia Hireche to take part in the women’s single sculls.
Australia was the surprise winner of the medal count in 1996, having taken gold twice, silver once, and bronze three times, but the table as a whole was spread out much more than it had been in many years. Three other nations, Germany, Switzerland, and Romania, were all double Olympic champions, while Canada tied Australia’s total count with six, one of which was gold and four of which were silver, which put it only one victory away from the top of the table. Belarus won its first Olympic rowing medals as an independent nation, with gold and bronze in the women’s single sculls and eights respectively, as did Ukraine, with silver in the women’s quadruple sculls. By capturing bronze in the men’s eights, Russia had its first Olympic rowing podium finish since 1912 and its first ever with ethnic Russians. Switzerland, meanwhile, won its first Olympic rowing titles since 1928 by emerging victorious in the men’s single and lightweight double sculls.
The 1996 program received a significant overhaul with the addition of three lightweight rowing events, the men and women’s double sculls and the men’s coxless fours. This meant that some other events had to go and thus the men’s coxed pairs and fours and the women’s coxless fours all received the axe. Perhaps due to the greater spread of medals, the only multiple medalists in Atlanta were Canadians Marnie McBean and Kathleen Heddle, who took gold and bronze in the women’s double and quadruple sculls respectively.