Host City: Athina, Greece
Date Finished: August 22, 2004
Participants: 557 (364 men and 193 women) from 55 countries
Youngest Participant: Rocio Rivarola (17 years, 44 days)
Oldest Participant: Elena Georgescu (40 years, 128 days)
Most Medals (Athlete): Viorica Susanu and Georgeta Damian-Andrunache (2 medals)
Most Medals (Country): 3 countries with 4 medals
Rowing at the 2004 Summer Olympics was held at the Schinias Olympic Rowing and Canoeing Centre, a venue built specifically for the Games. Increased efforts to draw in more countries to all events in the Olympics meant that even more nations participated in Athens, 55, than ever before. Uzbekistan, as an independent nation, was the most ambitious among the débutants, sending rowers to compete in the men’s and women’s single sculls, as well as the men’s lightweight double sculls. Paraguay and Chinese Taipei entered both male and female single scullers, while Vietnam was represented for the first time in rowing by Hiền Phạm Thị and Nguyễn Thị Thị in the women’s lightweight double sculls. Finally, Ibrahim Githaiga débuted for Kenya in the men’s single sculls.
For the second time in a row, Romania won three medals, all of them gold, to top the table in 2004, but the results were so spread out that Germany was the only other nation to capture more than one title, thanks to its victories in the women’s single and quadruple sculls. Jüri Jaanson won Estonia its first Olympic rowing medal by coming in second in the men’s single sculls, while South Africa also became a first-time Olympic rowing medalist by coming in third in the coxless pairs. The same could be said for Greece, who came in third in the men’s lightweight double sculls, if one discounts the medals it earned in the odd 6- and 17-man naval rowing boats events at the 1906 Intercalated Games. Russia, meanwhile, won the men’s quadruple sculls, its first, and as of 2012 only, Olympic rowing title.
The 2004 program remained the same from the 1996 and 2000 editions, which is, as of 2012, its current state. There were only two multiple medalists in Athens, Georgeta Andrunache and Viorica Susanu, both of whom were Olympic champions in the coxless pairs and coxed eights. Australia’s James Tomkins and Romania’s Elisabeta Lipă became the oldest male and female Olympic rowing champions by winning the coxless pairs and the coxed respectively, with Lipă capturing a record eighth rowing medal since her first appearance 20 years earlier, five of which were gold. As of 2012 she remains the oldest and most decorated Olympic rowing champion. The United States, which had taken the men’s coxed eights title at 11 previous Olympics, but not once since 1964, finally broke its four decade-long drought by defeating the Netherlands in the finals and winning gold. In less celebratory news, rowing experienced its first medal loss to doping, after Olena Olefirenko of the bronze medal-winning Ukrainian quadruple sculls crew tested positive for etamivan and was disqualified.