Host City: Athina, Greece
Venue(s): Schinias Olympic Rowing and Canoeing Centre, Schinias National Park
Date Started: August 14, 2004
Date Finished: August 21, 2004
James Cracknell and Matthew Pinsent of Great Britain had won the men’s coxless pairs at the 2001 and 2002 World Championships, as well as the 2001, 2002, and 2003 Silver Goblets & Nickalls' Challenge Cup at the Henley Royal Regatta, but their struggle with the discipline at the 2003 World Championships convinced them to switch back to the coxless fours for the 2004 Summer Olympics, in which they would win gold. This left Australia’s Drew Ginn and [James Tomkins], the reigning World Champions, as the favorites in the event. Both were already Olympic champions: Ginn in the 1996 coxless fours and Tomkins in the 1992 and 1996 coxless fours, in addition to Olympic bronze from the 2000 single sculls. Another strong contender was South Africa, whose duo of Donnie Cech and Ramon di Clemente had taken silver at the 2002 World Championships, bronze in 2001 and 2003, and had won the 2004 Silver Goblets & Nickalls' Challenge Cup. The reigning World runners-up, and 2002 bronze medalists, were brothers Nikša and Siniša Skelin of Croatia, both of whom had earned bronze in the 2000 Olympic coxed eights. Walter Naneder and Marcos Morales of Argentina were the reigning Pan American champions.
Australia, South Africa, and the New Zealand duo of Nathan Twaddle and George Bridgewater won their heats in the opening round, with the latter posting the fastest time despite having the easiest heat. Australia posted the fastest time in the semi-finals, eliminating Argentina and finishing ahead of Croatia and New Zealand, but the interesting heat was the one won by Germans Tobias Kühne and Jan Herzog. Here, the Germans and the South Africans were racing to qualify for the finals alongside the crews from Canada, Dave Calder and Chris Jarvis, and Serbia and Montenegro, Nikola Stojić and Mladen Stegić, when, in the final stretch, the Canadians drifted off course and interfered with Cech and di Clemente, causing them to lose ground to Stojić and Stegić and costing them their qualification for the final. The South Africans protested and the Canadians were disqualified, bumping the former into the finals. When the Canadians’ plea to enter the final as a seventh boat was rejected, they exited the competition and refused to compete in the B final. The South Africans’ protest was well worth their time for, although Cech and di Clemente could not catch the Australians or the Croatians, who took gold and silver respectively, they did manage to come in third and earn their nation its first Olympic medal in rowing. Tomkins, meanwhile, surpassed the record set by Briton Steven Redgrave as the oldest male Olympic rowing champion with his victory in this event.