Host City: Athina, Greece
Venue(s): Schinias Olympic Rowing and Canoeing Centre, Schinias National Park
Date Started: August 15, 2004
Date Finished: August 22, 2004
Italy was the defending Olympic champion and had won four consecutive titles in the men’s quadruple sculls at the World Championships from 1994 through 1999, but the best that they had managed in the past three years was bronze in 2001 and 2002. Their dominant position had been usurped by Germany, World Champions at the last three editions, who sent their reigning squad of Marco Geisler, Robert Sens, André Willms, and Stephan Volkert to the 2004 Summer Olympics, the latter two of whom were also Olympic champions in this event from 1992 and 1996. The Czech Republic was the current World runner-up, while Poland had been the 2002 runner-up and 2003 bronze medalist. The final podium spot over the past three years had gone to the Netherlands, runner-up in 2001.
In the opening round, Germany, Poland, and the Czech Republic all outperformed each other as they won their heats, while the latter two were only 0.10 seconds apart in winning their heats in the semi-finals. This round also saw Germany come in second in Poland’s heat and Italy eliminated from the competition. In the final, the Czech Republic, Russia, and Poland had all moved to the front of the pack by the halfway point and had very little time between them. By the three-quarter mark, Russia had taken the lead unexpectedly and seemed to be tapping hidden reserves of strength as both Poland and the Czech Republic struggled to keep up. From this point, Poland faltered and Russia pulled away from the Czechs, taking a surprise gold medal, their first, and as of 2012 only, in Olympic rowing as an independent nation. Even still, the biggest shock was yet to come: the Czechs cruised in for a comfortable second-place finish but the Ukraine, who had been over four seconds behind at the three-quarters mark, unleashed a fantastic drive and burst ahead of the Polish crew to steal bronze by a photo-finish margin of only 0.07 seconds. Germany, meanwhile, experienced severe difficulties during the final and was never in contention, a surprising result from the three-time reigning World Champion.