Australia first sent rowers to the Olympics at Stockholm in 1912. The eight who had won the Henley Regatta en route to Sweden. A change of personnel between Henley and Stockholm resulted in the crew losing some form and it missed a medal, whilst the British crew that they defeated at Henley won the gold.
Australia has forged a very proud history in Olympic rowing, particular in the sculling events. The legendary Henry ‘Bobby’ Pearce won the single sculls in Amsterdam 1928 and Los Angeles 1932. Mervyn Wood won the single sculls in London in 1948 and finished second at Helsinki four years later.
At the Melbourne 1956 Games, Wood and Murray Riley won the bronze medal in the double sculls. Wood is the only person to carry the Australian flag at two opening ceremonies, in Helsinki and Melbourne. In Melbourne Stuart Mackenzie finished second in the single sculls behind the great Vyacheslav Ivanov of the USSR. Mackenzie then proceeded to win the Diamond Sculls at Henley, arguably the unofficial world championship at the time, for six consecutive years from 1957.
In 1992 at the Barcelona Games Peter Antonie and Stephen Hawkins won the double sculls. Sixteen years later at the Beijing Games Scott Brennan and David Crawshay had an emphatic win in the double sculls.
Kim Crow was the standout for Australia at the London 2012 Games as she claimed silver in the women’s double sculls with Brooke Pratley and bronze in the single sculls.
Australia’s first medal (a bronze) by a sweep-oared boat came with the eights in Helsinki 1952. The eights won bronze medals again at Melbourne 1956, Los Angeles 1984, Athens 2004 and silver medals at Mexico City 1968 and Sydney 2000.
The famous “Oarsome Foursome” won the coxless fours in Barcelona in 1992 and Atlanta 1996, thereby becoming the first Australian sweep-oared crew to win an Olympic title.
At the London Games in 2012 Drew Ginn who was part of the crew in 1996 combined with Josh Dunkley-Smith, Will Lockwood and James Chapman to win silver after a hard fought battle with hosts Great Britain.
It was Ginn’s fourth Olympic medal and this combined with his previous three gold confirmed his place as Australia’s greatest rower.
James Tomkins and Ginn combined to win the men's coxless pairs in Athens. At the Beijing Games in 2008, Ginn partnered with Duncan Free to win back-to-back titles. Ginn only missed Sydney 2000 through injury.
His 1996 teammates Tomkins and Mike McKay also have won four medals each. Tomkins won gold medals as part of the ‘Oarsome Foursome’ in Barcelona and Atlanta and with Ginn in the men's pair in Athens and a bronze medal with Matthew Long in the men's pair in Sydney. McKay also won gold medals as part of the “Oarsome Foursome” in 1992 and 1996, and silver and bronze medals in the eights in Sydney and Athens respectively.
Australia’s women rowers first won a medal, a bronze, at Los Angeles 1984 by the coxed four. Megan Marcks (then Still) and Kate Allen (then Slatter) won a gold medal in the coxless pairs in Atlanta 1996 and Slatter joined with Rachael Taylor to finish second in the same event in 2000. At the London Games in 2012 Kate Hornsey and Sarah Tait rowed superbly to take home silver in the pair.
Lightweight crews first rowed in Atlanta where Australia’s men’s and women’s double sculls won bronze medals.
The Olympic rowing regattas in 1996, 2000, 2004, 2008 and 2012 confirmed Australia’s position as a power in world rowing. Besides the medals listed previously, the men’s coxless pair (silver) and quadruple sculls (bronze) won medals in Atlanta. In Sydney, the men’s lightweight coxless four (silver), coxless pair (bronze) and coxless four (bronze) won medals. In Athens the men's lightweight coxless four finished second and the women's quadruple sculls finished third. In Beijing as well as gold in the men's pair and double scull, the men's four of James Marburg, Matt Ryan, Cameron McKenzie-McHarg and Frances Hegerty won a surprise silver. Four years later in London the men’s quad scull crew of Karsten Forsterling, James McRae, Chris Morgan and Dan Noonan won bronze.