Sport history
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Sport history

In Russia the sport of rowing was conceived in the era of Peter the Great who attached great importance to professional training and organized rowing lessons for sailors and courtiers. In 1742-1752, regular competitions between carriers were conducted on the Neva. In 1846, the Imperial St. Petersburg Yacht Club was established, where rowers were trained side by side with sailing fans. However, the official history of the domestic rowing dates back to 1860, when the members of the newly established St. Petersburg River Yacht Club approved "The rules of rowing and gig control" mostly copied from the British standards. On July 31st, the first race was held under the new rules on Central Nevka. This day became the official birthday of Russian rowing.

One of the first rowing clubs in Russia is the English rowing club (the second name is "Strela" - "Arrow" in English).

In the postwar years, rowing in Leningrad experienced a real boom. Dozens of rowing clubs, hundreds of regularly engaged members, saturated racing calendar. The unique phenomenon of the most famous club "Red Banner" reached its culmination in 1960 when 29 club members composing the national team went to the Olympic Games in Rome.

The Olympic debut took place in Meilahti near Helsinki in 1952. The performance of the Soviet team, of which nothing was known, created a furor. Yuri Tyukalov sensationally won the men's singles gold medal. The double of Emchuk and Zhilin from Kiev and the legendary eight of Moscow's "Wings of Soviets" won the silver awards.

The sensations continued in Melbourne. 18-year-old Vyacheslav Ivanov ascended the Olympic throne continuing our tradition of dominance in small paired boats. He left behind Tyukalov and Berkutov, who formed a pair and became champions as well. Finally, Emchuk and Zhilin ousted from the double scull changed to a coxed pair and won the bronze medal. Another set of awards - silver - was brought to the team in the coxless pair.

They were waiting for us to win in Rome. And we did - the second great triumph of Vyacheslav Ivanov in the single scull and the unplanned win of Oleg Golovanov and Valentin Boreyko from club "Red Banner" in the coxless pair. The "Silver" failures in the other two classes can only be explained by the oddity: Tyukalov and Berkutov, who dominated throughout the entire Olympic cycle in the double scull, nearly missed the start through the fault of a bus driver and did not have time to prepare properly for the finale; and the iron Lithuanians Yukna and Bogdanavichyus, performing in the pair with an coxwain at the stern (!), which had long been an anachronism in all countries and worsened the result by about 10 seconds, lost to the winners of their final less than the hull. The Olympic bronze medal went to the four from the club "Red Banner".

The Olympic Games in Tokyo was unsuccessful for the Soviet Union. The rowers were no exception - the terrible weather had made significant adjustments to our hopes for medals. However, we took two golds  - Vyacheslav Ivanov pulled out his third victory in the single scull,  Oleg Tyurin (+2010) and Boris Dubrovsky from Leningrad won the double scull. The decline continued in Mexico - here we came to nothing more than the double scull gold (A.Sass-A.Timoshinin) and  the eight bronze brought by the club "Zhalgiris".

In Munich the USSR national team took two golds in its traditional strokes - the single skull (Yu.Malyshev) and the double scull (G.Korshikov-A.Timoshinin). There was only one gold in Montreal (the four with the coxswain V. Eshinov) but a whole lot of other medals - silver in the men's coxed pair and appeared at the Olympics for the first time coxless four; bronze in the men's quad scull. The women's team debuted in the Olympic program with silver in the quad scull and eight, bronze in the single scull, double scull and coxed four.

The Moscow Olympics could be the apogee of the power of the domestic rowing but the boycott by the major Western countries did not notably influence the distribution of awards in rowing - there was a domination of the Eastern Bloc countries. The Games ended in a triumph of the DDR athletes, the Soviet team settled for just one gold in the women's double scull. Silver was brought by Vasily Yakusha in the single scull, Pimenov brothers in the coxless pair, coxed pair, coxed four, coxless four, quad scull (Valery Kleshnev from Dynamo Leningrad, who performed in this quad, was an honorary member of the English rowing club), Antonina Makhina in the women's single scull,  the women's quad scull and eight. Bronze was taken by the men's eight and women's coxed four.

The Olympic Los Angeles became unattainable for Soviet athletes because of political decisions. Many missed opportunities for medals because domestic rowing was still on the rise. At the moment there were exceptionally strong athletes: Pimenov brothers in the coxless pair, the men's four with coxswain Igor Zotov, the honorary member of the English rowing club, men's eight and quad scull.

Already in Seoul our successes went into decline. No gold medals,  the men's eight and women's quad scull silver, one bronze brought by veteran Vasiliy Yakushi, who shortly before the Games joined forces in the coxless pair with young Ukrainian Vladimir Marchenko. Alas, in the very near future such a result would have been regarded as a phenomenal success. At the following five Olympic Games our rowers excelled three times: the men's eight with coxswain Vladimir Volodenkov from St. Petersburg took the bronze medal in Atlanta, the same result showed our women's quad scull in Sydney and only in Athens there was a bright splash - the quad of Nikolay Spinev, Igor Kravtsov, Sergey Fedorovtsev and Alexey Svirin sensationally won.

Today Russian rowing is going through difficult times. Nevertheless, in the year of the 150th anniversary of national rowing, the Association of rowing enthusiasts founded in 2010 looks to the future with optimism and tries to contribute to the revival of our glorious traditions. The revival of the English rowing club, designed to be a museum of Russian rowing history and a center for communication between veterans, a base for training of young rowers and the engine of the club movement at the same time, is one of a series of steps. Important projects include the creation of the eight of the St. Petersburg State University and intercollegiate rowing center, the revival of the Golden Blades Regatta in a unique format, the opening of the Public Boating Club on Krestovka river, trips of domestic veterans to Henley, the publication of autobiographies of sports legends. Russia is still rich in rowing talents, and we are committed to helping them to resound throughout the world as the names of Tyukalov and Ivanov, Timoshinin and Eshinov, Pimenov brothers and Zotov, and many other heroes of the Russian rowing once sounded.


Gallery of Champions


Yuri S. Tyukalov

Born July 4, 1930 in Leningrad. The first domestic Olympic champion. Honored Master of Sports. Honorary citizen of St. Petersburg. He competed for the rowing club "Red Banner".

Yuri Tyukalov got his first medal at the age of 12 as a resident and member of the defense of besieged Leningrad. He began to go in for sports in the postwar years and quickly achieved phenomenal progress. Without the outstanding parameters (he resembled the famous Jack Beresford in terms of complexion and racing weight), Tyukalov had excellent rowing technique with a fast aggressive stroke. Tyukalov was a universal rower - having started as a sweep rower (four golds in the coxed four and the eight at the 1949-1951 USSR championships), he became one of the most famous masters of sculling with regular returns in the sweep-oar rowing (won the USSR championships, the 1954 European championship).

Yuri Tyukalov became the first domestic Olympic champion in rowing. Being a "dark horse" at the Olympic regatta in Helsinki, he masterfully went through the preliminary heats and sensationally beat the undisputed favorite of the Olympics famous Australian Mervyn Wood in a tight finals race. For this heroic victory Tyukalov received a prize from the USSR sports authorities... a length of fabric for a suit.

In 1956 Vyacheslav Ivanov burst on to the country's sports horizon. Unable to compete with the prodigy Yuriy Tyukalov teamed up with Alexander Berkutov in the double scull. The impromptu proved to be a success - Tyukalov became a twice Olympic champion in Melbourne. His duet with Berkutov remained the strongest throughout the following Olympic cycle. The Rome Olympics were supposed to be their new triumph but an unfortunate combination of circumstances prevented them from taking the gold. The athletes settled for the silver.

Yuri Tyukalov finished his career in the rank of two-time Olympic champion, six-times European champion and 13-times USSR champion. Having left the oars, the champion conquered another height of becoming an outstanding metal artist (Yuri  acquired special education in parallel with his sporting career, from the Helsinki Olympics trip he brought a set of tools for metal artistic processing on which he spent all his per diem). The most famous work by Tyukalov is the monument to the defenders of besieged Leningrad at Ploschad Pobedy (Victory Square). In 2002 he was awarded the honorary citizen of St. Petersburg title.

Yuri Tyukalov, the legend of domestic rowing, is the honorary co-chair of the English rowing club. Tyukalov's boat, the famous "Lastochka" ("Swallow") in which he earned the Olympic triumph in Helsinki, was donated to the British rowing club by its owner and is one of the most valuable exhibits of its museum.


Vyacheslav N. Ivanov

He was born on July 30, 1938, in Moscow. Three-time Olympic champion, world champion, four-time European champion, multiple champion of the USSR. Honored Master of Sports. He competed for the club "Strela" ("Arrow"), Central Sports Club of the Navy.

Vyacheslav Ivanov is one of the greatest athletes who left a spectacular mark on sport. With his excellent physique (188 cm, 85 kg) and abilities (in addition to achievements in rowing, Ivanov played football and volleyball at the Masters level, skied cross-country, swam and boxed) he joined the Moscow rowing club "Strelka" ("Spit") late enough but already in the first season became the USSR champion in the single scull among juniors and bronze medalist of adults. His next season created quite a sensation - 18-year-old Ivanov consistently won the USSR sports contest Spartakiada (having beaten the famous Tyukalov and Berkutov), European Championship and the Olympic Games in Melbourne! His brilliant finishing spurt in the finale of the Olympic regatta against Stuart MacKenzie still remains in the annals of world rowing.

Ivanov's finishing spurts were his signature style. Having started the race at position 5 or 6 he was able to pick up the pace up to 40-45 strokes per minute in a few seconds and quickly overtook demoralized opponents. Having broken the resistance of the competitors, Ivanov often stopped rowing some meters short of the finish line which led up to the spectators and coaches hysterics, but crossed the finish line first all the time. In 1956 Ivanov was the first in the world to overcome a 2-kilometer distance in the single scull faster than in 7 minutes (6.58'8). Ivanov's rowing technique was recognized as a standard in different years.

In Olympic Rome Ivanov's preparedness was so great that his long-time rival Mackenzie, to whom the victory over Ivanov in Henley gave hope for revenge, withdrew from the start and went home. In his absence, the advantage of Ivanov was overwhelming. He won his second Olympic gold medal at the rate of 26 strokes per minute.

The third Olympic triumph of Ivanov was held in Tokyo. In severe weather conditions, our rower won by a protracted finishing spurt which did not and still do not have analogues in Olympic history. Ivanov became the first athlete who took three Olympic gold medals in the same class of crafts at three games in a row (the legendary Jack Beresford won his victories in different classes and with interruptions). Only after 20 years Ivanov's achievement will be repeated by "unsinkable Finn" Pertti Karppinen.

In 1968, Ivanov was only 30 years old. He maintained excellent physical shape, and his unique experience and an unparalleled ability to "die" on a distance gave great chances to win in mountainous Mexico. At the training estimation on the Olympic distance, Ivanov beat the future champion of the games Dutch Wienese. However, the absurd decision of the Soviet leaders to put Melnikov in the class of single scull, because "there was no confidence in Ivanov's victory", undermined those hopes. The organizers of the Games took the unprecedented step allowing Ivanov to perform out of competition, but even then Ivanov was banned from performing by the Soviet team leaders.

The English rowing club is proud to have Vyacheslav Ivanov as an honorary member. In 2010 the club organized a trip to the Henley Royal Regatta. During this trip, a touching meeting of old implacable fighters Vyacheslav Ivanov and Stuart McKenzie took place at Leander.


Vladimir N. Eshinov

Born February 18, 1949, in Kirishi, Leningrad region. Olympic champion. European champion, multiple champion of the USSR. Honored Master of Sports. He rowed for the club "Dynamo".

With his unique physical characteristics - height 198 cm and racing weight 110 kg -  Eshinov was one of the most powerful athletes in the history of rowing, - thanks to his sport results and lifestyle, Vladimir gained unconditional authority. He was a symbol of national sweep rowing, with his greatness compensating for our not so extensive achievements in sweep rowing in comparison with sculling. In a sense, Eshinov symbolizes Russian power and character - confidence in his power and his truth, generosity and kindness.

Having started with silver in the eight at the European championship in 1969, Eshinov lingered for a long time in the coxed pair with Nikolai Ivanov - the only person in the USSR who was able to hold his giant mate's stroke. In this class, the  athletes won the World Championship bronze in 1970, bronze and gold at the European Championships in 1971 and 1973, took the 5th place at the Olympic Games in Munich. Then the era of the coxed four came - two wins at the world championships in 1974 and 1975. By the Olympics in Montreal, Eshinov's four gained such a speed that even a sudden illness of Mikhail Kuznetsov on the eve of the final race and his emergency replacement by Alexander Sema did not stop the powerful Dreadnought from winning the Olympic regatta without any options.

For many years, Eshinov has been passing on his extensive sports and life experience to young athletes in his native club "Dynamo". The Eshinov Spring Cup competition is a stable part of the urban racing calendar.

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Information on regattas

On June 12, 2015, in the historic center of St. Petersburg on the waters of the Kronverksky Strait, between the Peter and Paul Fortress and Artillery Museum building, the 5rd International Rowing Regatta Golden Blades will take place.

A distance of 200 meters will be laid in the waters of the Kronverksky Strait along the fortress, which will allow participants and visitors enjoy the beautiful views of the sea capital of Russia.




9B, Deputatskaya Street,

Krestovsky Island, 197110, St. Petersburg

phone number: +7 921 186 58 58


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