Moscow regatta resurrected

It is exactly 150 years since rowing was first introduced to Russia. To mark the anniversary, an event once regarded as one of the best of its kind in the world – the Moscow Regatta – has been brought back to life.

The regatta has lost its prominence, but officials and rowers hope to revive its former popularity and prestige.

“We can’t speak about the great success of Russian rowers now, but we can hope that the renaissance of Moscow regatta and of our whole sport will happen soon. And I hope that the Moscow regatta will become more and more important,” Leonid Drachevskiy, president of the Russian Rowing Federation, said.

“When I was a young athlete, I remember that all the best rowers in the world came to Moscow to take part in this competition, but this tradition fell by the wayside in the course of several years and now we have to make it as popular as it used to be,” Nikolay Spinev, 2004 Olympic rowing champion, said.

“And then we will be able to invite some of the leading countries in this sport. That's how our athletes will improve their skills, because one race with a strong opponent is much better than lots of training sessions,” he added.

Rowing is one of the oldest Olympic sports – it's been part of the Games since 1900. In Soviet times, the USSR were one of the heavyweights, but since the Union fell apart, Russia has won only one gold medal – in Greece in 2004.

Now with 14 rowing events at the summer Olympics, it gives a country with a competitive squad plenty of chances to add to its medal tally.

“I'm optimistic about the revival of the sport of rowing in Russia. And I hope that there will be a pleasant surprise for us during the next Olympics and we will get medals. Lots of medals are being competed for at the Olympic Games in rowing and we have to try our best to take part in most of the disciplines. We have to focus on that, we can't waste an opportunity to win as many medals as possible,” Spinev said.

About 400 rowers from 11 countries launched their new boats this year.

Meanwhile, the main Russian squad is not taking part in this regatta as they are preparing for the final leg of the Rowing World Cup in Lucerne.

However the main aim of this competition is to find new young talents who will be able to soon fight for a place in the Russian national team for the upcoming games in London in 2012.

“The organization of the competition is of the highest standards. I'm pleased about the number of crews that came here to compete. It's an honor to win here and I hope that will help us to get a chance to get into the Olympic team. For the last two years, the level of competition has increased a lot and it's a great pleasure to take part in it,” Denis Nikiforov, member of the winning crew, said.

The popularity of rowing is growing, but not that many spectators attended. However, those who did turn up were not disappointed – even if only to enjoy the races in the sunshine.