Exhausted, Jörg and Bernd Landvoigt, right after winning their second Olympic gold medal in the pair at the 1980 Games in Moscow.
The curved back. The long reach at
the catch. The seamless motion
with no obvious start or finish to the
stroke. In the 1970s everyone could
tell when the Landvoigt brothers
were coming down the course. But
it wasn’t just their style. They
always came down in the lead.
Identical twins, Jörg and Bernd
Landvoigt influenced a generation of
rowers and many would say their
technique is behind what came to be
known as the Italian style.
The duo started their international career
by winning bronze for East Germany in
the men's eight at the 1972 Olympic
Games in Munich. But their finest
success came when they moved to the
pair and notched up an unprecedented
179 victories from 180 races beginning
with their World Championship gold in
1974 (and again in '75, ’78 and ’79)
through to consecutive Olympic gold
medals in 1976 and 1980.
Jörg explains: “We had the will to
constantly improve and be in front of
everyone else. We were tough on each
other and we knew once we were world
champions that we needed to be [even]
better. We studied the sport to understand
Ironically their single loss was to another
team of twins, the Pimenov brothers
from the Soviet Union.
The Landvoigts rowed for East Germany
at a time when athletes trained full time
and Jörg notes that times and styles have
changed. “Now people train less but are
more efficient. The physical ability is
much higher now. The best times for us
were 6.31. Now you see 6.18.”
After retiring from top competition both
Jörg and Bernd went on to coaching,
Jörg spent a period of time with Italy
before returning to Germany and his
hometown of Brandenburg while Bernd
stayed in Germany coaching crews
through to the Olympic level.
As a coach Jörg says he does not
champion one rowing style. Rather, he
says, it is best not to copy others. “The
right thing is to find the right solution
for each type of rower.”
The brothers remain involved in rowing
and earlier this year Jörg was again at the
forefront of the sport, this time as vice-president of the organising committee
for the World Rowing Junior Championships in Brandenburg. Bernd’s heart
remains with the pair and in 2005 he
coached the German men’s pair at the
World Rowing Championships in Gifu.
Bernd has also been part of the successful rowing career of Jörg’s son, Ike.
The Landvoigts will continue to be
remembered for their fluid, continuous
rowing style, catching far in front with
rounded bodies and opening up late on
the drive. “We leant forward more and
didn’t compress so much with our legs.
Our backs were curved,” describes Jörg.
“Like a horse whip.” M.S.B. ■