From the exclusive private sports
clubs of Argentina, to the state-run
system in Cuba, South American
rowing has developed via an
assortment of paths as varied as
the people themselves.
Ever since European immigrants brought
the sport to the continent a small but keen
following has kept rowing alive and kicking,
making the most of bodies of water
ranging from lakes to rivers to the sea.
FISA International Umpire Santiago
Fuentes describes rowing, especially in
Mexico, as originally part of high society:
"People used to belong to the clubs much
more for the social status than for the
sport itself," says Fuentes. "No doubt
these were clubs for the social elite."
One of these rowers, the late Alberto
Demiddi, is considered almost unanimously as the greatest rower in South
American history. The Argentinean
single sculler was the only South
American to medal in rowing at the
Olympics (bronze in 1968 and silver
in 1972) and to win the World Rowing
Championships (in 1970).
The second greatest South American
rower followed closely on Demiddi's
heals. Ricardo Ibarra, also from
Argentina, made the Finals at both the
1976 and 1984 Olympic Games. Ibarra
has since made his mark as one of the
top coaches in the region and he
continues to work as FISA Development
Director for South America spreading his
coaching knowledge throughout the
The South American rowing championships is the main event for the continent
with the four yearly Pan American Games
being the international highlight for the
region and the number of countries
participating has been steadily rising.
Last year at Athens eight South American
countries competed, an increase of three
over the 2000 Olympic participation with
the addition of Uruguay, Paraguay and Peru.
South America will continue to face many
challenges in the development of rowing.
In a continent where soccer reigns
supreme, interest in rowing remains on
According to Chilean rowing enthusiast
Juan Pablo Berlinger, the expense of the
sport plays a major factor in hindering
growth. "It is very difficult, because the
equipment is expensive and it has to be
Some of these early clubs still remain
with names like the Flamengo in Rio de
Janerio, Brazil, the Club Nautico de la
Habana in Cuba, and in Peru the Club de
Regatas Lima. Many are sporting clubs
that include everything from tennis to
soccer to swimming pools.
Today, Argentina can arguably make the
claim to have the largest population of
rowers. In the region of Tigre, where
almost all of the rowers from this nation
come from, the history of rowing is
lengthy. The Tigre region has achieved
the best results over the last 100 years
producing most of the top rowers to go
on to the international stage.
© Jamie Mc Donald / Getty Images
Chileans Medina, Post, Atero and Silva win bronze in the LM4-at the 2004 BearingPoint Rowing World Cup in Munich,
Germany. / Les chiliens Medina, Post, Atero et Silva remportent le bronze en LM4- à la Coupe du monde d'aviron
BearingPoint 2004 à Munich, en Allemagne.
The success of Argentina's single scullers
has continued through to today with the
highest ranked South American rower at
present being two-time Olympian Santiago
Fernandez. Fernandez raced in the final
at Athens finishing fourth in the single
giving him the status of the highest
placing South American rower at the 2004
imported," says Berlinger who believes
that this has limited rowing's accessibility.
Argentina has also produced South
America's top woman rower. Maria Julia
Garisoain competed at both the Atlanta and
Sydney Olympics in the double but found
her greatest success as a lightweight single
sculler at the World Rowing Championships
winning bronze in 1998 and 1999.
© Gary Prior / Getty Images
Berlinger also notes that there is a
growing problem of water pollution
affecting many of the lakes and rivers of
the continent. This has been highlighted
by Sao Paulo's main rowing lake which
recently became so contaminated that
rowing activity had to stop completely.
But Fuentes remains positive in the
knowledge that the rowing potential is
substantial as he looks to the advantages:
"Lakes and rivers are sometimes in the
middle of cities," says Fuentes who also
notes the climatic advantages. "There is
no snow to worry about."
Argentinian rower Sergio Fernandez racing at the 2004
BearingPoint Rowing World Cup in Lucerne, Switzerland. /
Le rameur argentin Sergio Fernandez à la Coupe du monde
d'aviron BearingPoint 2004 à Lucerne, en Suisse.
More recently Chile has made its mark
on the international scene. Christian
Yantani Garces and Miguel Cerda Silva
achieved a first in 2002 by setting the
world best time in the lightweight men's
pair while winning gold at the Seville
World Rowing Championships. This
record still holds today.
"People used to belong to the
clubs much more for the social