International Rowing

Entries in Karl Adam (1)


The German Engine

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Background to German Rowing

There is no doubt that Germany has produced some of the greatest rowers in history. As a National Rowing Federation, they have dominated the World Junior Rowing Championships, the U23 World Rowing Championships and the World Rowing Championships for many years (Albeit a tussle with Great Britain in recent years).

As a single nation, they hold the most World Rowing Championship records: GER M4- at 5:41.35, M4+ at 5:58.96, LM8+ 5:30.24, and GER W4x 6:10.80.

German's rise to rowing dominance can be traced back to Karl Adam. It was Adam (May 2, 1912, Hagen – June 18, 1976, Bad Salzuflen) who is widely regarded as the man who drove German Rowing to the its era of dominance. He was a German rowing coach considered one of the most successful and innovative of all time while also being one of the most important rowing coaches of the 20th century.

Adam's impact started in the 1950s. He was co-founder of the Ratzeburg Rowing Club in 1953 and head of the Rowing Academy there. He had never rowed or sculled before he started coaching is frankly legendary. Adam learned rowing and sculling during his studies in Sports in the late 1930s. Previously, he was a competitive boxer and became World Champion of Students in 1937.

Between 1959 and 1968, the Ratzeburg Club won seven titles at World and European Championships. In addition the eight won a gold medal at the 1960 Summer Olympics in Rome, a silver medal at the 1964 Summer Olympics in Tokyo, and a gold medal at the 1968 Summer Olympics in Mexico.
Thomas Lange was a member of the club when he won his third Olympic medal in 1996 in the single scull, and today, is still a member of the club. 

Karl Adam's was a great innovator of rowing and training techniques. Adam's methods had a major impact on the further development of rowing. His rowing technique became known in the rowing world as the "Ratzeburg" style. Adam was the first to adapt fartlek, also known as speed play, and interval training from track (athletics) as well as heavy weight training to rowing. He pioneered a new, more efficient, oar design and was the first coach to use "bucket" or "German" rigging. (Typical rigging alternates between port and starboard rowers (e.g: PSPS / BSBS). In German rigging, two starboard (or port) rowers sit directly behind one another, e.g: PSSP / BSSB).

Between 1959 and 1967, his boats won seven titles at World and European Championships. In addition his eight won a gold medal at the 1960 Summer Olympics in Rome, a silver medal at the 1964 Summer Olympics in Tokyo, and a gold medal at the 1968 Summer Olympics in Mexico.

The build up to the Olympic Games:

For many years every Nation looked to Germany as the top rowing nation in the world. A power shift has seen Great Britain rising to dominace achieving the top spot on the medal table at the Beijing 2008 Olympic Games.  

In Bled, at the 2011 World Rowing Championships, the German men’s eight proved that they had what it took to remain on top when they won their final in Slovenia. In choppy, tail-cross wind conditions Germany continued their winning streak, relegating the British to be bridesmaids for a second year running.

Germany also had the upper hand in the women’s quadruple sculls when they finished off a very good season with a World Champion title. New Zealand came through on the very last stroke to defend their title in the women’s pair. The race was so close that it took Juliette Haigh and Rebecca Scown several minutes to realise they had won.

The German Engine: The Eight!


The German Men's Eight has surged to dominance in recent years. 

Coming into the 2011 World Rowing Championships Germany had one target in mind. Germany came into the Championships as unbeaten since 2009 and two-time World Champions. The Germans must have known that. But did it faze them? At the start Germany jumped out quickly and didn’t look back. Australia made a gallant effort and stuck closely to Germany through the first half of the race. Then Great Britain, who have shown in previous races that they may not be the fastest starters but they have an awesome finish, began to move up.

Great Britain overtook last year’s bronze medallists, Australia and tried to close on the Germans. There is, however, a new crew on the block. Canada is the reigning Olympic Champions but they have been rebuilding after a big post-Beijing crew retirement. Included in the rebuilding has been the return to the team of 2008 coxswain Brian Price and strongman Malcolm Howard. This ‘new’ crew had a really good sprint and from fourth position they were moving through the field.

The Germans, still, remained in the lead and at a 41 stroke rate they were revelling in these rocky tail wind conditions. Great Britain’s stamina earned them silver and Canada got through to bronze, denying Australia of a medal.

Eyes on the 2012 Olympics

Below, rowers from Germany eight describe the importance of an efficient rowing stroke and an efficient division of powers over the race distance of 2,000m. Videos from: Youtube: RuderTv



German crews to watch

GER M8+: World Rowing Champions (Bled 2011, 2010 and 2009): Gold

GER W4x: World Rowing Champions (Bled 2011): Gold

GER M2x: World Rowing Championships (Bled 2011): Silver

GER M4x: World Rowing Championships (Bled 2011): Silver


GER LM2x: World Rowing Championships (Bled 2011): 4th, (New Zealand 2010): Silver. 

Paralympic Events

GER IDMix4+: World Rowing Championships (Bled 2011): Silver

GER LTAMix4+: World Rowing Championships (Bled 2011 and 2010): Bronze