The FISA Extraordinary Congress (EC) is held every four years post the Olympic Games. Traditionally the delegates from all the attending National Federations (NF) vote on proposed changes to the FISA Articles, Statutes and Rules.
The recent EC was held in Tokyo, the host city for the 2020 Olympic and Paralympic Games. There were a great number of changes proposed by FISA for voting this year, many merely procedural and updates to the Rules of Racing etc. There were also a number of significant changes proposed by the FISA Executive Council and National Federations after a lengthy period of consultation leading up to this EC.
One of the most significant and contentious changes related to the event programme for the 2020 Olympic Games that is required to be submitted by FISA to the IOC for consideration. As the NF’s had unanimously agreed to gender equity for rowing at the 2020 Games, changes were required to the current number of events for men and women. This task was made more difficult by the fact that there could be no increase to the number of rowers competing. At 550 athletes, rowing currently has the third largest number of competitors at the Games.
FISA Council proposed that the Lightweight Men’s Four (LM4-) be replaced by the Women’s Four (W4-) and RA, together with the Swiss, Danish and Chinese Federations, proposed that the Men’s Four (M4-) be replaced by a Lightweight Women’s Four (LW4-), thus retaining the LM4- as well as the Lightweight double sculls for men and women.
Despite the passionate and spirited debate supporting the retention of the LM4-, Congress voted narrowly in favour of the FISA Council proposal which, unfortunately, will result in a proposal being recommended to the IOC that this popular and exciting event be dropped from the Olympic Games program for 2020.
It is important to note that this will not impact on events for the World Championships and World Cups which will retain this and all other current Lightweight rowing events.
In recognition of the representations by many NF’s of the impact this change will have on the future of Lightweight rowing, FISA has agreed to undertake a full review of Lightweight rowing and RA will ensure we are involved in this process.
On a more positive note, we were pleased to see the proposed changes that would have removed Lightweight averaging from the rules withdrawn by FISA, following lobbying by RA and other nations.
The Council also proposed changing the Rules so that either gender may cox either men’s or women’s crews, and increasing the minimum weight for a coxswain to 55kg with a maximum deadweight of 15kg. Rowing Australia opposed this change on the basis it is not consistent with the principle of absolute gender equality, and may limit the pathway for coxswains of both genders. However, it was passed by a strong vote of Congress, with many NF’s being of the view that it would increase the opportunities for female coxes.
We are conscious of the strong history of success of our Lightweight rowers in the past and aware that in recent years there have been a number of challenges in the high performance space, which has been reflected in some disappointing international results and fewer athletes progressing through the system to the elite level. It will take time for this area of the sport to recover in Australia, but we are dedicated to retaining Lightweight rowing as an important part of our HP system and promoting the long term benefits of this boat class.
High Performance are aware of the challenges for Lightweight rowing and the National Performance Director, along with key staff and coaches from the NTC and Pathways area, are developing strategies to address these long term.
The World Rowing Championships event schedule for 2018 and beyond will be finalised at the FISA Congress set to be held after the 2017 World Rowing Championships in Sarasota, USA. FISA have advised that they will commence a consultation process with NF’s and we will ensure we’re intrinsically involved in this process.
A positive change adopted by the EC, and supported by RA, is the introduction of 2000 metre racing for our para-rowers.
For information about other changes to the para-rowing program, plus a more detailed summary of the outcomes from the Congress, please click here to view the FISA website.