‘The Decision is a disappointment’

Olympic silver medalist Richard Chambers.
Olympic silver medalist Richard Chambers.

Olympic Silver medal winner Richard Chambers has spoken of his disappointment at the decision which consigns his medal winning boat to Olympic history.

Rowing’s governing body, FISA, took the controversial decision to recommend the Men’s Lightweight Four be removed from the Olympic programme ahead of the games in Tokyo in 2020.

At the Extraordinary Congress in Tokyo last weekend, they elected to recommend an Olympic schedule for the 2020 Games that eliminates the lightweight men’s four and replaces it with a women’s four.

The FISA proposal was adopted by a vote of 94 to 67 over an alternate option proposed by Australia, China Denmark and Switzerland which called for replacing the men’s open four with a lightweight women’s four.

While there was strong opposition to the elimination of the lightweight men’s four, FISA believes that if the event were proposed to remain on the Olympic schedule, the IOC would have moved to eliminate it and possible reduce the athlete quota overall and eliminate more than just the one event.

There will now be just two lightweight boats in the Olympic program, the men’s and women’s lightweight doubles.

Chambers, who is now Assistant Coach at Cambridge University Boat Club, told Times Sport he was annoyed FISA had not taken a stronger stance with the IOC.

“This has been on the cards for a while so I wasn’t completely shocked,” said Chambers, who competed for GB in three Olympic Games.

“But it is still a disappointment now that it has happened. FISA have been pressurised by the IOC to make this decision.

“I suppose I am more annoyed that FISA haven’t had the guts to stand up to them and do what is best globally for the sport of rowing.”

The Lightweight Men’s division has always been one of the most hotly contested divisions in rowing.

Chambers and his brother Peter missed out on Gold in London five years ago by just two-tenths of a second from South Africa, with Bronze medal winners Denmark pushing both fours all the way to the finish line.

So to lose this high level of competition really disappoints Chambers.

“Indeed it is a real shame. Lightweight racing is different,” he said.

“When you sit on the start line all boats weigh the same, all athletes weigh the same. This is what makes the racing unpredictable and exciting to watch.

“Thats why over the years some of the best racing has come in the lightweight fours event. Take the final of the 2010 Worlds or the final of the 2012 Olympic Games.”

The 31-year-old is also worried about the message this decision sends out to some rowing nations and aspiring rowers.

“I’m afraid it’s not a very good message,” he said.

“Not all countries on earth can produce 6 ft 5in rowers. Lightweight rowing opened the door for rowers from smaller nations to compete competitively at an Olympic Games. This will now not be possible.

“It also means globally that young children with aspirations of rowing at the Olympics may have their dreams shattered. The message it send out is ‘If you’re not big then find another sport’.”