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Australian Rowing at the World Senior Championships

The Origins of the Championships

The idea of holding a World Rowing Championship had been discussed at an international level for some time before the first such championship was held in 1962. The annual European Championships conducted since 1892, were regarded as the unofficial world championships until that date. The idea of a World Championship was conceived by a former President of FISA, Gaston Mullegg (SUI) during his presidency from 1949 until his untimely death in 1958.

At the 50th FISA Congress in Amsterdam in 1954, the President of the American federation expressed the hope that the World Championships would be instituted by 1958. In 1955, at the FISA Congress, it was suggested that the championships be organised within the following four years, and the delegates unanimously instructed FISA to pursue the feasibility of this proposal.

More discussion was held in 1956 at the 52nd FISA Congress and the Americans proposed they hold the first world championship in Philadelphia in 1958, inviting the first two place getters in each event from the European championships.

The Romanian and Soviet federations, however, hoped that every nation would have the opportunity to enter, irrespective of its European championships performance. Agreement was not reached and the debate adjourned.

The Americans withdrew from organising the 1958 World Championships at the 53rd FISA Congress in 1957. FISA was to draw up contingency plans, but they were put on hold following the tragic death of Gaston Mullegg, FISA President, in an aeroplane accident on 3rd August 1958. He never lived to see the inauguration of the world championships which he had so strongly supported.

Eventually, at the FISA Congress on 23rd November 1958 in Vienna, it was agreed that World Championships would be conducted. Final approval for the holding of such championships every four years was postponed until 1961 to give all federations the opportunity to make their views known.

The 1958 Congress saw the election of Thomas Keller to the FISA Presidency, which he retained until his death in 1989. In his book, The Story of World Rowing, Christopher Dodd writes, "Chance put Keller into the chair at a time when survival, let alone expansion, of the sport and the future shape of competitive and amateur rowing required some hard decisions."

At the 55th FISA Congress in 1959 held in Macon, France, it was decided that the first World Rowing Championships would be held in 1962. Australia, Denmark and Switzerland offered to conduct the event. Switzerland was the successful bidder for the inaugural World Championships, having the event awarded to it at the 56th FISA Congress in 1960. The venue was to be the Rotsee in Lucerne.

In 1961 the FISA Congress decided that the World Championships would be held every four years. The Championships for open men were conducted every four years from 1962 until 1974 when, thereafter, they were held annually, except for Olympic years. World Championships for women commenced in 1974 and have likewise been conducted every year except in Olympic years.

World Championships for lightweight men and women were first conducted in 1985 and have been held annually since then. FISA Championships were held annually for lightweight men from 1974 to 1984.

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