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Summer Olympics Rowing: 10 Terms Every Fan Should Know

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Per its official website, the 2012 London Summer Olympic Games will feature 14 rowing events, which will take place between July 28 and Aug. 4. In each contest, individuals or teams will use oars to try to power their sleek, canoe-like boats 2,000 meters (approximately 2187.2 yards) to the finish line ahead of any competitors. All of the rowing contests will take place at Eton College Rowing Center (Dorney Lake), located about "25 miles west of London."

People who are new to the sport should find these 10 definitions helpful. Unless otherwise noted, the information comes from USRowing.

Scullers: "Athletes with two oars - one in each hand." The rowing competitions that require competitors to use two oars are called sculls and are often denoted in programs with an "x." For example, the single (solo) sculls competition may be listed as "1x" on some Olympic brochures.

Sweep Rowers: Unlike Scullers, sweep rowers only use one oar. In sweep competitions, half of the team's athletes will row off the right side of the boat and the other half of the squad will row off the left side of the vessel. Sweep rowing competitions are denoted by a "+" (with a coxswain) or a "-" (without a coxswain). For example, both the men's and women's pairs may be referred to as "2-" in some Olympic programs.

Coxswain: Per the 2012 London Olympics' official website, each rowing team in the eight-person competitions will also contain a coxswain. This individual does not help to propel the vessel. Instead, he or she "typically sits at the stern and is responsible for steering the boat and directing the crew."

Catch: The beginning of the athlete's stroke when he or she drops the oar "vertically into the water." The rowers sit with their backs to the front of the boat and begin their strokes with the oar blades behind them.

Drive: The part of the rower's stroke in which he or she drives the blade through the water. The athletes move the blades by pulling them back towards their bodies.

Finish: The portion of the rowing motion in which an athlete moves the oar handle down to draw the blade out of the water. All oars are attached to the boats, so it is necessary for the rowers to push down, instead of to pull up, on the oar blades in order to bring them out of the water in preparation for the next stroke.

Recovery: The recovery is the final portion of the rower's stroke in which he or she has pulled the oar out of the water and sets it in place for the next stroke.

Power 10: "A 'Power 10' is a call by the coxswain for 10 of the crew's best, most powerful strokes." A squad's coxswain will usually reserve this call until the very end of the race, as the team drives towards the finish line.

Shell: The boats that are used in the rowing competitions are often called shells.

Feather the Oar: The term refers to the act of "turning the oar handle -- so that the oarblade [sic] changes from a vertical position to a horizontal one." The rower takes this action during the finish (portion of the stroke) when he or she is pulling the blade out of the water.

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The author is a freelance writer who happens to be an avid sports fan. He is not affiliated with any Olympic organizations or rowing teams.

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