Martin Helseth (b), Erik Solbakken, Jan Oscar Helvig, Olaf Tufte (s), Men's Quadruple Sculls, Norway, 2021 European Rowing Championships, Varese, Italy / Benedict Tufnell

With 526 athletes taking part in the Tokyo 2020 Olympic rowing regatta later this week, World Rowing takes a look at the 12 oldest competitors who will line up on race day. Far from laying down their oars, this group of experienced and decorated racers is proving that skill and success in this sport doesn’t have to stop in your early 30s

12       ALLAR RAJA (EST)

Name Allar Raja
Born 22 June 1983
Age at Games 38
Nation Estonia
Event Men’s Quadruple Sculls (2 seat)
Prior Games Beijing 2008 – 9th Men’s Quadruple Sculls

London 2012 – 4th Men’s Quadruple Sculls

Rio 2016 – Bronze Men’s Quadruple Sculls

Twenty-one years after his international debut at the 2001 World Rowing Junior Championships, Estonian sculler Allar Raja is gearing up to race at his fourth Olympic Games. Raja has been a mainstay of his nation’s powerful quad for much of that time, steadily advancing that crew from 9th place at Beijing 2008 to 4th at London 2012 to a bronze medal at Rio 2016. With a bronze medal at the 2021 European Rowing Championships, his crew will surely be in the thick of things at the Tokyo Games.


Name Meghan Musnicki
Born 5 February 1983
Age at Games 38
Nation United States of America
Event Women’s Eight (6 seat)
Prior Games London 2012 – Gold Women’s Eight

Rio 2016 – Gold Women’s Eight

Meghan Musnicki joined the US women’s eight in 2010 during that crew’s incredible streak of undefeated performances. With five World Rowing Championship gold medals to her name, the two-time Olympic gold medallist returned to rowing in 2018 after a brief retirement. While the US eight had faltered in their winning ways following their win at Rio 2016, Musnicki and her crew will have the benefit of lining up in Tokyo as defending Olympic champions.

10       PEDRO FRAGA (POR)

Name Pedro Fraga
Born 27 January 1983
Age at Games 38
Nation Portugal
Event Lightweight Men’s Double Sculls (Bow seat)
Prior Games Beijing 2008 – 8th Lightweight Men’s Double Sculls

London 2012 – 5th Lightweight Men’s Double Sculls

Pedro Fraga has represented Portugal in the lightweight men’s double sculls since 2005. Finishing 8th at Beijing 2008 and 5th at London 2012, Fraga and long-time doubles partner, Nuno Mendes, did not qualify for the Rio 2016 Games. This time around, Fraga has teamed up with relative new comer, Afonso Costa, who will be 25 years old at the Tokyo Olympics, hoping to improve yet again on his last Games performance.

9          MARTIN SAUER (GER)

Name Martin Sauer
Born 17 December 1982
Age at Games 38
Nation Germany
Event Men’s Eight (Coxswain)
Prior Games London 2012 – Gold Men’s Eight

Rio 2016 – Silver Men’s Eight

Setting their course for over ten years, coxswain Martin Sauer joined his nation’s top men’s crew in the late 2000s at a time when no German team had won that Olympic event for two decades. With Sauer at the helm, Germany’s fortunes began to change. The crew won three back-to-back World Rowing Championships and then the London 2012 Olympics. Then four years later they finished second to Great Britain at Rio 2016. Only time will tell if Sauer can strike gold once again in Tokyo.

8          MILKA KRALJEV (ARG)

Name Milka Kraljev
Born 8 November 1982
Age at Games 38
Nation Argentina
Event Lightweight Women’s Double Sculls (Bow seat)
Prior Games Athens 2004 – 17th Lightweight Women’s Double Sculls

London 2012 – 15th Lightweight Women’s Double Sculls

Argentina’s Milka Kraljev is set to compete at her third Olympics since her international debut at Athens 2004 where she and partner Lucia Palermo finished 17th in the lightweight women’s doubles. While she did not race at the Beijing 2008 Games, Kraljev was back in the boat with new partner Maria Rohner in the lead up to London 2012, where the duo improved their Olympic standing by two spots. Set to race in Tokyo with Evelyn Maricel Silvestro, Kraljev is doubtless aiming to better that result once again.


Name Miroslav Vrastil
Born 17 October 1982
Age at Games 38
Nation Czech Republic
Event Lightweight Men’s Double Sculls (Stroke seat)
Prior Games London 2012 – 11th Lightweight Men’s Fours

Rio 2016 – 12th Lightweight Men’s Fours

Miroslav Vrastil is a familiar name on the lightweight rowing scene for his longevity in international competition since starting in the Czech Under 23 lightweight men’s pair in 2004. Competing at Tokyo 2020 will mark Vrastil’s third Olympic appearance, an accomplishment matching that of his father, who shares the same name and raced for what was then Czechoslovakia at Munich 1972, Montreal 1976 and Moscow 1980.

6          MIKOLAJ BURDA (POL)

Name Mikolaj Burda
Born 8 July 1982
Age at Games 39
Nation Poland
Event Men’s Four (4 seat)
Prior Games Athens 2004 – 7th Men’s Eight

Beijing 2008 – 5th Men’s Eight

London 2012 – 7th Men’s Eight

Rio 2016 – 5th Men’s Eight

Mikolaj Burda’s elite rowing career started on a golden note in 1999 with a World Rowing Junior Championship win in Poland’s Under19 men’s eights. Since then, Burda has raced at four Olympic Games, twice helping his nation’s eight into the A-final and twice winning the B-final. With his fifth Games regatta a week away, this time he will race in the men’s four. Poland have never stood on the Olympic podium in this event, but with a victory at the 2019 World Rowing Championships to qualify for the Tokyo Games, that’s something Burda appears eager to change.

5          SANITA PUSPURE (IRL) 

Name Sanita Puspure
Born 21 December 1981
Age at Games 39
Nation Ireland
Event Women’s Single Sculls
Prior Games London 2012 – 13th Women’s Single Sculls

Rio 2016 – 13th Women’s Single Sculls

Latvian-born Sanita Puspure has been setting the pace of Ireland’s rowing resurgence since first racing for her new homeland in 2010. The mother of two was Ireland’s only Olympic rower at London 2012, where she finished 1st in the C-final, a result she repeated four years later at Rio 2016. Puspure went on to claim back-to-back golds at the 2018 and 2019 World Rowing Championships as well as the 2020 European Rowing Championships. With a top three finish at the 2021 World Rowing Cup II, Olympic gold could be next.


Name Tonu Endrekson
Born 11 June 1979
Age at Games 42
Nation Estonia
Event Men’s Quadruple Sculls (3 seat)
Prior Games Athens 2004 – 4th Men’s Double Sculls

Beijing 2008 – Silver Men’s Double Sculls

London 2012 – 4th Men’s Quadruple Sculls

Rio 2016 – Bronze Men’s Quadruple Sculls

With a win at the Final Olympic Qualification Regatta in May, Tonu Endrekson earned a berth in what will be his fifth Games regatta. The two-time Olympic medallist has a proven track record of improvement from one Games to another in each of the two events he has raced, transmuting 4th place finishes in the doubles (Athens 2004) and quads (London 2012) into silver and bronze (Beijing 2008 and Rio 2016 respectively). Tokyo 2020 will be Endrekson’s third in the quad, making for a narrow margin for improvement if he aims to keep his streak alive.

3          DECHANG ZHANG (CHN)

Name Dechang Zhang
Born 23 August 1978
Age at Games 43
Nation China
Event Women’s Eight (coxswain)
Prior Games Beijing 2008 – 7th Men’s Eight

After a gap of 13 years after his Olympic debut at the helm of China’s men’s eights at Beijing 2008, Zhang Dechang is back at the helm of one of his nation’s flagship crews. But this time instead of the men, he’ll be steering the women’s crew. Changes to the rules since his last appearance have made this possible and his crew and coaches are set to benefit from his wealth of experience.

2          FELICE CHOW (TTO)

Name Felice Chow
Born 15 June 1977
Age at Games 44
Nation Trinidad and Tobago
Event Women’s Single Sculls
Prior Games Rio 2016 – 22nd Women’s Single Sculls

Felice Chow’s steady progress in the sport is no surprise to those who have followed the master rower-turned Olympian since her first Games appearance at Rio 2016 where she became her native Trinidad and Tobago’s first and only Olympic rower. With a real-life alter-ego as a research scientist for a drug company in California, Dr Chow has split her time between the lab and elite training for Tokyo 2020. With a Silver at the 2019 Pan-American Games and a third-place finish at the long-delayed Americas Continental Qualification Regatta this past March, she will be someone to watch as she aims for an even better Olympic performance at her second Games.

1          OLAF TUFTE (NOR)

Name Olaf Tufte
Born 27 April 1976
Age at Games 45
Nation Norway
Event Men’s Quadruple Sculls (2 seat)
Prior Games Atlanta 1996 – 8th Men’s Fours

Sydney 2000 – Silver Men’s Double Sculls

Athens 2004 – Gold Men’s Single Sculls

Beijing 2008 – Gold Men’s Single Sculls

London 2012 – 9th Men’s Single Sculls

Rio 2016 – Bronze Men’s Double Sculls

Olaf Tufte is without a doubt one of the most recognisable names in rowing’s Olympic pantheon who will be competing at this year’s Games. In the almost 30 years since starting the sport, Tufte has raced at six Olympic regattas so far, most famously winning back-to-back golds in the men’s single sculls at Athens 2004 and Beijing 2008. Although in a larger boat (the quad) for Tokyo 2020, it would be impossible to discount the impact of Tufte’s presence both inside his own boat and in the minds of his competition.

Read more on the interplay of age and elite rowing performance here.