Date and site of trials: April 10-15, Lake Lanier, Gainesville, Ga.
TV info: May 6, ESPN2, 8-8:30 p.m. (tape); May 26, ESPN, 1:30-2 a.m. (tape).
About the sport: Rowing is one of the oldest, most traditional sports in the Olympics. After track and field athletes and swimmers, rowers (approximately 48 in '96) are the third-largest delegation to the Olympic Games.
Classes: There are 14 events in Olympic rowing, eight for men and six for women. Events are divided into two disciplines _ sweep rowing and sculling _ and two categories within those, open and lightweight. The classes are: men's single sculls (H1x); men's double sculls (H2x); men's quadruple sculls (H4x); lightweight men's double sculls (HPL2x); women's single sculls (F1x); women's double sculls (F2x); women's quadruple sculls (F4x); lightweight women's double sculls (FPL2x); men's pair without coxswain (H2-); women's pair without coxswain (F2-); men's four without coxswain (H4-); lightweight men's four without coxswain (HPL4-); men's eight (H8+) and women's eight (F8+). Overall, 48 rowers will be chosen at the trials.
Qualifying: For the first time in recent history, there will be trials rather than selections for rowing. Trials conclude with a two-out-of-three finals system to ensure that no crew is kept from the Olympic team because of a mishap or uncontrollable occurrence.
Best U.S. chance for a medal: men's eights ('94 world champions) and women's eights (defending world champions).
Up-and-coming: Men's quadruple sculls.
The athletes: Rowers are categorized by what boat they row, their gender, and how much they weigh. Sweep rowers use one oar; scullers use two oars.
Lightweight women must weight 130 pounds or less; lightweight men's crews must average 155 pounds, but no individual can weigh more than 160. Open crews have no weight requirement.
A coxswain coaches and steers in some rowing events, such as the "the eight," the fastest boat on the water, which is capable of moving at nearly 15 mph.
The boats: All boats can safely be called shells. However, rowing boats with each person having two oars are called sculls.
Originally made of wood, most shells are now made of carbon fiber or honeycombed fiberglass. Singles are 27 feet long; eights are 58 feet. Width varies _ competitive singles are as narrow as 10 inches across. Singles may weigh as little as 25 pounds, while eights may weigh 200 pounds.
The race: Men and women row 2,000 meter races _ approximately 1\ miles. At the start of the race, the stroke rate will be higher, maybe 40-44 per minute for an eight, 36-40 for a single. Then the boat will drop the rate to 32-36 (8+) or 28-32 (1x) for the middle of the race. Coaching strategy determines when the boat will sprint, but finishing stroke rates of 40-42 for an eight are possible.
Did you know? Dr. Benjamin Spock, the famous baby doctor, was an Olympic rower in 1924 and won a gold medal in the eight.
Milestones in Olympic rowing: In 1976, six women's event were added.
Most memorable Olympic moment: Jack Kelly Sr. won two gold medals in 1920 and another in 1924; son John Kelly Jr. won the bronze in 1956.
_ TERRY TOMALIN