In this men's C-2 1000m canoe race at Tokyo (2020/2021) Olympics (video provided by NBC Sports), it shows that near 10 meters away from the finish line, it seems that China still leads marginally, while the Cuba team is slightly behind.

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Then Cuba catches up and surpasses China.

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About 5 meters away from the finish line, both teams stop rowing fiercely and they just wait to cross the finish line. What is the reason for that? Is there a rule? Or is that based on some physics or physical principles?

youtube video:

(at 181 secs of the video)

  • 5
    Neither of the YouTube videos are available for me, they seem to be region-locked.
    – F1Krazy
    Commented Aug 4, 2021 at 18:07
  • sorry to hear, but they are available in the USA, or under the Comcast wifi...
    – wonderich
    Commented Aug 4, 2021 at 18:09

1 Answer 1


Toward the end of the race, the boats are doing fewer than 3 strokes per 10m. Also, while the lane floats are 10m apart, they don't indicate the finish. I believe the final floats are less than 10m from the finish line. So the final stroke is different than the rest, but it's not like they get 5m from the end and just "wait". Instead the final stroke is modified.

When the rowers "reset" for the next stroke, they have to pick the oar up and move it from the rear of the boat to the front. This motion will put a retarding force on the hull and will decelerate it.

So on the final stroke, instead of resetting (which will do no good), the rowers throw their mass as far backward as possible, hopefully shoving the tip of the hull a bit more forward.

You'll see similar finishing techniques with cyclists that "shove" the bike forward by leaning off the back as far as possible at the line.

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    Thanks for the insight! Do you know if this technique (and the similar cycling technique) is actually supported by data, or just one of those things athletes do because they think it helps? It's so unintuitive that the correct strategy would be to turn off the primary motor at the last second. Commented Aug 6, 2021 at 15:11
  • Physics says moving forward in the boat will make it accelerate backward. That part is simple. Harder is being sure it's applied at the proper point in the race. If you don't have enough space left to get into the power part of your stroke, then not prepping for it must be a good idea. The hard part would be determining if teams are picking the right spot to do so and aren't doing it too early.
    – BowlOfRed
    Commented Aug 6, 2021 at 15:41
  • thanks so much - I had voted up +1
    – wonderich
    Commented Aug 7, 2021 at 23:36
  • @BowlOfRed Makes sense. It'd be cool to see a study of this technique in action, in rowing, cycling, and anywhere else it's applicable. I wonder if teams really are picking the right spot — I would assume they probably are, but it'd be neat to see empirical evidence of it. Commented Aug 9, 2021 at 18:45
  • 1
    I played this sport and didn't know why we were doing this!
    – Val
    Commented Aug 16, 2021 at 18:31

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