Traditional disciplines of rowing have been excluded from a World Rowing bid to be included at Victoria 2026 ©Getty Images

Australian Olympic and Commonwealth Games gold medallist Peter Antonie has blasted World Rowing for excluding traditional disciplines in its bid to be part of the Victoria 2026 sport programme.

The Sydney Morning Herald reported that the worldwide body has applied for coastal rowing and beach sprints to be included into the event as a part of its strategy to secure the latter discipline's place in the Los Angeles 2028 Olympics.

Antonie is among those to criticise this proposal which will reject typical rowing events.

"Why is World Rowing ignoring and not growing rowing?" he said, as reported by the Sydney-based media outlet.

"They are destroying lightweight rowing, the core of the sport’s universality, and going down other pathways that include fiddling with race distances and looking to promote other sports such as coastal rowing."

He added that an alternative programme at Nagambie involving men’s and women’s lightweight, heavyweight and Para rowers is "attractive throughout Commonwealth rowing".

This included 2,000 metres events in singles, sculls and pairs.

Critics argue that coastal rowing, which involves a broader craft compared to traditional rowing, is almost absent in Australia.

The discipline consists of a head-to-head beach sprint of two crews over 10m to 15m followed by a 250m race to a buoy.

Peter Antonie, left, won gold at the 1992 Commonwealth Games with Stephen Hawkins, right ©Getty Images
Peter Antonie, left, won gold at the 1992 Commonwealth Games with Stephen Hawkins, right ©Getty Images

Athletes are then required to return across the same distance before a final 10m to 15m sprint.

This year’s Australian Beach Sprints Championships saw 42 people enter while the Australian Rowing Championships attracted 2,400 entries.

Just two participants from Commonwealth nations competed at the last coastal and beach sprint World Championships.

According to Sydney Morning Herald, World Rowing President Jean-Christophe Rolland defended the bid in a letter to Rowing Australia chief executive Ian Robson, citing future Olympics staging the event after it was left off the Paris 2024 programme.

He wrote: "The beach sprints format is at the heart of our Olympic strategy to have coastal rowing included as a new discipline on the Olympic program for LA 2028 and Brisbane 2032, in addition to the already confirmed inclusion in the Youth Olympic Games, Dakar 2026.

"Based on the World Rowing Olympic strategy and the work that Rowing Australia are working on now to develop coastal rowing in the wider Oceania region, we conclude that the natural fit for Victoria 2026 would be beach sprints."

Rolland also suggested that the "relatively low costs and simple requirements of coastal rowing and beach sprints" means it will create "wider participation" in the discipline.

New Zealand were the only nation to top Australia's medal tally at the Tokyo 2020 Olympics ©Getty Images
New Zealand were the only nation to top Australia's medal tally at the Tokyo 2020 Olympics ©Getty Images

He also claimed several Commonwealth nations "have limited or no access to classic rowing facilities and equipment but do have stretches of coastline or lakes with coastal conditions".

Sue Chapman-Popa - who is an Australian Olympian, a former Commonwealth Games athlete and mother of Tokyo 2020 champion Rosemary Popa - urged that surfboat rowing should be proposed if flat water rowing was not.

"Surfboat rowing is what many rowers come from or end up doing," she said.

Australia finished second behind only New Zealand, in the Tokyo 2020 Olympic rowing medals table thanks to two golds and two bronzes.

Commonwealth nations also accumulated half of the medals won at the Games with 34 of these countries being World Rowing members.

The deadline for submissions of formal expression of interest is tomorrow, with three or four sports expected to be added to the current crop of 16.

Rowing last appeared at the Commonwealth Games in 1986.