It was easy to feel sorry for downcast German single sculler Karl Schulze as he wandered around Lake Karapiro.

The 22-year-old from Dresden carries the burden of continuing an incredible record of Germanic consistency down the years in the single seat event - but evidently has a way to go.

The world under-23 champion was the slowest of the 12 semifinalists on Thursday, trailing almost 20s behind Mahe Drysdale and 5s behind the next best in his semifinal.

It is a significant change in fortunes for Germany. From 1975 to 2009, just three men occupied the seat for Germany at world championship and Olympic level; an astonishing record in one of the toughest endurance sports in the world.

The trio at the top - Peter-Michael Kolbe, Thomas Lange and Marcel Hacker - claimed two Olympic golds, three silvers and two bronzes at the eight Olympiads in that period. They were also world champions on nine occasions and picked up six other medals.

Kolbe is widely considered one of the greatest rowers never to win an Olympic title. He first raced at the 1975 world championships and was still going strong as a 35-year-old at the 1988 Seoul Olympics. He took five world championship gold medals (1975, 1978, 1981, 1983 and 1986) and grabbed Olympic silvers in Montreal, Los Angeles and Seoul.

His nemesis in 1988, who denied him a final chance for gold, was the giant East German Thomas Lange. Lange also triumphed at the world championships of 1987 and 1989 and, when the wall came down in 1990, went on to represent a newly unified Germany for the next decade.

He defended his Olympic title in Barcelona in 1992 and was still on the podium four years later, finishing third in Atlanta. He is one of just four single scullers (Kolbe is another) to have won medals at three different Olympics.

Marcel Hacker burst on to the scene in 1999 and was derided by some rivals as being "a big man with a big mouth" in recognition of his penchant for confident outbursts.

He won the world championships in 2002 and claimed silvers in 2003 and 2006. At Olympic level, he grabbed a bronze in Sydney (Rob Waddell took gold) but finished well outside medal contention in Athens and Beijing.

The 33-year-old Hacker declined to come to Karapiro but he is still considering a tilt for the London Olympics.