Rowing’s Greatest Test​

By Alan Oldham

Racing against the best in the world is what makes the World Rowing Indoor Championships such a unique event. From Olympic and Paralympic medalists to giants of the Cross-fit universe to heroes from the local gym, this is where rowers from under 17 to 70 plus and rowers of all abilities can come together.

“The World Rowing Indoor Championships is an event where athletes can show [their] raw speed,” says Canadian Olympic rower, Jenn Casson. With indoor rowing gaining in popularity around the world, her words resonate more than ever for a discipline of the sport that has truly come into its own.

“There is no greater test for a rower’s power than the 2000 metre race [on an erg],” continues the current fastest lightweight woman in the 19-29 age group for that distance as well as 6000 metres. “It is the ultimate equalizer to measure pure strength between yourself and your competition.”

“Welcome to Canada,” Casson says to everyone who will take part in the upcoming event, echoing the sentiment of rowers across this northern nation. “I am so excited that the championships are coming. I know that Mississauga will be an exceptional host. May the scores be fast and the spirits high.”

Casson adds that she’s excited at that her 2000 metre mark might be broken in Mississauga in February.

“Setting the world record was not something I set out to do, but I was really proud [of it] once I realized I had done it.”

While Casson may not have intended to be fastest in the world when she broke the record, setting a new world benchmark is exactly what some racing at the World Rowing Indoor Championships aim for. And for others, like Alida Kingswood, who at age 91 will be defending her back-to back world record setting appearances at the 2021 and 2022 World Rowing Indoor Championships, it is all about context.

Kingswood is excited about the opportunity to compete at home in Canada in front of all her family. 

“I would be pleased with reaching my personal goals even if a world record were not involved. Most of all I enjoy the interest and support from my children, grandchildren, and great grandchildren. Racing involves them in a sport I would otherwise do privately. It gives us something to look forward to and enjoy together.”

Race events will include naming an ultimate indoor rower

While the 2000 metre distance remains rowing’s “gold standard” for individual events, 500 metre races have become an increasingly popular distance.

Beyond crowning World Champions and celebrating new World Record holders in the single distance races, the World Rowing Versa Challenge adds a new element of excitement and intrigue at these world championships for ten qualifying men and ten qualifying women. The athletes in the Versa Challenge will compete in a series of five races, designed like the Decathlon in Track and Field and to discover the best overall indoor rower in the world. With the exact distances and competition events only revealed on race day, this is the ultimate test of an indoor rowers’ physical fitness and mental adaptability and is sure to be a crowd pleaser.