3:00 AM Workout Partner

By Alan Oldham

When Kirsten Kline was attempting to qualify in November for World Rowing’s newest event at the 2023 World Rowing Indoor Championships (WRICH), she only had time for one try for each of the two required challenges she wrote at the time on Instagram.

“Usually, I like to take several attempts at qualifiers but now I have a baby to play with, so I sent it hard on both of my first attempts and I’ll just let the chips fall where they may. But let me be clear I sold my soul for these scores,” she told her followers at the time.
The strategy worked. Kline ended up qualifying first overall among the 10 women from around the world who will participate in the multi-event Versa Challenge taking centre stage at the 2023 WRICH in Canada, this February.

The challenge is expected to be one of the events to watch crowning the ‘most versatile’ male and female indoor rowers in the world through a series of five races over the two days of the championships. Adding to the excitement, Kline and her competition won’t know the details of each race until just before they sit down to row.

“I think it is exciting,” she says of the new event. “I’m looking forward to it a lot. We don’t do a lot of different stuff in rowing. People always ask, ‘what’s your 2k?’,” she says of rowing’s traditional race distance of 2000 metres. “I think it would be cool to see what the best in the world do for different distances.”


Kline, already a 2021 and 2022 World Rowing Indoor Champion, has set several indoor world records during her short time in the sport. She is now determined to show that now with her son that her athletic drive and goals haven’t changed. In fact, she believes she’s found a way to have better balance.

Far from the outdated trope that someone must choose between motherhood and sport, Kline like so many others understands that she can only be the 100% mom her son deserves by staying true to herself.

“Before we had him,” she says of herself and her partner, “we said, OK, we’re not going to give up on our goals. She won’t let me, and I won’t let her give up.” In fact, this has led to even more opportunities to share what she loves with her son in unique ways.

“When he’s up at three in the morning,” says Kline, “he’ll sit and watch rowing with me while I’m training. Once he starts to get tired, I’ll give him his bottle and he’ll go back to bed.” As well as fun for him to see Kline doing what she loves, he’s an inspiration for Kline.

“We’ve all been dealt different hands and it lights my fire even more,” she says. “As he grows up with us, I want him to know, you can do anything. Even if you’ve got all these roadblocks, you can do it if you keep trying. I believe that it’s not just with rowing, but with anything. If you don’t quit, you don’t fail.”


When Kline discovered indoor rowing, she says it helped her get her life back on track.
“I wasn’t a fan of where my life was,” she says. “I was drinking a lot” The decision to join a CrossFit gym proved life changing, especially when Kline found something that she seemed to be good at: indoor rowing. “I won a local competition at the gym,” see continues, recalling how something in her changed. That feeling grew as she looked at the logbook on the website of rowing machine manufacturer Concept 2 where people from all around the world post their indoor rowing results.

“It lit a fire in me,” recalls Kline, “being somewhat OK at something in my life. I ran with it. When I stopped drinking, I needed something to fill that void and I found rowing. It has taught me about patience and hard work. It is a journey I never thought would happen when I started rowing. Rowing has been a saving grace.”


“I had a coach at a high performance centre,” she recalls of her early attempts at transitioning onto the water. “I was told I was too old. At first, I thought, she’s right, I am to old, but then I thought, no, that’s not alright.” Kline has also challenged head on the stereotype that rowers must be tall. “I’m 5 foot 8 inches [172 cm] tall and I’ve been told I’m too short,” she says. “I don’t believe it.

Instead of convincing Kline to quit, the realization that some people simply won’t accept that she can do it redoubled her determination. “I’m giving myself six more years,” she says. “I will not stop rowing. I would regret it if I don’t go for it.”

That conviction is something Kline thinks can help others as well and she has advice for anyone getting into the sport. “I think rowing is for anyone,” she says. “The issue that happens for most people, the biggest roadblock is that you need to learn good form first. Incorrect form leads to injury or discomfort. Figure out how to be comfortable first.”

“There is so much out there online and a ton of great videos. There are also so many people willing to help,” she says, pointing to the positive advice she received from US Olympic rower Charlotte Buck, who raced in the US Women’s Eight at Tokyo 2020. “She said, just start watching races online.”

So that’s what Kline did. “I have watched hours and hours or racing on YouTube now,” she says. “It just goes all day.” Most rewarding of all for Kline is she now has someone—her new son—to watch with in the middle of the night and share her journey to achieve what she refuses to call impossible until she’s tried with everything she’s got.

Athletes from across the world have registered to join Kline for the 2023 World Rowing Indoor Championships, taking place in Canada for the first time. There are expected to be close to three thousand athletes on the arena floor at the Paramount Fine Foods Centre in Mississauga, just west of Toronto. Dozens more who qualify in continental championships will be able to join virtually in World Rowing’s first ever hybrid event. You can find more information about how to register here https://wrichtoronto2023.ca/register