Olympic Gold medallist announces plans to compete on home stage at WRICH 2023

By Stuart Miller-Davis

Tokyo Olympic gold medallist Sydney Payne says she’s excited to compete in front of a hometown audience against the world’s best indoor rowers.

“I love the pressure,” Payne said of competing at international events. “I love the 24 hours before your race, the nerves, the excitement. I always feel, when at the world championships, that I want to train more. It feels so good. I just can’t get enough of that. It’s always an exciting feeling to know your hard work is paying off and you can feel it and see it right in time for your race.”

Canada is hosting the 2023 World Rowing Indoor Championships (WRICH 2023) for the first time ever at the Paramount Fine Foods Centre on February 25 and 26.

Payne was a member of Canada’s Women’s Eight that raced to an exciting gold medal at the Tokyo Olympics, Canada’s first gold medal in the event since the Barcelona Olympics in 1992.

The team had to celebrate with fans from a distance because the pandemic meant no spectators could be in attendance at Tokyo Bay.

That’s why the 25-year-old Toronto native can’t wait to compete with no restrictions this time around at WRICH 2023.

“I love that Canada is hosting a rowing event, and that it’s in Mississauga,” she said during a video call. “We don’t have a lot of races in North America, let alone Canada. It’s few and far between when we get to have an event for rowing in Canada with international athletes like this where my friends and family can come cheer us on.”

Payne expects to see many athletes from North America competing on the arena floor with her, especially young athletes from Canada who have never had the opportunity to compete against the top internationally, let alone at a World Championship.

“Hopefully more of our athletes, that aren’t on the national team and don’t have access to the regattas overseas, are able to see what a great opportunity this is to showcase their strengths.”

She says competing at WRICH 2023 might even be the catalyst for other athletes to start dreaming of being an Olympian or Paralympian and representing their country on the world stage.

Payne’s Olympic dream started when she was just three years old. With her birthday falling on the day of the opening ceremonies of the Sydney Olympics in 2000, her parents took the opportunity to put together an Olympic themed party.

Photo provided by Sydney Payne
Photo credit RCA/Kevin Light

As a teenager, Payne started rowing as an offseason sport to ski racing after her family picked up a flyer at their local grocery store from a rowing club nearby, Hanlan Boat Club, advertising their learn to row program.

She found she was a quick learner and really enjoyed the sport. With guidance from her coaches and other athletes she advanced quickly. She excelled at the University of California helping the Bears win gold in the varsity eight 2018 NCAA Championships and eventually earned a spot on Canada’s national team.

The two-time World Rowing Under 23 champion in Women’s Eight loves being out on the water with her teammates but, indoor rowing plays an important role in her preparation as a national team athlete.

“It’s the hard part of our training. It doesn’t have the grace and the beauty of being out on a dead calm lake but it’s where we get to go to work and put in the extra effort,” she said. “We always have one or two, maybe more erg sessions a week and it’s where we put in the power and see the watts you can physically put out as a team side by side. When you get a group together having a hard erg workout, there’s an energy you can’t get on the water.”

Payne says that will be on full display for everyone to see first-hand in Mississauga next month.

This is your chance to experience the rush of competing at a World Championships on the floor with Olympic gold medalists like Payne, Paralympians and CrossFit stars. The deadline to register is February 8. Act now to secure your spot and to be part of history. Register at https://worldrowing.entries.regatta-systems.com/wrich/2023