Another Olympic Gold Medallist Announces Her Participation at WRICH 2023

By Stuart Miller-Davis

Tokyo Gold medallist Kasia Gruchalla-Wesierski says she’s excited to be among the thousands of indoor rowers coming to Mississauga and to be able to get up close with sport fans over the course of the weekend.

“We appreciate as athletes having the support of a crowd and having people care about rowing in Canada,” she said on video call from Duncan, BC where the Rowing Canada Aviron training facilities are. “We deeply care about our community, and we’re really excited to be participating at this event. So, feel free to come say hi and spark up a conversation because that’s as much part of the experience as racing.”

Gruchalla-Wesierski was a member of Canada’s Women’s Eight that broke a 29-year Olympic medal drought in the event, alongside Sydney Payne who is excited to also be competing in front of a hometown crowd at the first ever World Rowing Indoor Championship to be hosted in Canada on February 25 and 26.

It will be special for Gruchalla-Wesierski to be going head-to-head racing on the indoor rowing machines known as ergometers or ergs against Payne, her current national team boat mate.  Kristen Kit, another gold medallist from Tokyo, will be at the event doing live commentary for the fans in the arena at the Paramount Fine Food Centre in Mississauga.

Payne calls Gruchalla-Wesierski “the best erg-er on the team” and the 31-year-old is out to prove it in Mississauga while having some fun racing against her friend. 


“That means so much coming from Sydney since I have so much respect for her as a teammate and as a friend. You simply need to have a belief that there are no limits to what you are capable of, and that your size doesn’t always determine your erg score,” she said. “I can’t wait to compete with her, and we can utilize it towards the World Rowing Championships (in Serbia in September), which also serves as Olympic qualifiers for us.”

The Montreal native who grew up in Calgary with dreams of becoming an Olympian is looking forward to connecting with and inspiring the next generation of Canadian rowers. 


“We live in such a bubble,” she said of the isolated location of the training centre on Vancouver Island. “We forget how much power we have to inspire the younger generation and that is a big part of why we do this too.” 

The bronze medalist in Women’s Eight at the most recent World Rowing Championships started the pursuit of her dreams as an alpine ski racer. After breaking her leg, she was forced to retire from the sport and thought her chance to become an Olympian was gone. Turns out she just needed to find the right sport. 

It took her a while to figure out which sport that was going to be. At first, she was focused on winter sports and bobsleigh.

As she waited for Canadian national team bobsleigh tryouts, 2015 Royal Canadian Henley Regatta double gold medallist in Women’s Eight and Women’s Four, Helena Hlas, her friend from years of ski racing turned rower, convinced her to pick up the oars.

She ventured down to the Calgary Rowing Club to give it a try and caught on pretty quick. She was also thrilled to find a new avenue to reach her athletic goals.

“I was just really grateful for a second shot at sports,” she said. “I was having fun and I think it’s easy to get better when you’re truly enjoying it and having a blast.”

She first joined the national team in 2019 for the World Cup in Lucerne, Switzerland as a member of the Women’s Four. She made her debut with the Women’s Eight in Rotterdam, Netherlands. helping them to a fourth-place finish, which also meant the boat qualified for Tokyo.

As she inched closer to her Olympic dream, Gruchalla-Wesierski was suddenly hit with another major obstacle. During a group bike ride a month before the team was set to go to Japan, she took a hand off the handlebar and went flying into teammates Avalon Wasteneys and Lisa Roman. 

Wasteneys and Roman weren’t seriously hurt and were able to return to training within a week and a half. Gruchalla-Wesierski wasn’t so lucky. She suffered a broken collarbone, a bruised hip, and needed 56 stitches. She wasn’t about to let that deter her though.

“I felt sorry for myself for about ten minutes and I knew I didn’t want to give up,” she said. “I just decided if there was a way I was going to get to the Olympics, I was going to find it.”

Driving her through the rehab and earning her spot back in the boat was belief in not only herself but also her teammates ability to get Canada back on the podium in rowing.

“You have to believe in yourself because you’re the only one with control of the situation and if you don’t believe in yourself no one else will,” she said. “I knew we could do it and that’s why I fought so hard to get back into the boat. I knew this was a special group and I knew we had the goods to get this done.”

Just as she wouldn’t let the opportunity to go win a gold medal pass her by, she couldn’t pass at the chance to compete at these World Rowing Indoor Championships, being held in Canada for the first time ever.

“I really wanted to participate in WRICH 2023 because I don’t know how many opportunities, I’ll get to do something like this. For it being at home, how special is that?” she said. “Really excited to get that feeling of a home crowd for the first time ever.”

If you want a once in a lifetime opportunity to line up beside Olympic gold medallists like Gruchalla-Wesierski, Paralympians or CrossFit stars, there are events in different age categories from under 17 to 70 plus.  You don’t have to qualify to compete in person. You can register until February 8 by visiting: