The viewer’s guide to the 2023 World Rowing Indoor Championships

By Stuart Miller-Davis

Some of the best indoor rowers in the world are coming to the Paramount Fine Foods Centre on February 25 and 26 and you don’t want to miss a moment of it.  Two actioned packed days of racing, including the debut of the Versa Challenge, which will crown the most versatile indoor rowers in the world.  This also marks the first time the WRICH is a hybrid competition with top racers from around the world, competing in real time virtually on their Concept 2 ergometer (erg) with those on the arena floor.

One of the events to watch: Sunday February 26, 14:53 EST (23-39 age category Women’s 2000m Hybrid)

All eyes will be glued to this race on Sunday afternoon. Olena Buryak of Ukraine is scheduled to compete virtually from Kyiv.  Buryak has been one of the top indoor rowers in the world for years and will try to compete in spite of the turmoil in her country. Two Canadians who were members of Canada’s Olympic Gold Medal winning Women’s Eight Rowing Team in Tokyo will be competing in that same race, joining in person.

The men’s 23-39 age category 2000m Hybrid (Sunday February 26, at 14:37 EST) will be just as intriguing with Oliver Zeidler, the reigning World Champion in the Men’s Single Sculls, expected to be leading the way on the arena floor in Mississauga.

Below is your detailed guide to some of the highlight races and top competitors at WRICH 2023!

Saturday, February 25

PR1 Women 2000m virtual 9:10 EST

Norway’s Birigit Skarstein is arguably one of the best para-rowers of all-time. The reigning Paralympic single scull champion and a five-time World Rowing gold medallist will be the top name to watch in this race. She’s also a high-level cross-country skier and competed in the 2014 and 2018 Paralympics. 

70+ Lightweight Women 2000m Hybrid 9:26 EST  

In the morning, 91-year-old Alida Kingswood of Woodstock, Ontario will be competing for the first time in person at a WRICH. The world record holder had previously competed in virtual WRICHs and will have two challengers competing against her virtually from the United States.

55-59 Men 2000m Hybrid. 11:19 am EST

Michael Forgeron is a two-time Olympian and won a gold medal in his debut with Rowing Canada Aviron on the Men’s Eight team in 1992. The Canadian Rowing Hall of Famer will be facing off in the arena against Kingswood’s son Matt and Irish rower Declan Watson who has an inspiring story and was previously profiled on our website.

After the lunch break, the crowd will be introduced to the first event of the Versa Challenge which is bound to be a fan favourite. Sarah Pidgen is one of five Canadians in the competition’s debut. The Mississauga resident races for Canada in costal rowing events most recently Commonwealth Rowing Association Beach Sprints in Namibia winning a bronze medal in Women’s Single. She also competed at the World Rowing Beach Sprint Championships finishing in fourth place in the mixed doubles with Aubrey Oldham.

23-39 Men 500m Hybrid  15:40 EST

Another exciting competition featuring Phil Clapp of Great Britain who will be vying for his fourth straight title in the event at WRICH. Clapp recently set a new world record rowing 433m in a minute! Power lifter Canada’s Cameron Wharram will be one of his biggest competitors after finishing 0.3 seconds behind Clapp in 2022.

The team relays will finish off the day. Be sure to watch out for the Argos Para team competing in the Men’s Hybrid competition.  The group of Para-rowers including Canadian Paralympian Papito Wilson profiled on our website, train at the nearby Argonaut Rowing Club. Wilson is also competing in the men’s PR2 2000m event at 10:11 EST on Saturday.

Olena Buryak
Bridgit Skarstein
Oliver Zeidler

Sunday, February 26

Some of the biggest names in the sport will be out to prove their place on the last day of WRICH 2023.

After two exciting Versa Challenge events on day one, the competitors are back for another test on Sunday morning. Jason Marshall is a former Rugby Canada player and is hungry for a Versa Challenge victory in what he believes will be a tough competition.

Under 17 Men 2000m in person and hybrid 11:57 EST

There are more than 100 entries so there will be three different heats to determine some of the top up and coming indoor rowers in the world.

23-39 Men’s 2000m Hybrid 14:37 EST

Reigning single scull World Rowing Champion Germany’s Oliver Zeidler will face some stiff competition in virtual racer Ward Lemmlijn of Belgium. The 25-year-old is the defending champion and is a four-time WRICH gold medallist.

23-39 Women’s 2000m Hybrid 14:53 EST

Canadian Olympic gold medallists and Rowing Canada Aviron teammates Kasia Gruchalla-Wesierski and Sydney Payne will be going head-to-head for a spot on the podium with 33 other indoor rowers on the floor. Two-time Olympian and multiple indoor rowing world record holder, Buryak, will be racing virtually from Ukraine with 14 other continental qualifiers.

The day ends with the Mixed Team Relay with 12 teams competing on the floor and 9 teams virtually to finish the weekend off with a bang.

All photos are provided by World Rowing.