World Records, Grandmothers, and Putting Indoor Rowing On the Map At WRICH 2023

By Patrick Hannon and Teddy Katz

The first day of the World Rowing Indoor Championships (WRICH2023) at the Paramount Fine Foods Centre in Mississauga, Ontario was full of world records, historic moments with many more expected on day two.

The action kicked off with 91-year-old Alida Kingswood of Woodstock, Ontario shattering the world record in the lightweight 90-94 2000m age category.  She was cheered on by the home crowd and even by other competitors beating the old mark by more than 90 seconds.  Kingswood finished in a time of 10:33:30 and remarkably looked like she could have gone another 2000m.

Afterwards Kingswood said, “I do it for my children and my grandchildren. I’m not a grandmother that does crafts with the kids or bakes cookies.”

Kingswood just gets on an indoor machine and goes to the gym almost every day, even if some people are surprised.

“People say wow, I couldn’t do that. But you can if you want to (do so).”

There were four other world records set on Saturday including in the men’s 70-74 2000m race which saw Richard Stout edge out fellow Canadian Phil Monckton in 6:44. Monckton won a bronze medal with the Canadian Rowing Team at the 1984 Olympics.

“Being fit and doing what I’m doing at my age, I’m pretty happy with it,” Monckton said.

The day was also a big one for the tiny Faroe Islands, which is a set of islands located between Iceland and Norway with only 58,000 people.

The team, with six athletes from the tiny island, where rowing is the national sport, won three world championship gold medals including one by 18-year-old Mattias Durhuus of the men’s 500m.

“It puts the Faroe Islands on the map, Durhuus said.  People are aware of what we are, where we are and how much indoor rowing means to us,” he added.

WRICH 2023 is taking place in Canada for the first time ever and is making history on many fronts.  It is World Rowing’s first hybrid event with more than a thousand of the top rowers in the world competing on the arena floor joined by several hundred competing virtually.

One of those athletes competing virtually is former indoor world record holder Olena Buryak competing from Ukraine, despite the turmoil in her country.

Buryak, fled her country almost a year ago to stay with a rower from Poland after Russia invaded, was back competing in the women’s 500m 23-39 age category.  She won gold and will compete again virtually on Sunday in the women’s 2000m 23-39.  She’ll be up against two members of Canada’s Olympic gold medal women’s eight team, Sydney Payne and Kasia Gruchalla-Wesierski.

Heather MacDonald cheers on Kingswood as she sets the world record. Photo credit Steve Parr
Canadian Paralympian Papito Wilson powers through. Photo credit Steve Parr

Ukrainians also claimed two of three podium spot in the Men’s U17 500m with Yaroslav Zakharov finishing 0.2 off a gold medal and Artem Baranov coming in third.

Payne, who is from Toronto and started rowing after seeing a flyer for a learn to row program in a grocery store, is looking forward to competing at home in front of fans.

“It’s going to be cool to be side by side with people throughout the race and the energy that brings, and to actually see fans where we normally don’t in rowing (because they are normally only at the finish line).”

Gruchalla-Wesierski says this is a very special event for her as well.

“I’m super excited to race next to Syd; It’s so special for me to be here with her and I think we have a pretty cool bond.  We’re trying to take that to (the) Paris (Olympics) so doing this together first is a special experience.”

Sunday will also the culmination of the Versa Challenge, a series of five challenges over the two days of the championships, designed to determine the most versatile indoor rowers in the world.

The first challenge was a gruelling series of races to test out the competitor’s endurance.

One of the Canadians in the competition is Jason Marshall a former member of Canada’s Rubgy Team.

“It was very difficult. I’m now dreading the next workouts,” Marshall said afterwards, adding “It’s cool that our nation is holding a world recognized event.  I’m just happy to be here.”

Wilfredo “Papito” Wilson was savouring the moment.  Wilson, who is competing at several events at the World Championships was born in Cuba and competed for Canada in Para Rowing at the Paralympics in Beijing.

“I’m very proud to be in Canada, representing this country and doing the sport I love. I’m happy that this event was here.”

Day two promises to be another historic day at the Paramount Fine Food Centre. You can buy tickets at the box office or at Please be advised that Ticketmaster is the only valid ticket seller for WRICH 2023.

Can’t make it in person? Stream it live on or CBC GEM from 1:30pm ET to 6:45pm or on their YouTube channel from 8:35am ET to 12:35pm ET.

All events are also being streamed by World Rowing on their website.