Indoor Rowing booming in popularity amongst the next generation of Canadian athletes

By Frank Christie

The deepest field of the 2023 World Rowing Indoor Championships (2023 WRICH) took centre stage on Sunday afternoon in Mississauga, ON, as 117 indoor rowers lined up in the Men’s U17 event. 

Of the 117 rowers, 93 were Canadians with the majority of the participants coming from Ontario rowing clubs and competing in front of a home-province crowd. 

“It was awesome,” said Adam Elshanawany who is actually from Mississauga. “You feel like you really want to bring it home. Lots of motivation seeing everyone here, it’s just that much better, home field advantage. I’m so happy I could be a part of it and so glad this event was hosted here (in Mississauga).” 

While team sports were a priority for Elshanawany growing up, a recent move to Egypt opened the flood gates for a new passion of indoor rowing.

“I played triple A hockey and lacrosse most of my younger years.  Recently, I decided I’d go abroad to do a year of high school in Egypt. I have a friend there who said you can’t find many opportunities like hockey and lacrosse so you might as well try rowing! I went out with him and ever since I haven’t been able to get off the erg (rowing machine).”

“I have played both hockey and lacrosse here at the Paramount Fine Foods Centre so to come back here is very special.”

The ice was fully covered this weekend and packed with ergometers for three different heats for all the U17 competitors. The third heat was a hybrid event, with competitors also joining virtually for the 24 international competitors who were competing from Australia, China, Colombia, Czechia, Great Britain, Germany, Hong Kong, Saudi Arabia, Latvia, and the United States. 

Many of the in-person rowers wore singlets familiar to many in the local rowing community from Ontario clubs and high school programs and had their supporters cheering them on throughout the gruelling 2000m event. 

U17 Men in-person top finisher Lucas Maroney celebrates as he finishes with a silver medal. Photo credit: Spencer Closs

One of the virtual competitors, Czechia’s Tadeas Muk, pulled ahead at the 500m mark of the third heat and proved to be too difficult to beat. Lucas Maroney, a Welland, Ontario native who trains out of the Ontario NextGen Performance Centre, sat in fourth for the first 1000m before making a charge up the leaderboard in the second half of the race. Muk was simply too much for the local favourite though as he cruised to a gold medal with a 6:13.8 time. Maroney picked up the silver medal in a time of 6:22.5, a personal best by four seconds.

“I think it’s great to see all the support we’ve had with the crowd and even all the athletes entering the race,” said Maroney after his silver medal performance. “ I think everyone should try it, it’s a great sport and you really learn a lot about yourself. It’s really cool to make connections with some of the athletes and just continuing to push each other to be the best rowers we can.”

Asked what it was like to compete on Canadian soil at a World Championships event, Maroney couldn’t contain his excitement.

“To be honest it felt amazing, it’ll be my last opportunity to race U17. I wanted to be able to race at this high level an event and be in front of my parents and my family. So yeah, it was an amazing experience.”

Rowing Canada Aviron’s Next Gen Program Lead, Chuck McDiarmid was keeping a close eye on the action and future talent virtually from his home in Victoria, BC. “It is really exciting to see such a swell of participation in this age group. We are watching closely to identify athletes for our future programs but regardless, it is thrilling to see more and more teenagers experiencing and enjoying the sport!”