Emergency Back-Up Helps International Relay Team To A World Championship Title

By Stuart Miller-Davis and Patrick Hannon

A team of top indoor rowers from around the globe who like to call themselves “The International Men of Mystery” took home the men’s 2000m relay race at the 2023 World Rowing Indoor Championships at the Paramount Fine Foods Centre, but they needed some last minute back up to make it all happen.     

Loïc Schalbetter came from Switzerland joining Andreas Tilelis and Spyridon Kalentzis from Greece. They expected to be racing with Cameron Wharram from Canada. But when Wharram, a former powerlifter turned top indoor rower, was forced to withdraw due to medical reasons following his silver medal victory in the men’s 23-39 500m race, the International Men of Mystery were on the urgent hunt for what Canadian hockey fans would call their emergency ‘back-up’ goalie.  

“We only found out while we were doing warm-ups that Cameron had an issue after his race and had to leave in an ambulance,” said Kalentzis after the relay. “I just wanted to cry. We were disqualified. But this guy right here, I still don’t even know his name, said Kalentzis pointing to their relay replacement, Jeremy Weaver.

Weaver just happened to be walking by when he was asked if he wanted to race, just 15 minutes before the expected start time. “It feels pretty good,” said Weaver when describing how it felt to come away with a win. Luckily for him, and The International Men of Mystery, a delay in competition allowed him enough time to go buy rowing shorts so he could join the relay.

Weaver, who got a rowing ergometer from his wife two years ago for his birthday after taking a liking to one at his local gym, raced in the 2022 virtual WRICH and competed this year in the Men’s 23-39 2000m on Sunday. 

“It was good to get a run through yesterday in the 250m, just to get some of the nerves out ” Weaver said, referring to the distance he rowed in the relay. “I didn’t deviate from my plan even though I competed yesterday. I had my race plan set for the 2000m.” 

Schalbetter calls the win “unexpected” but is thankful they were able to find a “beast” in Weaver.  The team had only two minutes to practice and explain their strategy to Weaver who remarkably pulled some “crazy splits” without any pre-race warmup.

The International Men of Mystery were able to gain a comfortable lead and stayed in front for 300m, winning with a final time of 5:05.79 five seconds ahead of second place. “I couldn’t be happier… “It’s just a great feeling,” said Schalbetter after winning the race.

The team anointed itself the “International Men of Mystery” due to their international diversity and a revolving door of team members. 

Loïc Schalbetter, Andreas Tilelis and Spyridon Kalentzis celebrate their Men’s Relay victory. Photo credit: Spencer Closs